Jesus has gained much popularity with the people. You would think that going about doing good, like healing a paralytic man at the pool of Bethesda, would make someone a standout. Well, it did. Many of those that followed Jesus did so to get something for themselves. The attitude was that if I can benefit from this “religion” I’ll happily follow Him. The problem with this is, as soon as following becomes inconvenient, you’ll go your own way. However, Jesus also became popular with the Pharisees, the religious leaders that were representative of the Jewish nation. To go about doing good was one thing, but to do it on the Sabbath was another, and as a result Jesus’ popularity was such that the Pharisees wanted Him dead because He broke their understanding of the Sabbath.
“And therefore did the Jews persecute Jesus, and sought to slay him, because he had done these things on the sabbath day.” John 5:16
I won’t get into this here with any depth, but suffice it to say that man has a way of adding to what God has said. We see this sin going back as far as the Garden of Eden. God says, don’t eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:17); man says, “neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.” Genesis 3:3. God says, women need to dress modestly (I Timothy 2:9); man says, woman shouldn’t be wearing pants. Man has this idea that we need to add more to what God has said, so the Pharisees added rules and requirements to the Sabbath. Because Jesus didn’t follow the rules of the major religion of the day, He became a target of hatred. Few would desire this kind of popularity.
Now many of you are aware that John emphasizes the fact that Jesus is one hundred percent man and at the same time, is one hundred percent God. Jesus entered the manger scene as a man so that He could live the perfect life that we couldn't live, and die the death God mandated for the wages of sin. The Bible is all about this very thing. That God would pay man’s sin debt. John explains in his Gospel what he witnessed of Jesus. He proves that the deity of Jesus Christ was no secret.
“And I saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God.” John 1:35
John shows us through out that Jesus Himself proclaimed His deity, and make no mistake about it, Christ’s hearers understood and knew exactly what He proclaimed. For this reason, we are told that the Jews (Pharisees) sought all the more to kill Jesus.
“Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him, because he not only had broken the sabbath, but said also that God was his Father, making himself equal with God.” John 5:18
We learn that the Pharisees wanted Jesus dead because He made “himself equal with God.” John 5:18. Jesus simple stated, “My Father worketh hitherto, and I work.” (John 5:17), but it was enough for them to understand exactly what Jesus said about Himself. He was the only begotten son of God, and therefore equal with the almighty, God in the flesh. For this the Pharisees sought all the more to put Jesus to death.
Now, when we consider this idea of putting someone to death, the Pharisees had a dilemma. Like today, a judicial process was necessary to execute a man. When Jesus was finally put to death on the cross at Calvary, there was a judicial process in place. First there were accusers. Today we would call that, the prosecution. At Jesus’ trial, the Pharisees were the prosecution. Then there were witnesses. Now the Pharisees had to dig up some false witnesses in order to kill Jesus, but nonetheless, witnesses with evidence, are a necessity in capital cases. Lastly, a judge needs to preside over the case and make a final decision. Of course, we call that a verdict today. Pontius Pilate was the presiding judge over Jesus’ case, and as difficult as it was, he pronounced the verdict.
“And so Pilate, willing to content the people, released Barabbas unto them, and delivered Jesus, when he had scourged him, to be crucified.” Mark 15:15
The Pharisees needed these three elements in order to kill Jesus. Even if they were to stone Him for blasphemy, the elements of judge, prosecution, and witness were necessary. Look at the woman taken in adultery in John 8:3-5.
“And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst, They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou?”
The scribes, who were experts of the law, and the Pharisees, had the law on their side. They were both the prosecution and the witnesses, having caught this adulteress “in the very act.” Now they bring the case before the Master, as He was to judge the case. We see that the three elements of judge, prosecution, and witness were necessary even here.
I cannot help to think that whenever Jesus interacts with anyone, he knows what is going on inside their mental mill. There are five verses of Scripture where we are told that Jesus “knew” or “perceived” the thoughts of those He came into contact with. There are many more verses that leave the reader without doubt that Jesus knew what was in man. How often are His detractors stopped dead in their tracks when they attempt to trip Him up. Jesus knows the very thoughts of each one of us. Nothing is hidden from God. Though the Pharisees were outwardly moral, their hearts were like a whitewashed tomb. There was a semblance of brightness, but the stench of death permeated their being, and Jesus could smell it as plainly as he can smell the stench of sin on each and every one of us. Jesus knew the thoughts of the Pharisees. They wanted Him dead and He knew it. They needed a judicial way to do it, and He knew that too. However, Jesus would use what He knew against them, and instead, take the Pharisees to court.
In God’s court, Jesus is Judge.
“For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son: That all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father. He that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father which hath sent him.” John 5:22, 23
“For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself; And hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man.” John 5:26, 27
“I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me.” John 5:30
Jesus is the God ordained judge (Acts 10:42) who judges the world in righteousness (Acts 17:31) pronounces the final verdict on man and His pronouncement is such that even the dead will hear His voice.
“Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live.” John 5:25
“Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.” John 5:28, 29
Let me clarify that the above verse, John 5:28, 29 is not about the works of performance based salvation, a salvation based on human merit. Those that have “done good, unto the resurrection of life” are those that have placed their complete confidence in the finished work of Jesus Christ upon Calvary’s cross. They have honored God by honoring His Son. They have responding to the Holy Spirit’s conviction of sin, righteousness, and judgment and have placed their heart in the hands of God the Savior. They see that God’s only way to be saved from His wrath was through the blood of His Son. Good works, keeping the Ten Commandments, living right, and/or being a productive citizen and credit to society are worthless before a Holy God.
Those that have “done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation” are those that would not come to Jesus, did not honor Him as God’s Son, and rejected Him as their savior. Their evil is exemplified in their rejection of God’s only means of salvation. Their attempt to find favor with God through their own means is considered sufficient for God. God tells the sinner, I have sent my Son to die in your place, to suffer your punishment, and to appease my wrath upon you. Then you in turn say to God, No thanks, I’ll do it my way. God sends His Son to die and we tell Him that we like our way better. That is the epitome of evil against a Holy God, and Jesus will preside in judgment at the Great White Throne against those that have “done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.”
Jesus now presents the evidence against the evil of the Pharisees and in defense of His proclamation that He is God. The evidence against the Pharisees is stated.
“And ye have not his word abiding in you: for whom he hath sent, him ye believe not.” John 5:38
“And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life.” John 5:40
“But I know you, that ye have not the love of God in you. I am come in my Father's name, and ye receive me not: if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive.” John 5:42, 43
The actions of the Pharisees were a witness against themselves. The desire to put someone to death without justification is hard evidence of hatred. The evidence was overwhelming. They hated God’s Son and so hated God.
Jesus also provided evidence for who He said He was. He calls His first witness.
“If I bear witness of myself, my witness is not true. There is another that beareth witness of me; and I know that the witness which he witnesseth of me is true. Ye sent unto John, and he bare witness unto the truth. But I receive not testimony from man: but these things I say, that ye might be saved. He was a burning and a shining light: and ye were willing for a season to rejoice in his light.” John 5:31-35
Surely the Pharisees heard John the Baptist say,
“This was he of whom I spake, He that cometh after me is preferred before me: for he was before me. And of his fullness have all we received, and grace for grace. For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.” John 1:15-18
They must have heard John’s admonition to “Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Esaias.” John 1:23. Did they forget that John told them that he wasn’t even worthy to unloose the shoe latchet on Jesus foot? Is it possible that John the Baptist sayings had slipped their minds? Sayings like, “After me cometh a man which is preferred before me: for he was before me.” John 1:30? Did the Pharisees not understand that John the Baptist was born to “bare witness of him”? What about his announcement of the “Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world”? Did the Pharisees completely miss what the Baptist said about Jesus baptising “with the Holy Ghost” (John 1:33)? John stands as a witness that Jesus speaks the truth. He is the Son of God, equal with the Almighty God, God in the flesh.
Jesus now calls His second witness.
“But I have greater witness than that of John: for the works which the Father hath given me to finish, the same works that I do, bear witness of me, that the Father hath sent me.” John 5:36
Jesus calls the court to consider the works that He is doing. Jesus. As I stated above, Jesus “went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him.” Acts 10:38. The healing of the paralytic in John 5:1-9 was an example of His almighty power. Has the world at any time ever witnesses the likeness of another as powerful, kind, caring, and benevolent as Christ? In John’s own testimony at the conclusion of his Gospel he says,
“And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen.” John 21:25
Then there is Jesus’ work of preaching the Gospel. The Gospel is the power of God to turn men from the power of darkness to light. Paul the apostle knew this when he said,
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.” Romans 1:16
The word Gospel means “glad tidings” or “good news”. We are told that Jesus went about preaching good news. This good news wasn’t a promise of a better government and political system. It wasn’t about financial prosperity or personal advancement. The good news that Jesus preached was far better. The good news that Jesus preached was that God provided a way for man to be reconciled to the Almighty regardless of mans sin and without mans deeds. This good news was for all, rich and poor, small and great, and as a result, the Gospel drew people to Christ and changed their lives.
Then there was the yet unfinished work of the Lord Jesus. His interaction with the Pharisees here in chapter five was a stepping stone as He made His way to Calvary’s cross to finish the work God has sent Him to do. Jesus, in submission to His own will, would take upon himself the sins of the world. The Father would turn His back on His own Son, so that those that believe on Christ work of atonement would never have to fear that God would turn His back on them. Jesus would take our sin and punishment upon Himself on the cross, and in return, we would have His righteousness and joy.
With this, we cannot forget the work of the resurrection.
“Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father.” John 10:17, 18
The resurrection is the seal of salvation. In the resurrection Jesus proves who He is. Man cannot atone for man.
“For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die.” Romans 5:7
God must atone for man, and the resurrection is the proof that God did indeed finish the work He set out to do.
Jesus now calls His third witness.
“And the Father himself, which hath sent me, hath borne witness of me. Ye have neither heard his voice at any time, nor seen his shape.” John 5:37
God the Father is a witness, on Jesus behalf, to the claims Jesus made about Himself. Some might question this idea that no one has “heard his voice at any time “. We know the Bible speaks of a voice being heard from the clouds that struck fear into the disciples saying, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:17, 17:5; Mark 9:7; Luke 9:35), but these verse don’t actually tell us that God spoke. We know that God often used His angels to represent Him. We also know that the prophet spoke on behalf of God as well.
“God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds;” Hebrews 1:1, 2
It is possible that this is what Jesus means when he says, “Ye have neither heard his voice at any time”. The writer to the dispersed Hebrew Christians reminds them that the prophets understood that Jesus was the Son of God and God gave them testimony of this. The writer of the book of Hebrews ask,
“For unto which of the angels said he at any time, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee? And again, I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son? And again, when he bringeth in the firstbegotten into the world, he saith, And let all the angels of God worship him. And of the angels he saith, Who maketh his angels spirits, and his ministers a flame of fire. But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom.” Hebrews 1:5-8
God, through the, the voice piece of prophets, testifies on Jesus behalf that Jesus is His Son, that He was begotten of God, that He is Jesus’ Father, and that He sent Jesus into the world to do His work. As a result, God also testifies that His Son should be worshipped.
Jesus now calls His forth witness.
“And ye have not his word abiding in you: for whom he hath sent, him ye believe not.
Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.” John 5:38, 39
The Scriptures are “his” Word. God used man to put exactly what He wanted on the pages. Yes, the human personalities of each writer are evident, but I like the idea that each person was like a unique pen of different colors and thicknesses. Though each prophet and apostle had different backgrounds and lived in various cultures, God still gave us the Scriptures, His Word, without doctrinal error and totally consistent and supportive from book to book. Jesus now encourages the religious leaders to investigate and examine these Scriptures. The Pharisees claimed to know the Scriptures, however, like many people today the question should be asked,
“What is written in the law? how readest thou?” Luke 10:26b
It is one thing to read, and even memorize, the Scriptures. The Pharisees could do this. Memorizing the Pentateuch was a requirement for Pharisees. However, it is another thing to understand the intent of what the Scriptures teach. Some look at the Scriptures as a code of personal conduct, while others see it as rule book for social survival. It is one thing to quote what is written, but the question is “how readest thou?” What does the Scriptures tell us. Jesus presents to the Pharisees an opportunity to cross examine this witness.
Before the gavel strikes the judge’s bench, Jesus uses this last witness to prosecute the Pharisees.
“Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father: there is one that accuses you, even Moses, in whom ye trust. For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me: for he wrote of me. But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words?" John 5:45-47
In a court of law, it would have been shocking to the Pharisees if the prosecutor stood and was introduced, by the judge, as Moses. The law giver himself is the very one who is accusing those that put their trust in him. If only the Pharisees understood that the law was to bring them to their need for mercy. If they had only realized that the law slays them rather than gives them life, they would have trusted Christ. But the judge knew they had not the love of God in them (John 5:42) and so knew,
“ye will not come to me, that ye might have life.” John 5:40
But like millions before and after them, they did not hear His Word or believe on Him, the God of the universe, the reconciler of man to Himself, the author and finisher of faith, that they might have life.
“Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.” John 5:24
The gavel drops! The verdict: Jesus is indeed Lord of all, God incarnate. The Pharisees are found guilty of falsely judging the Lord of glory. They walk out of the courthouse worse then when they entered in, and because they refuse accept the verdict, their hearts are hardened and continue their refusal of the judge of all the earth. To the Pharisees Jesus says,
“Verily I say unto you, That the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you.” Matthew 21:31