WHAT DO YOU BELIEVE ABOUT A
The Jewish authorities were acting out the part of vigilantes as they were persecuting Jesus in hopes of capturing Him and executing Him for the things that He did on the Sabbath (John 5:16). It appears that the Jews are placing Jesus on trial, when in reality He is putting them on trial. This method of "turning the tide" is not a new phenomena being introduced by Jesus. For example, when one answers a question with a question, he is employing the Socratic method. It is said that Socrates made popular this method as a means of rebuttal. Jesus is simply putting the pressure back on them.
Jesus states His own defense as He answers by whose authority He does those things that He does. He supports His statements and acts by giving the witness of others. The word "witness" appears nine times in this section plus the synonym "testify" for a total of ten times. The number ten in Bible numerology has reference to governmental perfection. Here law, judgment, and government, in the spirit of a courtroom drama is being examined with Jesus being the chief witness and is being supported by other witnesses. He demonstrates His purpose within His own government. As He does, He proves that His "government" is perfect. It is theirs that is flawed.
In proper law enforcement there must be, as we previously considered, a triangular relationship involving the provision of the law, the protector of the law, and the protected by the law. There also is another triangular relationship involving the actual evidence, the interpretation of the evidence, and the execution based upon the evidence. A third triangular relationship involves the witness. In this relationship we will consider: the choosing of the witness, the character of the witness, and the contribution by the witness.
As we consider the qualifications of a good witness, may we observe how Jesus is relating to His own qualification as a good witness while denouncing the qualification of the Jewish authorities. Perhaps the biggest accusation Christ made against the Jews was when He said, "But I know you, that ye have not the love of God in you" (v. 42). They had already demonstrated an over zealous attempt to enforce the law by trumping up a charge that Jesus had broken the Sabbath by healing the impotent man and telling him to take up his bed and walk (5:8). Yet with their great zeal to enforce the law they did not at all demonstrate the love of God.
Many of our churches are plagued with this kind of spirit. Sadly, the Pharisees and hypocrites are alive and well in many of our churches. God help us to witness the love of God as we embrace truth.
With the word witness being the reoccurring theme of this section, it is most necessary that we have a correct understanding of how this word is used with its proper meaning. The word witness as used here carries the meaning of testifying on behalf of someone else. It also means to "deliver facts." To meet the requirements of this definition, Jesus said that His power and authority to "do" came from seeing the Father "do" (v. 19). Also He included another necessary ingredient, "I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just, because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which sent me" (v. 30). This verse illustrates the next quality of a good witness. It is the quality of hearing. The characteristics of a good witness is "seeing" and "hearing." We will examine this further as we now consider what qualifies a witness.
I. THE CHOOSING OF A WITNESS v. 30
The actual choosing or the selection of the witness is of critical importance. A proper rendering of the evidence is paramount to the proper deliverance of truth. Jesus plainly said, "the Father Ö hath sent me" (v. 30). When choosing the witness it must be determined if the witnessí testimony is reliable. An unreliable witness is of no value and serves no good purpose. Quite the contrary, a poor witness can jeopardize the case. In our Spiritual application a good, reliable witness can point many souls to Christ. He can be respected and trusted to deliver the truth. A lying witness is a poor witness, hurting more than helping. Jesus declares Himself to be a truthful witness in John 14:6, "Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me." Everything that He did upon the earth was within the will of the Father.
One of the purposes of Christ walking upon this earth was to manifest Life as a witness and to be a Witness. The two qualities of "seeing" and "hearing" for the purpose of declaring truth is illustrated in the First Epistle of John, "That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; (For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;) That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ."
When Jesus walked upon this earth, He was a reliable witness who came to give us an understanding of Himself and of the Father. I John 5:20 tells us this, "And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true, and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life."
Those who question the reliability of Jesus and also His deity are rejecting the truth of Godís Word while calling God a liar (I John 5:9-12).
Also when choosing a witness, will His testimony be relevant to the case? A witness must see and hear things relevant to the case under consideration. The presentation of non-related information makes no contribution to the case. A witness who does not have pertinent information helpful to the case should not be chosen. When God commissioned His Son to come down to the earth, He was chosen with great purpose. He came to reveal the Father to this lost and dying world. He came as "the express image of his person" (Hebrews 1:3). We who are victims of sin needed a witness to come who could identify not only with the Father but also with us. Christ Jesus came as our Priest. The Latin word for priest is pontifex which means, "bridge builder." He also is our mediator or go-between with the Father.
Christ Jesus in His relevancy connects us back to the Father, in the sense that He is touched by the feelings of our infirmities. It is as though Jesus is showing God how we feel and then showing us how God feels.
When Christ said that He did what He saw and heard His Father do, He was doing what the Father would have done in healing the impotent man. In this sense He was standing as a witness against the Jewish authorities. They did not have the love of God as He did. His witness of God certainly revealed the Father and was relevant to the will of the Father that sent Him.
The third requirement of a good witness is that His testimony be remembered. It was said that on an average, that during every thirty-two seconds of testimony that President Clinton gave in the Monica Lewinsky hearings that He said, "I do not remember." It is vital that testimony be remembered and not forgotten to insure that there be a complete witness to the case. Christ when witnessing the attributes of the Father, left out nothing. He said and declared everything within the scope of the Fatherís will. He was able to say that He had finished the works of the one who sent Him. Every miracle that was performed illustrated some aspect of the Fatherís will. Certainly the raising of the impotent man, who was in misery for thirty-eight years, testifies to this.
II. THE CHARACTER OF THE WITNESS vv. 31-42
Apart from the evidence, there is no greater importance to the case than the character of the witness. Can anyone attest to and agree to the good character of the witness? Does he have those who have observed the pattern of his life and recognizes his good characteristics? His good character must be supported by others.
Just as Bethesda had five porches which gave witness to all the sick and suffering, who lay underneath its protection, the Lord has five witnesses to all that He is. In verse 31, Christ acquiesces to the arguments of His opponents that His witness alone (without other witnesses) is not true.
But He goes on to remind them that another, His Father, witnesses to the validity of His claims (vv. 32-37). Other witnesses cited are John the Baptist (v. 33), His miracles (v. 36), the Scriptures (v. 39), and Moses (v. 46) (Ryrie). He goes on to claim in chapter 8:14 that His witness is indeed true. In fact, His witness was true; but legally there had to be two or three to agree to qualify as a bonafide witness.
As a testimony, God wants us to be witnesses. "But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth" (Acts 1:8). The use of the word witness here is one of the strongest uses of the word in the Bible. The word here means that you will deliverance even if it means death, what you have seen, heard, or do know. Can we be observed and be known to have that kind of witness, to take a stand on the recommendation of others? In our daily activities do we witness the radiance of God as John did? "He was a burning and a shining light; and ye were willing for a season to rejoice in his light" (v. 35).
The first Light that John was compared to was a burning oil lamp. To me that pictures his consistency. He was a faithful unchanging witness. Too many are unlike John today in that there is no consistency. They are nothing more than shooting stars. They shine brightly for just a few moments of time and then go out. They pop into your churches "blazing a trail" having you to think that they will make some of the greatest church members ever, only to fizzle out.
The second word is phos, which is translated "light" from which we get our word photograph from photo (dative case) and grapho, "write" - writing by light. This teaches us that John was to be seen as a good witness who also witnessed on behalf of Jesus.
The Heavenly Father and John the Baptist validated the truthfulness that Jesus is God. The miracles also witnessed that Jesus is God. A chief Pharisee, Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews had acknowledged, "for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him" (John 3:2).
Another strong witness is the Scriptures. The Scripture declare the fullness of Christ as being very God (Hebrews 1:3, Colossians 1:15, 19).
The Jewish authorities would not humble themselves and believe the very Scriptures that they worshipped. The Scriptures revealed Christ, but they would not come to Christ. Proudly they would receive someone coming in their own name, but not Christ coming in His Fatherís name. Even today people are quite willing to accept most any tinsel counterfeit of the real thing, but avoid the unadulterated truth as though it were the plague. It is becoming more and more difficult for a pastor with old time Bible convictions to be called as the pastor. There are so many demands and requirements on the pastor to only tickle their ears. II Timothy 4:3-4 says, "For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables."
The fifth witness listed is Moses. Christ said in verse 46, "For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me: for he wrote of me." The Jews were so proudly bound to their own tradition that they would not even accept the witness of Moses.
There was great character in all five of the witnesses mentioned. May we be challenged to have the character of a worthy witness.
III. THE CONTRIBUTION BY THE WITNESSES vv. 43-47
As simple as it may sound, the main purpose of a witness is for him to make a contribution to the case. He e is contributing what he knows to support the outcome for the purpose of bringing about a fair judgment. His contribution will be measured by what truth he can recall and reveal. He will not be honored as a silent witness. He must speak out.
Spiritually, we need to be worthy witnesses as we tell sinners the gospel. As gospel witnesses we need to faithfully reveal to this world the truth concerning the death, burial, and the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus died on the cross so that all may come to Him.
There are those who teach only of being witnesses in your style of living. This has been called "lifestyle evangelism". The proponents of this philosophy of witnessing say that your lifestyle shows that you are a Christian. On the other end of the spectrum there are those who say the important thing is getting the gospel out regardless of your testimony. Neither of these positions are correct.
The Bible gives the correct requirements of the witness. In Matthewís gospel, chapter 5:13-16 we are taught that both "confrontational" and "lifestyle" are necessary for a correct witness.
This means that we are to let our "light so shine" in our way of living, but also that we must confront men with the truth, even as salt which burns and purifies. In this manner of witnessing God will be pleased even as He was with His Son.
Sermons From Pastor Max Alderman, Ph.D.