Today’s post concludes a study of John 5, a chapter absent from the standard three-year Lectionary.  This absence qualifies it as part of my continuing series, Forbidden Bible Verses — those which are missing from public worship yet are just as essential to our understanding of Scripture as those in the Lectionary.

Today’s reading comes from the King James Version, with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

John 5:31-47

31If I bear witness of myself, my witness is not true.

 32There is another that beareth witness of me; and I know that the witness which he witnesseth of me is true.

 33Ye sent unto John, and he bare witness unto the truth.

 34But I receive not testimony from man: but these things I say, that ye might be saved.

 35He was a burning and a shining light: and ye were willing for a season to rejoice in his light.

 36But I have greater witness than that of John: for the works which the Father hath given me to finish, the same works that I do, bear witness of me, that the Father hath sent me.

 37And the Father himself, which hath sent me, hath borne witness of me. Ye have neither heard his voice at any time, nor seen his shape.

 38And ye have not his word abiding in you: for whom he hath sent, him ye believe not.

 39Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.

 40And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life.

 41I receive not honour from men.

 42But I know you, that ye have not the love of God in you.

 43I am come in my Father’s name, and ye receive me not: if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive.

 44How can ye believe, which receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from God only?

 45Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father: there is one that accuseth you, even Moses, in whom ye trust.

 46For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me; for he wrote of me.

 47But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words?

——————————————————————————————-

This chapter began with a beautiful miracle in Jerusalem, Jesus’s healing of the severely infirm man at Bethesda. He was unable to immerse himself into the curative waters of the pool.  Jesus showed His divine mercy towards this man by restoring him to full health.

Members of the Jewish hierarchy confront Jesus later and ask Him why He has broken the Sabbath.  Jesus responded (verse 17) that as God works, He also works.  The Jews find this nothing short of blasphemous.  Jesus explains that He and His heavenly Father work together and that just as believers honour God, they must also honour His Son.  He continues His discourse by emphasising that God has given Him the power to judge mankind in accordance with His Father’s will.

Now in verse 31, Jesus says that He cannot testify for Himself; He must have other witnesses.  This is in accordance with Jewish Law in the Book of Deuteronomy; two or three witnesses must corroborate a person’s testimony.

Jesus ‘presents’ His first witness (verse 32), John the Baptist.  (He was not John the Apostle, for those who are unsure.)  The Jews proclaimed John the Baptist a great prophet, the first to be among them for 400 years.  So, Jesus says that John the Baptist testified of Him.  What John the Baptist said was true (verse 33), He says with the subtext that, despite this, the Jews wish to prosecute and kill Him.

In verse 34, Jesus says that He personally does not need John the Baptist’s witness to justify His identity. The Son of God has no need of human testimony for Himself.  However, Jesus mentions John the Baptist not only in observance of Mosaic Law but also as a means of telling the Jews so that they will be saved, that they recognise who He is.

John the Baptist’s prophecy, Jesus says, shone like ‘a burning and a shining light’ (verse 35).  This is a way of reminding the Jews how much faith and trust they placed in him.  Therefore, why do they not believe who Jesus is when He — the long-prophesied Messiah — is now standing right in front of them?

Jesus announces that His witness is much greater than John the Baptist’s (verse 36).  He tells them that He comes in His Father’s name — the God in whom they profess to believe.  Jesus urges them to believe in Him, because God sent Him to perform certain works.

Matthew Henry elaborates on these works (emphases mine) which explain Jesus’s words in verse 37:

That is, (1.) In general the whole course of his life and ministry- his revealing God and his will to us, setting up his kingdom among men, reforming the world, destroying Satan’s kingdom, restoring fallen man to his primitive purity and felicity, and shedding abroad in men’s hearts the love of God and of one another-all that work of which he said when he died, It is finished, it was all, from first to last, opus Deo dignum-a work worthy of God; all he said and did was holy and heavenly, and a divine purity, power, and grace shone in it, proving abundantly that he was sent of God. (2.) In particular. The miracles he wrought for the proof of his divine mission witnessed of him. Now it is here said, [1.] That these works were given him by the Father, that is, he was both appointed and empowered to work them; for, as Mediator, he derived both commission and strength from his Father. [2.] They were given to him to finish; he must do all those works of wonder which the counsel and foreknowledge of God had before determined to be done; and his finishing them proves a divine power; for as for God his work is perfect. [3.] These works did bear witness of him, did prove that he was sent of God, and that what he said concerning himself was true; see Heb. 2:4; Acts 2:22. That the Father had sent him as a Father, not as a master sends his servant on an errand, but as a father sends his son to take possession for himself; if God had not sent him, he would not have seconded him, would not have sealed him, as he did by the works he gave him to do; for the world’s Creator will never be its deceiver.

Jesus tells the Jews (verse 38) that despite their professed love of God, they do not recognise His Son.  Therefore, God does not abide in them, regardless of what they say to the contrary about their obedience to the Law.

In verse 39, Jesus reminds them that Scripture is full of references to His coming to Earth for mankind, first among the Jews as the long-awaited Messiah.  If the Jews truly believe the Scriptures, why then do they reject Him?

As John MacArthur preached in a sermon on this passage:

They prided themselves, they boasted themselves in the knowledge of God and here Jesus says you don’t know anything about God. Why? Because you don’t know Me, you don’t believe in Me. And there are people all over our world in all kinds of religions and all kinds of denominations and all kinds of systems who think they know God but they don’t because they don’t know Jesus Christ. And listen, Christ is the theme of all God’s revelation, isn’t He? He’s the embodiment of all God’s person, the expressed image of God’s person. And if a man rejects Christ he has no knowledge of God. Jesus is the only source of knowledge about God. John 14:6 Jesus said, “No man comes unto the Father…what?…but by Me, I am the way, the truth and the life.” You don’t know Me, you’ve got to way to God, no truth and you’re dead, and you’re dead, ignorant and lost without Christ. That’s them.

In verse 40, Jesus points out their stubbornness in not accepting Him as their Saviour. It is a  complaint and a warning.  Yet, they refuse to see or accept it — as do billions of people around the world today, including many who have heard the Gospel message and have rejected it outright. Having said that, the Jews had a blessed advantage in being able to actually see and hear Him speak!

Once again, Jesus says that He personally has no need of man’s honour to justify Himself (verse 41, as in verse 34).  Nevertheless, He knows that these Jews accusing Him of blasphemy and wishing to put Him to death have no love of God (verse 42).

He comes generously and graciously in the name of God, His Father, and they reject Him outright (verse 43).  Yet, should someone else come in His name, he they will receive without hesitation  — just as so many people through the centuries since!

Jesus points out (verse 44) that these men standing before him are less interested in God than they are in the temporal glad-handing glory they receive from each other. Not too much different to many pastors today with their overly-publicised books and programmes which distort the word of God, to their own profit.  Then they make the conference circuit — one big name invites another and so on.  Not all of these programmes, books or seminars are bad, but too many celebrity pastors feed off of and puff each other up at the expense of God and His Son.  They become the focal points, not the Gospel.

In verse 45, Jesus makes a pointed declaration to the assembled Jews.  He will not be the first to accuse them — their beloved Moses will.  Then, as now, Moses understandably occupied a paramount position in their hearts and minds.

In the last two verses, He goes further, as if to say, 1) if you really believed and revered Moses, you would have noted that He wrote about Me and 2) if you disregard Moses’s prophecy about Me, how can you ever hope to believe in Me or My words?

As Matthew Henry summarises it:

If we admit not the premises, how shall we admit the conclusion? The truth of the Christian religion, it being a matter purely of divine revelation, depends upon the divine authority of the scripture; if therefore we believe not the divine inspiration of those writings, how shall be receive the doctrine of Christ?

Yet, as we know, the stand-off between Jesus — coming as Mediator in divine love and mercy — and the Jewish hierarchy with its legalism will escalate as the months pass, a product of human sin through pride and stubbornness.

Advertisements