Jesus in the dock- Thursday, 4th Week of Lent –John 5:18, 31-47
Yesterday, Jesus began His keynote speech; today He will end it by presenting us with His testimony and credentials. Surely, after declaring that He was equal to God, the Jews would have demanded that Jesus present some evidence as proof of His claims.
In the face of such criticism, Jesus presents His testimony. In order to clearly understand the text, one must be at least faintly familiar with the Jewish legal system. Schnackenburg tells us that, “the Jewish legal procedure was not based on the interrogation of the accused but on the examination of witnesses”. Deuteronomy 19:15 also stipulated that no one could testify on his own behalf; a charge that the Jews bring against Jesus again, in chapter 8:13. At the same time, no accused could be convicted on the witness of one person.
In his book, ‘Jesus on trial’, A. E. Harvey makes an interesting observation. In situations where there was only one witness, “the court would simply have to make up its mind whether to take the accused’s word or not”. For such a ‘self-testimony’ they might require an oath on the ground that God would then punish the person if he lied on oath (cf. Gen 31:50). Because Jesus appeals to His Father’s testimony, He is in essence, providing such an oath.
Jesus fulfils both requirements; He provides ‘three testimonies’ and makes a statement of oath, with the Father as His witness. Jesus begins by testifying about Himself. It is not that His testimony is not true (verse 31), but that the Jews do not consider it to be true. So He goes on to his second witness, namely John the Baptist.
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