90 Days with Jesus, Day 21: John 5:31-47: In Whom Do you Trust?
31″If I testify about myself, my testimony is not valid. 32There is another who testifies in my favor, and I know that his testimony about me is valid. 33″You have sent to John and he has testified to the truth. 34Not that I accept human testimony; but I mention it that you may be saved. 35John was a lamp that burned and gave light, and you chose for a time to enjoy his light. 36″I have testimony weightier than that of John. For the very work that the Father has given me to finish, and which I am doing, testifies that the Father has sent me. 37And the Father who sent me has himself testified concerning me. You have never heard his voice nor seen his form, 38nor does his word dwell in you, for you do not believe the one he sent. 39You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, 40yet you refuse to come to me to have life. 41″I do not accept praise from men, 42but I know you. I know that you do not have the love of God in your hearts. 43I 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. 44How can you believe if you accept praise from one another, yet make no effort to obtain the praise that comes from the only God? 45″But do not think I will accuse you before the Father. Your accuser is Moses, on whom your hopes are set. 46If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me. 47But since you do not believe what he wrote, how are you going to believe what I say?”
Yesterday, I ended by noting that we need to understand how we can trust what Jesus was saying to be the truth. Let me begin today by saying the most obvious answer to the question: Everything that God did through Jesus he did in the context of history. In other words, it is verifiable. There were eyewitnesses. For example, the apostle Paul said one time that the Resurrected Jesus appeared to more than 500 people at one time (1 Corinthians 15). So God did not do something in secret, or behind a rock, or magically in the the hearts of a few. He did not send secret messages to individuals (as with Joseph Smith or Muhammad). He sent His Son, His One and Only Son, His Only Begotten Son, into the world of history. John said, ‘he camped among us’ (1:14). John also says something revealing in 1 John 1:1-4:
1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. 2 The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. 3 We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. 4 We write this to make our joy complete.
He is saying that Jesus was real, that he heard what Jesus said, he saw what Jesus did. Jesus was so close that John and the others could touch Jesus with their hands. In John’s other words, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”
But, as important as history is, Jesus does not end with history. No, in fact he says that there are more witnesses who testify to him. He says as much, “If I testify about myself, my testimony is not valid.” However, he says, my contention is that I’m not the only one testifying about myself. “There is another who testifies in my favor, and I know that his testimony about me is valid.” He begins to lay out his case. First he says, “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 the baptizer was the first testimony that Jesus mentions. Remember John’s testimony: “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” This is what John said to people when he saw Jesus.
Second, Jesus says, “I have weightier testimony than John.” In other words, ‘If John’s testimony to you is not good enough, how about this: The very work the Father has given me to finish, and which I am doing, testifies that the Father has sent me.’ I do not happen to think that this merely refers to the miracles and the teaching and the breaking of the Pharisees’ Sabbath laws. Only later, when Jesus was on the cross dying for the sins of the world, did he say, “It is finished.” That was the primary work that Jesus was sent to finish. He tells us, that work I am doing, testifies that the Father sent me. This does not exclude [miraculous] signs, teaching, and breaking Sabbath rules, but these are certainly not the main idea. Still, it is important to note the very nature of the work that Jesus did on earth. Maybe it was not evident to them at the time, but I would think at the cross it would be. And there is certainly no excuse for such ignorance now.
Third, Jesus says, “And the Father who sent me has himself testified concerning me.” Jesus will spend significant time discussing the Father’s testimony in chapter 8. Perhaps here Jesus is referring to his baptism when the dove descended and the voice of God spoke. In John’s Gospel, this is only alluded to (1:32-34). FF Bruce suggests that John’s readers would, not his present hearers in the story, would be sufficiently familiar with the account of his baptism to ‘fill in the details.’ He also remembers Hebrews 1:1: “In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways…” God has then testified about the coming Messiah and about Jesus in particular.
Fourth, Jesus says, “You diligently study the Scripture because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.” The Word of God testifies about Jesus. This makes sense and helps us understand the nature of the written word, and also the purpose of the written word. When we read through those canonical Old Testament books we are reading the story of Jesus. Jesus himself said so in Luke 24 as we read of his Post-resurrection appearance to a couple of disciples, “‘How foolish you are, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?’ And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself” (Luke 24:25-27). He said again, “‘This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms.’ Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures” (Luke 24:44-45).
This is why it is so imperative that those of the Faith spend time in the Scripture. This is why it is so imperative that those of the pulpit preach what is written in Scripture and not what is in books and self-help manuals. Listen: The Scripture is about Jesus. When we study, when we learn, when we teach, when we preach, when we testify we do so from Scripture, and about Jesus. Too much time is wasted from pulpits in America because the preacher is too busy preaching about dreams, visions, the ‘end-times’, prophecy, purpose, new buildings, this, that, the warp and the woof, then, now, here and there. Preachers ought to be preaching and testifying about Jesus Christ. He’s who the Bible is about: Front to Back, side to side, Alpha to Omega, Beginning to the End.
Probably the reason we are so unprepared as Christians to testify about Jesus and to give evidence that He is the Only Way to Salvation is because we don’t have preachers who preach the whole counsel of God. But what if preachers, when they preach, got up and preached Jesus Christ and Him Crucified instead of how to have a Christianized version of the American dream? PT Forsyth is insightful on this very matter, “The church has lost much moral tone even in its occupation with ethical subjects. And why? It has lost power to guide the instinct of self-sacrifice when it reduces the cross to nothing else. Has it not lost religious weight in the weightiest matters with the weightiest people? And the deep cause is its moder failure to understand the cross, to see in the judgment of the cross God’s righteousness, God’s holiness, coming finally to its own, and to realise this as the one object for which man exists or the world” (The Cruciality of the Cross, 72). But that is not what is preached in most churches and if you need proof of it note Forsyth’s words again. The church has lost much of its moral authority in this world. Who listens to the church as a guiding voice? Now the church is reduced to a mere gad-fly that must be placated and appeased every other year by politicians who are soliciting her votes. All because preachers will not preach the hard truth of Scripture. Forsyth was right, in 1908!
Here then is the complaint of Jesus: These people he was speaking to did not really love God because they accepted none of the testimony of God who testified about Jesus. I know it is popular nowadays to say something insipid and stupid like ‘there are many paths to God, but only one god.’ Well that is just plain nonsense. There is only one path to God and God has testified to that path through John (not that Jesus accepts human testimony, 34, or needs praise from men, 41), through the Cross, through his own mouth, and through the Scripture. Jesus came in the Name of God, did the Work of God so when people rejected Jesus they were rejecting the One who sent him; it is no different now. The people of this world who reject Jesus or put him on an equal footing with their local deities are rejecting God altogether. There is no Muslim path, Hindu path, Buddhist path, Spiritism path, Christian Science path, Scientology path or any other such nonsense. Jesus says the only path is through Himself. It is in vogue to seek the praise of people now and find some alternate path because no one wants the hard life that Jesus calls us to, or, as he says, that Moses called people to. “If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me.” That is specific. Moses wrote about Jesus. Look it up: The crossing of the Red Sea, the Passover, the Plagues, the Sabbath rules, the Tabernacle, the Sacrifice, the Bronze Snake, the Water from the Rock, the Ten Commandments. It all spoke of Jesus.
Now remember this. Jesus said these words to Pharisees and other people that day. John preserved them for the church. What, then, do you think Jesus is saying to the church in these words? Well, these folks Jesus spoke to originally found their accuser in Moses. I wonder who is our accuser? They placed all their hopes in Moses, whom Jesus says they did not believe. In whom have we placed our hopes? Have we placed our hopes in the dreams and visions cast for us by marketing specialists wrapped in the garb of evangelists or prophets? Have we put our hope in popularizers of the offense of the cross? Have we put our hope in gurus, actors, yogis, imams, secularists, writers, monks, or some other such non-authoritative person? Or have we put our hope in Christ who preaches the Word of God, who is the Word of God? This is the question the church faces right now at this hour. Our greatest threat in the church is not global warming, Armageddon, the destruction of America by terrorists, the loss of wealth or even the lack of space because our buildings are not big enough (I actually read about a church going to court over such a travesty!). Our greatest threat, right now, today, is preachers who will not preach Christ Crucified. I ask again: In whom have you put your hopes?
I Hope this 21st Day of 90 with Jesus is Blessed for you!
Soli Deo Gloria!