What does John 5:21 mean?Once again, Jesus makes a claim to power that is reserved only for God. The Old Testament clearly recognized that the power over life and death belonged solely to God (2 Kings 5:6–8). For Jesus to claim that He can give life, just as the Father gives life, means Jesus is stating His own divinity.
This conversation is the result of a single incident, which created two major controversies with local religious authorities. In John 5:1–15, Jesus heals a man who had been crippled for thirty-eight years. Rather than being amazed at the miracle, the Pharisees were upset that Jesus was breaking their Sabbath traditions. In response, Jesus not only claims that what He is doing is right, He claims to be equal to God.
The end of this verse also echoes back to the circumstances where Jesus healed the long-disabled man. According to John 5:3, there was "a multitude" of people with disabilities at the Pool of Bethesda. And, the man Jesus healed didn't seem all that interested in either Jesus or His power (John 5:6–7, 14). Jesus' choice to heal this man is an example of God's divine sovereignty. In other words, God has the right to choose when He will or will not intervene. This includes the ability to "raise" both the spiritually and physically dead (John 5:24, 29).
Jesus has claimed equality to God in works (John 5:19), love (John 5:20), and will soon claim to be equal to God in judgment (John 5:22) and honor (John 5:23).