Most Christians who interact with Muslim apologists will have had the verse thrown at them in which Jesus says:
“I can do nothing on My own." John 5:30
But is that all that Jesus said? In fact, that is only one part of verse 30. Jesus said more than that, but the context is never provided for us by Muslims. Of course, any statement can be misinterpreted if it is taken out of its context and such is the case here. As they say, "A text without a context is a pretext."
So let us examine what the context was of that statement by first recalling the broader context. John the evangelist begins his Gospel with these unequivocal words:
1 In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God.
2 He was with God in the beginning.
3 All things were created through Him,
and apart from Him not one thing was created
that has been created.
"The Word" is Jesus, and John declares Him to be God in the very first verse of his Gospel. Anyone who reads the Gospel will see that Jesus never stops being God. God is an eternal Spirit. He has no beginning and no end. No one can kill God.
Since Jesus is God in John 1, and since He never ceases being God even though the physical body He inhabited dies and is buried (John 19), He is most definitely God when He speaks in John 5. By the way, Jesus resurrected the physical body that died on the cross three days after His crucifixion, just as He said He would do (John 2:19, 10:17-18).
In chapter 5, just prior to the passage we are about to explore, Jesus healed a man who had been sick for 38 years. But He healed him on the Sabbath, a Jewish holy day on which, under Mosaic Law, none were allowed to work on pain of death. And so we pick up the story from there:
16 Therefore, the Jews began persecuting Jesus because He was doing these things on the Sabbath.
17 But Jesus responded to them, “My Father is still working, and I am working also.”
18 This is why the Jews began trying all the more to kill Him: Not only was He breaking the Sabbath, but He was even calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God.
19 Then Jesus replied, “I assure you: The Son is not able to do anything on His own, but only what He sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, the Son also does these things in the same way.
20 For the Father loves the Son and shows Him everything He is doing, and He will show Him greater works than these so that you will be amazed.
21 And just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so the Son also gives life to anyone He wants to.
22 The Father, in fact, judges no one but has given all judgment to the Son,
23 so that all people will honor the Son just as they honor the Father. Anyone who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him.
24 “I assure you: Anyone who hears My word and believes Him who sent Me has eternal life and will not come under judgment but has passed from death to life.
25 “I assure you: An hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.
26 For just as the Father has life in Himself, so also He has granted to the Son to have life in Himself.
27 And He has granted Him the right to pass judgment, because He is the Son of Man.
28 Do not be amazed at this, because a time is coming when all who are in the graves will hear His voice
29 and come out—those who have done good things, to the resurrection of life, but those who have done wicked things, to the resurrection of judgment.
30 “I can do nothing on My own. I judge only as I hear, and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me."
Can any mere man make such claims? Let us run through each of them quickly:
- in verses 16-17, Jesus worked on the Sabbath just as God never stops "working." As we said, working on the Sabbath law meant an automatic death penalty for the Jews, but Jesus worked nonetheless, proclaiming Himself as Lord of the Sabbath. In short saying He is God (see Matthew 12:8 and Luke 6:5)
- when Jesus calls God His Father in verses 17-18, the Jews immediately try to kill Him for it. As John writes (italics mine), "This is why the Jews began trying all the more to kill Him: Not only was He breaking the Sabbath, but He was even calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God."
Jesus says (italics mine), "Whatever the Father does, the Son also does these things in the same way."
- in verse 20, Jesus claims a relationship with the Father enjoyed by no one else but Him
"For the Father loves the Son and shows Him everything He is doing, and He will show Him greater works than these so that you will be amazed."
If the Father hasn't shown you and I everything He is doing, and the same thing goes for the other 7 billion people on the planet (and it does) then we know that that means Jesus alone can make the claim He makes in verse 20
- Jesus said He has literal power over life and death, both in the giving and the taking of it in verse 21:
"And just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so the Son also gives life to anyone He wants to"
"Just as," again meaning "in exactly the same way."
And then Jesus said, "I give life to anyone I want to."
Does that sound like to you like an ordinary human being? It doesn't because Jesus isn't one. He is God.
- in verse 22, Jesus claimed to have divine power to judge the living and the dead for their sins
"The Father, in fact, judges no one but has given all judgment to the Son..."
Jesus is going to judge the living and the dead on Judgment Day, Muhammad included. And that is the context of Jesus' statement in verse 30 that He "can do nothing on His own." He is speaking about the judgment of sinners and saints on That Day. Only God is holy and righteous enough to determine who goes to heaven and who goes to Hell. That cannot be left to a human being to decide as that is God's right and His alone. Jesus was saying He does not judge alone because He and the Father are one. (John 10:30)
- in verse 23 comes what is arguably the most definitive statement by Jesus in this passage. Jesus says He deserves the same kind of worship due only to God:
"... so that all people will honor the Son just as they honor the Father. Anyone who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him."
In this verse, Jesus claims equality with the Father to the extent that He must be honored just as the Father is honored. Meaning there is no difference between honoring Jesus and the Father because there is just One True God. Not two. Not three. One God.
Jesus says Father and Son must be honored in the same way.
How can a mere man make such claims?
No man can.
Jesus' message is clear, or at least it is to those who will note His own words:
46 "For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me, because he wrote about Me."
John 5:30 in Context