John 5:31-40 THE WITNESSES FOR JESUS
Jesus was on trial before the Jewish leaders for healing
a man on the sabbath day and then telling the man to take up
his bed and walk. The Jewish leaders charged Jesus with
breaking the law of the sabbath, which would carry the death
Jesus answered the charges by saying that He is the Son
of God and that He was just doing the work which God the
Father had assigned Him to do. He spoke of even greater
works which the Father had for Him to do in the future.
In our text today Jesus speaks of those who witness on
I. Jesus not counting on His own witness on behalf of
V. 31, "If I bear witness of myself, my witness is not
true." Jesus had already told them that He is the Son of
God and that He was doing the works which God had given Him
to do. He readily acknowledges that His testimony on his
own behalf was not sufficient evidence to be accepted as
evidence in a court of law. He said, "If I bear witness of
myself, my witness is not true." That is, it is not
sufficient to be accepted as proof in a court of law. The
law of Moses had established that in order for a matter to
be established in a court of law, the testimony of two or
three witnesses are required.
Jesus did not expect the Jewish leaders to dismiss the
case against Him just because He claimed to be the Son of
God. He recognized that they could not receive this
testimony alone as proof of His innocence. Any radical
could claim to be the Son of God, and that claim, alone,
could not and should not be accepted as proof. His claim
must be accepted by them as a plea of "Not guilty" to the
charges against Him, but it could not be accepted as proof
of His innocence.
Witnesses must be heard and their testimony must be
evaluated as to whether or not they spoke the truth. Jesus
said, "I have a witness." V. 32, "There is another that
beareth witness of me; and I know that the witness which he
witnesseth of me is true." Jesus had already born witness
of Himself and He knew that was not sufficient, but He says
in effect, "I have a witness who will tell you the truth and
His testimony will be proof that I am not guilty of the
charges." Jesus was confident that if they would only
accept the truthfulness of this witness that they, too,
would see that He is not guilty.
II. Jesus not counting on the witness of John the Baptist
V. 33, "Ye sent unto John, and he bare witness unto the
truth." Jesus is saying in effect, "You have already heard
one witness who spoke on my behalf. That witness was John
the Baptist. Remember? You sent a delegation to John the
Baptist and asked John if he is the Christ." John answered,
"No, I am not the Christ." Then the next day while that
delegation was still there, John pointed me out and said,
"Behold the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the
world." John then went on to say that God the Father had
told Him that he would see the Holy Spirit coming down on
one of the men whom he would baptize and that this person is
the Christ. John the Baptist told you then, "I saw and bare
record that this is the Son of God. If you had believed
John the Baptist, you would know that I have told you the
V. 34, "But I receive not testimony from man..." Jesus
said, "But John the Baptist is not the witness that I am
talking about. I am talking about calling a witness who is
greater than John."
Let me say that what Jesus said here about John the
Baptist was not in any way meant as a reflection on the work
of John the Baptist. Jesus said on one occasion that among
the human race there had not risen a greater than John. Nor
was what He said here intended to mean that John did not
render a useful service unto Him. John had, indeed, aided
Him tremendously in getting His ministry off to a good
start. Jesus was not at all unappreciative of what John had
done. But Jesus had a witness in mind who would present a
much more powerful testimony than any mere human could
(V. 34), "...but these things I say, that ye might be
saved." Jesus was not calling witnesses to His defense just
in order to avoid punishment from the Jewish leaders.
Rather, He was calling these things to their attention in
order that they might be saved. They were trying to get Him
killed and He was trying to get them saved! Jesus wanted
them to know that He is the Son of God in order that they
might be saved!
I think that He spoke here about His desire to save ---
not only those Jewish leaders who were trying to kill Him
---but also all of the great crowd of people who had
gathered to listen. I think also that in His great
foreknowledge He knew about lost men, women, boys and girls
of our day and said those things that they might be recorded
and used to win people in our day to salvation. Jesus wants
all lost people to be saved.
Jesus continues to speak briefly about John the Baptist.
V. 35, "He was a burning and a shining light: and ye were
willing for a season to rejoice in his light." When John
was so popular and drawing great crowds of people even the
Jewish leaders regarded him very highly. They considered
the possibility that John might be the Christ. When he
denied being the Christ, they still rejoiced in his message
about the soon coming of the Christ.
But their joy in John was short lived. It was only for
a short season. When John announced that Jesus of Nazareth
is the Christ, they soon lost confidence in him.
III. Jesus counting on the witness of God the Father
V. 36, "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." Actually, the chief witness on which Jesus
relies is God the Father. He was counting on God the Father
to bear testimony that He is His Son, the Christ.
Technically, Jesus speaks of His works as His witness.
He calls them "...the works which the Father hath given me
to finish..." He speaks of such things as healing the sick,
causing the lame to walk, the blind to see, the deaf to
hear, the dumb to speak and raising the dead to life again.
Even the healing of the man on the sabbath day was a work
which testified that He is the Christ. That man had been
afflicted for 38 years and Jesus had healed him instantly.
All of these miracles were such that no ordinary man could
do. Only God could do these miracles. Therefore, surely He
is the Son of God.
V. 37, "And the Father himself, which hath sent me, hath
borne witness of me..." In addition to empowering Him to do
the miracles, God the Father had personally witnessed on
behalf of Jesus. For example, at the baptism of Jesus, God
the Father sent the Holy Spirit down from heaven in the form
of a dove to abide on Jesus. Also God the Father spoke from
heaven and said, "This is my beloved Son in whom I am well
Then in the later part of this verse Jesus said
something which seems at first to contradict what He had
said in the first part of the verse. But when you consider
what He meant, He did not contradict.
IV. The reason the Jewish leaders did not accept Jesus
(V. 37), "...Ye have neither heard his voice at anytime,
nor seen his shape." What Jesus is saying is that the Jewish
fathers had not had such an experience as some of the Old
Testament fathers. As the children of Israel traveled from
Egypt, God, in the form of a pillar of cloud by day and a
pillar of fire by night, led the way. At Mt. Sinai when the
law was given, that same pillar of cloud and fire enveloped
the mountain and spoke to the people who gathered at the
foot of the mountain. Then God spoke to the people from
that cloud. God also spoke to Moses in the top of the
mountain. The Jewish leaders with whom Jesus dealt had no
There is the probability that some of that delegation
who had been sent to John the Baptist were still present
when the Holy Spirit came down on Jesus and the voice from
heaven said. "This is my beloved Son." But even if they
were present for that occasion --- even if they did
literally hear that voice of God with their ears --- they
still did not hear it in the sense of believing. They never
once gave serious consideration to the possibility that
Jesus is the Christ.
V. 38, "And ye have not his word abiding in you: for
whom he hath sent, him ye believe not." Jesus here turns
the tide. He has been the accused, but now He becomes the
accuser. Jesus says that the Jewish leaders do not have the
word of God abiding in them. He means, of course, that they
do not understand the word of God. They had read the
Scriptures. They had memorized long passages of Scripture.
But they did not understand the Scripture. They did not
have the truth of the Scripture in their hearts. This is a
serious charge to be made against religious leaders. No man
knows all about the Bible, but it is a terrible thing when
religious leaders do not know the very basic truths of God's
If they had even a smattering of an understanding of
what the Bible is all about they would have understood that
Jesus is the Christ. V. 39, "Search the scriptures; for in
them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which
testify of me." Here Jesus calls His second witness. He
calls the Old Testament Scriptures as His witness. The
Book of Genesis certainly testifies of the Christ. God
promised the send of the Seed of woman, who would crush the
head of the Serpent, Satan. The writings concerning the Law
of Moses certainly testify about the Christ. The blood
sacrifices at the brazen altar picture the sacrifice of the
Christ on the cross of Calvary. Moses, himself, said that
God would send another prophet like unto him. That is, like
Moses. The historical books, such as I and II Samuel, I and
II Kings, I and II Chronicles certainly testify about the
Christ. God promised to send the Christ through the family
of king David. The poetic books, such as the Psalms testify
of the Christ. The Psalms prophecy even about the nail
prints in His hands. The prophetic books certainly prophecy
of the Christ. They foretell even that the Christ would be
born in Bethlehem of Judea. If these religious leaders had
understood what these books said about the coming of the
Christ, they would have easily been able to identify Jesus
as the Christ.
V. 40, "And ye will not come to me, that ye might have
life." These men not only had not accepted Jesus as the
Christ, but they would not accept Him as the Christ. What a
shame. They had an opportunity to come to Him, to place
their faith in Him as their Savior and receive everlasting
life. They were already physically alive, but they were
spiritually dead. They were spiritually separated from God.
They could come to Christ and be made spiritually alive.
They could have everlasting life. They could be born again.
They could be saved. They could if they would, but they
would not. What a tragedy!
These men had made charges against Jesus Christ, the
very Son of God in heaven. They were familiar with the Old
Testament Scriptures, which had testified of Him and which
well identified Jesus as the Christ. They had heard the
testimony of John the Baptist, who declared as plain as
words could speak that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.
Even if they hear it, they knew that the very voice of God
the Father had spoken from heaven saying that Jesus is His
Son. They had witnessed the many miracles which Jesus had
performed testifying that Jesus is the Christ. In essence,
God had spoken to them in all these ways telling them that
Jesus is His Son, the Christ of God, the Savior of the
world. But had they listened? No, not at all! It was as
though they had not heard a word that God had said. They
were willingly ignorant. Yea they were more than willingly
ignorant. They were deliberately ignorant! They simply
would not hear; they would not believe.
This is a case which is all too often repeated in the
history of mankind. In fact this same thing is true in the
lives of men and women today. God loves all mankind. God
sent Jesus to save all men who will repent and believe in
Him. God inspired the Bible so that we can all be well
informed. God sent the message to all the world. God still
bears witness in many ways that Jesus is the Christ. The
most powerful way of all is through the preaching of His
word accompanied by the unseen Holy Spirit of God who knocks
on the door of each heart.
Men, women, boys and girls all over this world need to
be saved and have opportunity to be saved. Those of us who
believe in Jesus as our own Savior urge everyone to trust in
Him and be saved. We human witnesses do a poor job, but God
the Father through the Holy Spirit of God does a very good
job of witnessing for Him.
Listen, if you are uncertain about where you are going
to spend eternity you need to turn to Jesus Christ and be
saved. You need to do it now without delay. You really
need to do it today.
We are going to have an invitation hymn right now and we
invite you to come while the congregation sings and get
right with God. Come and trust in Jesus as your Savior.
If you are already saved and you wish to unite with this
church to serve the Lord, we invite you to come.