30 “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. 31 If I alone bear witness about myself, my testimony is not true. 32 There is another who bears witness about me, and I know that the testimony that he bears about me is true. 33 You sent to John, and he has borne witness to the truth. 34 Not that the testimony that I receive is from man, but I say these things so that you may be saved. 35 He was a burning and shining lamp, and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light. 36 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. 37 And the Father who sent me has himself borne witness about me. His voice you have never heard, his form you have never seen, 38 and you do not have his word abiding in you, for you do not believe the one whom he has sent.
Our heavenly Father, on this Memorial Day weekend, we thank you for those who have given their lives for the freedoms and liberties that we have, most especially, for the freedom that we’re given to worship you and follow you, a freedom which is sadly unknown and under threat in many parts of the world.
Lord, we also want to pray for the high school graduates in our community. Lord, they’ve all had such an unpredictable senior year. We praise you for the accomplishment they’ve made and pray for the next step in their lives.
Your word instructs us to pray for our leaders. We pray for our mayor Chad, and the role he has in helping to lead our community. We pray for governor Pritzker and the difficult decisions he has. Lord, we pray for wisdom. We pray for the health of our communities and of people throughout this state.
Lord, we also do pray for our President Trump in these trying times. We pray for him and the rest of his team who are helping to guide and direct the nation.
Lord, we pray that our governor and governors around this nation would recognize that our spiritual needs are just as significant as our physical needs.
Lord, we pray for revival in our nation. We pray that as tough as this time has been, for each of us, we’ve had our own struggles in this situation, but we pray that you would use it to strengthen and mature us in our faith. We pray that you would use it to bring people in our community and all around our nation and world to you.
Lord, we pray for our time in your word today. We thank you for this book we are studying, and for what it teaches us about your sin and pointing to the life and light which comes from him alone. May that be our eternal joy and praise in Jesus’ name, amen.
We’ve mentioned this before, but throughout history, many people have claimed to be Jesus. Many have claimed to be the messiah. Many have claimed to be divine or to be the Son of God who has returned to the world.
Some of these people even attract followers.
In the Philippines, there’s a man named Apollo Quilboly who has millions of followers online in his country, around the world, and a large church, where he claims that God revealed to him that he is the Messiah. He lives in a palatial estate surrounded by people who are impoverished.
In Brazil, there’s a man named Inri Christo who has a cult of 5,000 people, mostly women where he too claims to be Jesus.
In England, you have a former British intelligence officer named David Shayler who says that God revealed to him that he is the Christ in 2007. At times, he’s been homeless, at times, he’s identified as a woman.
In John 8:14, Jesus said: Even if I do bear witness about myself, my testimony is true, for I know where I came from and where I am going
Christians would agree and affirm that. Jesus is the eternal God who lived and died and rose. He speaks with authority and truth. He lived a perfect and righteous life. However, in our passage this morning from John 5, Jesus will show that there are other corroborators who bear witness to his Messianic identity besides just his own claims.
As we begin, just a reminder that in John 5, Jesus is giving a long speech to the pharisees where he’s so far talked about his relationship with the Father. Jesus can do the things that God does because he is God.
We’ve talked about the role of Jesus in judgement.
So we come to verse 31 and Jesus is still talking about judgment but he’s also transitioning his speech forward to the next topic. Corroborating witnesses who affirm the deity of Christ.
And this passage will tell us of three witnesses. Verse 30, Jesus is continuing to talk of his relationship to the Father and that’ll be relevant as we consider his claims. “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. This is reiterating some ideas which Jesus has already been talking about in this section. During his earthly ministry, we see submission of the Son to the Father.
Jesus seeks God’s will and that will lead us into verse 31. Jesus says: If I alone bear witness about myself, my testimony is not true
Witnesses and testimony.
Jesus is making a legal reference to the law of the Old Testament. In the Law, multiple witnesses were demanded. Deuteronomy 31:15 says: A single witness shall not suffice against a person for any crime or for any wrong in connection with any offense that he has committed. Only on the evidence of two witnesses or of three witnesses shall a charge be established.
Something to keep in mind. It’s not that the witnesses to Christ make his claims true. They’re already true. Everything Jesus says is true. But what the witnesses do is provide attestation to his identity and claims. As we will see in this passage, ultimately, it is God himself who affirms the identity of who Jesus is, but that’s not where Jesus begins.
That’s what Jesus alludes to in verse 32, when he says: There is another who bears witness about me, and I know that the testimony that he bears about me is true.
So what we’re going to do with the rest of our time in this passage this morning is look at the three witnesses who point us to Christ.
First witness – John the Baptist
Verse 33, Jesus says: You sent to John, and he has borne witness to the truth.
Jesus reminds the pharisees that they themselves had sent people to vet John the Baptist, which is recorded in the opening chapter of this gospel.
John 1:20-21. John the Baptist is asked about his identity: He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.”
They finally ask him who he is and John the Baptist responds in 1:23: “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.”
That’s a reference to the Book of Isaiah. All four gospels have John the Baptist entering the story prior to the ministry of Christ as the messenger who was to go into the world before Christ and to prepare the world for the coming Messiah. The Book of Malachi also concludes with a prophecy of a figure who will be the forerunner to the Messiah.
Between the Old Testament, and the time of Christ, four centuries had come and gone. And then before Jesus, you have a man who comes and says he’s not Christ but that he has come to point people to Christ. Our world has a lot of people who have claimed to be the Messiah. But we don’t have a lot of people who have claimed to be John the Baptist. I’m not aware of any. John was imprisoned, later executed. He paid the ultimate price for his claims. His purpose in this world was to point people to Christ.
John 1:7 says: He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light
So Jesus begins with a witness to his Messianic identity with whom the pharisees were already familiar. And while it matters that John the Baptist is the witness, Jesus won’t stop there.
Verse 34: Not that the testimony that I receive is from man, but I say these things so that you may be saved.
Interesting that while John is an important witness, he’s a prophet, he’s Biblically significant, Jesus says that he does not receive his testimony from man. That’s not so much to diminish John but to elevate that it is God who is the true witness to Jesus.
John’s witness could in fact be edifying to the pharisees. For some of Jesus’ earliest disciples, it was the testimony of John the Baptist about Jesus which helped point them to Jesus. John 1:35-37: John was standing with two of his disciples, 36 and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” 37 The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus.
Back in our section. John 5:35, Jesus continues to talk about John the Baptist. He was a burning and shining lamp, and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light.
Jesus compares John to a lamp. The point is that a lamp needs a source for light but is not the light unto itself.
As chapter 1, verse 8 tells us: He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.
He points out that the people had rejoiced in John’s light. D.A. Carson points out that in the New Testament and in the works of the first century historian Josephus, there was excitement in the ministry of John the Baptist that he had come to point people to the Messiah.
But when it was Jesus to whom John was pointing people, for various reasons: his teachings, his rebukes of the legalism of the pharisees, his claims of deity, his interactions with sinners, his practices on the Sabbath, that he wasn’t the military leader that many expected, that some felt the Romans would intervene and take away Israel’s rights, and on and on.
They liked John as a witness until they saw the one to whom John was witnessing.
In his commentary of John, Richard Phillips points out that our world is often just as fickle. Many of the pharisees initially received the message that John came to preach. They started off by basking in his light, but when they saw the true light and discovered it wasn’t what they wanted, they jumped ship.
John came to point people to the Messiah, to point people to the true light, to point people to eternal life. He came to point people to the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, but the truth wasn’t what the pharisees wanted and so they turned away from John, and more importantly, they disregarded Christ.
This is why he points out to the pharisees: you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light.
In being a follower of Jesus, that means that we sometimes will hear truths that we don’t want or don’t want to believe or which challenge us. Instead of disregarding those, we are to instead look to Christ.
John the Baptist is the first human witness to Christ. The fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies about the forerunner to the Messiah.
Second witness – the works of Christ
We come to a second witness of who Jesus is. His works are a witness to his Messianic identity.
Verse 36: 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.
Jesus begins by saying that the testimony of his works is ultimately a greater testimony than that of John. Think about it. If John the Baptist had made the claims about Jesus, and his works didn’t testify to his identity, God didn’t testify to his identity, no one would believe him.
Again, lots of people claim to be the Messiah. Lots of people claim to hear from God. Some of them even claim to be sinless. It’s one thing to use your words to say who you are. It’s another thing to use your works to point to who you are.
After the first sign Jesus performed in John’s Gospel, he turns water into wine and John writes in 2:11: This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory
We’ve seen him cure a child near death. In the following section, he’ll feed multitudes. He heals the sick, gives sight to the blind, raises the dead.
There are a few others who also perform miracles in the Bible. We see them from Moses, though he’s empowered by God to do them. We see them from Elijah and Elisha, though they’re again enabled by God for the purpose of pointing to God.
They never claimed to be the promised savior of the world. Jesus had a ministry which was closely and intimately connected to God, but here he says that his miracles are a witness pointing to himself as a divine being. His entire ministry points to who he is.
As Jesus says the very works that I am doing bear witness about me that the Father has sent me.
We see his dominion over physical health, his dominion over nature, and his dominion over life and death. And greater things were to be seen.
One of the most striking attestations to his Messianic identity, when looking at the works of Christ, has got to be his resurrection.
Think about facts that are agreed upon, even among secular historians today.
Jesus was crucified and that he died. Serious scholars agree that Jesus really did live and that the evidence points to him really having been crucified. There is no evidence of anyone ever surviving a Roman crucifixion. The Romans knew what they were doing, they knew when a person was dead and that from the physical trauma, blood loss, and lack of oxygen, Jesus was dead. The tomb was empty. Again, there’s no historical account which disputes this. In the gospels, there’s an allegation recorded that some suggested the disciples had stolen the body. That still affirms that the tomb was empty. You have accounts of people who saw Jesus after the resurrection. This is never depicted as a legend or myth. 1 Corinthians 15 concretely says that there were more than 500 witnesses. Of the disciples, their lives were forever changed. Of the 12, it’s believed in church tradition that 11 of them, all but John, were martyred.
You also have early conversions of people like Paul who were hostile to Christianity but then claimed to have had a life changing experience of seeing Jesus. Why would Paul go from being hostile to Christianity to the most ardent supporter of it who would also be martyred unless he truly believed in it? All of those facts and more speak to the resurrection of Jesus.
Others have claimed to be the Messiah. They’re dead and gone. Jesus is risen and lives. The tomb was empty. People saw him after he had risen from the dead and died to defend that truth.
And it’s because he rose that we can trust that we too will all be raised with Chrsit. His works testify to his glory and divinity
Third witness – God
Third witness and the most important witness. God himself affirms the identity of Christ. Let’s look again at verse 36 and take that into verse 37. 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. 37 And the Father who sent me has himself borne witness about me.
Once again, everything we’ve seen in this passage points to the closeness between the Father and the Son. You, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise. 20 For the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing. And greater works than these will he show him, so that you may marvel. (John 5:19-20)
as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. 27 And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man (John 5:26-27).
I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me (John 5:30).
You also have multiple instances in the gospels in which God attests to Jesus. You have his baptism. Mark 1:10-11: when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”
You have the transfiguration where God speaks. Mark 9:2: a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came out of the cloud, “This is my beloved Son; listen to him.”
And all of these pieces of evidence fit together. Jesus claims God affirms him and his miracles back that up. They point to his divinity. As we will see in the following section, a fourth witness to Jesus is the Old Testament.
You have John the Baptist who came as a witness to Christ. He died proclaiming that. As we’ve already discussed, so did the other disciples as well. Their lives testify to what they had seen.
Jesus is who he says he is.
In his commentary on John, Richard Phillips says: “There can be no greater cause for judgment than to reject God’s own Son when he has presented himself to you. To turn your back on Jesus is to turn your back on life, which God freely gives, with forgiveness of sin, only to those who believe on his beloved Son.”
God’s prophets witness to Christ, Jesus divine ministry and miracles witness to Christ. And God himself witnesses to his son, our Lord Jesus Christ. Do you keep living your life? Do you keep living for you? Do you keep living for worldly things?
Or do you believe in Jesus as Lord and savior and bend the knee to Christ that he is the only one who can give eternal life?