Turning a test into a testimony- 4th Week of Lent – Thursday John 5:31-47

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.( 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.

Interestingly, Jesus refers to John as the, “burning and shining lamp.” Notice He calls John ‘the lamp’, for He (Jesus) is ‘the light’. He accuses the Jewish authorities for their ‘happiness’ over a human sign, albeit for a short while.

Finally, Jesus calls upon His third witness; His Father. The witness of the Father is given in three ways; through Jesus’ works (like the healing of the cripple which should have been testimony enough), through the voice of the Father which the Jews reject and finally through the scriptures which the Jews study and yet fail to find in it, the truth about Jesus.

The Jerome Biblical commentary places this entire debate so well when it says, “on one side, humans judge and condemn Jesus, since they reject those whom He brings forward as witnesses. On the other, Jesus’ word is the trial and condemnation of an unbelieving world, since those who testify on His behalf are in fact “true”.

The Jews always believed that Moses was the ‘paraclete’ (Greek for, called in aid) the advocate who intercedes for the Jewish people day and night. To the shock of the Jews, Jesus now tells them that the advocate they hoped for, will now be their accuser.

That begs the question; what proof do we require to believe in the Son of God? How much more will we try the patience of our God? To conveniently cling to a back-up plan of appealing to God’s mercy at the hour of our death, as if we hold a ‘cheat card’, is a foolish game plan. The God of love is a God of mercy; but mercy is not devoid of justice.

Written on behalf of the Holy Spirit

References from
The Jerome Biblical Commentary.
A E Harvey, ‘Jesus on Trial’
And references from the Bible Getaway

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