41 “I do not accept glory from human beings, 42 but I know you. I know that you do not have the love of God in your hearts. 43 I 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. 44 How can you believe since you accept glory from one another but do not seek the glory 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. 46 If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me. 47 But since you do not believe what he wrote, how are you going to believe what I say?”
(John 5:41-47 NIV)
Today we wrap up Jesus’ discourse with the Jewish religious leaders.
The religious leaders had criticized Jesus for healing the lame man on the Sabbath. Their claim was that healing was “work”, which God forbade in the Ten Commandments. Jesus corrected them and showed them that healing is an act of mercy, not work. God’s mercy is in effect and active every day – it does not take a day off.
Jesus went on to explain His role as Messiah and ultimately as judge of the universe. Jesus then offered them eternal life, telling them how they could escape the final judgment. Jesus even offered four testimonies about Himself to convince the religious leaders that He is Messiah.
Today Jesus tells the religious leaders that their hearts are far from the Father and Him. Jesus has already told the religious leaders that the reason He is doing what He is doing is to obey and thus glorify the Father. Jesus is not doing this ministry to glorify Himself or to build up His name.
In verses 42 through 44, Jesus essentially accuses the religious leaders of being moralists. They have developed a moral code and agreed to live by that code. The only problem is that the moral code entirely leaves God out of the picture. They go out of their way to honor and praise one another, but completely dismiss Jesus when He comes in the power and name of the Father.
As Jesus wraps up His discourse, He refers to His comment about the religious leaders studying the Scriptures in verses 39 – 40 as well as his remarks about judgment in verses 24 – 30. Jesus acknowledged the religious leaders’ diligence in studying the Torah (the Old Testament), especially the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Old Testament written by Moses). But the religious leaders were in a scholarly and ethical pursuit to be more compliant with their moral code, and not in a heart pursuit after God.
Jesus reminds the religious leaders that they have lost sight of God in all their studies. Moses often spoke about the Messiah, who was to come. Now that Messiah is in their midst, they don’t recognize Him. Jesus says He won’t judge the religious leaders for their unbelief because Moses will accuse them first. If the religious leaders won’t believe Moses, why would they believe Jesus?
Why do we do the things we do? Do we pursue spiritual things for our glory, or for the praise of others? Do we participate in good deeds in our communities for our self-righteous reasons? Do we attend church and other religious gatherings more for social interaction, friendships, or head knowledge than for heart worship?
The point is not to criticize these activities, but to check our hearts and ask ourselves why we do what we do.
May our motivation, all things we are and do, focus on our heart pursuit after God Himself, to be in communion with Him and in community with others, pointing to Him.