CALL THE FIRST TWO WITNESSES – John 5:30-35

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I.  INTRODUCTION:

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.

CONCLUSION:

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

JOHN THE BAPTIST’S TESTIMONY OF HIMSELF – John 1:19-28

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If each of us were to make a list of some of the most prominent people in the New Testament, several people might come to our minds immediately.  Of course there is the Lord Jesus Christ, and you might think of Paul, and Peter, and John.  One person who may not make it near the top of our lists is John the Baptist.  Jesus, however, puts John the Baptist at the top of His list, and pays Him the highest tribute.

In Matthew 11:11, Jesus said, “among those born of women, there has not arisen anyone greater than John the Baptist“.  In the next three verses of Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus refers to him as the second Elijah, sent by God in fulfillment of Malachi’s prophesy, and He quotes the following words from Malachi 3:1 and 4:5:  ” Behold, I send my messenger before Your face, who will prepare Your way before You.”

The first eighteen verses of John’s gospel are called his “prologue”.  If you open a book, you will often find an introduction, preface, or forward.  It normally establishes the setting and gives some background information to prepare the readers for the rest of the story.  John ends his prologue at verse 18 and now he begins to share a biography of Jesus Christ from his perspective.  He is very detail-oriented, especially when it comes to times and places.

Beginning with verse 19 of John chapter 1, we will be looking into the events of the first week of Jesus’ public ministry.  From out of the wilderness came a man whose clothing, diet, lifestyle, and message made his hearers think of Elijah, and his message was stirring up the nation of Israel.  The apostle John tells us very little about the message of John the Baptist, and nothing about how he dressed and lived.  He takes it for granted that these facts, which were written down in Matthew and Luke’s gospels, are now general knowledge.  Matthew 3:1-2 says, “Now in those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judah, saying ‘Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand’.”  In Matthew 3:4, John the Baptist is described as wearing a “garment of camel’s hair with a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey.”  Thousands of people came to hear him, and many were being baptized as a sign of their repentance.

I.  QUESTIONS ASKED AND ANSWERED (verses 19-22)

In John chapter 1, verses 19-22, John the Baptist fields questions concerning his identity.  He knew his calling very clearly, was pursuing it wholeheartedly, and was ready and willing to answer any questions.  A delegation of priests and Levites were sent from Jerusalem in order to get some information from him.  There are two important reasons why this delegation consisted of priests and Levites.  Bible commentator William Barclay explains it very clearly, and these are his words:  “. . . John was the son of Zacharias, and Zacharias was a priest.  In Judaism the only qualification for the priesthood was descent. . . . If he was a descendent of Aaron nothing could stop him from being a priest.  Therefore, in the eyes of the authorities John the Baptist was in fact a priest and it was very natural that the priests should come to find out why he was behaving in such an unusual way.”

This delegation was to ask him the question, “Who are you?”  That’s an interesting question.  Have you ever wondered when John the Baptist came to the realization of his calling in life?  It may not have become clear to him until just before he began his public ministry.  We don’t know.  But his parents knew his calling before he was even conceived (Luke 1:13-17).  The angel Gabriel told them, quoting the prophet Malachi’s prophesy.  I can imagine that Zacharias and his wife, Elizabeth, were watching and waiting for those words to be fulfilled.

The word translated “ask”, in John 1:19, is a word that was used to make a request of someone who was in a higher position than yourself, such as a person asking for something from God, a child from a parent, or a subject from a king.  It is a word that implies humility and courtesy.  The reason for the use of this word is found in the questions that they ask of him.  When they asked, “Who are you?”, John the Baptist answered the question behind their question by saying, “I am not the Christ”.  Verse 20 says that John the Baptist “confessed and did not deny” (his answer).  He is saying “I promise you, I assure you of the truth of that statement, and I will not back down from it”.  In our society we might say something like “I swear to God”, or “you have my word for it”.  He doesn’t want there to be any question about the truth of his answer.  In so doing, he passed up the opportunity to impress this delegation by boasting about himself.

But that answer didn’t satisfy the delegation.  They said to him, “What then?” (“ti oun” in Greek).  By using those two words, the delegation was expressing their impatience.  Have you ever been in a hurry to get somewhere and then found yourself in a traffic jam?  As you’re waiting for the traffic to start moving again, have you ever said or thought these words to yourself:  “Come on, let’s get going!  I haven’t got all day!”  I think that’s what this delegation meant when they used the words “what then”.  So they fired some more questions at him.  “Are you Elijah?” 

The Malachi 4:5-6 the Old Testament prophet Malachi said, “Behold I am going to send Elijah the prophet before the great and terrible day of the Lord.  And he will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the land with a curse.”  The Jewish leaders were looking forward to the return of Elijah.  They remembered that he did not die physically, but left this earth in a fiery chariot.  So they concluded that the identical person would reappear.  John the Baptist must have looked like Elijah because of the clothes he was wearing.  He must also have sounded like Elijah in his preaching on repentance.  But John the Baptist gives a simple answer:  “No, I am not.”  His answer to them was true.  John was not the Elijah who went up into heaven in a chariot of fire.

Their next question was:  “Are you the prophet”?  The prophet they were referring to was the one foretold by Moses in Deuteronomy 18:15, which says, “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your countrymen, you shall listen to him.”  His answer to that question is “no”.  Have you noticed that his answers have been getting shorter with each question?

Finally, in verse 22, the delegation stopped guessing and asked John the Baptist to give his own description of himself.   They needed to have some information to bring back in their report, so they decided to give up their interview-format and preconceived ideas, and allow John the Baptist to control the conversation.  They are no longer demanding information from him; they are pleading for it!

II.  JOHN THE BAPTIST’S DESCRIPTION OF HIMSELF (verses 23-28)

A,  A “VOICE” (verse 23)

What he gives as an answer may have created even more confusion in their minds, but I’m sure that his brief answer was written down word-for-word.  His answer should have been easy for them to remember because John the Baptist quoted Isaiah’s prophesy in Isaiah 40:3 as his answer to them.  This quote made by John the Baptist can be found in all four of the gospels.  Here in verse 23 John says, “I AM A VOICE OF ONE CRYING IN THE WILDERNESS, ‘MAKE STRAIGHT THE WAY OF THE LORD’.”

We need to read Isaiah chapter 40 and see John’s quote in the context of this amazing chapter on the greatness, the sovereignty, the power and the love of God.  We need to see these words of John in the context of God’s mercy, His faithfulness, and His wonderful plans for His people.  The Babylonian captivity is about to occur and Isaiah has been describing God’s condemnation of them for their sins, and the things they are going to experience in captivity.  The Jews at the time of John’s Gospel were under the “captivity” of Rome.  Without that context, we won’t see what John the Baptist wants the nation of Israel to see about their God and about the preparations that need to be made in anticipation of His coming.  The time has come.

As John the Baptist has already said, he is not the Messiah (the Word), but he has the God-given privilege and responsibility of being the “voice”, proclaiming the Word loud and clear.  He spoke in a loud, strong voice, filled with emotion and conviction, so that all would hear him (whether they wanted to or not)!  I was listening to one of Billy Graham’s first crusades at Madison Square Garden.  He was preaching his message at the top of his lungs!  Microphones and sound systems weren’t as powerful and as sophisticated in the mid-1950’s as they are today, and he wanted to make sure everybody heard every word he had to say to them!  His preaching at that crusade gave me a better impression of what John the Baptist must have sounded like.  And he didn’t have any microphones or speakers in his day!  God must have given him a powerful set of lungs and vocal chords!

The words “make straight the way” were a familiar expression in that day.  Before a king would visit a town in his realm, a messenger called a “forerunner” would be sent ahead of him to announce his coming.  This gave the townspeople some time to fix the road, removing any obstacles, and to make themselves presentable to him before his arrival.  John was saying, in effect, “The King of heaven and earth is coming.  Get your hearts cleaned up and your lives prepared to welcome His arrival!”

B.  A LOWLY SERVANT (verses 24-28)

Verse 24 may not seem significant, but John’s wording tells us otherwise.  He says, “Now they had been sent by the Pharisees.”  Would it come across more clearly if it were translated:  “Oh, by the way, those priests and Levites were sent by the Pharisees.”  Who gave the Pharisees the right to tell the priests and Levites what to do and what to say?  The Pharisees had no authority from God.  The word “Pharisee” means “separated” or “separatist”.  The movement started about 150 B.C., and by the time of Christ, this sect had become a very powerful and corrupt part of the Jewish religious hierarchy, even though they were neither priests nor Levites.

In verse 25 the delegation said to John the Baptist, “Why are you baptizing, if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?”  They are saying, “Who gave you the authority to baptize?”  The Lord Jesus addressed that question of authority in Matthew 21:23-27.  The chief priests and elders asked Him, “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority.”   In reply Jesus asks them a question about John the Baptist.  They were speechless.  Here is a portion of that conversation:  “I will ask you one thing too, which if you tell Me, I will also tell you by what authority I do these things.  The baptism of John was from what source, from heaven or from men?” . . . “We do not know”. . . . “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do things.”

When the delegation asked John the Baptist why he was baptizing, they really meant “why are you baptizing Jews?”  In their minds baptism was meant only for Gentiles who wanted to adopt the Jewish faith.  They were angered at the suggestion that they needed repentance and baptism.  In answer to their question, John gives another description of himself.  He describes himself as a lowly servant, not even worthy of such a humble service as untying his Master’s sandals.  That was considered to be one of the most demeaning jobs that a servant could be called upon to do for his master.  Once again John the Baptist turns the focus of the conversation away from himself and onto the Messiah.  He also tells them that the Messiah is already in their midst but they don’t know Him.

CONCLUSION:

If someone asked you the question, “Who are you?” or “Who do you think you are?”, how would you respond?  John’s focus was on the Messiah, and he was a “voice”, preparing the way for the Lord.  His words were “repent and be baptized”.  Jesus’ words in Mark 1:13 were:  “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”

Any day now, any moment now, the Lord Jesus will “descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God” (I Thes. 4:16-17).  God has called Christians to be a “voice”, pointing people to Him.  The message is still the same:  “Repent” – turn from your sins and your control over your life, “believe” in Christ as your Lord and Savior, turning your life over to Him, and “be baptized”, make a public declaration of your faith to your family, friends, and community.  If you haven’t made that decision, there’s no better time than now.  Please, don’t put it off any longer.

Christians, whenever you are tempted to think that you are indispensable to the work of the Lord, remember John the Baptist.  The fact that God uses us is no excuse for pride.  Instead, it is a reminder of Christ’s worth and His glory, and the privilege of being a voice for Him and a light that reflects His glory.  The King is coming!  Let’s let the whole world know before He arrives!

CONSTRUCTION SITE:

The blueprint of John 1:29-34 is on the drafting table, the Spirit of God is the Architect overseeing the project, and construction will begin soon.  Hope you will come back again.  God’s Word is a never-ending, construction project, and our lives are “concrete examples” of the effects of working hard on the project.  May we, as His workmen, grow wiser, stronger, and better equipped to serve Him with each working day.