Hans Christian Andersen wrote a fairy tale about a young woman who was tested to determine whether or not she was truly a princess. You may be familiar with the story: “The Princess and the Pea”. Actually, the literal translation of the title of his story, from Danish to English, is “The Princess on the Pea”, and that title describes the story more clearly. If you are unfamiliar with the story, or would like to refresh your memory, click the following link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=waw0U9tKpW0. You will watch a very short and concise summary of the story with sketches. The “pressure test” proved positive and the prince married the princess. Don’t you love happy endings?
As you can well imagine, it’s going to take much more than a “pea” to prove that Jesus Christ is the Messiah, the King of heaven and earth. During this conversation with the leaders of the Jews, Jesus has already given them three “signs”, or witnesses of His deity, and He has three more to go. “Like 3 peas in a pod”, these next three witnesses are very closely-related to one other Let’s see what else He has to say about Himself in this passage of Scripture: John 5:36-40.
I. THE MIRACLES (verse 36)
The Lord Jesus has already shared with them His own witness concerning Himself, and also John the Baptist’s testimony about Him. But the courtroom imagery isn’t over yet. Jesus is still surrounded by His accusers for healing a person on the Sabbath, and they are still not convinced that He has the authority to do such things on the Lord’s day.
Jesus now presents His own works as proof that He is the promised Messiah, the Son of God. In verse 36 we read, “But the witness which I have is greater than that of John; for the works which the Father has given Me to accomplish, the very works that I do, bear witness of Me, that the Father has sent Me.” When we think of Jesus’ works, we naturally think of His miracles because they were examples of His divine power. As Nicodemus said to Jesus in John 3:2, “No one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” We are told in John 10:41 that John the Baptist worked no miracles. However, the Bible does record specific miracles performed by ordinary men, such as Moses, Elijah, and the apostles Peter and Paul. Do those miracles also prove that they are also sent from God? Yes, they do, but none of these men ever claimed to be the Son of God. No true servant of God would ever make that claim; but Jesus did, and His mighty works are evidence that His claim is true. One who is able to raise the dead by the words from His mouth must have all power, and the One who sent Him must be God. His works are a “greater witness than that of John” – being stronger, and more decisive evidence.
The word that is translated “works” in my Bible, is the Greek word “erga”. This word encompasses more than just the miracles of Christ. It includes His whole purpose for being sent by the Father – including His birth, life, teachings, death, and resurrection. It refers to His whole ministry on this earth. We see that perspective in the words that Jesus says in His prayer to the Father in John 17:4, “I have glorified Thee on earth, having accomplished the work which Thou hast given Me to do.” The Lord Jesus was a Man on a mission. What about you? What is your mission in life? Have you given it much thought? Have you ever put your mission in writing so that you can compare it to the way you live each day: the way you use your time, spend your money, choose your friends? You might find that to be a challenging and rewarding assignment. The Lord Jesus is giving us an Example to follow. His mission must have been very clearly delineated in order for Him to be able to confidently say that He had accomplished it.
II. THE WITNESS OF THE FATHER (verses 37-38)
The next witness that Jesus brings to their attention (again) is God the Father. He has called God His Father many times already, and their response has been anger and threats. They don’t want to believe His words; they don’t even want to hear them! I’m amazed at Jesus’ patience and persistence, because He tells them again for the umpteenth time! Here are His words in verse 37: “And the Father who sent Me, He has borne witness of Me. You have neither heard His voice at any time, nor seen Him.”
Jesus is still surrounded by the leaders of the Jews. That’s an intimidating situation for Him, but He will not back down from His claims, and He will not deny Himself nor withhold His witnesses! He keeps telling them the truth whether they like it or not! Let’s look at the first phrase in verse 37: “And the Father who sent me”. I believe that Jesus is saying, “I’ve already established the fact that the Father sent Me. Let’s move on! It’s no longer a theorem but a fact!” You may be familiar with the abbreviation QED. It comes from the Latin words, “Quod erat demonstrondum”, which mean, “what has been demonstrated”. When my high-school math teacher wrote QED in large letters on the blackboard after solving a math problem, he was saying, “It’s been proven! It’s obvious! Let’s move on to the next problem!”
Moving on, I can sense, from Jesus’ words and the way He phrases them, that He is getting angry at the hardness of their hearts. We’ll see that anger increase until it reaches a crescendo in verse 40. This is no “gentle reproof” that He’s about to express to them. It’s a scathing rebuke! I think I even see some sarcasm and irony in His words also. As we look at HIs words more closely, I think you’ll agree with me that “they had it comin’ to ’em!”
I can feel a biting sarcasm in the words “You have neither heard HIs voice at any time, nor seen Him.” There was a voice from the Father at Jesus’ baptism: “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased” (Matthew 3:17). Near the end of Jesus’ life, in John 12:28, Jesus asks the Father, “Glorify Thy name”, and a voice comes from heaven again saying, “I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again.” In this case, most of the multitude that heard it said that “it had thundered”. I wonder if they used that same excuse at His baptism. It’s as if Jesus is implying, “Are you saying that My Father doesn’t speak loudly enough and doesn’t enunciate His words clearly enough for you to understand what He is saying, and that He is the One who said it?” I doubt that anyone present at those two occasions could forget the words that the Father had said. I also believe that those listeners told everyone they knew the words they had heard. It’s not every day that God speaks from heaven in a loud voice for everyone to hear!
Jesus adds, “nor seen His form”. Later, when Philip says, “show us the Father”, Jesus responds by saying, “He who sees Me, sees the Father”. Could Jesus be saying here to his accusers, “You’re looking Me in the face, but you don’t see the Father; you don’t recognize the Father in Me?” There are other interpretations of this verse of Scripture, and I don’t claim to be an authority. I’ve come to this personal understanding based on Jesus’ rising anger and the increasing sharpness of His words to them.
In verse 38, Jesus is saying, “that’s not all” – “And you do not have His words abiding in you, for you do not believe Him whom He sent.” God’s words were on their lips but not in their hearts. When you think about the life and the words of Christ, who received the most scathing rebukes from Him? Was it not the hypocrites? And who were the greatest hypocrites of His time? Were they not the Scribes and the Pharisees?
In any great forest you will find many huge trees. They tower above other trees and appear to be the very picture of strength and maturity. However, loggers will sometimes not even bother to cut down these huge trees. At first one wonders, “Why leave them? After all, a tree that big must contain twice or thrice the amount of lumber as a smaller tree.”
The reason is simple. Huge trees are often rotten on the inside. They are the hollow trees that children’s picture books show raccoons living in. And they are the trees that are often blown over in a strong wind-storm because, while they appear to be the picture of strength, in fact their hollowness makes them weak. This is the essence of hypocrisy – appearing strong on the outside, but being hollow and rotten on the inside. Even so, the Scribes and Pharisees standing around Him didn’t have God’s Word abiding in them. As I said earlier, it was on their lips but not in their hearts. It wasn’t genuine. They appeared righteous and scholarly on the outside, and people looked up to them because of this, but they were hollow, empty and rotten on the inside.
III. THE WITNESS OF THE SCRIPTURES (verses 39-40)
Jesus’ anger is still rising as He says these words to His accusers, “You search the Scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life”. A few versions of the Bible translate verse 39 as a command: “Search the Scriptures”, but this does not fit the context. He’s rebuking them and ridiculing them for the way they study the Scriptures, and for the conclusions they make. The Lord Jesus uses the plural word, “Scriptures” to refer to the whole Old Testament, composed of the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings. The Rabbis of that day studied the Old Testament Scriptures very meticulously, examining how many words were on a line and on a page; how many of each letter and of each word were on a line, a page, or the whole book. They followed many of the techniques that the scribes used when copying the Scriptures. Their purpose was to demonstrate to others how well they knew all the minute details of the Scriptures. For many of the Rabbis, it was a way of exalting themselves and causing others to be amazed at their knowledge of the Scriptures, coming to the conclusion that they must be very close to God.
I read a story about an 18-year-old boy who was deeply interested in scientific subjects, especially astronomy. So his father bought him a very expensive telescope. Since the boy had also studied optics, he found the instrument to be very intriguing. He took it apart, examined the lenses and made detailed calculations on the distance of its point of focus. He became so absorbed in gaining a technical knowledge of the telescope itself that he never got around to looking at the stars. He knew a lot about that fine instrument, but he missed seeing the wonders of the heavens. He overlooked the purpose for which that telescope was made.
In a similar way, these Jewish leaders missed the purpose for which the Old Testament Scriptures had been given and written down. The word translated “searched” is the Greek word “ereunao”. It was sometimes used to refer to a lion or a dog tracking it’s prey by scent (smell). Jesus was telling them that they had “lost the scent” but had chosen to continue on anyway, and they were going down the wrong trail! They needed to retrace their steps, pick up the scent again, and follow that trail to where it really leads – to Him. “It is they (the Scriptures) that bear witness to Me.” Jesus is saying that the Scriptures are not an end in themselves; they are a means to an end. They are like a signpost pointing directly to Christ and telling us about Him. Wouldn’t it be a shame to be so taken up with measuring, studying, and admiring the signpost, that we don’t notice or pay heed to the message that’s written on the signpost, nor do what it says?
A little girl bought a Bible to give to her father for his birthday. When she opened it to write him a note, she wasn’t sure what to say. “From Mary” seemed to lack feeling. “From your little daughter” would not be right because he had told her she was getting to be a big girl. Then she thought, “From one who loves you.” But others loved him too. She went to her father’s library and pulled one of his favorite books from the shelf. On the flyleaf she read, “From the Author.” That was it!
When the young girl’s father opened the gift and saw, in Mary’s handwriting, “From the Author,” he thought to himself, “I’m not acquainted with the Author of the Bible.” That thought prompted him to begin studying God’s Word, which led to his conversion. He came to know the Author.
As it was in Jesus’s time on earth, so it is today. There are many people today who study the Bible for educational purposes only, rather than for relational purposes. They know the Book but aren’t personally acquainted with it’s Author.
Now comes another rebuke to the Scribes and Pharisees in verse 40: “Yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.” I sense some irony in Jesus’ words. He’s giving them an invitation. In spite of all the things they have said and done, Jesus is giving them another opportunity to come to Him to receive life from the true Source of eternal life. John Calvin said these words, “In order to come from spiritual death to spiritual life, it is necessary to come to Jesus.” The Scriptures don’t give life; they point to the Giver of life. Jesus is telling them that He is the only way to eternal life.
What is their response to His invitation? They stubbornly, obstinately, and intentionally refused to do so. They would rather be “dead wrong” than change. They preferred to stay in their own darkness and turn their backs to the light. No wonder Jesus is so angry at them. He offers them eternal life and receives a “slap in the face” in return.
I’m placing a clickable link to the movie, The Gospel of John, again because I think it captures the emotion of the moment and gives a good visual depiction of this confrontation. If you click this link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BYrvOsc-rCU and then move the time line at the bottom of the picture to the right until you get to 40:20 (40 minutes, 20 seconds), there you will see this passage of Scripture being enacted. It has left a lasting impression on my mind. I hope it will do so on your minds also.
The Lord Jesus has given us five witnesses of His deity. If you are not a Christian, it should be obvious to you that the solution has been given. You have a choice to make. You can accept and respond to Jesus Christ as the Son of God by repenting of your sins and turning your life over to His control. The result will be a life-changing experience. You will experience joy and peace such as you have never experienced before, and your desire will be to know Him more fully through the study of His Word, and to enjoy Him and serve Him for the rest of your life. Whatever you give up will be considered of no significance compared to what you gain. The only other choice is to refuse Him and face the consequences. Putting it off is, in a sense, refusal because there is no good reason to do so, and it won’t be a good excuse if you should die in the next moment. Please respond to what is obviously true, and don’t let personal pride, or the fear of what others may think, get in the way of the most important decision of your life. The Lord Jesus wants you to come to Him. Please don’t refuse His request.
Fellow-Christians, we are the sixth witness of the deity of Christ. Our changed lives, our devotion to God, and our joy in the midst of the trials of life are a “miracle” to those around us. Jesus tell us that “we are the light of the world”. In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16). LET IT SHINE, LET IT SHINE, LET IT SHINE!
CONSTRUCTION SITE: COMPLETED
Thank you for visiting this completed site: John 5:36-40. You are welcome to take a walk around the block and visit the other finished projects. It’s a nice day for physical and spiritual exercise. Hope to see you in this neighborhood again soon!