I confess. During worship services as a kid, there were moments of day-dreaming (all spiritual of course). In my mind, there were endless amounts of exciting things happening on the other side of those stained glass windows. Right past the barrier of the big blue Noah’s ark, was a game of football. It was just in my mind of course, because you really can’t see through stained glass. I really didn’t know what was on the other side at that moment, but I imagined a lot and it always reflected my interests.
When describing God, the temptation is to patch together bits of color taken from scripture and create a picture we’re comfortable with. If we’re not careful, the result is an image with warm light, but little insight to His true nature. Such was the case with the leaders in John 5. The on-going tension between Jewish leaders and Jesus concerning His credibility was strong. Jesus presented 5 witnesses to corroborate His authenticity (only two were needed under Jewish law), while also asking two questions…take a look:
31“If I bear witness of Myself, My witness is not true. 32There is another who bears witness of Me, and I know that the witness which He witnesses of Me is true. 33You have sent to John, and he has borne witness to the truth. 34Yet I do not receive testimony from man, but I say these things that you may be saved. 35He was the burning and shining lamp, and you were willing for a time to rejoice in his light. 36But 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. 37And the Father Himself, who sent Me, has testified of Me. You have neither heard His voice at any time, nor seen His form. 38But you do not have His word abiding in you, because whom He sent, Him you do not believe. 39You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. 40But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life. 41“I do not receive honor from men. 42But I know you, that you do not have the love of God in you. 43I have come in My Father’s name, and you do not receive Me; if another comes in his own name, him you will receive. 44How can you believe, who receive honor from one another, and do not seek the honor that comes from the only God? 45Do not think that I shall accuse you to the Father; there is one who accuses you—Moses, in whom you trust. 46For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote about Me. 47But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?” – John 5:31-47 NKJV
The five witnesses:
- John the Baptizer (5:32-35)
- The miracles (5:36)
- God the Father (5:37)
- The Holy Scripture (5:39)
- Moses (5:46)
The two questions:
- “How can you believe, who receive honor from one another, and do not seek the honor that comes from the only God?” (v.44)
- “But if you do not believe his (Moses) writings, how will you believe my words?” (v.47)
These verses revealed two things the leaders weren’t willing to give up:
I. Predetermined Reality
(They had already mapped out a detailed itinerary of the Messiah’s mission)
- Jesus didn’t fit the template – In John 5:35 Jesus said they were willing “for a time” to rejoice with John the Baptizer’s preaching of repentance, but once John’s Messiah (Jesus) deviated from the plan, He was deemed an imposter. They were only ready to follow a “David type” physical King.
- God versus god – What’s the difference in g-o-d with a capital “G” versus little “g”? It’s the real true God of scripture compared to all other man-made creations. The Jewish leadership had chosen to trade worship of the true indescribable God, to a lesser idea. It was a stained glass idea of Him…predictable…limited…with a value system reflecting their own.
II. Perception over Substance
John 12:37-43 tells of many leaders believing, but then abandoning Jesus because of the Pharisees. Verse 43 says they caved to the pressure because “they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.” Whoa, I had to read that one again. Immediately I wondered, “What were they scared to lose?”
It was probably all of the above and maybe more. My prayer today is that those very same fears don’t limit my view of God. His incredible nature is beyond mortal description, but thankfully He has revealed himself to us in His Word. He also personally came in the form of a man, demonstrating His nature, and doing what was most important to Him…redeeming us!
In summary, the most striking point is that the leaders possessed the writings describing Jesus, but still missed Him. In verses 39-40 of John 5, Jesus said they “searched the scriptures”, but weren’t willing to come to Him. So remember as you study…the scripture is God’s revelation of Himself, so only He can fill in the blanks!
Series: “Questions of Jesus” – Lesson V