31 “If I testify about myself, my testimony is not true. 32 There is another who testifies in my favor, and I know that his testimony about me is true.
33 “You have sent to John and he has testified to the truth. 34 Not that I accept human testimony; but I mention it that you may be saved. 35 John 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 works that the Father has given me to finish—the very works that I am doing—testify that the Father has sent me. 37 And the Father who sent me has himself testified concerning me. You have never heard his voice nor seen his form, 38 nor does his word dwell in you, for you do not believe the one he sent. 39 You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me to have life.
(John 5:31-40 NIV)
We are continuing to work through Jesus’ discourse with the Jewish religious leaders. The religious leaders were taking Jesus to task for healing on the Sabbath. Jesus had not broken God’s laws about the Sabbath, for God’s mercy is in effect every day. The religious leaders had extra “rules” (their traditions) that they added to God’s laws and held in higher regard than God’s laws. Tradition got in the way of truth, and Jesus called them out about this.
Jesus has just finished telling the religious leaders of eternal life through the Father and Himself, the Son. Jesus now switches the subject from Himself to testimony about Himself. In God’s Law, a matter was not decided until there was received, examined, and found to be true. Jesus had every right to bypass this step as God Himself but chose to offer the required testimony in an effort to convince these religious leaders of the truth.
Jesus offered four testimonies concerning Himself:
- Jesus’ testimony (v. 31): Jesus knows His testimony is true, and also knows that God’s Law requires others to give independent corroborating (supporting) testimony to validate the testimony of the one on trial.
- John the Baptizer (vv. 32-35): Jesus says that John’s testimony is not needed, but even if it was, the religious rulers had already dismissed it because John held them accountable for their actions. Since John had criticized the religious leaders for their actions, they dismissed everything else John said from that point forward.
- God the Father’s work through Christ (vv. 36-38): Jesus challenged the religious leaders to believe in what God was doing through Him, even if they did not believe Jesus’ words about Himself. Jesus reminds the religious leaders that they had already come to the conclusion that Jesus was empowered to do the miracles He did by God’s power, as Nicodemus had testified to Jesus (John 3:1-2).
- The Scriptures (vv. 39-40): Jesus challenged the religious leaders to examine and believe what the Scriptures said about Himself. Jesus is essentially saying, “You claim to be experts in God’s Law, knowing all things about the Scriptures and Messiah. I am standing right here before you; can you not see that the very words you are reading and studying are talking about me?”
Jesus reminds the religious leaders that eternal life does not come through belief in a creed, idea, philosophy, or law. Eternal life comes through a person, and that person is Jesus Himself.
When we share Christ with others, do we expect them to conform to some external standard of behavior before Christ accepts them? Or do we just point them to Christ, and love them unconditionally as Christ loved us and welcomed us when we came to Him?
May we never put anything or anyone other than Christ before those who seek Him.