We have gotten used to deception. We brace ourselves when advertisers push misleading claims about their products. We roll our eyes when politicians make campaign promises. Teachers learn to sniff out plagiarism in students’ written work. We hear about job seekers who submit inaccurate professional resumes. Justice is undermined when courtroom witnesses commit perjury. We are angered by social media and news networks that promote unfounded conspiracy theories and outright lies.
Jesus’ detractors in the religious community accused him of deception. They were so offended by his astounding claims that they wanted to have him killed. They said that “he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God” (John 5:18).
Jesus did not deny this. In fact, he bluntly stated that he was doing the works of God (John 5:16-17). He said that God had entrusted all ultimate judgment to him (John 5:22, 27). He claimed equal honor with God (John 5:23). He even claimed to have the power of God to raise the dead (John 5:25-26). There is no way around it. Jesus claimed to be the divine Son of God.
Was Jesus lying? Was he a religious con man preying on the gullibility of simple people? Was he a self-deceived, crazy man who thought he had come from God to save the world? Or was he who he said he was? Jesus faced those who accosted him and offered them three trustworthy witnesses to support his claim to deity. Their testimony is reliable.
John the forerunner
In this debate, Jesus had every right to defend himself against his accusers, But since they had already shown that they did not accept his word, he accommodated himself to them and said, “If you won’t listen to me, listen to John the Baptizer.” He was the prophet sent from God to prepare the nation Israel for the coming of the Messiah.
John was like a notary public who certified Jesus’ ministry to the people. “You have sent to John and he has testified to the truth” (John 5:33). In the beginning of Jesus’ ministry John was the one who bore witness to the true light so that all people might believe (John 1:7). He was not the light, but was a “light bearer” to project the light that was Jesus (John 1:8, 5:35).
Jesus knew the people were impressed by the ministry of John. His testimony about Jesus was reliable.
Jesus said that the works that he had been sent to earth to do, including his miraculous signs, were even “weightier” testimony than that of John (John 5:36). The fourth gospel records seven special miracles of Jesus which were selected to confirm the faith of those who would read about them and be led to believe on Jesus as Savior. Each miracle reveals his divine authority and supernatural power.
His miracles were exceptional events outside the normal laws of nature. They could not be ignored. Jesus exhibited these miraculous signs over and over again. They pose a challenge. His works require us to make a decision about him. Was Jesus a religious charlatan, deliberately deceiving the people? Was he like a witch doctor performing miracles by the power of the devil? Or was he who he claimed to be? A response is called for.
“Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you my have life in his name” (John 20:30-31).
The testimony of God: the Scriptures
“The Father who has sent me has testified concerning me,” Jesus said (John 5:37). When was that? You may recall that there was a voice from heaven that spoke when Jesus was baptized: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased” (Luke 3:22). In addition to that single event, there is the more permanent witness of the scriptures, the written Word of God.
The people with Jesus in John chapter 5 had not witnessed his baptism or heard the voice from heaven. But they had heard the scriptures read in their synagogues every Sabbath day. The religious scholars had studied the scriptures meticulously all their lives. Yet they failed to recognize and acknowledge that the Scriptures testify about Jesus. “These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life” (John 5:37-40).
The Scriptures are God’s book. He inspired their writing by his Holy Spirit. When we read the Bible God is speaking. The Bible is a truthful and trustworthy report concerning Jesus.
Our world is awash in deception. We are not always sure whom to believe. So here are three witnesses about Jesus, all of them reliable: John, the Lord’s miracles, and the written word of God himself. Jesus calls our attention to them to strengthen our faith in him.
Pastor Randy Faulkner