The Lord Jesus Christ had just claimed equality with God in seven areas. The magnitude and the significance of Jesus’ claims called for substantiation. Jesus now introduces five witnesses to validate those claims. We are going to examine the first two witnesses in this study of John’s Gospel.
I. HIS WITNESS CONCERNING HIMSELF (verses 30-31)
On the night I became a Christian, I was encouraged to read the Gospel of John. In the first five chapters of John’s Gospel, two verses of Scripture really spoke to a need in my life as a new Christian, so I wrote down the references and the verses on the inside cover of my Bible. The first verse was John 3:30, where John the Baptist said of Jesus, “He must increase, but I must decrease”. The second verse was John 5:30, and I just wrote down the first part of the verse, “I can of mine own self do nothing”. Those two verses described to me what living the Christian life was all about: putting Christ first in my life, living to glorify Him, and realizing my own inability to do so apart from His enabling.
Verse 30 seems to be a transition verse. I think Jesus is restating what He said in verse 19. In that verse He said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner.” By saying these words in verses 19 and 30, Jesus is declaring that His testimony about Himself is true. Notice that, in verse 30, Jesus starts speaking in the first-person again, using the words “I” and “Me” instead of “He” and “Him” when referring to Himself. In the remainder of verse 30, Jesus says, “As I hear, I judge; and my judgment is just, because I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him Who sent Me.” Therefore His witness and His judgments are true because it’s the Father’s witness through Him, and it’s the Father who is making the judgments. Their witness and judgments are one-in-the-same. The Greek word, “martyrion”, translated “witness”, is a very important word in John’s gospel. We get our English word “martyr” from that Greek word, and it occurs 47 times in the gospel of John; so we’ll be seeing it again and again as more and more witnesses take the stand.
In verse 31, Jesus says, “If I alone bear witness of Myself, My testimony is not true.” He’s speaking in a legal sense, meaning that it is not admissible in a court of law. Of course, Jesus’ testimony is true for the reasons He has already given. He and the Father are one and He always does the will of the Father. But He is living among sinful men who may give false testimony if it’s to their advantage, and they think they can get away with it. Even the law given to Moses does not allow a person to testify in his own case. In Deuteronomy 17:6, God says, “On the evidence of two witnesses or three witnesses, he who is to die shall be put to death; he shall not be put to death on the evidence of one witness.” Again, in Deuteronomy 19:15. Moses writes, “A single witness shall not rise up against a man on account of any iniquity or any sin which he has committed; on the evidence of two or more witnesses a matter shall be confirmed”. So Jesus is going to follow the Mosaic law and provide them with other witnesses of His deity and of His authority to judge men.
Have you ever placed the names of personal references or character references on your resume or job application? Have you ever been asked by others if you would be willing to be a personal reference for them? It’s an honor, but it’s also a responsibility, isn’t it? We choose personal references who are up-to-date in their relationship with us and can vouch for our character and abilities. We want references whom we respect; who have known us for a number of years, and who think highly of us. Isn’t that true? Let’s see whom Jesus chooses to be witnesses of His character and deity.
II. THE WITNESS OF JOHN THE BAPTIST (verses 33-35)
In verses 33-35, we find that Jesus chooses John the Baptist as a witness. I’ve skipped verse 32 for now because Jesus is alluding to Someone He is going to be describing in greater detail in verses 37-38. For now we will call that person the “mystery Witness”. Jesus reserves this Witness for later because He is the “Expert Witness”.
John the Baptist bore witness to the deity of Christ several times in John’s gospel. You will find his testimony in chapters one and three. John the Baptist was considered to be a prophet of God, and many, including a few of the Pharisees, believed his words, repented and were baptized. In verse 33, Jesus says, “You have sent to John, and he has born witness to the truth.” He’s making reference to John 1:19. The Jews sent priests and Levites to John asking, “Who are you?”, and John answered them truthfully. Quoting the words of the prophet Isaiah, he says, “I AM THE VOICE OF ONE CRYING IN THE WILDERNESS, ‘MAKE STRAIGHT THE WAY OF THE LORD’ ” (John 1:23; Isaiah 40:3). In another instance, John calls himself the “friend of the bridegroom”, making all the preparations for the wedding and waiting to hear the bridegroom’s voice. (John 3:29). The focus of John’s words and John’s ministry was always on Jesus, the coming Messiah. After Jesus began His public ministry, John encouraged all of his own disciples to follow Jesus. At that point in time, John the Baptist was the best human witness to the deity of Christ. He may not have looked like the best witness, considering the clothes he wore and the food he ate. However, a good witness should not be determined by the clothes he wears or the food he eats, but by what he has seen and heard first-hand, what he knows, and by his integrity and willingness to provide the information he possesses. You might say that the Lord Jesus chose John the Baptist to be one of His personal references on His resume, and He continues to give us more reasons for doing so in verse 35.
In verse 34, Jesus qualifies His words by saying, “But the witness I receive is not from man”. His point is that He doesn’t require man’s testimony as proof of His Messiahship. However, He includes John’s testimony “that you may be saved.” John the Baptist’s words were true, and he was sent by God to prepare people’s hearts for the Savior.
Now Jesus gives us another description of John the Baptist, who, at that point in time, may be in prison or might already have been killed. I say that because of the description Jesus gives in verse 35. Jesus uses the past tense when he says, “He was a lamp that was burning and shining and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light.” In the original Greek text, there is a definite article before the word “lamp”. John the Baptist was God-appointed as a lamp to the nation of Israel. The Greek word, luchnos, translated “lamp”, refers to a portable lamp (a candle or an oil lamp). It was placed on a candlestick or a lampstand to provide light to those nearby and to be seen from a distance. A different word was used to describe Jesus. He was a “light”, and the Greek word, phos, means “to make manifest, to shine (especially by rays). It is the word that is used to describe the sun. Our words “photo” and “photography” are derived from that word. John was a lamp that pointed the way to salvation in Jesus Christ. He is described by Jesus as a lamp that was “burning and shining”. A lamp must be lit in order to burn and shine. God “ignited” John the Baptist, and he “burned” with a zeal for God; and he also “shone”, giving off the light of truth in the darkness. F.B. Meyer makes this comment: “A lamp must burn if it is to shine.” In burning, the oil is eventually consumed. In burning, the candle burns itself out when the wax and the wick are gone. William Barclay said, “A true witness burns himself out for God.” It’s a life-long passion and commitment. So when Jesus used the words “was burning and shining”, it makes me wonder whether John’s life and witness had already “burned out” (come to an end).
In verse 35, the Lord Jesus says three words that add a note of sadness to the ministry of John the Baptist. Those words are: “for a while”. At the beginning of his ministry, large crowds of people came out to see him. Matthew 3:5-6 says, “Then Jerusalem was going out to him, and all Judea, and all the district around the Jordan.” That’s a lot of people! Some of them were travelling quite a distance to listen to him and be baptized by him! But he made some enemies among the Pharisees and Sadducees when he called them a “brood of vipers“, and urged them to demonstrate genuine repentance for their sins, warning them of what would happen if they didn’t do so. John’s popularity didn’t last long, but John wasn’t trying to win a “popularity contest”. He accomplished the purpose for which God sent him by preparing the way for the Messiah, and he was an outspoken witness to the deity of Jesus Christ. As the “friend of the Bridegroom”, his responsibility was to make all the preparations for the wedding, and when he heard the Bridegroom’s voice, calling for His bride (all who repent of their sins and acknowledge Jesus Christ as their King and Lord), it was time for him to step back, join the wedding guests, and rejoice in the wedding.
Does the Lord Jesus Christ have you as a personal reference? If not, He wants you as His personal reference. My understanding of Scripture is that everyone’s name is written down in the Lamb’s book of life as a potential reference. It’s written in blood: His own blood shed on the cross for you. Your name is only blotted out of His book of life if you refuse to repent and acknowledge Him as the Lord of heaven and earth, Who paid the price your sins deserve, or if you keep putting it off until it’s too late. He’s waiting and hoping, but the choice is up to you. Your reference is there, but it hasn’t been activated yet. Once it’s activated, it’s there forever. What are you waiting for? Now is the time to think it over and respond. Now is the time to admit your need for Him, and to turn your life over to Him. Please don’t choose to ignore, or refuse His desire and His offer to you.
If you are a born-again Christian, is Jesus Christ your personal reference? Is His name listed first on your resume (your life)? If so, shouldn’t it be obvious to others around you where you work, where you go to school, and in your community? If you are a genuine, committed Christian, the Lord is not going to be an “add-on” reference in your personal portfolio. His Name and a description of Him is going to fill the whole front page in large print and bold letters! He will also be the “headliner” at the top of every other page! People won’t be able to miss it, and that would be your intent!
Frances Ridley Havergal wrote a hymn based upon David’s call to commitment given to his army in I Chronicles 12, and His army’s response to him. Verse 13 says that the Spirit of the Lord came upon Amasai, chief of the captains, and he said: “We are yours, O David, and with you, O son of Jesse.” The title of her hymn is: WHO IS ON THE LORD’S SIDE? Below I’ve written the first stanza to that hymn, and I hope that you will find a hymnal and read the other three stanzas as well.
Who is on the Lord’s side? Who will serve the King?
Who will be His helpers, other lives to bring?
Who will leave the world’s side? Who will face the foe?
Who is on the Lord’s side? Who for Him will go?
By Thy call of mercy, by Thy grace divine,
We are on the Lord’s side, Savior, we are Thine.
With our enlistment papers already signed, may we be clothed in His armor and standing together at the battle line. May it be obvious to everyone we know and everyone we meet, that we are on the Lord’s side, and we will not retreat!
CONSTRUCTION SITE: COMPLETED
Thank you for visiting this recently-completed sermon on John 5:30-35. I hope that you will take it to heart. It’s time to move the equipment and tools to the construction site next door: John 5:36-39. It may take a couple of days to clear the land and set a foundation. Until then, you’re welcome to visit the finished projects. I believe there are 120 sermons on this blog site. May you rely on the power of Christ and enjoy the presence of Christ at your side throughout this day.