Jesus had given his first three witnesses, each one powerfully convincing on its own, but taken together, how could there be a need for more proof? Yet there was more to come. Today’s post completes Jesus presentation of proofs and witnesses.

The Pharisees and teachers of the law trembled, their faces pale, their fists clenched within the folds of their sleeves, as they looked on, arms crossed. Jesus’ eyes burned with intensity and his brows were drawn together, but his voice was filled with compassion and grief. No one seemed to notice the heat of the afternoon sun, or that they had been standing there for hours without a drink or morsel to eat.

“And the word, the Logos of [the Father] you do not have remaining within you, for you do not believe-nor-put-your-faith-in the One [the Father] has sent.”

This censure cut even deeper than the one before it. Not only had they been accused—they, who loved the scriptures, who loved the Lord, did they not?—of never having heard nor seen the Father (and who had, really now!), but now this ragged street corner preacher was  charging them with not having the word of God within them! How could such an injurious slander be spoken!

Who were the teachers of the law, but those who knew the law better than anyone. Who were the scribes but those who had learned to write the law in their own hand. Who were the Pharisees but those who had dedicated every hour of their lives to upholding the very word, the Debar of God.

Their mutters became low, angry protests.

Jesus shook his head, reading their hearts. No, they were wrong, this was no slander. This was the truth.

“You search-through-and-examine the writings, because you all think in them eternal life to have, and those are the testimonies concerning ME.” Jesus had waved his arm in the direction of their synagogue, where the sacred scrolls were kept. But then, in a sudden sweep, he brought his fist to his own chest and thumped hard.

The sound startled everyone, and some of the religious authorities even flinched. [1]

  1. Scripture Jesus had brought in the most powerful witness yet, at least from the point of view of the religious rulers. God’s written word.

Jesus was saying that in spite of all the scripture memorizing these men had done, the commentaries they had written, all the doctrines and sacred rites they had scrupulously followed, all the lectures they had delivered, all the holy disciplines they lived by . . . after all that, God’s word was not in them.

They searched the scriptures, but they did not find the meaning of life.

What went wrong?

If dedicated, educated professionals like the religious intelligentsia of Jesus’ day could miss the one thing they searched for, what would keep you and me from missing great truths in scripture?

What would keep Bible study from being just an interesting intellectual exercise?

Jesus gave the answer in his next breath.

Also, you all do not want to come to Me, in order for you all to have eternal life.

Jesus, to the religious authorities in John 5:40

It really was just as simple as that. They just did not want to. They were set against accepting Jesus.

Jesus watched them intently as they struggled with what he had just said. Those around them had drawn back somewhat, looking at each other with anxious glances, then back to Jesus. How could their leaders not want one who spoke with such authority, who fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah by unstopping the ears of the deaf and opening the eyes of the blind, who had released countless many from the bonds of demons, and had literally restored the withered arms and legs of the halt and lame?

The Pharisees were the first to recover, opening their arms to smooth their outer robes, and rearrange their prayer shawls underneath. Some nodded approvingly to the people, others smiled and took on the stance of a teacher about to debate with a student. Jesus, they seemed to indicate, was the student who did not quite understand what he was implicating.

But Jesus would not be maneuvered.

“I do not accept glory-or-praise from people,” the reader of hearts and discerner of souls said to the crowd. Then he turned again to the religious rulers, “But rather, I have perceived-and-understand you all, that the love of God you do not have in yourselves.”[2]

In an eerie way, the coldness of their hearts toward Jesus spoke its own testimony, for it meant their hearts had somehow grown cold towards God.

And what had cooled their hearts to an icy chill? A sort of narcissism had oozed deep into their inner being.

I have come in the name of my Father and you all do not receive me: if another came in the name of themselves, that one you will accept.

How are you all able to believe, who receive glory-and-praise from one another and do not seek-nor-worship the glory from the name-of-God-one? [the person who has actual glory in the name of God]

Jesus, John 5:43-44

Their pride in themselves, their love of each other’s admiration, and the honor given to them by all the people, filled them so full they had no appetite left to seek God’s glory. They were more ready to accept the words of an impressive big name person, than the simple truths of God.

And then, probably completely unexpectedly, Jesus brought in his fifth and final witness.

Do not think that I myself will indict you all to the Father, the one who indicts you is Moses, in whom you all set your expectation.

Jesus, John 5:45

  1.  Moses was the weightiest witness of all, to the scribes and teachers of the law. The Pharisees had considered themselves the disciples of Moses and were extremely proud of their connection with him.

They had claimed they were the direct descendants of the elders to whom they said Moses had given the Oral Law.

They had claimed that when God gave the written law to Moses, God had also given a secret oral law that no one could know except for those of Jewish descent to protect their cultural and religious identity. (And it was this oral law that would eventually end up in the Mishnah.)

But, Jesus was referring to a specific Mosaic prophecy.

I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their own people; I will put my words in the mouth of the prophet, who shall speak to them everything that I command. 

Anyone who does not heed the words that the prophet shall speak in my name, I myself will hold accountable.

God, to Moses in Deuteronomy 18:18-19

Now Jesus took it home,

For if you all were believing Moses, you all were certainly believing me, for he wrote concerning me. But if you all do not believe the writings of that one, how will you all believe my words?

Jesus, John 5:46-47

People often think that if someone does not believe something, what they need is more proof, more information.

But Jesus said this was not the problem.

Jesus said that if these scribes and Pharisees did not believe the truth they already had in their hands, God’s word in scripture, then they would not believe the greater truths Jesus had to give them.

[1] My portrayal of the scene from John 5:38-39

[2] My continued depiction of John 5:41-42

[Jesus and the religious authorities | The LUMO Project,]

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