Jesus—His Life and Message: The Father and the Son (Part 3)
October 15, 2019
by Peter Amsterdam
Jesus—His Life and Message: The Father and the Son (Part 3)
At the end of the previous article, we read that Jesus stated, The works that the Father has given me to accomplish, the very works that I am doing, bear witness about me that the Father has sent me.1 Earlier in this chapter, He had said, My Father is working until now, and I am working,2 which was the reason the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.3
Throughout this chapter (John 5), Jesus made reference to His close connection to the Father. At this point, He reinforced the statement that the Father had sent Him by saying,
The Father who sent me has himself borne witness about me. His voice you have never heard, his form you have never seen, and you do not have his word abiding in you, for you do not believe the one whom he has sent.4
Jesus hadn’t only testified of Himself, but His Father bore witness of Him, which met the Old Testament criteria of having more than one witness to verify the truth.5
Jesus then pointed out that the Jews who were persecuting Him because He had healed people on the Sabbath had never heard God’s voice or seen His form. They all would have agreed that they had never seen God’s form. Earlier in this Gospel we read,
No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.6
However, Jesus’ statement that they had never heard God’s voice would have been rejected by those who were seeking to kill Him. Their forefathers had heard God’s voice at Mount Sinai.
The LORD spoke to you out of the midst of the fire. You heard the sound of words, but saw no form; there was only a voice.7
Elsewhere we read that when all the people saw the thunder and the flashes of lightning and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking, the people were afraid and trembled, and they stood far off and said to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, lest we die.”8
While their ancestors had heard God’s voice, Jesus pointed out that those seeking to kill Him had not. God was speaking through Jesus at the time, but if they would not hear Him, then they could not hear the Father. God’s Word was not “dwelling in” them because they had rejected Jesus’ words. Because they did not believe the one whom the Father had sent, they did not hear God’s voice.
You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.9
The King James Version translates the first words as a command, Search the scriptures,10 meaning that Jesus was telling them they should study the Scriptures as that was where they would find the path to eternal life. Most other Bible versions translate it as a statement of fact, You search the Scriptures, meaning that they did search the Scriptures, thinking that in doing so they would have eternal life. The original Greek can be translated either way, but the context seems to favor the second option, that it’s a statement of fact.
Jesus was stating that they studied the Scriptures, as they thought that in doing so they had eternal life. Yet, they were wrong, as Jesus had already told them how to obtain eternal life—and that it didn’t come from searching the Scriptures but rather by believing the Son and the Father who sent Him.
Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.11
They did search the Scripture, but because they were unwilling to accept Jesus’ message, they were unable to properly understand what Scripture taught. Those who did believe came to understand that the Old Testament pointed to Jesus. For example, earlier in this Gospel, Philip said to Nathanael,
“We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”12
In the Gospel of Luke we’re told that after Jesus’ resurrection, He explained to two of His disciples on the road to Emmaus why it was necessary that He suffer and die:
Beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.13
Throughout the Gospel of John, we find reference to Jesus fulfilling what the Old Testament had spoken about Him at least nine times.14
Many of those who claimed to believe what Scripture taught, who were willing to rejoice for a while in his [John’s] light,15 refused to become believers in Jesus. Had they truly understood Scripture, they would have recognized the truth of Jesus’ claims; instead, they were antagonistic and set themselves against Him. One author explains:
It is not unlike Luke 13:34, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!” There is the same thought of tender eagerness to save, met by a stubborn refusal to be saved.16
Jesus then said,
I do not receive glory from people. But I know that you do not have the love of God within you.17
He wasn’t concerned about receiving honor or recognition based on the approval of the crowds. His focus was not on pleasing people, but rather on pleasing His Father. As such, He did not accept praise and recognition from others. He also didn’t care what His accusers thought of Him. At the same time, He insinuated that His adversaries did receive glory from people, and this comes up a few verses later.
Jesus knew what was in their hearts. Earlier in this Gospel we’re told that He did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man.18 Here He made the point that they didn’t have the love of God within themselves, meaning that they didn’t love God. As He’d said at a different time,
The light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.19
They claimed to love God, but in truth they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God.20
I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not receive me. If another comes in his own name, you will receive him. How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?21
Jesus came in His Father’s name, yet His opponents didn’t accept Him, meaning that they rejected Him. This isn’t the first time in this Gospel where we read that the people didn’t receive Him.
He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.22
He who comes from above is above all. He who is of the earth belongs to the earth and speaks in an earthly way. He who comes from heaven is above all. He bears witness to what he has seen and heard, yet no one receives his testimony.23
Jesus took it a step further by stating that those who were rejecting the one who came in the Father’s name were rejecting the Father who sent Him. Jesus represented the Father.
The Father who sent me has himself borne witness about me.24
Thus they were rejecting God, the one they professed to love. Jesus further stated that they would accept someone who would come in his own name and speak on his own authority, yet wouldn’t listen to Him, God’s “only Son.”25
This confrontation had started much earlier in this chapter:
This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.26
In calling God His Father, Jesus was claiming equality with God, which His accusers considered to be false and a challenge to Jewish monotheism. Jesus referred to His Father as the “only God” when He said, How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?27 The titles the only God and the only one were interchangeable titles for God the Father. Elsewhere in this Gospel Jesus, the Son, is referred to as the one and only (in some Bible translations) and the one and only Son.28 Jesus’ glory as the only begotten Son, the one and only Son, comes from the Father, the only God. His uniqueness as the one and only Son is rooted in His Father’s uniqueness as the only God. As such, when His opponents dishonor the Son, they dishonor the Father who sent him.29
Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father. There is one who accuses you: Moses, on whom you have set your hope. For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?30
Jesus’ accusers prided themselves in their knowledge of Scripture, which Jesus had addressed earlier (v. 39). They were also proud of their connection to Moses, who was the lawgiver, the one God used to give them the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Old Testament. Jesus had earlier stated that they search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life.31 Here He stated something similar, as Moses was the author of those Scriptures. And Moses, through the Scriptures that God had given through him, also accused them through the very Scriptures that they felt saved them.
Jesus acknowledged that they set their hope in Moses, and at the same time stated that they did not believe him. If you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me. Those Jesus was speaking to in this chapter didn’t truly believe in Moses’ writings; if they had, they would have recognized Jesus as the one whom Moses foretold would come. Instead, they rejected Him.
Throughout this chapter, Jesus’ pointed out that He did not only bear witness of Himself but that there were others who did so. The Father did (v. 32, 37), John the Baptist did (v. 33), and Scripture did (v. 39). Yet in spite of all this, His opponents were unwilling to come to Him that they might have life.32 Because they didn’t truly believe the Scriptures that they had received through Moses, they didn’t receive Jesus’ word; and thus they did not have eternal life.
Unless otherwise indicated, all scriptures are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
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1 John 5:36.
2 John 5:17.
3 John 5:18.
4 John 5:37–38.
5 Deuteronomy 19:15.
6 John 1:18.
7 Deuteronomy 4:12.
8 Exodus 20:18–19.
9 John 5:39–40.
10 John 5:39 KJV.
11 John 5:24.
12 John 1:45.
13 Luke 24:25–27.
14 John 2:17; 12:14–15; 13:18; 15:25; 19:24, 28, 36, 37; 20:8–9.
15 John 5:35.
16 Morris, The Gospel According to John, 293.
17 John 5:41–42.
18 John 2:24–25.
19 John 3:19.
20 John 12:43.
21 John 5:43–44.
22 John 1:11.
23 John 3:31–32.
24 John 5:37.
25 John 3:16.
26 John 5:18.
27 John 5:43–44.
28 The one and only: John 1:14, 18 NIV; The one and only Son: John 3:16, 18 NIV.
29 John 5:23.
30 John 5:45–47.
31 John 5:39.
32 John 5:40.