Witnesses For Christ

December 9, 2007
日本キリスト教団 頌栄教会牧師 清弘剛生 Pastor Takao Kiyohiro, Shoei Church, Church of Christ, Japan
Translator M.A.F., Indiana, USA
John 5:31-40

The Witness Of God The Father

1. "If I give witness concerning myself, that witness is not true. The One who gives witness concerning me is another," (verse thirty-one). Jesus said that. Jesus himself did not try his best to prove that he himself was the messiah, that he was the son of God. He did not try to persuade people by offering up evidence of it. As the son of the father, Jesus lived just faithfully calling on the name of God the Father. That was enough because he knew that God the Father himself gave witness to the fact that Jesus was his son. "The One who gives witness concerning me is another." That is God the Father.

2. Of course, there was a man who did declare with all his might that Jesus was the messiah. There was a man who pointed to Jesus his whole life long. This representative for him was the man named John the Baptizer. He was a great preacher who had dominated his generation, and he was the leader of the baptismal movement. His sermons rocked the hearts of the people. Those shown their sins by John's messages sought for God's forgiveness, came to him one after the other where he was in the vicinity of the Jordan River, and were baptized. But, even though John was so famous, even though he was considered a great character, he kept saying, "I am not the messiah," and that he was no more than a voice crying out in the wilderness. And so he kept pointing faithfully to the messiah. He pointed to Jesus of Nazareth and [cried out], "Look!, it is the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world." And he [cried out], "This very one is the son of God."

3. In that way then, John gave witness that Jesus is the son of God and the messiah. But, Jesus said, "I have a more excellent witness than John's witness. The works that my father gave me to accomplish, that is, the works themselves that I am performing give witness to my father's having sent me. In addition, my father who sent me gives witness concerning me." Jesus was supposed to live in obedience to the father as the son of God. He was supposed to accomplish the works that his father gave him to do. Because of that he knew that the father himself gave him witness.

4. What in the world does [the phrase], "the works that my father gave me to accomplish, that is, the works themselves that I am performing" signify? The first thing that comes to mind is the numerous miracles Jesus did. Today we read from chapter five of The Gospel According To John, and this chapter begins with a story about a man who had suffered for thirty-eight years with an illness, but who was healed miraculously at the pool of Bethesda. To the man lying on a mat Jesus said, "Get up. Carry your mat and walk." Whereupon, it is written that the man immediately became well, and carrying his mat he began to walk.

5. But, I think that it gets way too simplistic when you start claiming, "Because Jesus did wondrous deeds not normally done by humans, it is a witness that he is the son of God and the messiah." The reason I'm saying that is because in the world back then there were a lot of people doing wondrous acts. There were also different kinds of fortune tellers and sorcerers. Also, there were persons who healed illnesses in wondrous ways. Since, everybody, after doing a wondrous act will say [you are] a son of God, then it gets to the point that [just anybody] has a witness as a child of God.

6. Or maybe some might make the claim that "Jesus did not just do miracles and wondrous deeds, he gave people help through the power of God. That is a witness to the son of God." But, isn't that way too simplistic as well? The people who received healing from him may say "You truly are the son of God" because Jesus did "something to be thankful for" to them. In the same way, even today, after a person is healed [by Jesus] from an illness or has received help from [Jesus] when he or she was in trouble, some will say "I believe in Jesus. I believe Jesus is the messiah." However, even though one person being miraculously healed is "something to be thankful for" for that person, for his or her neighbor it may not necessarily be "something to be thankful for." What if the neighbor is sick with a similar illness? Instead, the neighbor may harbor painful thoughts, [like] "Why was he healed and I'm not and how long will mine last?" The [first] person may have been helped by the power of God in that way, but yet it is not always true that [the first person's healing] will be a help to his or her neighbor. Hence, if the fact that he helped a person by the power of God is evidence that he is the son of God, then he just might probably have to heal everybody equally, every single last person. Yet, Jesus did not do that. Even though there was surely a whole lot of sick folks at the pool of Bethesda, only one of them was healed.

7. Thus, "the works that my father gave me to accomplish, that is, the works themselves that I am performing" does not mean the same thing as having done wondrous deeds or having helped a person through the power of God. So what could it [mean] then? What are the works that Jesus performed? What could the people have been looking at there? -- The people were seeing the love of God within the works Jesus had performed. They saw the love of God the Father flowing out through the person of Jesus. [God] loves the world and they saw the father's love for them. The healed person alone did not see the love of God after the illness was cured, but also the disciples who were there, and the many persons who had come in contact with his mighty works had seen the love of God flowing out through the person of Jesus.

8. Therefore, it is not limited to just the healing of an illness. For example, we're told that when Jesus had taken a meal with sinners and tax collectors it also was as a manifestation of God's love. And no, that's not all. We're told that even when Jesus was arrested, condemned and crucified, it was as a manifestation of God's love. Indeed the very things that happened when Jesus was crucified are truly manifestations of God's love, and [these events] are situated at the highest point in so far as what Jesus meant with "the works which my father has given me to accomplish." Straining out his last breath on the cross Jesus cried out, "It is accomplished!" While on the cross "the works which [the father] gave him to accomplish" were completely accomplished.

9. Thus, of the works that Jesus did during his life, of the events of the cross as the highest point to those [works of his], Jesus says, they "give witness that my father has sent me." God's love, which is manifested during [his whole life and at the summit of his life at the cross], gives witness that God has sent his only son; it is but evidence that "God loved the world to the degree that he gave his only son." Our salvation lies in that very relationship with God, who is love, which he revealed in Christ. In that very relationship with God, who is love, we have eternal life which cannot even by snatched away by death.

Human Testimony And Scripture

10. So, how does a person get led to the son of God, get an encounter with the works of Christ, get an encounter with the love of God, get into a relationship with God, and get saved? Two examples of what is used for that purpose are raised in today's passage of scripture, which would be human testimony and scripture. However, in order to truly encounter the son Christ and to encounter God's love by means of human testimony and scripture, there is an appropriate way to relate to the human testimony and the scripture. As a matter of fact, the person with whom Jesus is speaking in today's passage of scripture is standing face to face with Jesus. In spite of the fact that he is as close as that to Jesus, he has not encountered Jesus in the true sense. Why is that? It is because he does not relate to human testimony and to scripture in an appropriate manner.

11. As I touched upon just ago, John the Baptizer pointed to Jesus Christ with that message. The later church also pointed to Jesus Christ with a message like that. Christians are called "witnesses" for Christ. To witness for Christ in that way had become a risk to one's life at certain times. Therefore, in later times, the word "witness" would come to mean a martyr as well. In any event, Jesus Christ, thus, had been communicated by means of testimonies from human beings. Even today Christ is passed on via [personal communications].

12. But, Jesus spoke as follows about John who had thus pointed to him with his own words. "You [all] sent people to John, and he gave witness concerning the truth. I do not receive the witness that comes from humans. However, in order for you to be saved, I say these things. John was a lamp that burned and shined brightly. You were willing to rejoice and enjoy under that light for a while," (verses thirty-three through thirty-five).

13. In a certain sense this was a very sarcastic remark. When John the Baptizer appeared, they certainly did have an interest in him. Some people even used to wonder if John was the messiah. Although they heard for themselves the messages of John, which required repentance of them, yet they weren't willing to accept it. They sent people to ask [John] questions for them. You might say, they were willing to make investigations into it, [but not go beyond that]. Therefore, they never did accept the messages that pointed to the messiah as messages having to do with them. They put themselves elsewhere, they distanced themselves from it -- That was their way of dealing with the witness of John. About them Jesus said, "John was a lamp that burned and shined brightly. John, knowingly burned and burned himself completely out, he shone with all his might. Thus, he burned out his life, he spoke salvation in order for you to be saved, he gave witness to the messiah. -- As a matter of fact, at this point in time John was either in prison or else he had already achieved the death of a martyr. -- Nevertheless, the light of John was for you but only an hour's pleasure!"

14. We just as well might make the claim that John was the model witness for Christ. After that time period, many persons became lamps that burned and shined brightly. They burned out their lives completely, they witnessed for Christ, and it is a message which they had communicated to others by literally having exchanged their lives [to give that message], a message of witness and testimony which is even being communicated to us today, the message of the gospel which communicates Jesus Christ. Whenever one deals with that message by putting oneself outside it, by distancing oneself from it, and treating it as a hour's pleasure, then one ends up not being able to in a true sense encounter the Christ or encounter the love of God as manifested through Christ. That probably needs said to ourselves in this day and age.

15. And another thing. It is the relation to scripture. Jesus said, "You think that there is eternal life in the scriptures and so you study the scriptures. However, the scriptures give witness concerning me. In spite of that though, you refuse to come to me to obtain life," (verses thirty-nine and forty).

16. The Jews studied the scriptures in depth. Even when we moderns read the detail of rabbinical interpretations we are amazed. Everyone knows they made truly detailed explanations of each line and word with great care. That's fantastic and all. We would do well to treat the scriptures as preciously as they did and follow their example in doing so. However, unfortunately, they used to think that there was eternal life "in the scriptures." They held that the very Bible itself gave them eternal life. Therefore, they were mostly interested in acquiring a large knowledge to themselves of the words of the scriptures, the law. The words of the famous rabbi, Hillel, are that "Whenever you have acquired knowledge to yourself of the words of the law, then you acquire to yourself life in the world to come."

17. But, Jesus says, "That is not correct." The scriptures in and of themselves do not have eternal life, but they lead one to a relationship of love with God and they bring one to the savior who gives eternal life. It is the scriptures that point to the savior and lead to the savior. It is indeed the scriptures which make us go to Jesus, make us kneel before Jesus, and make us say, "Please save me." By acquiring knowledge of scripture we think as if we've become fine folks and as if we've become persons worthy of eternal life. That is not a correct way to read the scriptures. Jesus grieves and sighs that "You refuse to come to me in order to obtain life."

18. It is just one thing we need to obtain true life: We are to go to Jesus. It is just one thing we need to live in true life: We are to remain with Jesus. For that very purpose we are being given both the witness of human beings and the scriptures.