John 5:30-47

John 5:30-47

30 “I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me. 31 If I alone bear witness about myself, my testimony is not deemed true. 32 There is another who bears witness about me, and I know that the testimony that he bears about me is true. 33 You sent to John, and he has borne witness to the truth. 34 Not that the testimony that I receive is from man, but I say these things so that you may be saved. 35 He was a burning and shining lamp, and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light. 36 But the testimony that I have is greater than that of John. For the works that the Father has given me to accomplish, the very works that I am doing, bear witness about me that the Father has sent me. 37 And the Father who sent me has himself borne witness about me. His voice you have never heard, his form you have never seen, 38 and you do not have his word abiding in you, for you do not believe the one whom he has sent. 39 You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life. 41 I do not receive glory from people. 42 But I know that you do not have the love of God within you. 43 I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not receive me. If another comes in his own name, you will receive him. 44 How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God? 45 Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father. There is one who accuses you: Moses, on whom you have set your hope. 46 For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me. 47 But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?”

 

Os Guinness has passed on a fascinating story about looking for answers in the wrong places:

One of the most celebrated personalities of the Middle East is Nasreddin Hodja, the endearing holy-man-cum-scholar of Turkish folklore.  His famed wisdom is often threatened by his equally famed stupidity.  One day, so a particular story goes, the Hodja dropped his ring inside his house.  Not finding it there, he went outside and began to look around the doorway.  His neighbor passed and asked him what he was looking for.

“I have lost my ring,” said the Hodja.

“Where did you lose it?” asked the neighbor.

“In my bedroom,” said the Hodja.

“Then why are you looking for it out here?”

“There’s more light out here,” the Hodja said.[1]

In truth, many of the religious leaders of Jesus’ day were making a similar mistake.  They were looking for the answer, but refusing to look in the one place where it could be found.

In fact, this entire lengthy discourse by Jesus on His nature and person is occasioned by opposition from the Jews (which was itself occasioned by the scandal of Jesus healing a paralytic man by the pool of Bethesda on the Sabbath).  So Jesus is here explaining to those who oppose Him why He is indeed the Son of God.

In our text this morning, Jesus is responding to a common legal mindset among the Jews.    It was commonly asserted by the Jews that evidence was not to be accepted on the basis of just one witness.  Furthermore, it was asserted that no man could bear testimony to himself.  He needed witnesses to corroborate his claims.

Let us begin by observing how Jesus reasserts his primary claim in verse 30:

“I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me.”

That Jesus was sent by the Father was the great claim that the Jews found so offensive and which they were unprepared to accept.  Jesus recognized and defined their hesitation by articulating their legal objections to His claims:

31 If I alone bear witness about myself, my testimony is not deemed true.

The Jewish authorities knew well that the scriptures forbade making a final verdict on a matter in the absence of more than one witness in Deuteronomy 17:

6 On the evidence of two witnesses or of three witnesses the one who is to die shall be put to death; a person shall not be put to death on the evidence of one witness.

Furthermore, the Mishnah stated that “None may be believed when he testifies of himself for no individual can be deemed trustworthy in himself.”  The Jewish historian Josephus also wrote, “Put not trust in a single witness, but let there be three or at the least two, whose evidence shall be accredited by their past lives.”[2]

So Jesus is going to meet their superficial demands for more evidence.  He is, in short, going to offer the testimony of many who bear witness to His claims of deity and divine commission.  Let us understand that Jesus was acting mercifully here.  He no more owed the Jews an explanation than He owes us one.  But His desire for the Jews was that they be saved, so He meets their legal demands for extra witnesses.

Furthermore, we should acknowledge that Jesus knew fully well that the problem with the Jews was not a lack of evidence, it was the wickedness of their own hearts.  So it is with us today.  When we reject Christ, it is never because we don’t have enough reasons to believe.  The witnesses to Christ surround us everywhere we turn.  Rather, it is that we are born in a state of perpetual rejection of Christ.  Nonetheless, Jesus speaks to the Jews and to us of the evidence of His deity and person and work.

In verse 32, Jesus offers an umbrella statement concerning the ultimate witness concerning the validity of His own person and work:

There is another who bears witness about me, and I know that the testimony that he bears about me is true.

While its proximity to verse 33 may lead us to believe that Jesus is here speaking of John the Baptist, verse 32 is actually speaking about God the Father.  Christ’s validity is ultimately and fundamentally granted in the fact that He has come from the Father.  That is enough.  Nothing else is needed.  Now, He is going to offer the testimony further witnesses, but all of these are simply meant to supply further support to this amazing claim of God’s commission on the life of Christ and God’s testimony concerning the person and work of Christ.  In reality, the witness and testimony of the Father concerning the Son is above all other witnesses and testimonies.

I.  John the Baptist’s Witness to Jesus

To begin, Jesus points out that His cousin, John the Baptist, bore witness to Him:

33 You sent to John, and he has borne witness to the truth.

We know that John was the bright star on the religious scene before the arrival of Jesus on the scene.  All of Jerusalem was going out to John at the Jordan.  Jesus reminds them of this.  He reminds them that while they reject Him, they still flocked to John to see what he had to say.  But John, of course, came only to bear witness to Christ.  So while many flocked to John, they ultimately rejected his message by rejecting the Christ to whom John pointed.

34 Not that the testimony that I receive is from man, but I say these things so that you may be saved.

Once again, Jesus points out that John’s witness does not establish Jesus’ glory.  Jesus’ glory comes from the Father and no other testimony is needed.  But John came so that more people could know of the coming of Christ, come to know Him, and be saved.

35 He was a burning and shining lamp, and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light.

Here again we see the irony of the Jews’ rejection of Jesus.  “You were willing to rejoice for a while in his light.”  Meaning, “You liked John.  You were attracted to the wonderful, odd, and appealing ministry of John.  You all went to see and hear John.  But John’s entire ministry was about Me.  When it comes right down to it, you all enjoyed the religious show more than you enjoyed the point of John’s message.  You were willing to believe that John was a light…until, that is, you saw what John’s light was illuminating.”

John the Baptist bore witness to Christ, and Jesus appeals to his witness as evidence of His claims to divinity.

II.  The Miracles’ Witness to Jesus

But there is more.  Not only did John bear witness to Christ.  Jesus’ own works bore testimony as well.

36 But the testimony that I have is greater than that of John. For the works that the Father has given me to accomplish, the very works that I am doing, bear witness about me that the Father has sent me.

We have seen miracles of Jesus already in the first five chapters of John:  the turning of the water into wine at Cana, the healing of the officials’ son, and the healing of the paralytic at the beginning of chapter 5.  Jesus now points out that the miracles not only accomplished certain results in individual cases, they also offered a cumulative witness to His own deity.  The miracles “bear witness about me that the Father has sent me.”

This is equally the case today, by the way.  It is always the case that the works of God revealed in a life given to Christ bear greater testimony than our mere words about Christ.  The greatest witness we have to offer is the evidence of Christ in us:  a changed life, a transformed character, and a new heart.

Mothers, would you like to convince your children that Jesus is real?  Let them overhear you on the telephone refusing to gossip about somebody else.  Let them hear and know that their mom’s speech has been changed by the Christ who lives within you.  Dads, would you like your children to believe and know that Christ Jesus is real and true?  Let them see that you value them more than you do your job or your hobbies.  Let them see that you invest time in their lives and interests.  Let them see that their dad’s life is different than the lives of dads who do not know Christ Jesus.

Church, the world may dispute our words, but they cannot dispute our lives.  They cannot dispute the miracle of a changed heart.  The works of Jesus bear witness to the person of Jesus.  It has always been true.  It is true today as well.

Let the works of Christ bear witness to the truth of Christ in your life today.

III.  The Father’s Witness to Jesus

Above all else, God the Father bears testimony to God the Son:

37 And the Father who sent me has himself borne witness about me. His voice you have never heard, his form you have never seen, 38 and you do not have his word abiding in you, for you do not believe the one whom he has sent.

Jesus is not trying to be provocative, but this is indeed a provocative thing to say!  If the Jewish authorities thought anything, they thought they knew the mind and heart of God.  But Jesus  reveals to them that their rejection of Him ultimately meant their rejection of the God they claimed to know.

God the Father has etched His testimony concerning the truthfulness of Jesus into the very fabric of the universe.  Everywhere you look you can see God’s witness to His Son.  Nature itself proclaims the truthfulness of the gospel of Christ.  Consider the cycles of nature:  birth in Spring, life in Summer, the dying lights of Fall, death in Winter, and resurrection in Spring!  The earth itself speaks of the person and work of Jesus.

I believe that the testimony of the Father concerning the Son is so etched in and on our hearts that even people who may not know Christ cannot help but bear witness.  For instance, Roni and Hannah and I recently saw the new movie “Thor.”  It was a fun and entertaining movie about a popular comic book hero:  Thor, god of Thunder.  The next day my brother Condy watched the movie and texted me these words:  “Father sends the son to earth.  He loves the people.  Gives his life to save them.  Rises from the dead.  Reclaims power.”  I had missed it, but he was right:  even here the basic contours of the story of Jesus is being told.  We see this all of the time in popular culture, don’t we?  The Father’s witness to the Son is everywhere, and life cannot be lived without its proclamation!

“The Father who sent me has himself borne witness about me.”  The Father did so at the baptism of Jesus when He proclaimed Jesus His beloved Son in whom He was well pleased.  More than that, the Father’s affirmation rested on the Son like a prayer shawl.  The voice of the Father proclaimed, “Behold my Son!” over Jesus at every turn.

IV.  The Scripture’s Witness to Jesus

Jesus also pointed out the profoundly ironic truth that the scriptures bore witness to Jesus.

39 You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me,

These Jewish leaders treasured the Old Testament scriptures and searched them with a meticulous care that would astound us today.  They poured over the scriptures and they saturated everything the Jews were.  But the tragic irony was that the very scriptures they poured over bore witness to the very Jesus they were now rejecting.  Furthermore, they searched the scriptures because they were looking for eternal life, but eternal life was standing in front of them in the person of Jesus.  Thus, the tragedy of verse 40:

yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.

The scriptures joined with the testimony of John the Baptist and the miracles of Jesus to make a canopy of testimony to the glory and power and truthfulness of Christ.  The Jewish leaders, however, while in possession of each of these witnesses, rejected the One to whom witness was borne.

41 I do not receive glory from people. 42 But I know that you do not have the love of God within you.

The rejection of Jesus the Son meant the rejection of the love of God the Father, for God’s love was manifested supremely in the Son.  The Jewish leaders who opposed Jesus were characterized by fervency for the law, knowledge of the scriptures, and a zeal for God, but they missed the very heart of God when they missed Christ.  Their rejection of Christ was utterly heartbreaking:

43 I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not receive me. If another comes in his own name, you will receive him. 44 How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?

The Jews heaped glory on the great Bible scholars of their day.  They lived in a day and culture that relished knowledge of the scriptures.  There were celebrated celebrity Bible scholars in that day in much the same way that there are celebrated athletes or movie stars today.  Jesus pointed out, once again, the amazing irony of this fact.  The Jews heaped glory and praise on those they thought knew the scriptures while simultaneously refusing glory and honor to the One to whom all of scripture bore witness.

45 Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father. There is one who accuses you: Moses, on whom you have set your hope. 46 For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me. 47 But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?”

The Jewish scholars claimed to be masters of Moses’ teachings, but they missed the very heart of Moses’ teachings when they missed Christ.  In this way, their adoration for the writings of Moses (i.e., the first five books of the Bible) did nothing but condemn them as they refused to accept the very embodiment of Moses’ teachings when they rejected Christ.

What is more, Moses was the recipient of the law of God.  In rejecting Christ, the Jews were committing the ultimate act of lawlessness by refusing to receive fulfillment of all the law in Christ.  As such, these Jewish leaders were in a strange trap of their own making:  they were rejecting the Jesus who was proclaimed in all of scripture.  They were searching for salvation but refusing the only One who could save them.

Ravi Zacharias has pointed to the failed 1996 Mt. Everest expedition as a powerful example of a dying man rejecting life itself:

John Krakauer, in his book Into Thin Air, tells a gripping story.  His book recounts the ill-fated ascent of Mount Everest in 1996, in which many lives were lost, including those of the most adept leaders.  At one point he recounts an episode with Andy Harris, one of the expedition guides, who had been exhausted by his conquest of the summit.  On his descent, Harris started to run out of oxygen when he came across a cache of oxygen canisters.  But, though starved for oxygen, he argued with his fellow climbers that all the canisters were empty.  Those to whom he was speaking shouted back that these canisters were indeed full – they themselves had left them there for just such a time as this.  But Harris was beguiled by a brain devoid of oxygen and made the false judgment that that which he held in his hand could not help him.[3]

This is a perfect illustration of the Jewish leaders who opposed Jesus.  They of all people should have known and seen in Christ Jesus the fulfillment of the scriptures they so highly esteemed.  They of all people should have seen how the prophets’ many prophecies about the Messiah were being fulfilled in their very presence in Christ.  They of all people should have seen (as others saw) the hand of God in and on Christ.  But they did not.  They, the leaders, the experts, the guides, were standing in the very presence of life but were refusing to embrace it.

Like Andy Harris on Mt. Everest dying from lack of oxygen while holding a canister of oxygen, these religious elites were dying a slow spiritual death while standing in the presence of the very One who could grant life!

In truth, so are some of you.  Some of you are so close to Jesus, but you will not take Him.  Some of you are dying from the inside out, but you refuse to take the nail-pierced hand of the One who said He was “the resurrection and the life.”

He is right here, right now, and His arms are open to you.  Do not refuse to see what you know is true.  Do not refuse to listen to the message you most need to hear and embrace.  Do not reject the many witnesses that all bear testimony to this great and glorious fact:  that Christ is Lord and King and God and Ruler of Heaven and Earth.

 



[1] Os Guinness, Fit Bodies, Fat Minds (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1994), p.132.

[2] Andreas J. Kostenberger, “John.”  Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary, vol.2. gen. ed., Clinton E. Arnold (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2002), p.60.

[3] Ravi Zacharias in This We Believe (Grand Rapids, MI:  Zondervan Publishing House, 2000), p.45.

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