REFLECTIONS ON JOHN 5:31-47 - BEARING WITNESS AND THE GENTLE TEACHER - TESSA YEAKLEY, ST. AUGUSTINE OF CANTERBURY EPISCOPAL CHURCH
John 5:31-47 (NKJV).
“If I bear witness of Myself, My witness is not true. There is another who bears witness of Me, and I know that the witness which He witnesses of Me is true. You have sent to John, and he has borne witness to the truth. Yet I do not receive testimony from man, but I say these things that you may be saved. He was the burning and shining lamp, and you were willing for a time to rejoice in his light. But I have a greater witness than John’s; for the works which the Father has given Me to finish—the very works that I do—bear witness of Me, that the Father has sent Me. And the Father Himself, who sent Me, has testified of Me. You have neither heard His voice at any time, nor seen His form. But you do not have His word abiding in you, because whom He sent, Him you do not believe. You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life.
“I do not receive honor from men. But I know you, that you do not have the love of God in you. I have come in My Father’s name, and you do not receive Me; if another comes in his own name, him you will receive. How can you believe, who receive honor from one another, and do not seek the honor that comes from the only God? Do not think that I shall accuse you to the Father; there is one who accuses you—Moses, in whom you trust. For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote about Me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?”
In this story, we catch a glimpse into Jewish legal proceedings. Witnesses were very important when it came to law. Here, the Pharisees accuse Jesus of sin when he healed a man on the Sabbath, and Jesus speaks about His four witnesses: John the Baptist, His own teachings and miracles, the Father, and Moses (Old Testament teachings). He does not ask anyone to take His word for it. He points out that His presence and miracles are foretold in Scripture and witnessed by living people of the day. Yet, the people who claim to believe in these witnesses do not believe Jesus. If people cannot agree with those they profess to believe, how can they believe in the words Jesus says about Himself?
The Pharisees make for such interesting analysis because it is hard for us to see how they missed the parallels between Jesus and the Old Testament. Personally, for this and many other reasons, I do not think we are very different from the Pharisees much of the time. We are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses in Scripture and in our lives, but we struggle to see Jesus. We claim to believe in His teachings, but we struggle to live like people who agree with what He teaches us. When we wrestle with doubt or right living, perhaps it will help to examine the witness testimony. Let us remember what the Holy Scriptures say. May we surround ourselves with the love and light of Christian witness in our own lives. Most of all, we must take it a step further and trust what Jesus says – that He is the Son of God and our salvation.
Lord Jesus, help us to strengthen our knowledge of the Holy Scriptures. Open our hearts to the glorious testimony of our friends who have been touched by your goodness and mercy. Give us the boldness to trust you like a gentle teacher and yet revere you as Almighty God. Amen.
~Tessa Yeakley, St. Augustine of Canterbury Episcopal Church
Various Clergy and members of St. Augustine contribute to authoring the blog on a variety of topics.