What do the verses in John 5:16-23 actually teach us about Jesus?
If we believe these verses, even in the New World Translation, we know who Jesus is.
v16. Jesus was being persecuted for healing on the Sabbath.
v17. Jesus makes a simple statement – ‘My Father’. From this [v.18] the Jews understood that Jesus was claiming to be equal with God.
This is straightforward and is clear from the context but what does the Watchtower Bible & Tract Society teach? That the unbelieving Jews are calling Jesus God and we should not believe what the unbelieving Jews say! However, I would like to point out two things.
First, Jesus had a way of saying the most profound things so that no one could understand Him [e.g. the parable of the Sower – Matthew 13]. Here, however, He spoke plainly so that the people understood.
Second, Jesus was a Jew and understood how the Jewish mind worked. He knew that when He said, ‘My Father’ the Jews would understand that He was claiming to be, of the same substance as Jehovah, i.e. God.
If Jesus is not equal with God, who is at fault, Jesus for misleading them or the Jews for believing what Jesus was saying? Of course in these circumstances Jesus would be at fault. This would make Him a liar and a fraud. This, however, is not so and the statement is correct.