In the previous post, we learned that the religious leaders have accused Jesus of being a lawbreaker and blasphemer. Though not placed on any kind of official trail, Jesus treats it as one, calling witnesses to testify on his behalf. First up, as we read in the previous post, Jesus referred to John the Baptist’s testimony about him. Then Jesus says he has “weightier testimony than that of John’s”. Who will Jesus call to the stand now? Who is his second witness? Weightier testimony than John? He continues in John 5, verse 36.
“For the very work that the Father has given me to finish, and which I am doing, testifies that the Father has sent me.”
Work? What work is Jesus doing? That word “work” is key. Remember, work is what started this trial. Jesus was working on the Sabbath. What work did he do? He healed a man. That’s the work Jesus is talking about, his miracles. Miracles are evidence that Jesus is not your normal prophet. John the Baptist was a highly respected prophet, but he did no miracles.
Jesus’ miracles should have been evidence enough to prove Jesus’ case that he had authority from God. Miracles are astounding. We like to think that if we saw a miracle like the miracles Jesus did, we would be true believers for life. Would we though? Or would we come up with ways to explain away the miracles? Would time go by and maybe we would start to think, “Was that really a miracle? Maybe I was just caught up in the emotion of it all.” Or we could be like the religious leaders who simply didn’t care.
My guess is that Jesus did so many miracles that at least some of the religious leaders witnessed them. Maybe they thought Jesus was like a televangelist who put actors in the crowd, and the healings were not actually healings, but just a farce. If you want to disbelieve something, you can.
The miracles, though, were real and powerful and they happened hundreds and maybe thousands of times in Jesus’ ministry. Already in the Gospel of John we’ve seen many. He turned water into wine. The miracles in Jerusalem after the cleansing of the temple. The royal official’s son healed at long distance. The man waiting for 38 years to be healed. There will be many more as well.
But Jesus wasn’t trying to eradicate all disease. The people he healed got sick again and eventually died. Certainly, Jesus’ miracles were a wonderful blessing to the people he healed, at least in the short run. What, then, was the larger purpose behind Jesus’ miracles?
Jesus’ miracles were signposts, pointing to a reality that he is who he said he was, the promised Messiah, who held out the offer of life that was really life, whether you got a miracle or not. You can have abundant, flourishing life in him now, and the hope of eternal life in heaven.
The miracles authenticated that he was who he said he was. In response to the religious leaders questioning him about his authority, Jesus has referred to John the Baptist’s testimony, and his own miracle-working power.
But there’s more. It’s time for the next witness to take the stand. Who will Jesus call next? In verse 37 we read,
“And the Father who sent me has himself testified concerning me. You have never heard his voice nor seen his form,”
The third witness is God the Father. How has God testified about Jesus? At least two ways. First, what Jesus refers to next. Look at verses 38-39, where Jesus refers to the Scriptures. God speaks about Jesus in the Scriptures. Hold that thought, because that’s a hint about the identity of the fourth witness in this trial.
There is, however, a second way God testifies about Jesus. Remember at Jesus’ baptism when God spoke? We have to read about this in the other Gospel accounts. All three other Gospel writers include this, so John didn’t have to. Here’s Matthew’s version:
“As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased’.”
Did people hear God’s voice? Jesus says in John 5, verse 37, that “they never heard the Father’s voice.” He is likely referring to the religious leaders, that they didn’t hear God’s voice. It could be that Jesus is saying that they didn’t hear God’s voice at his baptism, or in Scripture, or ever. So he might be condemning the religious leaders, the people who should be hearing from God, as people who aren’t hearing from God. They weren’t genuinely open to hearing God’s voice, or to learning about God’s ways. So the effect, Jesus says, is that the people who absolutely thought they heard from God actually did not.
What is clear is that God speaks. Whether in his Scripture or in an audible voice, and God affirms that Jesus is who he says he is. Can there be any greater expert testimony than that of God himself?
Jesus says that God has testified about him. God still speaks, and God said that Jesus is his beloved Son, whom he loves, and in whom he is well-pleased. In a moment that comes later in Jesus’ life, his transfiguration, God will say almost the same thing he said at the baptism, but God will add, “That’s my son, listen to him.”
God will speak yet a third time in Jesus’ life, one that gets very little attention. Turn to John 12, verse 28. In John 12, Jesus is near the end of his life. It’s the week before his crucifixion. He is teaching, likely in the temple courts, because there is a crowd, and he prays in verse 27, “Father, glorify your name!”
And God responds! “Then a voice came from heaven, ‘I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.”
But notice the next verse. The crowd heard the voice! Some said it thundered, and others said an angel spoke. That is wild. God speaks to testify on Jesus’ behalf.
So far in Jesus’ trial, we have heard from three witnesses, all three testifying that Jesus is who he said he was: John the Baptist, Jesus’ miracles, and God the Father.
In the next post we hear from the fourth and final witness.