The Father’s Witness to Jesus

John 5:30-40

In the fifth chapter of John’s gospel Jesus makes some amazing claims about Himself. He makes these claims in response to the Jewish authorities in Jerusalem who are accusing Him of breaking the Sabbath law and of claiming to be equal with God. In His answer, Jesus reinforces His claims to be God. We saw in verses 19-29 that Jesus claims to be equal with God in His nature as the Son of God (5:17-18), in His works which He does just as the Father (5:17, 19), in His love and knowledge (5:20), in His power to give life to whom He wishes (5:21), in His authority to judge (5:22), and in His honor in worship (5:23). Not only that, but Jesus claims to be the One who gives eternal life (5:24) and who will raise the dead (5:28-29) and judge the world (5:27,30).

People must have listened with open-mouthed amazement as Jesus made these claims. Many of them were likely thinking, “How do we know he is telling the truth? What evidence does he give? Who can corroborate his claims?” Knowing their minds and hearts, Jesus proceeds to call forth witnesses to His credentials. 

So the question we are going to answer today is: How can you know that Jesus is the Son of God? How can you know He is who He claimed to be, the one who gives eternal life, who raises the dead, and who judges the world? How do we know that these claims are true?

Jewish law in the Old Testament required at least two or three witnesses to establish any legal matter (Deut. 17:6; 19:15). So here in verses 31-40 Jesus gives a number of witnesses to verify His claims.

31 “If I bear witness of Myself, My witness is not true.

32 There is another who bears witness of Me, and I know that the witness which He witnesses of Me is true.

33 You have sent to John, and he has borne witness to the truth.

34 Yet I do not receive testimony from man, but I say these things that you may be saved.

35 He was the burning and shining lamp, and you were willing for a time to rejoice in his light.

36 But I have a greater witness than John’s; for the works which the Father has given Me to finish–the very works that I do–bear witness of Me, that the Father has sent Me.

37 And the Father Himself, who sent Me, has testified of Me. You have neither heard His voice at any time, nor seen His form.

38 But you do not have His word abiding in you, because whom He sent, Him you do not believe.

39 You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me.

40 But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life.

Did you notice the repetition of the word “witness” or “testify”? This is a key word in the Gospel of John. He uses the noun and verb 47 times in his Gospel. You’ll find it 30 more times in his epistles and in Revelation.

We have seen how Jesus bore witness to Himself in verses 19-29. But He knows that people will be reluctant to accept such bold claims without other witnesses. Jesus knew that a Jewish lawyer would be thinking “Self-testimony is not admissible in by the law. There must be outside testimony.”

In chapter 8 when Jesus claims to be the Light of the World, the Pharisees therefore said to Him, “You bear witness of Yourself; Your witness is not true.” (8:13). Here in chapter 5 Jesus concedes this point in verse 31: “If I bear witness of Myself, My witness is not true.” Jesus is not admitting that He is lying. He is simply acknowledging that they would not accept His self-testimony as valid by itself.

Jesus had just said in verse 30, “I can of Myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me.” Everything that Jesus did while He was on earth He did in submission to the Father. He wasn’t bearing witness of Himself independently of the Father. His testimony would not be valid if He were acting independently of the Father. So He goes on to give other witnesses to His claim.

The Father bears witness to Jesus (31-32).

Actually, there is one main witness. Jesus says in verse 32, “There is another who bears witness of Me, and I know that the witness which He witnesses of Me is true.” The word, “another” in that verse means “a different one of the same kind.” Jesus here is talking about His Father. Again in chapter 8 Jesus answers the Pharisees who questioned His self-testimony saying, “It is also written in your law that the testimony of two men is true. I am One who bears witness of Myself, and the Father who sent Me bears witness of Me.” (John 8:17-18). John reasons in 1 John 5:9, “If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater; for this is the witness of God which He has testified of His Son.”

The Father is the “another” (5:32) who testifies in conjunction with Jesus Himself. How has the Father born witness to Jesus? In these verses we see that the Father testified through John the Baptist (5:33-35); through Jesus’ works which the Father gave Him to do (5:36) and through the Scriptures (5:37-47). Since all of these witnesses agree, the case for Jesus is solid: He is the Christ, the Son of God (20:31).

So we see that The Father bears witness to Jesus:

1. Through John the Baptist (5:33-35).

33 You have sent to John, and he has borne witness to the truth.

34 Yet I do not receive testimony from man, but I say these things that you may be saved.

35 He was the burning and shining lamp, and you were willing for a time to rejoice in his light.

Back in chapter 1 we saw how “the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem,” to interrogate John the Baptist. John was resolute in his testimony about Jesus. He declared Jesus to be “He who, coming after me, is preferred before me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to loose.” (1:27, 30); and “The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (1:29,36). John said, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and He remained upon Him,” (1:32). That was the witness of the Father who told John, “Upon whom you see the Spirit descending, and remaining on Him, this is He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.” So John declared, “And I have seen and testified that this is the Son of God,” (1:34).

God sent John the Baptist in fulfillment of His promise (Isa. 40:3; Mal. 3:1) to bear witness of Jesus (John 1:6-8, 23). But John was not Jesus’ “key witness” because as Jesus says in verse 34 “Yet I do not receive testimony from man.” Jesus’ main witness was the Father. The reason that Jesus mentions John here is because for a while the Jews were flocking out to hear him. Most of the Jews considered John to be a true prophet of God. There had not been a prophet for over 400 years. John burned with passion and shined with truth. John “was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light.” He was a lamp, not the light, but he bore witness to the Light.

Notice that Jesus’ aim in this defense of His deity was not to win an argument, but to win souls. He tells the Jews (5:34), “I say these things that you may be saved.” Jesus wants them to be saved.  But the problem was that they only were willing to “for a time rejoice in his light.” John was probably now in prison or already dead. There had been a window of opportunity for the Jews to believe John, but now that window had closed. The Jewish leaders were interested in John when he was popular, but they never took his message to heart. They were like moths who hovered near the lamp while it was burning, but flitted back into the darkness after it was extinguished.

If they would have believed John’s testimony that Jesus was the Lamb of God, sent to take away the sins of the world (1:29), they would have been saved. But as Jesus laments in verse 40, “But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life.”

So the Father bore witness to Jesus through John the Baptist. Next, the Father bore witness to Jesus:

2. Through Jesus’ works (5:36).

36 But I have a greater witness than John’s; for the works which the Father has given Me to finish–the very works that I do–bear witness of Me, that the Father has sent Me.

By His “works,” Jesus mainly meant the miraculous signs that He did. His miracles demonstrated that He was sent by the Father. Nicodemus recognized that in chapter 3 when he said, “Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.” Later in chapter 10 when the Jews say to Jesus (10:24b), “If You are the Christ, tell us plainly,” He answered (10:25), “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in My Father’s name, they bear witness of Me.” On the night before His death Jesus will say to His disciples (15:24), “If I had not done among them the works which no one else did, they would have no sin; but now they have seen and also hated both Me and My Father.”

Nowhere in the scriptures do the Jews attempt to deny that these miracles had occurred. In fact after Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead in chapter 11, John writes, “Then the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered a council and said, “What shall we do? For this Man works many signs. If we let Him alone like this, everyone will believe in Him.” (11:47-48).

So then, the Father testified that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, through John the Baptist’s testimony and by the miraculous signs that the Father did through Him.

Thirdly, the Father bore witness to Jesus:

3. Through the Scriptures (5:37-40).

37 And the Father Himself, who sent Me, has testified of Me. You have neither heard His voice at any time, nor seen His form.

38 But you do not have His word abiding in you, because whom He sent, Him you do not believe.

39 You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me.

40 But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life.

Jesus makes it clear again that all this testimony is the Father’s testimony to Jesus. He says, “And the Father Himself, who sent Me, has testified of Me,” (37). From the other Gospels we know that more than once the Father spoke from heaven in testimony to Jesus. The voice of the Father spoke from heaven at His baptism (Matt. 3:17), and on the Mount of Transfiguration (Matt. 17:5). Later in John’s Gospel when Jesus prays, “Father, glorify Your name.” Then a voice came from heaven, saying, “I have both glorified it and will glorify it again.” (12:28).

Jesus censures the Jews saying, “You have neither heard His voice at any time, nor seen His form.” By inference, He claims otherwise. Jesus has seen the Father and heard His voice. Moses had heard God’s voice (Exod. 33:11), but Jesus’ hearers were not true followers of Moses (5:46). If they had been true followers of Moses, they would have recognized God’s voice in Jesus (3:34; 17:8). Jacob saw “the face of God” when he wrestled with the angel but the Jews were not true sons of Jacob or they would have seen God’s form in Jesus (1:18; 14:9).

The Father has borne witness through the Son. Verse 38 says, “But you do not have His word abiding in you, because whom He sent, Him you do not believe.” The reason they did not hear God’s voice or see God’s form or have His Word abiding in them was that they did not believe in Jesus, who was sent by the Father. And their unbelief was evidence that Jesus’ indictment was correct. But His words do not find a home in them because they do not believe.

So Jesus calls for another testimony of the Father, the witness of the scriptures. The Father has testified of Jesus through His word. The whole Old Testament from Genesis to Malachi is all about Jesus Christ. Luke 24:27 describes the risen Lord Jesus’ conversation with the two dejected disciples on the road to Emmaus, “And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.” Again later that night Jesus appears to His disciples and says, “all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me.”

The New Testament is filled with quotations and references to the Old Testament that indicate Jesus is the fulfillment of the prophetic word. In verse 46 Jesus says, “For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote about Me.”

The Pharisees and the Jewish scribes new the scriptures and studied them diligently. They memorized them and revered them. But Jesus’ words in 5:39-40 show that it is possible to study the Scriptures in the wrong way. The Jews thought that because of knowledge of Scripture they had eternal life. “You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me,” (5:39). They missed the whole point of the scriptures. They missed Jesus!

How could these men possess the Scriptures and study them, and yet miss the main point of their teaching? Jesus tells them and us: they do not have the Word abiding in them. They are “in the Word,” but the is not at home in them. This is so because Christ is not only the central theme of the Word, He is the key to the Word. Christ is the key that unlocks the message of the Scriptures. The Jews are not willing to come to Him so that they may have life. Thus, they are blind to the central message of the very Scriptures they possess and regard so highly. The point of the entire Bible is to lead us directly to Jesus, who alone can impart eternal life (5:21).

Tragically, Jesus says of the Jews (5:40), “But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life.” They did not want to believe. They did not want to come to Jesus. The root issue for these people — and for us — is not intellectual evidence. That does matter, that’s real evidence, and Jesus talks about that — I have a witness in John the Baptist, in my works, and in the scriptures. But that is not the problem. The problem is they are not willing.

Listen, if you have not come to Jesus for salvation it is not because you can’t but because you won’t. Can you give me one good reason why you will not come to Jesus for salvation? Maybe you hope to earn your salvation some other way. The Jews thought so. They thought that they had it because they studied the scriptures. But they were mistaken. The Bible cannot save. Only Christ can save you. The scriptures can lead you to Christ, but you can only be saved by coming to Him.

Maybe you will not come because you have some pet sin that you do not want to give up. I don’t know what it is, but God knows and you know. John 3:19 said, “And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.” Do you love your sin too much to want Jesus? Oh’ how I wish you could see how wonderful it is in the light, free from the penalty of sin!    

The Father has born witness to the fact that Jesus is the Son of God in many compelling ways. Men do not reject the claims of Christ for lack of evidence. They reject Him because sinful men do not wish to submit to Him as God, nor do they wish to come to Him as unworthy sinners, seeking grace. This is the reason the Jews reject Jesus. It is why people still reject Him today.

Don’t miss Jesus’ point in this discourse (5:34): “I say these things so that you may be saved.” Are you saved? Do you have eternal life? Come to Jesus and He will give you eternal life.

 

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