I have been in the book of John for my daily reading since the start of October. A few weeks ago I read through John 5. I was sort of in a dry spell during those days and my mind wasn’t connecting with the words my eyes were reading. Thankfully, Pastor Steve Selfridge at First Wesleyan Church in Rapid City is preaching through the book of John and preached out of John 5:31-47 last week. It forced me to go back and consider more deeply the words I had read and glossed over.
In the previous passage Jesus outlined what his claim to authority truly meant. It boils down to vs 24 where he says, “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life.”
Essentially Jesus has the authority to pluck someone from death and grant them eternal life in the name of God our Father. That’s a pretty huge claim! That’s the kind of claim that demands third party confirmation.
We’ve been in the process of buying a house as we move to Helena, MT to plant a church. Since I haven’t had personal debt for at least two years my credit score had disappeared (yay Dave Ramsey!). This is great considering I didn’t owe anyone any money, but when applying for a home loan it certainly complicates things. Since the mortgage company needs to be assured that we know how to pay a monthly bill, we had to provide bills as proof. The mortgage company then needed to contact these companies to verify, by their third party testimony, that I could pay bills on time consistently. Third party verification is incredibly important!
In Moses’ time, God gave the Israelites a gift: third party verification. Up until that point only one witness was required to convict someone of breaking the law in many societies. This was especially troublesome if a poor person wronged a wealthy person. The word and influence of the wealthy person carried the day. But God provided a better way to his people. The victim could no longer be the only witness required to convict someone of breaking the law. Two witnesses were needed. This protected a person from suffering the consequences of being falsely accused. God provided fairness to the justice system of the day.
Jesus, confronting those who questioned his authority, acknowledged that his testimony about himself wouldn’t cut it, but while he only needed two witnesses, Jesus provided four.
First, Jesus pointed to John the Baptist. Here was a man whom the people had heard and many held him in high regard. He proclaimed Jesus to be the Lamb of God; the one who would take away the sin of the world and that Jesus is the Son of God. His testimony is recorded in John 1:19-36
Second, Jesus pointed to his works. He had provided miraculous evidence of his authority by healing people including the healing of the man at the Pool of Bethesda at the beginning of John 5. His ability to accomplish these miraculous works provided testimony of his authority. Jesus was also talking about his works to come; namely his death and resurrection by which he conquered sin and buried death.
Third, Jesus provides the Father as a witness. The Father provides testimony for the Son at Jesus’s baptism both verbally when he said in Matthew 3:17 “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” and in sending the Spirit upon him.
Finally, Jesus tells his hearers to consider the scriptures. The words throughout the Old Testament speak of our need for a savior and God’s promise to provide one. God provided the evidence for Jesus coming long in advance through prophecy. Those prophecies point to Jesus.
Jesus didn’t have just two required witnesses regarding his authority to provide eternal life and the forgiveness of sins, he had four. Jesus is absolutely authoritative and he is indeed the Son of God.