Welcome to Day 2145 of Wisdom-Trek, and thank you for joining me.
This is Guthrie Chamberlain, Your Guide to Wisdom
The Gospel of John – 12 – Witnesses for the Defense – Daily Wisdom
Putnam Church Message – 05/01/2022
The Gospel of John – Part 3 Authentication Of The Word – Witnesses for the Defense
Today we continue our Good News series according to John the Apostle. Last week we had part one of yet another mock trial. Jesus represented himself as the defense attorney, arguing against the prosecutors with six claims of why He is not only The Lord of the Sabbath, but also equal with God. Today, Jesus calls five character witnesses to take the stand to validate His six claims. Today’s passage is John 5:31-47, on page 1657 in the Pew Bible. I am reading from the NLT because it flows so well. Follow along as I read it.
31 “If I were to testify on my own behalf, my testimony would not be valid. 32 But someone else is also testifying about me, and I assure you that everything he says about me is true. 33 In fact, you sent investigators to listen to John the Baptist, and his testimony about me was true. 34 Of course, I have no need of human witnesses, but I say these things so you might be saved. 35 John was like a burning and shining lamp, and you were excited for a while about his message. 36 But I have a greater witness than John/—my teachings and my miracles. The Father gave me these works to accomplish, and they prove that he sent me. 37 And the Father who sent me has testified about me himself. You have never heard his voice or seen him face to face, 38 and you do not have his message in your hearts, because you do not believe me—/the one he sent to you. 39 “You search the Scriptures because you think they give you eternal life. But the Scriptures point to me! 40 Yet you refuse to come to me to receive this life.
41 “Your approval means nothing to me, 42 because I know you don’t have God’s love within you. 43 For I have come to you in my Father’s name, and you have rejected me. Yet if others come in their own name, you gladly welcome them. 44 No wonder you can’t believe! For you gladly honor each other, but you don’t care about the honor that comes from the one who alone is God.[a]
45 “Yet it isn’t I who will accuse you before the Father. Moses will accuse you! Yes, Moses, in whom you put your hopes. 46 If you really believed Moses, you would believe me, because he wrote about me. 47 But since you don’t believe what he wrote, how will you believe what I say?”
First, let’s back up just a bit to add some context for today. Civilized cultures have maintained order throughout human history by creating laws and then enforcing those laws through a court system. While these justice systems have varied widely, and some have undoubtedly been more effective than others, their purpose has basically been to discover the truth in any given matter. At least, that is their stated purpose. But, as we have all seen at one time or another, the truth is entirely irrelevant to a judge or jury who refuses to accept facts.
While Jesus had not yet been literally hauled into court, He was nonetheless on trial. The temple officials had found a once crippled man breaking their tradition by carrying his mat on the Sabbath. This man, in turn, pointed an accusing finger at Jesus (John 5:11). Then, an initial confrontation only added to their list of alleged crimes; Jesus immediately accepted responsibility for breaking with tradition and then, in addition to that, claimed to be equal with God (5:17–18).
John summarizes the dialogue between Jesus and the officials rather than chronologically. The Lord’s interaction with the religious authorities occurred over several days, weeks, or months, which 5:18 summarizes. After the first confrontation, we see the passing of time and a steady escalation of resentment of the temple officials. John describes this extended time with verbs in the “imperfect” tense, which the Greek language uses to describe ongoing, habitual, or repeated action. 18 So the Jewish leaders tried all the harder to find a way to kill him. For he not only broke the Sabbath, he called God his Father, thereby making himself equal with God. The officials were continually “seeking all the more to kill Him” because He was frequently or repetitively “breaking the Sabbath,”/ “calling God His own Father,” /and “making Himself equal with God.” Eventually, this growing tension led to what may be called a “drumhead trial.” (beating of the drum) Rather than hauling Jesus into court, the temple officials brought the makeshift courtroom to Jesus. They assumed the role of judge and hoped the jury of public opinion would side with them.
Last week we saw that Jesus, representing himself as the defense attorney, met their challenge with a declaration of truth in the form of six bold claims to deity (5:19–30). His sudden shift in perspective from the third person (“Son of God” and “Son of Man”) to the first person (“I”) in 5:30 marks a transition in His rebuttal. 30 I can do nothing on my own. I judge as God tells me. Therefore, my judgment is just, because I carry out the will of the one who sent me, not my own will.
Let’s proceed with today’s courtroom scene: “In the Jewish Temple criminal justice system, the people are represented by two separate yet equally important groups. The Pharisees who investigate crime, and the Sadducees who prosecute the offenders. These are their stories.”
Order in the Court, Order in the Court (Pound Gavel) Jesus, called the Christ, will resume his testimony.
Having established His premise, Jesus began to call witnesses to support His claims. / Before closing His case in 5:47, Jesus will have called five witnesses to the stand: (Bulletin Insert)
Witness #1: God the Father (5:32, 37–38)
Witness #2: John the Forerunner (5:33–35)
Witness #3: Jesus’ “signs and miracles” (5:36)
Witness #4: The Scriptures (5:39–44)
Witness #5: Moses (5:45–47)
Jesus opened His case by quoting a guiding principle of Jewish court procedure, which stems from the Law of Moses in Deuteronomy. 17:6 But never put a person to death on the testimony of only one witness. There must always be two or three witnesses.
19:15 “You must not convict anyone of a crime on the testimony of only one witness. The facts of the case must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.
He clarifies this principle with 31 “If I were to testify on my own behalf, my testimony would not be valid. So Jesus knew he had to have additional witnesses to collaborate his claims. A defendant’s testimony is not considered valid unless it is supported either by undisputed fact or reliable testimony. Moreover, the testimony must come from more than one witness. Jewish courts accepted corroborating testimony from multiple witnesses as indisputable proof—a truth that could not be denied.
Witness #1: God the Father (5:32, 37–38) (Pound Gavel)
John, translating the Aramaic words of Jesus, could have chosen either of two Greek words for “someone else,” allos or heteros. The two words are basically synonymous with a slight nuance. Whereas heteros means “someone else of a different sort,” allos means “someone else of the same sort.” Of course, this “someone else” is God the Father (5:36–37). Without denying complete unity or oneness with the Father, Jesus treated the Father’s testimony as independent. Jesus was a stellar defense attorney. If His accusers objected, they would admit that He and the Father are indeed one being. By failing to object, His accusers had to receive the independent testimony of the Almighty into evidence.
Jesus referred to more than nine centuries of prophecy, which He had fulfilled precisely. He even fulfilled details of prophecy over which He had no control (humanly speaking), such as the manner, time, and place of His birth (Isaiah 7:14; Daniel 9:25; Micah 5:2). His judges and jury included scribes, men who had dedicated their lives to preserving Scripture and had entirely naturally become experts in its interpretation and application. Likewise, the Pharisees devoted their lives to meticulous obedience to the Law, believing that the moral purification of Israel would hasten the coming of the Messiah. Unfortunately, like most religious people, these men preserved and transmitted truth daily yet failed to live it.
Witness #2: John the Forerunner (5:33–35) (Pound Gavel)
Earlier, the religious authorities sought out John the Baptizer because his widespread ministry caused Jews to begin looking for the Messiah. His impact was so profound that few doubted his status as a genuine prophet of God (Matthew 14:5; 21:26; Mark 11:32; Luke 20:6). However, the excitement he stirred was short-lived. He was the lamp, not the light./ He was the forerunner, not the Christ. /John completed His mission by introducing the Messiah/ and then stepped aside.
But Jesus was not the Messiah Israel wanted. He came to establish a different kind of kingdom, not one that would raise an army, overthrow Rome, conquer the world, and usher Israel into a new golden age of power and prosperity./ At least not yet./ Unlike the messiah of selfish expectations, the true Messiah came to conquer hearts. He came to transform hearts of stone into hearts of flesh, which would then beat in perfect rhythm with the Law (Jer. 31:31–33; Ezek. 11:19–20; 36:26).
Witness #3: Jesus’ “signs and miracles” (5:36) (Pound Gavel)
While John the Baptizer had been a powerful witness and an authentic voice for God, he never performed miracles (John 10:41). Jesus, however, performed many “signs” (2:23; 3:2), including the dramatic miracle that sparked His current trial. These miracles do not establish His deity alone; other mere mortals have been the means by which God accomplished supernatural “works.” However, miracles had long been accepted as God’s stamp of approval on the miracle worker’s message. Jesus’ signs authenticated His message: I am equal with the Father. Furthermore, the miracles were consistent with the character and plans of God.
Witness #4: The Scriptures (5:39–44) (Pound Gavel)
The verb “you search” (39) can be translated as a command or statement. Some versions elect to render the verb as a statement; however, I believe Jesus issued a challenge: “Go ahead, search the Scriptures!” His point was twofold. First, Jesus’ challenge anticipated the conclusion they would reach if they dared take the message of Scripture at face value. If they remained intellectually honest, the Old Testament would lead them to conclude that He is undoubtedly the Son of God. Second, these practitioners of religion searched the Word of God for criteria by which they could merit their own salvation and failed to encounter the Word Himself, who promised to give them righteousness by grace, through believing loyalty. He challenged the religious experts to continue their vain quest while alluding to the grave consequences of their stubbornness. Rather than reading Scripture to know God, they made the Law their own god.
Jesus supported His accusation first by contrasting His motivation with theirs: Whereas He doesn’t seek the approval of men (implying that He seeks only the approval of God), the religious authorities daily sacrifice their love of God for the admiration of people. Jesus then pointed to the absurdity of their accepting teachers who made a name for themselves while rejecting the One who glorifies the Father.
Witness #5: Moses (5:45–47) (Pound Gavel)
Jesus’ fifth and final witness is none other than Moses, the man revered by every Jew as a founding father of their faith and the greatest of all the prophets. Only the coming “greater prophet,” the Messiah (see Deut. 18:15–19), would surpass the great Moses. Moreover, it was the writings of Moses, the temple officials had twisted into a religion of works and had perverted to become their means of rejecting the Christ. You will recall that Jesus’ supposed violation of Moses’ Law drew them in the first place.
Moses never intended the Law to become an end unto itself. The Law cannot become the means of a self-made righteousness, because no one can keep it perfectly. Therefore, the Law can only indict, never justify. On the contrary, Moses predicted the failure of the Israelite people and promised a Savior to lead them … if they would heed His words.
Why didn’t the religious leaders believe these witnesses to the truth of Jesus Christ? Jesus named two interrelated reasons or obstacles:
- They were unwilling (5:40–43). Accepting Jesus as the Son of God is not an intellectual problem; it’s a crisis of the will. Unfortunately, like many court cases, the judge and jury only received those facts supporting their foregone conclusion and cast the others aside.
- They were proud (5:43–44). Pride is the secret virtue of all religions, and glory is its reward. Those who achieve man-made righteousness would rather reject the truth of God’s grace than give up their glory.
The religious leaders rejected Jesus not because they were unable to believe but because they were unwilling. Inability to believe results from a dull mind, which the disciples struggled to overcome for much of Jesus’ earthly ministry. The Lord is remarkably patient with our weaknesses, as John illustrates in the next segment of his narrative. On the other hand, unwillingness to believe is the result of pride; and pride invariably leads to destruction.
APPLICATION: JOHN 5:31–47
Five Reasons, Two Obstacles, and One Way
Jesus gave the Pharisees six claims to believe He is the Son of God, and five character witnesses of authorities they claimed to respect. Yet, despite this and other irrefutable evidence proving Jesus’ deity, the Pharisees remained unmoved.
Be on the lookout for such people as you move through life. Some are genuinely curious about Jesus Christ, and their questions can become an opportunity to lead them to faith in Him 1 Peter 3:15. Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it. But don’t be fooled. Not every debate about spiritual matters is prompted by curiosity; more often than not, a religious debate is merely the ruse of the rebellious. People will engage you in debate for no other purpose than to challenge the truth, not to understand and believe. It’s part of a clever game they play with themselves. Their goal for debating a believer is to pretend they have good reason to remain on their present course. If Christians cannot refute their objections or offer a compelling reason to believe in Christ, they don’t feel obligated to submit control of their lives to anyone else. In reality, they cannot tolerate the Christian’s firm belief that God, not humanity, controls the universe’s destiny. By the end of the debate, the Christian is exhausted, and the rebel feels vindicated … for a while. Soon, they compulsively engage another unwary believer, driven by the same need as a boy whistling past the graveyard.
Here are seven ways to know when a rebel wants to play “convert-me-if-you-can”:
- The person challenges you with a negative opinion about God, or some other theological concern, and then expects you to talk them out of it. (For example, “God doesn’t care about people, or He would end all suffering.”)
- The person presents a theological conundrum that has no definite answer. (For example, “What about those who never heard about Jesus?”)
- The person presumes to judge the goodness of God by human standards, especially their own. (For example, “I can’t believe in a God who would send someone to hell.”)
- The person tries to convince you that your faith is irrational or that God does not exist.
- The person shifts the conversation to another issue whenever you begin making headway on the first.
- The person becomes angry and belligerent or resorts to name-calling.
- The person wants to compare qualifications or casts doubt upon yours.
If you suspect you’re in a debate with a rebel, politely end the conversation. You might even offer your reason for cutting it short. The temptation to continue can be enticing, but I have never seen someone argue into the kingdom. At best, you can only argue to a stalemate because the challenge is not the intellect but the will. If you must leave them with something,/ let it be a testimony of your own experience and the fruit of right living. Few people can refute that.
On the other hand, genuinely curious people listen rather than argue. They question rather than challenge. They are receptive and humble, not argumentative and brash. They accept that some questions cannot be answered adequately and respect the occasional “I don’t know.” They respond positively to empathy, whereas rebels are unaffected by compassion. And, best of all, with genuinely curious people, the conversation naturally flows into a gospel presentation. Of course, not everyone immediately acts upon the good news, but those who want to know the truth will at least hear it without a fight. So
So, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, what is your verdict now that the defense has presented its case?
(Back to the decision tree) We all have two choices, and from there, two more choices.
Next Sunday, we will change locations to the north of Isreal in Galilee. We will examine God’s Specialty: Impossibilities. Please read John 6:1-21 in preparation for next week’s message.