Yesterday we saw Jesus make the argument for the equality of the Father and the Son. And in today’s section Jesus continues his argument. The language that is used is reminiscent of a courtroom. Jesus, however, turned the tables on his opponents and took control of the proceedings. According to the Old Testament, a person’s testimony required at least two witnesses (Deuteronomy 19:15), so Jesus called a series of witnesses to substantiate his claims.
“If I testify about myself, my testimony is not true. There is another who testifies in my favor, and I know that his testimony about me is true.
“You have sent to John and he has testified to the truth. Not that I accept human testimony; but I mention it that you may be saved. John was a lamp that burned and gave light, and you chose for a time to enjoy his light.—5:31-35
Jesus called John the Baptist to testify first. The crowds believed John the Baptist to be a prophet of God. Jesus, the light of the world, ascribed a high commendation to John the Baptist by calling him a lamp. The past tense verbs may indicate that John the Baptist was dead or imprisoned at the time of this discourse. Jesus told those who wanted to kill him that he said these things because he wanted them to be saved (John 5:34). Jesus desired the salvation of those hated him.
“I have testimony weightier than that of John. For the works that the Father has given me to finish—the very works that I am doing —testify that the Father has sent me. And the Father who sent me has himself testified concerning me. You have never heard his voice nor seen his form, nor does his word dwell in you, for you do not believe the one he sent. You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.—5:36-40
Jesus’ works were an even greater testimony to his identity than John the Baptist’s words. Jesus’ works were the miracles the Father gave to him to perform. Jesus said again that the Father sent him. Jesus always seemed to keep in the forefront of his mind that he was on a mission from heaven. He chastened his opponents further because they had never heard God’s voice, seen his form or allowed his Word to dwell in them. Though the Jewish leaders studied the Scriptures, they failed to recognize the One to whom the Scriptures bear supreme testimony. The proof that they failed to truly understand the Scriptures was their refusal to believe in Jesus. The very Scriptures they studied pointed to Jesus. They knew God’s Word intellectually, but it had never transformed their hearts.
“I do not accept glory from human beings, but I know you. I know that you do not have the love of God in your hearts. I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not accept me; but if someone else comes in his own name, you will accept him. How can you believe since you accept glory from one another but do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?—5:41-44
Jesus provided a prophetic critique of the leaders’ rejection of him. Their issue was intellectual; rather, their longing for self-glory blinded them to Scripture’s true message. Jesus on the other hand, did not seek human glory. In addition, Jesus knew that the leaders did not love God, because they loved approval of people more than God’s approval. They exhibited an insatiable longing for human praise. If they genuinely loved God, they would have welcomed Jesus as God’s representative. These religious leaders gladly received glory from one another but would not seek the glory that comes from God. This intense longing for human recognition and approval explains some of their inability to believe in Jesus.
“But do not think I will accuse you before the Father. Your accuser is Moses, on whom your hopes are set. If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me. But since you do not believe what he wrote, how are you going to believe what I say?”—5:45-47
The Scriptures, which the religious leaders claimed to believe, would condemn them. They did not believe the words of Moses; thus, they refused to believe in Jesus, whom Moses had written about. Jesus closely connected saving faith and acceptance of what the Scriptures teach about him, because to truly believe is accept everything that Scriptures give witness to about Jesus. And we will pick up in Chapter 6 tomorrow.
Tomorrow’s Bible Readings:
1 Samuel 12-13, John 7:1-30, Psalm 108:1-13 and Proverbs 15:4