Second Reformed Church

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

"Jesus' Witnesses" Sermon: John 5:30-47

“Jesus’ Witnesses”

[John 5:30-47]

July 26, 2015Second Reformed Church

            Jesus healed a lame man on the Sabbath day and told him to pick up his bed and to go home.  The Pharisees believed that he was breaking the Sabbath Law by working – carrying his bed – and demanded to know why he was doing this.  He told them that Jesus had healed him and told him to take the bed home, so the Pharisees went after Jesus.

            The Pharisees confronted Jesus about breaking the Law by working on the Sabbath, and Jesus explained that God did not become inactive on the Sabbath day, but stopped doing certain work on the Sabbath day, while continuing to do other work.  In the same way, He, God’s Son, was not engaged in His common work to make a living, but did a work of mercy by healing the man, which is permissible on the Sabbath.

            The Pharisees then condemned Jesus for blasphemy, because He claimed to be God – that He was the same One Being as God the Father – though They are distinct Persons.

            Jesus began His response to the Pharisees by explaining these things to them, as we saw last week.  He continued by telling them that anyone who doesn’t know and believe in the Son and His Gospel, does not know the Father.  Anyone who denies the Son will be denied at the end of the age.  Anyone who does not believe in Jesussavingly will suffer the eternal Wrath of God.

            Since the Father and the Son are the same One God and the Father sent the Son to reconcile a people to God, if we believe in the Son, we believe in the Father, if we believe in the Son, we are reconciled to the Father, if we believe in the Son, we are forgiven and made righteous by the Son before the Father, and we will have eternal life in the Kingdom.

            Now, Jesus explained – from the days of the beginning of the Gospel to Jesus’ return in Glory – now is the time to proclaim that Gospel to the whole world, so all those who will believe will be saved.  For the time will come when Jesus will return as the Judge of humanity on His great while throne, and He will separate the people as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats – those who believe in Him to eternal life, and those who deny Him to eternal death and suffering.

            Jesus goes on in the second half of His response to tell the Pharisees that Jesus has (at least) four witnesses to His being God the Son – co-equal with the Father, and the Promised Savior.

            The point of bringing out four witnesses is both to show the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and to show that He has greater witnesses than anyone else has ever had.  It does not mean that Jesus only has four witnesses to Him – He could have called on thousands of angels and spiritual beings – His point is that the Law requires two or three witnesses to make a claim – so, Jesus presents them with four. 

Jesus said elsewhere, “But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses” (Matthew 18:16, ESV).  Our point here is that two or three witnesses make a claim.

Jesus again emphasizes that He and the Father are One Being – One God – but distinct Persons as we continue our text:

            “I can do nothing on my own.  As I hear, I judge and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me.”

            Remember, we saw last week that what Jesus is saying in talking this way is that He does nothing against the Will of God, because Their Will is the same, even though They are distinct Persons as the Father and the Son.

            “If I alone bear witness about myself, my testimony is not true.”

            Jesus points to both the Law and the hypocrisy of the Pharisees as He turns to provide witnesses to His claim:  Jesus affirms that one person making a claim does not have legal standing – as we have already stated – two or three must witness to a claim for it to be legal.

However, Jesus is the God Who gave that law to humans, He is God!  God by definition – by virtue of Who He is – does not need witnesses to make His claim true:  God is God and everything He says and does is true.  Still, Jesus condescends to the Law to make His point to the Pharisees – that He is the Giver of the Law, the One True God.

  We see first, John the Baptist witnesses to Jesus being God the Son and Savior.

            “There is another who bears witness about me, and I know that the testimony he bears about me is true.  You sent to John, and he has borne witness to the truth.  Not that the testimony that I receive is from man, but I say these things so that you may be saved.  He was a burning and shining lamp, and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light.”

            Jesus reminds the Pharisees that they went to John and they believed him.  They listened to John’s preaching and they sought to be baptized – “But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, ‘You brood of vipers!  Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?’” (Matthew 3:7, ESV).

            Jesus wanted them to remember:  they went to John.  They heard John preach.  They believed John’s preaching.  They even sought his baptism.  They even asked John if he was the Savior or one of the prophets come back from the dead, but he said, “No.” 

What he did say was this:  “The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and he said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!’” (John 1:29, ESV).  And John went on to explain that Jesus is the Savior that He was sent to prepare the way for.

            Jesus said that John was a lamp, and the Pharisees rejoiced in the light that came from him for a while.  What they missed here is that the light does not originate in the lamp.  If you take a lamp and set it on a table, but don’t plug it in – if there is no energy coming into it – what does it do?  It may sit and look nice, but it does not illumine anything.  Likewise, the only reason John was a “burning and shining lamp” was that “fuel” had been put into him – God the Holy Spirit lived in him and shone the Truth of the Gospel out from him.

            The same thing is said about all believers:  “For God who said, ‘Let light shine out of the darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

            “But we have this treasure in jars of clay, so that the surpassing power belongs to God and not us” (II Corinthians 4:6-7, ESV).

            We are jars of clay – we are lamps – and it is specifically because we cannot produce light by ourselves – because the fact that the Source of the Light must be outside of us – that God indwells us in the Person of the Holy Spirit – so the world will look at us and see the Gospel and know it is not our creation, but we are witnesses to it, and the Truth of the Gospel is witnesses to in the Power and the Glory of God Who is ever praised.

            Jesus told the Pharisees:  “My first witness to My being God, the Son and Savior, is John the Baptist – whose message you heard – whose message was about Me – and you rejoiced and believed in it for a while.”

            Second, the works that Jesus did witness to His being God the Son and Savior.

            “But the testimony that I have is greater than that of John.  For the works that the Father has given me to accomplish, the very works that I am doing, bear witness about me that the Father has sent me.”

            Nicodemus, the Pharisee, the teacher of Israel, admitted this while an unbeliever:  “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him” (John 3:3b, ESV).

            Jesus told the Pharisees what they very well knew – what Nicodemus and others had admitted – the signs and works they were seeing Jesus do witnessed – at the very least – to His being sent and empowered by God.  The things Jesus was doing were impossible for a mere human being, unless He is carrying out the Will of God and being empowered to do them.

            Looking back from our vantage point, we can add to the works Jesus did at this point in His life, to His unimaginable suffering at the hands of men, and His taking on the full Wrath of God for the sins of all we who would ever believe, along with keeping every word and letter of God’s Law for our sake, and then His Physical Resurrection and Ascension back to His throne at the right hand of the Father.

            Is this not all great witness to Jesus being God the Son and Savior?

            There is the witness of John the Baptist and of the works that Jesus did according to the Will of the Father –

Third, God the Father witnessed to Jesus being God the Son and Savior.

            “And the Father who sent me has himself borne witness about me.”

            We may say that the Father witnesses to Who Jesus is in many ways, but, surely, one of the most public was at His baptism when Jesus came amidst the crowd to the Jordan River and asked John to baptize Him:

            “And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him, and behold, a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased’” (Matthew 3:16-17, ESV).

            What did the crowds at the Jordan think of this?  We’re not told – with one exception – John the Baptist said, “And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God” (John 1:34, ESV).  John saw what happened and told others, but what about all of the others?  We’re not told.

            Still God the Father visibly and audibly witnessed to Jesus being God the Son and Savior – here – and throughout His life.

            Have we any reason to believe the witness of God?

            Fourth, the Scriptures witness to Jesus being God the Son and Savior.

            “His voice you have never heard, his form you have not seen, and you do not have his word abiding in you, for you do not believe the one whom he has sent.  You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.”

            Jesus prefaces the fourth witness by saying – in effect – “You have never heard the Voice of the Father, but I have.  You have never seen the Form of the Father, but I have.  You do not have the Word of God abiding in you, or you would believe that I am God the Son and Savior.”

            And Jesus charges them – that the keep searching the Scriptures, learning everything they say, dividing them and drawing up the laws, trying to find that way that they can be accounted righteous before God and received into His Kingdom – because they believe – somewhere – the way to eternal life can be found in the Scripture itself.

            But is it not the Scripture itself that saves a person – no one can work through the Scripture and merit salvation.  No, the Scriptures all point to Jesus Christ, the Son of God and Savior, the Only Way to Salvation.  The study of the Scripture – the righteous, persistent study of the Scripture, which we should all be involved in – does not save us, but leads us to the One Who is the Only Way.

            We remember that – after the Resurrection – Jesus was walking with two of His disciples on the road to Emmaus, and Jesus rebuked them:  “’O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!  Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?’  And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:25b-27, ESV).

            The ultimate purpose of all of the Scripture is to point to Jesus the Son of God and Savior.  First and foremost, the Scripture has been superintended over by God so that a person who reads it indwelt by the Holy Spirit will conclude that Jesus is and must be God the Son and Savior.  There are lots of other wonderful things in the Scripture – and there are things for us to do and know as Christians, but first, the Scripture tells us that this One is the Promised Savior and He is – and must be – God Himself.

            Do we see Him?  Does it make a difference that we see that all Scripture concerns Jesus?

            Jesus answered the Pharisees with four witnesses to His being God the Son and Savior:  John the Baptist witnessed to this truth.  Jesus’ works witnessed to this truth.  God the Father witnessed to this truth.  And all of the Scripture witnesses to this truth.
             But, how well can a dead man respond to the truth?
             Jesus continued:

“I do not receive glory from people.  But I know that you do not have the love of God within you.  I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not receive me.”

Jesus told them that He did not need the people to glorify Him.  But the fact that they were against Him and did not believe that He is God the Son and Savior was proof that the love of God was not in them – how could they love God if they did not love Jesus, Who is God?

A friend of mine recently posted that he didn’t understand why people of different religions were at odds with each other – (which is why he claims to now be an atheist) – when all religions boil down to the same thing:  love each other and be good people.

Beloved, that is a lie.  Christianity – biblical Christianity – does not boil down to “love each other and be good people.”  Christianity boils down to:  God came to earth in the person of Jesus, lived a perfect life under God’s Law – which He credits to all we who believe, died – receiving on Himself the debt for sin – God’s Eternal Wrath – physically rose from the dead and ascended back to His throne at the right hand of God.

That’s Christianity!  That – and that alone – the history of what God has done in the person of Jesus – is what matters – it’s what changes everything!

Jesus continued:

“If another comes in his own name, you will receive him.  How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?”

Jesus showed the Pharisees and He shows us the hypocrisy of turning away from Jesus, Who has the witnesses of John the Baptist, His works, God the Father, and all of Scripture, while receiving people with no witnesses who say they are the Messiah – the Savior.

Shortly after Jesus ascended back to the Father, Theudas said that he was the savior, then Judas of Galilee said he was the savior, and in the second century, Barkochba said he was the savior, and on and on (Hedriksen, John, 210).

Jesus said it would happen:  “See that no one leads you astray.  For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray” (Matthew 24:4b-5, ESV).  The final false Christ is called the anti-Christ; he is already a defeated foe, so let no one follow him.

Jesus left them with these frightening words:

“Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father.  There is one who accuses you:  Moses, on whom you have set your hope.  For if you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote of me.  But, if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?”

Jesus told the Pharisees – and He tells anyone who claims to believe the Scripture and yet denies Jesus as God and Savior – Jews, Muslims, and Christians who don’t really believe – who are Christian in name only:  “I am not going to bring an accusation against you to My Father.  I am going to judge you by the Scripture you so diligently search for the way to be right with God.  But if Moses wrote about Me, and you don’t believe in Me, you don’t believe in Moses, and where does that leave you?”

God has made it clear through the witness of John the Baptist, Jesus’ works, God the Father, and the Scriptures, that Jesus is God – the same One God with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit, though They are also Three distinct Persons.  God the Son came to earth in the Person of Jesus to be the Savior of all those who will believe.

That is the truth, and it is backed up with these witnesses.

Do you believe?

Let us pray:
Almighty God, we thank You for sending Your Son to be our Savior and for providing many witnesses to Who He is and what He has come to do and has accomplished.  We pray that the Holy Spirit will help us to see and believe the Light that comes from the lamp, and we ask that You would use us as lamps to be lights to the world of Your Gospel.  And help us to see how all Scripture witnesses to Jesus that we would have more reason to worship You and be better able to spread Your Gospel to the world.  For it is in Jesus’ Name we pray, Amen

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