God, the Expert Witness (John 5:31–47)

Read John 5:31–47.

Sadly, we live in a day when the truth makes quite a few people uncomfortable. There are many who prefer their own perspective to the cold, hard facts of a situation on the ground—and our culture celebrates such preferences. Within this movement, there are some who would wield their power and influence in order to silence those who speak inconvenient truths. No witnesses to testify, no appeals to that which is ostensibly correct. Might is right. Affirm and celebrate the lie or pay the consequences.

But truth has a way of winning out in the end.

The Jewish leaders are seeking to silence Jesus. He has healed a man on the Sabbath, and there is no denying it. Worse than that, He claims it is His right to break their Sabbath traditions because He is the Son of God. And so, an impromptu trial of sorts begins.

Jesus doesn’t need to defend Himself, but for the sake of His opponents—so that they might have clarity about the true nature of their opposition—He delivers four witnesses to testify on His behalf.

The first is John the Baptist. He had spoken boldly about the Messiah and identified Jesus as the One all Israel has been waiting for (John 1:29–35). Jews from Jerusalem had been curious about John’s strange presentation and message. John said he had come to prepare the way for the Lord (1:23), and now, Jesus is telling them, the Lord is here.

But just as quickly as He presents John as a witness, Jesus strikes him from the record. He doesn’t need human testimony. However, out of love for His enemies, He has reminded them of John’s message: “I mention it that you may be saved” (5:34).

Jesus then introduces a trio of witnesses greater than John the Baptist. First, there are the works themselves; the miracles and signs of Jesus are evidence that He has been sent by God. Second, there is the testimony of God the Father, who speaks to the hearts of those who love Him. And finally, there are the Scriptures themselves, which proclaim the Messiah and His ministry.

All three of these witnesses have the weight of God Himself. Of course, God the Father is a divine witness. But so are the miracles, since they are done through His appointed power. And, of course, the Old Testament writings are the written Word of God. Essentially, Jesus’ witnesses are God, God, and God. And yet, His opponents refuse to accept their testimony.

These religious leaders deny the divine origin of the miracles outright. That’s what started this whole trial to begin with. They have also hardened their hearts so that they cannot accept Jesus and therefore cannot hear God’s voice (vv. 37–38). And while they know the Scriptures well, they have missed the plot. They have looked for eternal life in those ancient scrolls, but they have missed Life Himself (vv. 39–40).

The testimony of God should be all these men need in order to believe, and yet it is precisely Jesus’ connection to God the Father that causes them to stumble. Jesus reveals that their opposition is not really to the miracles or the breaking of Sabbath traditions, or even to the bold claims of Jesus. These Jewish leaders stand opposed to God Himself, the very One they claim to serve. Though these men had wanted to put Jesus on trial, it turns out it’s them who stand condemned.

As a race, we human beings have a way of fashioning God into whatever we’d like Him to be. None of us are immune from this tendency. Even respected Jewish teachers who had dedicated their lives to studying the Old Testament Scriptures and serving the Lord had conjured up a God so like themselves that when they met His Son—His spitting image—in the flesh, they couldn’t recognize Him.

Jesus came to reveal the heart of the Father (1:18), to connect all the dots of the Old Testament and to wipe away the buildup of misunderstanding and idolatry that had collected over the years. We no longer have to wonder what God is like. Jesus shows us.

Make no mistake, when we come face-to-face with Jesus, it is not He who is on trial; it is us. He is the judge, and the whole case comes down to how we receive Him (5:22–23). Will we believe what He says? Will we obey what He commands? There is no disagreement between the work He does in this world, the words of Scripture, and voice of God. They all speak the same message: Jesus is the Son of God. He is our hope and our salvation.

What’s this all about?

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