Jesus finally lets loose telling everyone that God is doing something NOW, and starts to chip away at our self-contentedness that assumes we don’t need anything or anyone and blinds us from caring for others.
The Son, John has told us, ‘gives life to whom he is pleased to give it’ (v. 21). Who these people are is now presented in different terms: whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned. Just as the Son healed the invalid by the pool of Bethesda by his word, so also is it his word that brings eternal life (cf. 6:63, 68) and cleansing (15:3), or judgment (12:47). The one who belongs to God hears what God says (8:47). Hearing Jesus’ word is identical to hearing God’s word, since the Son speaks only what the Father gives him to say. Hearing in this context, as often elsewhere, includes belief and obedience. The belief is spelled out, and its object is the one who sent Jesus–not because it would be inappropriate to specify Jesus as the object of faith (e.g. 3:16; 14:1), but because the immediate context is concerned to show how the Son in all he says and does mediates the Father to us. As the words and deeds of the Son are the words and deeds of the Father, so faith placed in the Son is placed in the Father who sent him. The one who hears and believes in this way has eternal life and will not be condemned. The idea is virtually indistinguishable from the negative component of Paul’s doctrine of justification: the believer does not come to the final judgment, but leaves the court already acquitted. Nor is it necessary for the believer to wait until the last day to experience something of resurrection life: the believer has eternal life and has crossed over from death to life (cf. Col. 1:13). This is perhaps the strongest affirmation of inaugurated eschatology in the Fourth Gospel. The tension inherent in Christian eschatology between what belongs to the ‘already’ and what belongs to the ‘not yet’ is teased out in this and the following verses. For the expression a time is coming and has now come where the eschatology is orientated entirely toward the future, the ‘time’ or ‘hour’ is coming; John does not say it ‘now is’. Here, however, the coming hour already is: the resurrection life for the physically dead in the end time is already being manifest as life for the spiritually dead. It is the voice of the Son of God (or his word: cf. v. 24; 6:63, 68; 11:43) that calls forth the dead, and those who hear (cf. notes on v. 24) will live. Such a voice, such a life-giving word, is nothing other than the voice of God (cf. Is. 55:3), whose vivifying power mediates the life-giving Spirit (cf. 3:3, 5; 7:37–39) even to dry bones (Ezk. 37). – D.A. Carson
The Bible is the most fascinating book, or collection of books, in the world, and anyone with a feel for literature, for ideas, for history, for great stories, can become completely absorbed in it. The academic discussions which arise from it can be fascinating, exhilarating and as challenging and stimulating as any other subject in the curriculum. And God wants the best minds to be working on this job. There is yet more light to break out of the Bible, and if this is to happen it needs people to soak themselves in it at every level. But it is possible to allow the study of the text, and of different interpretations of the text, to become a substitute for allowing the text to bring us into the presence of the living God. It is deceptively easy to know everything about ‘the Jewish hope for the Messiah’, and not to know the Messiah himself, in person. And it is all too simple—indeed, sometimes our academic institutions and seminaries encourage it—to use our knowledge and intellectual ability to gain status and prestige among our colleagues, or among those who belong to the same part of (or party within) the church as we do. That is as true today as it was in Jesus’ day. This is not to say that we must leave our minds behind when we read the text, and simply have nice warm feelings about Jesus. On the contrary. To read the Bible in the light of Jesus the Messiah demands more thought, not less. But this thought must always be ready to pass into personal knowledge, into adoration, into prayer—and then back again, because there will always be more to study. From scripture to Messiah and back again, and so on to and fro in an upward spiral of understanding. That is the challenge which this passage presented then, and presents to us still. – N.T. Wright
Christ was the fleshly expression of Ezekiel’s vision and much more. Many years after Christ’s death, John, on the island of Patmos, had a similar vision that included the four living creatures and a similar throne. “He who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian, and around the throne was a rainbow that had the appearance of an emerald” (Revelation 4:3). The rainbow, as elsewhere in the Bible, calls to mind God’s faithfulness and grace. But the white of the jasper and the red of the carnelian are new. They symbolize the sacrifice of Christ’s life. Jesus claimed to be God, and his death, resurrection, and final exaltation prove it. Again our Savior claims, “I have identity of action with the Father. I have the power to give life, and I have the authority to judge.” We must think on these things. These claims are eternal, and they call for action. That all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him. (v. 23) May we realize the riches we have in Christ. May we focus upon him as one who expresses the action of God the Father, gives us life, and is our Judge. If we do not know him, it is imperative that we give deep consideration to the claims of Christ, because they are the claims to which we will have to answer. – Kent Hughes