Lest we have any doubt regarding why Jesus had to surpass John the Baptist, John 3:31–36 provides a theological commentary on the identity of Christ. John the Baptist was to be heeded, for he had received his prophetic calling from God Himself (v. 27). Jesus, on the other hand, came down from heaven possessing the Spirit without measure (vv. 31–34). During His earthly ministry, Jesus did not merely receive words from God that He then spoke to others. Instead, He testified to what He had seen with His own eyes in heaven before coming to earth. Together, verses 31–34 contain a strong testimony to the preexistence and eternality of the Son. They help us to understand that the Son is “very God of very God,” as the Nicene–Constantinopolitan Creed indicates.
John 3:35 expands on the notion of the Son’s preexistence and deity by describing something of the relationship between the Father and the Son. John writes that “the Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand.” Clearly, whatever the unity of the Father and the Son means, it is not a unity that is without distinction. The Father can love the Son only if the Son is in some sense distinguishable from the Father. We cannot help but recall John 1:1: “The Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
This distinction, however, is not a distinction in the nature of the Godhead. The Father has given all things into the hands of the Son (John 3:35). Historically, the church has seen in this verse an echo of the Father’s eternally begetting the Son. The Father pours all that He is by nature into the Son. In other words, the Father and the Son are identical in terms of the divine nature. Both persons (and the Spirit as well) possess the full set of attributes that make God, God. The Son is sent by the Father, but this sending does not make the Son in any way inferior to the Father. In terms of His essence, there is nothing that the Father has that the Son lacks. There is a personal distinction between Them such that one can love the other, but They share fully the same divine essence.
Consequently, to see the Son is not to see anyone less than God Himself. He is the ultimate revelation of God, and He shows us most clearly what God is like. Augustine of Hippo writes, “Having deigned to send us the Son, let us not imagine that it is something less than the Father that is sent to us. The Father, in sending the Son, sent His other self.”