Gems in the Gospel of John
Part 22: John 5:22
The Royal Agent
There is an idea that can be used to explain what Jesus is meaning when he says, “Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgement to the Son, that all may honour the Son just as they honour the Father. Whoever does not honour the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him.” It is the idea of agency. They, in those days, had a rather stronger idea of what the implications of being an agent were than most of us will have.
If we talk to a salesman in a car showroom about buying a car, which of course means much argument about how much it is going to cost us, our discussion will come to the point where the salesman will say something like: ‘I must check that out with my boss’ and go off to do so. He is acting as an agent for the head salesman. If he is doing something more significant than buying a car, perhaps as an ambassador making an agreement about how two countries are to interact, and he is overseas, then he may still say ‘I must check that out with my boss’, who might now be the president or prime minister of his country. He can do that quickly and easily through his mobile phone etc.
100 years ago he could have done much the same thing but more clumsily and much more slowly by sending a telegram down the wires connecting him back to his own country.
200 years ago things would have been very different. He could only communicate with his home country by sending a message by horseman or sailing ship. He would get the answer only weeks later by which time the situation might well have changed beyond recognition. Consequently he would have had to act without that sort of reference back to base. He would have been a true agent acting on his own initiative on behalf of his firm or his country. That is the sort of agent we read about in the Bible. They might say ‘a person’s agent is as himself’. The agent had to take decisions that would need to be supported in full by his boss when he eventually got to hear what they were. If the boss did not support the agent’s decisions he would be a very bad and difficult person and not a good manager. Also any slight to the agent would be considered a slight to the boss.
We see this in the episode in Mark 12 where we read, “A man planted a vineyard … He rented the vineyard to some farmers … At harvest time he sent a servant to the tenants to collect from them some of the fruit. But they sent him away empty- handed … He sent many others; some of them they beat, others they killed … He sent his son (the usual full agent) last of all, saying, ‘they will respect my son.’ But the tenants said to one another … let’s kill him … What then will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and kill those tenants and give the vineyard to others.”
Coming back to John’s gospel we see that Jesus is given full authority as the agent of the Father over the judgements that are to come at the end of the age.
Later Jesus talks about, “a messenger is not greater than the one who sent him.” The messenger there is an ‘apostolos’ – the word that we translate as ‘apostle’ which essentially means ‘sent one’ or ‘ambassador’, or we might say: ‘agent’.
Jesus was the apostle sent by Father God. We are apostles sent by the Lord to the world around us. What a huge privilege that is, and what a responsibility. How good an agent are you?