Sermon Notes and Audio
Scripture Focus- John 5:31-47
Let’s remember why the Gospel of John was written- John 20:31 These are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name.
In his book, “Loving God,” Charles Colson tells about a Russian Jewish doctor by the name of Boris Nicholayevich Kornfeld, who was sentenced to a Russian prison for a minor political crime in the 1950s. Because he was a physician he did receive some privileges in the prison in return for treating other prisoners. Still he suffered much abuse. His treatment would have been unbearable except that he developed a friendship with another prisoner who, through the quality of his witness, brought Kornfeld to a commitment to Christ.
Kornfeld felt a great inner freedom. He had a patient, a cancer patient, who was awaiting surgery. Kornfeld shared with him what Christ had done in his own life. Kornfeld was so enthusiastic about this change in his own life, that he caught the patient’s attention in spite of his brief lapses brought on by the medicine. Late into the night, the doctor stayed with his patient, sharing with him the unsearchable riches of Christ. Later that night someone slipped into the doctor’s quarters and brutally beat him to death. From a human standpoint that should be the end of the story but, it is not.
The patient recovered from his surgery, but he was a changed man. Because of Kornfeld’s testimony, he became a Christian–and what a Christian he became. His name–Alexander Solzhenitszyn, who not only won the Nobel prize for Literature in 1970, but even more importantly became one of the world’s most influential voices for Christ.
Kornfeld and Solzhenitsyn both learned that the claims of Christ were never meant to merely become another piece of jewelry or become something to adorn our car bumpers. The claims of Christ were always meant to make radical changes in the lives of those around us; changes as radical as the claims themselves found in John chapter five.
Jesus made some amazing claims about Himself. He claimed to be the Son of God, the One sent by the Father, the Source of all life, the Judge of all the world, and the one who raises from the dead. People were amazed at His claims. How could they know He was telling the truth? What evidence is there?
He indicated that He has life in Himself and in the future He will speak and people will be raised to life or to judgment. From Jesus’ own words, we can understand clearly that He claimed equality with God. In a court of law, having multiple witnesses who are of good character, who say the same thing independently, can be essential in proving a case. Jewish law required two or three witnesses to establish any legal matter. Moses had said, “Out of the mouths of two or three witnesses let every word be established.” Deuteronomy 19:15.
How can we know this is true, and how can we know for sure who Jesus is?
Jesus gives witnesses to support His claim.
Let’s review a bit. In the first 15 verses of this chapter, there is a display of divine power when Jesus healed the man at the pool of Bethesda. The second part of the chapter, is where Jesus answers the objections of the Jewish leaders about having done the healing on the Sabbath. It was something that was obviously of the power of God, and they were upset it took place on the Sabbath. Jesus then talked about the relationship between the Father and the Son, and His identity as God.
The idea of “witness” or “testimony” is important in John and is referenced repeatedly. God has provided for Himself witnesses. The focus in providing these witnesses to Jesus, is so that people will believe, and be saved.
V34 . . .I say these things so that you may be saved.
#1 God the Father gives witness to who Jesus is. Vv30-32, 37-38
In the verses leading up to this, Jesus gave witness about Himself. He stated that it is impossible for the Son to do anything on His own apart from God the Father. They are of the same nature. In v30 He stated the point- I can do nothing on My own, I judge only as I hear, and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.
God the Father, sent God the Son, to bear the burden for our sins and Jesus the Son, willingly submitted to the will of the Father. He acted always in complete conjunction with God the Father.
A person’s witness relies significantly on their character. If you know someone to be a liar, you aren’t going to believe them even if they happen to be telling the truth. Everything about Jesus focuses on His integrity. When He was tried, the Jewish authorities could not find anyone to corroborate the charges that had been brought against Him. Pilate, after bringing Jesus before Him said, “I find no guilt in Him.” John 18:38
Jewish law would have argued against self-evidence, and as I referenced, required two or three witnesses to establish the truth. Jesus recognizes this very thing- v31 If I testify about Myself, My testimony is not valid. He knew His testimony would not be enough if He were acting on His own apart from the Father. So He gives other witnesses to His claim- v32 There is Another who testifies about Me, and I know that the testimony He gives about Me is valid.
Just because self-witness is not sufficient in a court of law, it does not mean automatically that it is not true. The Pharisees said to Jesus after He proclaimed that He was the light of the world- John 8:13 You are testifying about yourself. Your testimony is not valid.
Jesus replied- John 8:14 Even if I testify about Myself, My testimony is valid, because I know where I came from and where I’m going. But you don’t know where I come from or where I’m going.
He went on to say in John 8:17-18 Even in your law it is written that the witness of two men is valid. I am the One who testifies about Myself, and the Father who sent Me testifies about Me.
Jesus made the point that His witness is true because He never acted independently of the Father. The Father gave witness through the testimony of the Son. The main witness is God Himself.
Vv37-38 The Father who sent Me has Himself testified about Me. You have not heard His voice at any time, and you haven’t seen His form.
The voice of God was heard from Heaven at the baptism of Jesus- Matt 3:17 This is My beloved Son. I take delight in Him.
The voice of God was heard on the Mount of Transfiguration- Matthew 17:5 This is My beloved Son. I take delight in Him. Listen to Him!
1 John 5:9 If we accept the testimony of men, God’s testimony is greater, because it is God’s testimony that He has given us about His Son.
If we will accept the witness of people, why would we not accept the witness of God as being the greatest that has been given concerning His Son?
God the Father gives witness to who Jesus is.
#2 John the Baptist gives witness to who Jesus is. Vv33-35
God sent John the Baptist in fulfillment of His promise.
Isaiah 40:3 A voice of one crying out: Prepare the way of the Lord in the wilderness; make a straight highway for our God in the desert.
The purpose of John the Baptist’s ministry was to prepare the way for the Messiah and to identify and proclaim Him when He came. He came to bear witness to who Jesus is.
John 1:6-8, 15, 23 There was a man named John who was sent from God. He came as a witness to testify about the light, so that all might believe through Him. He was not the light, but he came to testify about the light. . .John testified concerning Him and exclaimed, This was the One of whom I said, The One coming after me has surpassed me, because He existed before me. . .He said, I am a voice of one crying out in the wilderness; make straight the way of the Lord just as Isaiah the prophet had said.
Now John the Baptist was not the main witness. God the Father was the main witness, yet the witness of John the Baptist was important and pivotal.
The Jewish authorities sent a delegation to John, and He testified to the truth. They said to John the Baptist, “who are you?” He said, “I am not the Christ.” They asked, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the prophet?” John said “no.” “Who are you?” “I am a voice of one crying in the wilderness, make straight the way of the Lord.” John the Baptist’s testimony supported Jesus’ claims to be the Messiah. It carried considerable weight.
If they would have trusted his witness that Jesus was the Lamb of God, sent to take away the sins of the world, they would have been saved. John the Baptist announced Jesus to be the long expected, long predicted Messiah, the One whom the prophets wrote about.
John the Baptist announced Jesus to be the Lamb of God.
John the Baptist announced Jesus to be the One who would baptized with the Holy Spirit.
John the Baptist announced Jesus to be the Son of God.
Yet the Jews rejected the message- There had been an opportunity for the Jews to believe. The Jewish leaders were interested in what John the Baptist had to say, but they never took his message to heart and believed it. Don’t be like those leaders and miss the message!
John the Baptist gives witness to who Jesus is.
#3 The works of Jesus give witness to who Jesus is. V36
“Works” refers to the miracles Jesus performed. His miracles were unique signs that He had been sent by God the Father. The Gospels record at least three dozen miracles that Jesus performed and there are countless others that are not specified.
Jesus’ miracles led Nicodemus to say, “Rabbi, we know that You have come from God as a teacher, for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.” (3:2)
John 7:31 indicates many of the crowd believed in Him, and they were saying, “When the Christ comes, He will not perform more signs than those which this man has, will He?”
The Jews said to Jesus- John 10:24 How long are You going to keep us in suspense? If You are the Messiah, tell us plainly.
Jesus’ enemies, the chief priests and the Scribes convened a council and said, “What are we doing? For this man is performing many signs.” John 11:24
J.C. Ryle (Expository Thoughts On the Gospels) pointed out five distinctive features of Jesus’ miracles:
- Their number- they were many.
- Their greatness- they were mighty.
- Their publicity- they were done out in the open.
- Their character- they were works of love and mercy.
- Their direct appeal to men’s senses- they were visible and would bear examination.
The Jews did not try to deny the miracles had occurred. They did try to credit them to Satan.
The works of Jesus give witness to who Jesus is.
#4 The Scriptures give witness to who Jesus is. Vv38-40
Jesus mentions God’s Word and indicts them for studying the Scriptures but missing the point of who Jesus is.
Vv38-40 You don’t have His word living in you, because you don’t believe the One He sent. You pore over the Scriptures because you think you have eternal life in them, yet they testify about Me.
According to v38, they studied the Word, and memorized it, but they missed the point of the Word. They were unwilling to believe. They refused to acknowledge their unrighteousness and inability to do anything about it, and cry out to God for salvation.
This is a strange paradox. They were students of the Scripture, spending their whole lives counting the words and memorizing sections of Scripture because they thought knowledge would give them life.
All of Creation points to Jesus and all of Scripture points to Jesus.
When sin entered the world through the disobedience of Adam and Eve, God promised a deliverer, the seed of the woman who would crush the head of the serpent (Genesis 3:15). God provided an animal covering that pointed to the promised deliverer. God called Abraham and raised him up to be the father of a great nation, the nation of Israel. God promised through that nation, all the nations of the earth would be blessed. (Genesis 12:1-3).
The sacrificial system instituted in the Law of Moses pointed to Jesus, the ultimate sacrifice (Hebrews 10:1-14). The Messianic Psalms point to Jesus. Isaiah 53 points to the Suffering Servant.
After the resurrection of Jesus, He was walking with the two disciples. He said to them- Luke 24:27 Then beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, He interpreted for them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures.
It is possible to study the Scriptures in the wrong way.
V39 Indicates they were already searching the Scriptures in a desperate kind of way, and still missing the point.
It is impossible to fully understand the Bible without the illumination of the Holy Spirit and a transformed mind.
It is possible to know a lot of facts about the Scripture without fully embracing them and miss out on salvation altogether.
“The needle on a compass and the arrow of a weather vane have something in common. Both indicate the direction of natural powers. In a much broader sense, the books and writers of the Bible point to the person and power of Jesus. Jesus Christ is the Alpha and Omega of the Bible. He is the constant theme of its sacred pages. From first to last, they testify of Him.
At the creation, we discern Him as one of the sacred Trinity. We catch a glimpse of Him in the promise of the woman’s seed. We see Him typified in the ark of Noah. We walk with Abraham as he sees the Messiah’s day. We dwell in the tents of Isaac and Jacob, feeding upon the gracious promise. We hear the venerable Israel talking of Shiloh. In the numerous types of the Tabernacle and its sacrificial law, we find the Redeemer foreshadowed.
The Prophets, kings, priests, and preachers all look to Jesus though dimly as through a veil. They stand as the cherubs did over the ark of the covenant, desiring to look within and read the mystery of God’s great redemption of man.
In the New Testament, our Lord is the one pervading subject. The whole substance of the New Testament is Jesus crucified. Even its closing sentence is bejewelled with the Redeemer’s name. We should always read Scripture in this light. We should consider the Word to be as a window through which we see Jesus. His likeness is dim, but it is still a blessed preparation for when we will see Him face to face. The Bible contains Jesus Christ’s love letters to us. The Scriptures are the swaddling bands of the holy child Jesus. Unroll them and you find your Savior. The essence of the Word of God is Christ. [C. H. Spurgeon, Adapted]
The purpose for the witnesses to Jesus, are so that people will come to Jesus and have life!
V40 And you are not willing to come to Me so that you may have life.
Because of sin, people without Jesus are spiritually dead and separated from God. Jesus has eternal life. Eternal life can be received by faith. Nobody comes to God on their own.
In summary, Jesus issued a strong indictment:
Vv37-38 You have never heard God, you have never seen God, His word is not in you, and you do not believe in Him.
Vv39-40 You read the Old Testament, which points to me as the fulfillment, but you do not believe because you don’t want to.
Vv41-42 You do not have the love of God in you. You do not find your satisfaction in God.
V43 You don’t receive me, you reject me. You are looking for another kind of Messiah.
V44 You can’t believe because you are enslaved.
Vv45-47 You don’t believe Moses, and you don’t believe me.
The testimony of the witnesses is clear.
The Scriptures give witness to who Jesus is.
Who is Jesus?
BF&M2000 Christ is the eternal Son of God. In His incarnation as Jesus Christ He was conceived of the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. Jesus perfectly revealed and did the will of God, taking upon Himself human nature with its demands and necessities and identifying Himself completely with mankind yet without sin. He honored the divine law by His personal obedience, and in His substitutionary death on the cross He made provision for the redemption of men from sin. He was raised from the dead with a glorified body and appeared to His disciples as the person who was with them before His crucifixion. He ascended into heaven and is now exalted at the right hand of God where He is the One Mediator, fully God, fully man, in whose Person is effected the reconciliation between God and man. He will return in power and glory to judge the world and to consummate His redemptive mission. He now dwells in all believers as the living and ever present Lord.