Life of Christ 54
When the infirm man told his friends the wonderful news about Jesus Christ you would expect them to rejoice with him, and you would expect wrongly. Actually, the response of these Jews wasn't to rejoice with a man whose entire life had been fixed, but to run straight to Israel's religious leadership with the news that it was Jesus who had been breaking the Sabbath. And immediately, instead of discussing what this meant in relation to His claims to be the Messiah, the leadership begins to plan just how to go about killing Him (John 5.16).
He isn't hard to find in Jerusalem that week, and Israel's religious leadership sends a delegation to confront Him about this event. Jesus readily admits it, 'But Jesus answered them, My Father worketh hitherto, and I work' (John 5.17).
First, He points them to the witness of John the Baptist. 'Ye sent unto John, and he bare witness unto the truth. But I receive not testimony from man: but these things I say, that ye might be saved. He was a burning and a shining light: and ye were willing for a season to rejoice in his light' (John 5.33-35).
John wasn't just any other man. He was accounted, even in His own time, as a prophet, and his views about Jesus were widely known, clearly spelled out, and oft repeated. 'Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world' (John 1.29).
Israel's religious leadership could not ignore this because the great mass of common people loved John the preacher and John the man. Jesus knew this, and He knew Israel's religious leadership had no rational explanation for how John could be right about so many things, and good for Israel, but completely wrong about what he said in relation to Jesus.
Second, He points them to His own miraculous works. 'But I have greater witness than that of John: for the works which the Father hath given me to finish, the same works that I do, bear witness of me, that the Father hath sent me' (John 5.36).
Miracles, as I have already mentioned, were signs pointing toward the authenticity of Jesus' claims, and He did the kind that could not be ignored. He did the kind that could not be faked. He did the kind that involved many people. He did the kind that nobody else would even have considered making up. He did the kind whose results were immediately and visibly apparent. He did the kind whose results continued. He did miracles for the nobility. He did them for the working class. He did them for the outcasts of society. He did them from a distance. He did them on land and on water. He clearly and repeatedly had power over nature, disease, and the demonic world.
They had no answer for John the Baptist. They could not possibly dispute the authenticity of His many miracles. But He wasn't done yet. He also offered them the third witness, that of the Father. 'And the Father himself, which hath sent me, hath borne witness of me' (John 5.37).
When did this happen? At Jesus' public baptism just over a year ago, in front of crowds of people, many of them from Jerusalem, down at the Jordan River. 'And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him: And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased' (Matthew 3.16-17).
There may well have been in the group that gathered around Jesus and Israel's religious leaders in Jerusalem that very day people who were at the Jordan River a year ago when Jesus was baptized. If there were not such people surely would not be hard to find. If Israel's religious leadership really did want to establish the veracity of Jesus' claims let them interview some of these people, and then let them try to weasel out of the fact that Jehovah had spoken in an audible voice at Jesus' baptism, and pronounced that Jesus was God's Son.
They had no answer for John the Baptist. They could not dispute the authenticity of the many miracles. They could not disprove the publicly audible testimony of the Father in front of many assembled people. But that's not all as there was also a fourth witness, that of the Scriptures themselves. 'Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me' (John 5.39).
As if the first three witnesses were not compelling enough Jesus sends them a clear challenge: 'You claim to be experts on the Old Testament; go take a look at the dozens of prophecies about the messiah and see how they correspond to My life.'
This is one of those aspects of Jesus' life that is absolutely impossible for the skeptics to ignore. These prophecies were clearly in existence prior to the time of Christ. These prophecies were spread amongst dozens of Old Testament writers. These prophecies referred to numerous different aspects of the messiah's life and ministry. The existence of these prophecies could not have been faked after the fact, nor could it be ignored that they pointed, like a laser beam, smack dab at Jesus.
Even though most of them had not yet been fulfilled at the time Jesus was having this conversation at His second Passover many of them had been. The messiah was to be born of a virgin. Check. The messiah was to be of the house of David. Check. The messiah was to have spent time in Egypt. Check. The messiah was to be preceded by a messenger. Check. The messiah would minister in Galilee. Check. The messiah would be called a Nazarene. Check.
It is almost like Jesus is throwing these things at them, piling up a mountain of evidence, forcing them to confront the fact that their unbelief in Him was not a careful and responsible diligence to establish the facts with painstaking care, but was instead a stubborn rebelliousness that rejected indisputable truth. To me, one of the saddest verses in all the Bible is found toward the end of this conversation. After Jesus heals the infirm man, is attacked for it, and offers clear and convincing proof that He is right, and is still rejected, we find this awful statement: 'And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life' (John 5.40).
There is an old statement that says there are none so blind as those who will not see. That was the case with Israel's religious leadership. Their problem wasn't an intellectual one, but a spiritual one. It wasn't a head problem but a heart problem. They didn't want, in their heart, to yield to Christ. He piled up evidence after evidence after evidence, indisputably, and publicly, and all they did was attack Him for telling a man to carry His bed on the Sabbath.
Beloved, this thing of ours, this Christianity, is real. He is Who He said He was. And we are right to bow before Him, and to embrace Him, and to live for Him.
If you would like to listen to the audio version of this blog you can find it here on our church website. Just press 'launch media player' and choose We Preach Christ 26, 'Four Witnesses'.