“If I testify about Myself, My testimony is not valid. There is another who testifies about Me, and I know that His testimony about Me is valid. You have sent to John and he has testified to the truth. . . But I have testimony more substantial than that of John. For the works that the Father has given Me to accomplish—the very works I am doing—testify about Me that the Father has sent Me. And the Father who sent Me has Himself testified about Me.” (John 5:31-37a)
My goal this week is for my mind and my mouth to be quiet. That means I’m reminding myself over and over, “I don’t know better.” I’m doing this because I can be like an editor with a red pen, always looking to correct, tweak, or improve. It sounds useful, but it can hinder my relationship with others. They need to be respected and encouraged. Instead, I unconsciously feed my motivation to come out on top.
Being at peace with God and others, is a real battle. Quibbling and conflict seem to be everywhere these days. We see it on social media. We see it between political parties, between countries. I was watching the Rose Parade and looking at the live feed of comments. Some people kept chiming in and complaining, “This is why I left California.” The other viewers were like, “Cut it out! Quit raining on our parade!”
Today’s red letter passage comes from Jesus’s answer to those who were being contentious. The Jews criticized him for making himself equal to God. So he listed the testimonies that made a case for his equality with God. But his answer ultimately had more to do with their hearts, than giving a justification, as we will see.
But first, let’s look at the three testimonies to which Jesus referred.
First, he mentioned John the Baptist. John said about Jesus, “And I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ ” (John 1:33)
Second, he brought up his deeds as evidence. These certainly convinced some to have faith in him. Look at what happened earlier in the Book of John, “Now while [Jesus] was in Jerusalem at the Passover Festival, many people saw the signs he was performing and believed in his name.” (John 2:23)
Finally, he played his trump card. The Lord God Almighty bore witness in his favor. One instance of the Almighty’s testimony was seen at Jesus’s baptism. “And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” (Matt 3:17)
The Jews should have recognized these testimonies, and responded with faith. That they didn’t was an indication of the state of their hearts. Jesus indicted them with this zinger, “You have never heard his voice or seen his form, nor does his word dwell in you, for you do not believe the one he sent.” (John 5:37b-38)
In other words, he said, “Your unbelief in me shows that you have never been able to hear or see God.”
Never. That’s a strong word. It’s scary to think that religious people have listened to scriptures their whole life, and still never heard God.
Yet that’s what I think is at the root of contention. People aren’t listening. It’s true for me. When I focus on feeling good about myself and being “right,” I don’t hear what’s going on with others, and that causes disturbances in my relationships. A version of the same thing has happened over and over again, all over the world, all throughout history.
I’m enjoying Douglas Jacoby’s new series on the Sermon on the Mount. In his lesson on the beatitude, “Blessed are the poor in spirit,” Doug says this verse means that it’s important to have an openness to the Word. Our attitude should be, “Not insisting on our own viewpoint, but flexible and receptive to divine truth.”
The Jews who were against Jesus were not open, flexible or receptive. I saw a perfect illustration of this when I recently watched an episode of the TV series about Jesus, “The Chosen.” In it, the character of Nicodemus struggled with his student, Shmuel, who was opposed to Jesus because he believed Jesus was breaking the law. Nicodemus tried to get Shmuel to understand that there is more to the law, and to God, than he was seeing. Shmuel stubbornly insisted, “God is the law.”
Nicodemus retorted, “You learned nothing from me.”
As I watched this, I could see so clearly how a sincere person can also be a closed person.
Our goal must always be to be open, not closed. This doesn’t mean that we don’t have convictions about the truth. We certainly do. But we must also be able to say, “I don’t know everything about God yet. I want to learn more.”
When we have this attitude, the testimonies will impact us, as they should have impacted the Jews. Because when the reality of who Jesus is hits us, it shakes us to our core. It transforms us.
We can do the things we never thought we’d be able to do, because we know Who is with us.
Our strength and humility give us confidence and assurance. We have less of a need to prop ourselves up. We no longer feel compelled to complain, accuse or fault-find.
And for me, my mouth and mind can finally be quiet.
Maybe I can even throw away my red pen.
“Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them, . . . ‘But if I drive out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.'” (Luke 11:17, 20)