In a series of verses that testify, in Jesus’ own words, His equality with the Father and His power and authority, verse 19 stands out as a bit of a quandary.
V19: Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.
If he can’t do anything by himself and can only do what he sees his Father doing, then doesn’t that mean that he is less than God the Father? But how does that fit with Jesus power over life and judgment of sin and that not honoring Him is the same as not honoring the Father?
I think there are two answers.
First, Jesus is equal to but not separate from the Father. Unlike man, who in the temptation in the garden, left unity with God to become a god himself (Genesis 3:5). Jesus refuses to separate from the Trinity. He does not want to become a god, He wants to be what He is, an element of the triune God.
Second, can may also mean will. For example, I cannot embezzle and be a good employee, I cannot cheat on my wife and honor my wedding vow, I cannot refuse to exercise and expect to be healthy. Since the Father does only what is True and Holy, for Jesus to do anything else, anything different, would be a sign that He was not God.
He did “these things” (signs and wonders – healing), on the Sabbath (observance of the law of God was more important than God). Jesus said, “My Father is always at his work to this very day and I to am working.” Calling God His “father” put him on the same level as God, which was blasphemy to their ears because they could not accept the possibility that He was.
Son can do nothing by himself, Whatever the Father does the Son also does, The Father loves the Son. He shows Him all that He does – greater works are coming. Son can raise the dead and give life to whom he pleases. The Father judges no one, that is entrusted to the Son. Son is to be honored just as the Father. Not honoring the Son = Not honoring the Father.
Power over death: the ability to give life – He is the Lord and giver of life
The authority to judge: Father judges no one – He is my brother and my judge. He knows if He is in me or not.
Honor: Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father – Jesus is equivalent to the Father