Witnesses Who Tell Us Who Jesus Is

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John 5:31 – 47

31 If I speak for myself, there is no way to prove I am telling the truth.32 But there is someone else who speaks for me, and I know what he says is true. 33 You sent messengers to John, and he told them the truth. 34 I don’t depend on what people say about me, but I tell you these things so that you may be saved. 35 John was a lamp that gave a lot of light, and you were glad to enjoy his light for a while.

36 But something more important than John speaks for me. I mean the things that the Father has given me to do! All of these speak for me and prove that the Father sent me. 37 The Father who sent me also speaks for me, but you have never heard his voice or seen him face to face. 38 You have not believed his message, because you refused to have faith in the one he sent.

39 You search the Scriptures, because you think you will find eternal life in them. The Scriptures tell about me, 40 but you refuse to come to me for eternal life.

41 I don’t care about human praise, 42 but I do know that none of you love God. 43 I have come with my Father’s authority, and you have not welcomed me. But you will welcome people who come on their own.44 How could you possibly believe? You like to have your friends praise you, and you don’t care about praise that the only God can give!

45 Don’t think that I will be the one to accuse you to the Father. You have put your hope in Moses, yet he is the very one who will accuse you. 46 Moses wrote about me, and if you had believed Moses, you would have believed me. 47 But if you don’t believe what Moses wrote, how can you believe what I say?

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Jill and I enjoy reading books.  We do have slightly different tastes in the stories we read though.  I’m much more of the science fiction intense espionage kind of guy, while Jill likes to read a good suspense legal thriller with lots of courtroom drama.  So I will read about aliens and distant galaxies or a book by Tom Clancy, and Jill might read an Agatha Christie or John Grisham novel.  But I can appreciate a good legal thriller too.  And that is partly what we have here in these verses of John.

When we watch a legal fiction story on TV today, we all watch as the sleuths and the police search to find the one witness who will “make the case” and put the bad guys away for good.  Sometimes, the most important piece of evidence is not even a person, but an item which ties the criminal to the crime.  And now in our modern scientific world, all that is needed sometimes is just a tiny bit of DNA to close the case.

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That is not what it was like though in first century Judaism.  When someone was accused of wrong doing, it was very clear in the Law of Moses what standards needed to be applied in the case.  Deuteronomy 19:15 tells us what that was: “One witness is not enough to convict anyone accused of any crime or offense they may have committed. A matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.”  This standard for gathering solid evidence of something needs to be kept in mind as we look briefly into John 5:31-47.

Now we all realize that Jesus is not actually standing in front of the court and facing accusers at this time.  (That would come later.)  But in many ways, with the persecution of the Jewish authorities heating up, Jesus was being put into the court of public opinion.  Some people were believing that He was in fact the Son of God, and that He had the authority of God Himself to do all the miracles which He did.  On the other hand, there was a growing opposition arising against Jesus, what He did, and what He taught.

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So Jesus challenges his “accusers” in this passage and lays down some pretty solid evidence with regards to who He really is.  First of all, Jesus mentions the testimony of John the Baptist.  Go back to John chapter one and read how John declares that God sent him baptizing people for the express purpose of discovering and revealing who Jesus was.  He saw the Holy Spirit come down upon Jesus at the baptism and then declared, “I have seen and I testify that this is God’s Chosen One.”

As much as John the Baptist was respected as a great prophet, Jesus then goes on to say that there is a greater witness than John.  He basically says, “Look at the works (i.e. “miracles”) that I do, and they will tell you exactly who I am.”  And in fact, God Himself is called upon as a witness.  God declared openly, “This is My Son in whom I am well pleased.”  (See Mark 1:11)  And further, many of the Jews knew that only a person approved by God Himself could do the kinds of miracles that Jesus did.  Remember what Nicodemus said in John 3:2?  “For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.”

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Jesus has already given three key witnesses which clearly show Jesus to be “one sent from God.”  But the Jewish leaders might not accept these testimonies.  So then Jesus hits them right where they lived.  He claimed that the Scriptures (i.e. the Old Testament), and even Moses in his writings could back up Jesus’ claim of being the great Messiah and the One promised by God to be the Savior of the world.  How much more evidence did they need to believe in Jesus?

And I now ask this question to all who read this.  Look at the wondrous universe we live in.  Look at the new born baby.  Remember when you “could have been killed” in a near-accident.  Look into the lives of really alive Christians who used to be not so nice people, but God changed them.  How much evidence do you need to know that what the Bible proclaims about God, about Christ, and those who follow Him in loving obedience are all true as well.  Think on that my friend.  Don’t be closed like these Jewish leaders were.

* If this article has been helpful to you and a blessing, please invite your friends to come visit this devotional blog site.

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Jesus, The One Equal To God The Father

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John 5:16 – 30

16 So, because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jewish leaders began to persecute him. 17 In his defense Jesus said to them, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working.” 18 For this reason they tried all the more to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.

19 Jesus gave them this answer: “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. 20 For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, and he will show him even greater works than these, so that you will be amazed. 21 For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it. 22 Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, 23 that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him.

24 “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life. 25 Very truly I tell you, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live. 26 For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. 27 And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man.

28 “Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice 29 and come out—those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned.30 By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me.

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In this passage, we see the open hostility of the Jewish leaders that broke out against Jesus.  It was bad enough in their opinion that Jesus had performed a miracle on the Sabbath, the holy day of rest for the Jewish people.  (See my last article on “Christian Compassion vs. Religious Criticism“.)  But now they hear Jesus utter words that show that He equated Himself with God the Father.

As I reflected on the blindness of the Jewish leaders, I realized that they did not have the benefit of living in the period of “post-resurrection”, nor the hundreds of years that the Church has had to understand the implications of Jesus Incarnation, His death, and His resurrection.  The Jewish people were all waiting for the Promised Messiah, the One whom God would anoint and bring salvation to His people.

I do wonder though, what exactly they expected to see when they would meet the Messiah.  Would He just suddenly appear, without having any background of a birthplace or a family such as Jesus had?  Was the Messiah going to just appear as some super human and lead the nation to victory against their enemies in this world?  We know that is partly what they thought.  What caught them off guard was that Jesus was rather ordinary, being born in Bethlehem and raised as a carpenter’s son in Nazareth.

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And then Jesus elevated Himself high above all other humans by making claims of being equal with God Himself.  In this passage we see a number of ways in which Jesus is equally compared to God the Father.  We see these similar things:

  • God is always at work in the world, and so is the Son (implying supernatural activities)
  • what the Father does, He shows to His Son, and the Son also does the same things
  • the Father and the Son can both raise the dead and give them new life
  • God gives the authority to judge all men into the hands of the Son
  • people will honour the Son just as much as they honour the Father
  • the Son is the source of Life just as the Father is also the source of Life for all people

That is quite a list of qualities that Jesus attributes to Himself.  No wonder that the Jewish leaders wanted to kill Him.  They were actually right to challenge Jesus, for no ordinary man could claim these things.  But Jesus was no ordinary man.  Twice Jesus refers to God as “the One who sent Me”.  As people who now live after the Resurrection, we know that Jesus’ claim to be God the Son was validated by Him rising from the dead.

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And it was the will of the Father that caused Jesus to leave Heaven and come down to earth.  He in fact was the awaited Messiah.  And the promise here is that for anyone who will accept Him as the One who is equal with God and who was sent by God the Father, that person is able to come to God by means of Jesus (like walking across a bridge) and will no longer be under the penalty and curse of death, but will receive the gift of eternal life with God forever.

It really is too bad that the Jewish leaders did not have all the information and insight that you and I have today.  So it is easy to criticise them as being so blind that they could not see Jesus for who He really is.  But I wonder if we would have done much better ourselves?  The key thing right now is for us to not miss the point, namely that Jesus really is the One who is equal to God the Father, the Author of Life, and the One who saves us from death and brings us into eternal life.

Christian Compassion vs. Religious Criticism

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John 5:1 – 15

5  1Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish festivals.  2 Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades.  3 Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed.  5 One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. 

6 When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?” 7 “Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.” 8 Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” 

9 At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked. The day on which this took place was a Sabbath, 10 and so the Jewish leaders said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath; the law forbids you to carry your mat.” 11 But he replied, “The man who made me well said to me, ‘Pick up your mat and walk.’ ” 12 So they asked him, “Who is this fellow who told you to pick it up and walk?”

13 The man who was healed had no idea who it was, for Jesus had slipped away into the crowd that was there. 14 Later Jesus found him at the temple and said to him, “See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.” 15 The man went away and told the Jewish leaders that it was Jesus who had made him well.

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In this story which records for us how Jesus heals a man who had been an invalid for 38 years, we get our first glimpse in John’s Gospel of the tension between Him and the Jewish authorities which ultimately led to His crucifixion.  In this event, we see the compassion that Jesus has for those who suffer.  On the other hand, we see the Jewish leaders lack of concern for the sufferer who had been healed as they criticize Jesus for breaking their religious rules and regulations.

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To more fully understand this story, let me first unpack some of the cultural and religious aspects that are going on here.  The story opens with Jesus leaving the province of Galilee and going up to Jerusalem.  (The city of Jerusalem is situated on the top of a mountain ridge, so almost all biblical writers talk about going “up” to get to Jerusalem.  There were three major Jewish festivals that occurred in a year that caused many thousands of Jews to come to Jerusalem in order to celebrate and worship God.)

We don’t know for sure which festival this was here in chapter five, but in any case, we see Jesus coming to attend, partly I think to fulfill the requirement to come to Jerusalem for this festival, but also I’m sure to continue doing God’s Kingdom work among His people.  What we do know from this text is that many sick and disease stricken people were also there lying beside a pool of water which was near one of the large entry gates into Jerusalem.

(The footnote in some versions, which is considered to be verse four, states that when the water was stirred up for some reason, the people believed that an angel had come down and was causing this and that by going into the water, a person could be healed.)

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So when Jesus entered the city, even though He would have been surrounded by thousands of people, His attention was immediately drawn toward this man who had been paralyzed for so many years.  Jesus went over to him and then asked him, “Do you want to be well?”  Now that might seem like a dumb question to ask a paralyzed man, but really, I think that Jesus was basically asking the man if he wanted Jesus to help him to be healed.

The man misunderstood Jesus, thinking He was offering to help him get down into the water once the water would begin to stir.  But Jesus was going to bypass the use of an intermediary agent and by His own authority He healed the man.  He then basically asked the man to trust His word by standing up (something he hadn’t done by himself in 38 years), picking up his mat and walking away with it.  When compassion and Divine Will come together, amazing and miraculous things happen.

But then religious ritualism reared its ugly head.  When the Jewish leaders saw the man carrying his mat on the Sabbath (the day set apart to only worship God), they accused him of doing work on the Sabbath, which they proclaimed to be forbidden by God in their laws.  (In reality, this was their narrow human interpretation regarding this law which we know to be part of God’s “Ten Commandments”.

The problem is that the Jewish leaders were so zealous to observe religious rituals that they could not see the hand of God working in this man’s life.  They thought that “proper” human behaviour took precedence over the needs of the human soul which needed deliverance from the curse and bondage of extreme physical sickness and disease.

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We must all remember that God’s compassion extends itself to mankind in order to bring honour to Him and freedom to us to willingly return our love and submission back to Him.  Rules will never save a person from sin and bondage.  If that was true back then, it is still true for us today.  Let us now be careful not to impose religious ritualism on fellow believers in hopes to make them more “acceptable” to God.  God already accepts us just as we are, if we have turned to Him in faith.

Who Is John the Baptist

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John 1:19 – 28

John’s Testimony Concerning Himself

19 And this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” 20 He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.” 21 And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.” 22 So they said to him, “Who are you? We need to give an answer to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” 23 He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.”

24 (Now they had been sent from the Pharisees.) 25 They asked him, “Then why are you baptizing, if you are neither the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” 26 John answered them, “I baptize with water, but among you stands one you do not know, 27 even he who comes after me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.” 28 These things took place in Bethany across the Jordan, where John was baptizing.

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In our study today of the Gospel of John, we see that “the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, ‘Who are you?’”  This may appear to be an innocent request from some of the religious leaders of John’s day, but that could not be further from the truth.  These leaders are mystified by John’s ministry, and his success as mentioned in Matthew 3:5 – 6, immediately leads them into a conflict with each other.

You would think that the question “Who are you?” was rather straight forward and simple.  What’s interesting is John’s response, “I am not the Christ.”  Obviously there is more going on here than our text is able to tell us.  Clearly these priests were expecting John to be some great person since they went on to ask him whether he had the spirit of one of the greatest prophets of the Old Testament, or even the special “Prophet” that Moses hinted about in Deuteronomy 18:18.

In order to understand what is happening, we must look at some of the key words in this text, and then build a picture that makes sense of all of the parts.  Then we will understand what’s going on.  So allow me to give you some important Old and New Testament background, and then let me ask each of us an important question, especially to those of us who are in Christian leadership positions.

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In John’s Gospel, even more than in the books of Matthew, Mark and Luke, the term “the Jews” which occasionally does refer to all members of the Jewish nation, is much more narrowly used by John.  Throughout John’s book, “the Jews” are for the most part the religious leaders (comprised of Pharisees, Sadducees, and the scribes who were experts in the Law of Moses, the priests, the Levites and the elders of the nation).

And we constantly see “the Jews” debating and arguing with Jesus and ultimately demanding that Jesus be crucified. What first starts as arrogance and skeptical resistance, turns in time to become defiant challenge and then open hostility.  So you can pretty much know then from the start that these are the bad guys, the antagonists to all the men of God, and by extension are found to be the enemies of God.

But they should have known better.  They were the inheritors of the Word of God, and the protectors of the Temple and the religious rituals that were to lead the people into the true worship of God.  And we too see time and time again, that it is the church leadership which has become cemented in its ways of religious traditions that have actually managed to keep people away from finding God for themselves.

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And so they challenged John, what he was doing, where he was from, and from whom he got the authority to lead this spiritual revival.  (It certainly did not come from the Jewish leaders.)  But they figured if John was not sponsored within their religious structures, then perhaps he must be one of the three great people who were prophesied in the Old Testament who would come back to help the nation of Israel.

But even before they speak, John denies that he is not the Promised Messiah, the Christ (or Anointed One) whom God would one day send to rescue the nation Israel and becomes its King.  Unfortunately, the leaders and the people had it wrong and thought God would send a human political Saviour who would rescue the nation from the oppression of the Roman occupying forces in Palestine.

But John also said he is not “The Prophet” who would be just like the greatest Old Testament leader, Moses, who rescued Israel out of Egypt.  In Deuteronomy 18:18, Moses prophesied that a Great Prophet like him would one day come to help Israel.  But that was not to be John.  And in Malachi 4:5, the second last verse of the Old Testament, a prophecy was made that Elijah would return before the coming of the Lord.

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I can say that these Jewish leaders had some good questions in one sense.  They knew that John was special.  They just did not know how or why.  The truth of the matter is that John came as a simple servant of the Lord, and even in the midst of great success, he exercised even greater humility.  And why was that?  Because it is never meant to be about us, no matter how important we think we are at times.  No it is all about Jesus, the Man who would come after John.

So let me ask each of us who are Christians?  Are we more like The Jews, or are we more like John.  Think about it.

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