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John 5:31-47, NIV
31 "If I testify about myself, my testimony is not valid. 32 There is another who testifies in my favor, . . . his testimony about me is valid. 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 very work that the Father has given me to finish, and which I am doing, testifies 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 diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These Scriptures that testify about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me to have life.
41 "I do not accept praise from men, 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 if you accept praise from one another, yet make no effort to obtain the praise that comes from 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?"
March 1, 2011
The story that began with the invalid who did not know his healer, continues with Jesus talking to the authorities of Israel who also do not know who he is. They think they know and plan to act decisively on what they think they know. But in this passage Jesus told them they know nothing about God, nothing about the essence of the holy Scriptures nor the lawgiver, Moses. These are very hard words, both to deliver and to receive.
Looking at this scene from the perspective of God's eternal love for all mankind, we envision God's sorrow when men and women, for whatever reasons, do not or can not trust their Creator's goodwill toward them in the person we call Jesus. Jesus, the word of God, had a love message to deliver. A message full of grace and truth, and punctuated with parables, forgiveness, invitations, challenges, blessings, healings and other wonders.
People, like the ones in this passage, rejected all this. Thought they knew better, refused to believe and did their best to prevent others from falling victim to him.
More journal entries
December 20, 2001
In Jewish law, in order for truth to be established, there must be two or three witnesses. Who did Jesus have to support his claims? Who possessed enough stature to be a credible witness, someone beyond dispute? Always when Jesus needed a witness, the name of John the Baptist appears. It does again in this passage. Even the authorities who questioned Jesus had paid attention to John and respected his ministry of baptism.
Jesus mentioned John's name in hopes that their memory of John would lead some of them to believe. He explained: For your sake, not mine, was John's testimony given. To help you find salvation, to help you receive the word and love of God into your hearts. Then Jesus paid a wonderful tribute to his forerunner: John was a lamp that burned brightly and provided a guiding light which led many people toward the Lord their God.
Jesus continued on, arguing the case for his own authenticity. Greater than John's witness are the works and wonders which God had given him to do. Only someone coming from God could do the these things. (In chapter 3, Nicodemus had also reached this same conclusion; he voiced it in secret to Jesus, but would not repeat it openly.) Furthermore, Jesus claimed, God is my witness. Also the Scriptures, which these men studied diligently, testified to him.
Jesus made a scathing comment about these opponents of his. Even though they studied the Scriptures, the word of God did not dwell in them! And in the next paragraph Jesus told them they did not have the love of God in their hearts!
These guys were in real bad shape, living under an illusion, deceiving themselves. Thinking themselves friends of God when in reality they were God's enemies! Could there be anything worse than that for those who wear the robes of faith?
We love what befriends us, not that which frightens us or stands in the way of our getting what we want. We love or hate God, then, depending on whether we conceive of God as befriending us or blocking the way we want to go.
December 28, 2001Jesus mentioned not three, but five, witnesses: John the Baptist, the works he did, God who sent me, the Scriptures, and Moses. All pointing to Jesus as God's chosen one. Still, his opposition did not believe. Why? Jesus said God's word did not dwell in them, God's love did not abide in their hearts. They were deaf and blind; they never heard God's voice, never noticed his presence.
These are strong indictments. And a warning to me as well. I read and study the Scriptures. Does God's word live in me? Is God's love alive and well in my heart? The people Jesus was speaking to were very religious. Supposedly they were doing everything right, but Jesus said they had it all wrong. And because they had it all wrong, they refused to come to Jesus and rejected his eternal life.
February 10, 1983Jesus had a problem getting people to believe him, and belief was what it was all about. "Believe and you shall live . . ." That's why he used miracles, but even then he was sometimes accused of being under the power of the Devil and not God. When he died, was he happy to go and leave this ungrateful and disbelieving planet? As far as some people were concerned, nothing Jesus did was ever right! The vultures were always hovering overhead, waiting for Jesus to make a fatal mistake so they could swoop down for the road kill.
February 21, 1983I sense God's sorrow in Jesus' voice when he said, You believed John the Baptist and he testified concerning me, but still you won't believe me. I do miracles in your presence, I teach with wisdom and speak with authority, I argue and reason, I pray and preach--What must I do to get you to believe that God sent me?
February 27, 1983How do we decide what to believe? To whom and through whom does God speak? What qualifies a person to speak or write on God's behalf? We tend to look at talents and past accomplishments, educational background or ability to draw a crowd. We rely on accolades. Words of praise and great reviews. Which is what Jesus said he doesn't put any stock in. What mattered to him was God's approval, not man's. That brings me back to the same question - How can people determine who bears the stamp of God's approval?
Jesus kept coming back to the theme of love. In verse 20 Jesus said the Father loves the Son and implied their love was mutual. In verse 42 Jesus said his accusers did not have the love of God in their hearts. As humans we can only see what others reveal to us. And our observations may not be accurate.
Maybe our Lord would have us be more concerned with questioning ourselves. Rather than asking if another person has the love of God in their heart, we need to focus on ourselves and make sure in our innermost being we are responding to life deeply rooted in the love which we have learned from God. Am I soaking up that divine love every day, and then spreading seeds of that love everywhere I go?
December 28, 2001Was Jesus insulting them or simply telling them the truth. Jesus went right on and told these guys they didn't need him to condemn them. Moses had already done it. How so? Because they were living a lie, thinking they were living according to the words of Moses. But Jesus said their refusal to believe him demonstrated that God's word did not abide in them. They did not hear God, neither had they seen what God is like or allowed his word into their hearts. They didn't really believe Moses so how could Jesus expect them to receive/accept him!
It may take three witness to declare a truth, but only one Moses to condemn a falsehood! These words sting and alienate. They do not welcome nor transform.
February 24, 1983Moses held a position of honor because of his leadership during the exodus from slavery in Egypt and the journey into the Promised Land. It was safe to believe in Moses because he was dead, wrapped up in a neat package, contained, understood and would never to change. Nothing new or fresh about his commandments, no surprises. Jesus was just the opposite. Isn't it interesting that we find it easier to admire and celebrate a dead person than a living one!
Jesus pointed out that the ancient texts promised some new activity on the part of God. The religious establishment didn't want to change, or hear about anything that would require a fresh outlook or a new attitude.
Moses walked with God and the longer he did so and the older he got, the more he loved God and desired to be with God. Moses was a mountain climber till the day he died, and in the solitude of those mountains he met God. So Moses would have understood Jesus because Jesus spent so much time alone with God, too. Moses knew God probably better than any other human in the Old Testament. Jesus ends this discourse by taking comfort in Moses who wasn't sufficiently understood either!
March 3, 2011People still refuse to believe in Jesus. Still do not know him. There are many reasons. And much debate about the validity of faith in a divine being in general and the God of the Bible in particular. Pain, anger, cruelty, ignorance, injustice, doubts, hypocrites, honest questions--they all play a part.
John the Baptist was a lamp in a darkened house, a streetlight on a winter night, a lighthouse for lost travelers, a campfire for cold campers, and when the road was much too long, he was a flashlight for latecomers to find their way home.
The world is dark. There is too little light. And we need more Johns to shine brightly and expose the goodness of God for others to enjoy.