The Five-Fold Testimony of Who Jesus Is... (John 5:31-47)
(John 5:31-32) Jesus tells of testimony beyond His own regarding himself.
“If I bear witness of Myself, My witness is not true. There is another who bears witness of Me, and I know that the witness which He witnesses of Me is true.”
A) If I bear witness of Myself, My witness is not true: Like anyone else, it was not enough for Jesus to simply claim things about Himself. There had to be outside and independent witness to His true identity and nature.
B) This principle is established by Deuteronomy 19:15, which says by the mouth of two or three witnesses the matter shall be established. Jesus explained to the religious leaders that He was God, but His testimony alone was not enough.
C) There is another who bears witness of Me: In the following passage, Jesus brought forth three trustworthy witnesses who will testify that He is equal to the Father. Jesus found it important to give them reason to believe beyond what He said about Himself.
(John 5:33-35) The testimony of John the Baptist.
“You have sent to John, and he has borne witness to the truth. Yet I do not receive testimony from man, but I say these things that you may be saved. He was the burning and shining lamp, and you were willing for a time to rejoice in his light.”
A) You have sent to John, and he has borne witness to the truth: Jesus noted that the religious leaders knew of and heard John the Baptist for themselves. They needed to think of and believe what John said about Jesus.
B) He was the burning and shining lamp, and you were willing for a time to rejoice in his light: The religious leaders accepted the work of John the Baptist for a time. They needed to continue to believe John regarding Jesus the Messiah.
C) The expression of lamp our Lord took from the ordinary custom of the Jews, who termed their eminent doctors the lamps of Israel.
D) “He said that John was the lamp which burns and shines. That was the perfect tribute to him. (1) A lamp bears a borrowed light. It does not light itself; it is lit. (2) John had warmth, for his was not the cold message of the intellect but the burning message of the kindled heart. (3) John had light. The function of light is to guide, and John pointed men on the way to repentance and to God. (4) In the nature of things a lamp burns itself out; in giving light it consumes itself. John was to decrease while Jesus increased. The true witness burns himself out for God.” (Barclay)
E) To rejoice: To jump for joy, as we would express it. They were exceedingly rejoiced to hear that the Messiah was come, because they expected him to deliver them out of the hands of the Romans; but when a spiritual deliverance, of infinitely greater moment was preached to them, they rejected both it and the light which made it manifest.
(John 5:36) The testimony of the works of Jesus.
“But I have a greater witness than John’s; for the works which the Father has given Me to finish; the very works that I do; bear witness of Me, that the Father has sent Me.”
A) A greater witness than John’s . . . the very works that I do: Jesus claimed another witness regarding His identity and deity: the very works that He did. This present controversy started with a remarkable healing of a man paralyzed for 38 years. This was one of many works that testified to the deity of Jesus.
B) The very works that I do; bear witness of Me: The majority of the miraculous works of Jesus were simple acts of compassion and mercy, done for simple and needy people. In this, these works . . . bear witness to the heart of God. The Jews looked for a miraculous Messiah, but they did not look for One who would express His miraculous power in simple acts of compassion and mercy. They looked for the Messiah to use miraculous power to bring military and political deliverance to Israel.
C) Because Jesus’ miraculous works didn’t fit in with what they thought the Messiah would do, they didn’t receive this witness of Jesus’ works.
(John 5:37-38) The testimony of the Father.
“And the Father Himself, who sent Me, has testified of Me. You have neither heard His voice at any time, nor seen His form. But you do not have His word abiding in you, because whom He sent, Him you do not believe.”
A) The Father Himself, who sent Me, has testified of Me: In virtually every work and word of Jesus, God the Father testified to Jesus status as the Son of God. But specifically, the Father testified of the Son in Old Testament prophecy and at the baptism of Jesus (Luke 3:22).
B) But you do not have His word abiding in you: They will not receive the testimony of the Father, because they do not have His word abiding in them. They can’t hear God the Father audibly, or see Him, but they have His word. They are guilty because they do not abide in the word that God gave them.
(John 5:39) The testimony of the Scriptures.
“You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me.”
A) You search the Scriptures: In theory the religious leaders in Jesus’ day loved and valued the Scriptures (here used in the sense of the Old Testament). They studied and memorized and thought upon them continually, correctly thinking eternal life was found in God’s revelation.
1. They read them with a wooden and superstitious reverence for the letter, and never penetrated into the great truths to which they pointed.
2. They read it not to search for God but to find arguments to support their own positions. They did not really love God; they loved their own ideas about him.
B) Search the Scriptures: The verb itself (eraunao) implies keen scrutiny, tracking down the message of the Scriptures. The tragedy was that these people, for all their painstaking exploration of the sacred writings, had never found the clue which would lead them to their goal.
C) These are they which testify of Me: If their study of the Scriptures was accurate and sincere, they would see that they spoke of the Messiah, God the Son. Their recognition of and belief upon Jesus was a measure of their true understanding of the Scriptures.
(John 5:40-44) The reason for their unbelief.
“But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life. I do not receive honor from men. But I know you, that you do not have the love of God in you. I have come in My Father’s name, and you do not receive Me; if another comes in his own name, him you will receive. How can you believe, who receive honor from one another, and do not seek the honor that comes from the only God?”
A) But you are not willing to come to Me: The religious leaders were not willing, even though they had all the testimony one could have wanted. They were concerned with man’s honor, not the honor that comes from God (do not seek the honor that comes from the only God).
B) Jesus made it clear that having life is found in fulfilling the command “come to Me.” Christ is a person, a living person, full of power to save. He has not placed his salvation in sacraments, or books, or priests, but he has kept it in himself; and if you want to have it you must come to him.
C) Their refusal to come to Jesus was despite their searching of the Scriptures (John 5:39).
D) I do not receive honor from men: I do not stand in need of you or your testimony. I act neither through self interest nor vanity. Your salvation can add nothing to me, nor can your destruction injure me: I speak only through my love for your souls, that you may be saved.
E) That you do not have the love of God in you: The reasons for their rejection were fundamentally reasons of the heart, not of the mind. These religious leaders could hide behind supposedly intellectual excuses, but their real lack was love and desire for the honor that comes from God.
F) If another comes in his own name, him you will receive: Jesus prophesied the coming day when the descendants of these religious leaders would embrace a false Christ, an Antichrist, who comes in his own name. The rejection of Jesus left them open to terrible deception.
G) The words are perhaps spoken primarily of the false or Idol/Messiah, the Antichrist, who shall appear in the latter days (2 Thessalonians 2:8-12); whose appearance shall be according to the working of Satan (their father, John 8:44), 4He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God., 2 Thessalonians 2:4.
H) Though this will ultimately be fulfilled in the very end times, there were lesser fulfillments through history. “An outstanding fulfillment of this prediction came about in ad 132, when one Simeon ban Kosebah claimed to be the Messiah of David’s line, and led a revolt against Rome…Simeon’s messianic pretensions involved himself, his supporters and the people of Judea in the most fearful ruin.
I) How can you believe, who receive honor from one another, and do not seek the honor that comes from the only God? The fatal error of the religious leaders of Jesus’ day (and ever since) is pride. They longed for prestige and honor from one another and were willing to sacrifice the honor that comes from God alone for the sake of man’s honor.
J) The grand obstacle to the salvation of the scribes and Pharisees was their pride, vanity, and self-love. They lived on each other’s praise. If they had acknowledged Christ as the only teacher, they must have given up the good opinion of the multitude; and they chose instead to lose their souls than to forfeit their reputation among men!
K) Seeking credit as religious men from one another, they necessarily got used to themselves to current ideas, and blotted out Divine glory from their mind.
L) They had accused Jesus of acting independently of God; He now accuses them of displaying that independence. The motive of their actions is not love for God but the approval of their peers.
(John 5:45-47) The testimony of Moses.
“Do not think that I shall accuse you to the Father; there is one who accuses you; Moses, in whom you trust. For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote about Me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?”
A) If you believed Moses, you would believe Me: These religious leaders rejected Jesus because they rejected God’s word through Moses. Moses accuses them, because Moses wrote about Jesus and they would not receive the testimony of Moses.
B) For he wrote about Me: Jesus said of the Scriptures that they testify of Me (John 5:39). The words and writings of Moses fulfill this, prophetically speaking of the Messiah in many places.
C) The Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your midst, from your brethren. Him you shall hear. (Deuteronomy 18:15)
D) Then the Lord said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a pole; and it shall be that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, shall live.” So Moses made a bronze serpent, and put it on a pole; and so it was, if a serpent had bitten anyone, when he looked at the bronze serpent, he lived. (Numbers 21:8-9)
E) Jesus was typified in the rock that gave Israel water in the wilderness (Numbers 20:8-12 and 1 Corinthians 10:4).
F) The ministry of Jesus was shown in almost every aspect of the seven different kinds of offering that God commanded Israel to bring (Leviticus 1-7).
G) Jesus and His ministry were shown in the Tabernacle and its service. One place where the New Testament makes this connection is with the word propitiation in Romans 3:25, which speaks of the mercy seat on the Ark of the Covenant.
H) The law of the bondservant speaks of Jesus (Exodus 21:5-6 and Psalm 40:6-8).
I) No wonder Jesus could say Behold, I come; in the scroll of the Book it is written of Me (Psalm 40:7). He could teach a Bible study where beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself (Luke 24:27).
J) Thus the writings of Moses were prophetic. In them nothing was completed. They pointed on to other things, which came to pass when Jesus came. So in this word we find at once the authority and limitation of Moses.
K) This is an important testimony by the Lord to the subject of the whole Pentateuch; it is concerning Him. It is also a testimony to the fact, of Moses having written those books, which were then, and are still, known by his name.
L) But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words? Jesus did not call these religious leaders to a new or a different faith. He called them to believe what Moses, what the Scriptures, what His works, what John the Baptist each testified about Jesus: that He is the Messiah, the Son of God and God the Son. If they refused to believe this overwhelming testimony, it was unlikely they would believe Jesus’ own words.