In chapter 5 of the Fourth Gospel is revealed the most important and foundational truth that any human being will ever come to understand. And that is the truth that Yeshua is Yahweh.
Yeshua is in Jerusalem, He is at the pool of Bethsaida, a swimming pool in the city of Jerusalem. There were a lot of people who were sick who would gather around that pool. They believed it had having healing properties. A lame man had been there for 38 years trying to get healed. Yeshua heals the man, tells him to roll up his mat and go home. So the man, being instantly healed, took his mat and began to walk away. This angered the Jewish leaders because it was the Sabbath. So they began to persecute Yeshua. And He responded to them by saying:
But He answered them, "My Father is working until now, and I Myself am working." John 5:17 NASB
Basically He is saying to them, "You know that Yahweh works on the Sabbath and so do I." This really got their blood boiling:
For this reason therefore the Jews were seeking all the more to kill Him, because He not only was breaking the Sabbath, but also was calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God. John 5:18 NASB
They understood that He was saying that He was equal to Yahweh. So now in their eyes He is blaspheming. Then in verses 19 thru 47 Yeshua gives a long discourse in which He declares that He is equal in every way to Yahweh. Verse 23 is very significant:
so that all will honor the Son even as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him. John 5:23 NASB
In the light of the emphasis in the Tanakh on the exclusive worship due to Yahweh, this verse is extremely powerful in its affirmation of the deity of Christ: Christ is to be given the same honor, the same exclusive worship, the same exclusive obedience, the same exclusive commitment of all the love of all our heart and mind and soul and strength, as God the Father. All this honor that is due to Yahweh is due also to Yeshua.
Such is the equality and unity between the Son, Yeshua, and the Father, that to worship Yeshua is to worship the Father. And to not worship Yeshua is to dishonor the Father. This is an amazing statement:
"I can do nothing on My own initiative. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is just, because I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. John 5:30 NASB
As we said last week, this verse is transitional. It concludes Yeshua's explanation of the Son's equality with the Father (19-29), and it introduces His clarification of the Father's testimony about the Son (31-47). Some translations consider it the conclusion of the preceding verses (NIV), and others take it as the beginning of the next verses. (NASB)
Yeshua is reemphasizing here what He said in verse 19. He says, "I can do nothing on My own initiative." The Greek text emphasizes the word "nothing." There is not even one thing Yeshua can do by Himself. This is the claim that infuriated the Jews and caused them to accuse Him of blasphemy. He says, "I'm equal to God. I do not do anything on My own initiative. I don't act independently of my Father."
So after laying out a clear case of His deity in verses 19-30, He now calls another witness, beside Himself, to give testimony to Him in verses 31-47. Some see Him as calling five witnesses here, I think He is calling one, God the Father. He is the One they will say they worship. He is the One they will say they know, even though they don't. He is the one they declare to be their God:
"If I alone testify about Myself, My testimony is not true. John 5:31 NASB
Yeshua certainly does not mean that if He says anything about Himself it must be false. He is the truth. Compare what He says here and what He says in John 8:
So the Pharisees said to Him, "You are testifying about Yourself; Your testimony is not true." Yeshua answered and said to them, "Even if I testify about Myself, My testimony is true, for I know where I came from and where I am going; but you do not know where I come from or where I am going. "You judge according to the flesh; I am not judging anyone. "But even if I do judge, My judgment is true; for I am not alone in it, but I and the Father who sent Me. "Even in your law it has been written that the testimony of two men is true. "I am He who testifies about Myself, and the Father who sent Me testifies about Me." John 8:13-18 NASB
So in our text Yeshua is saying that if the burden of evidence to support the tremendous claims He has been making exclusively depends on His own self-attestation, His witness must be false.
They said in John 8, "If you testify of Yourself, Your testimony is not true, it is not sufficient." And He just said in the preceding verse that, "I can do nothing on My own initiative." That is true even when the Son bears witness. In other words, the Father testifies about Me also.
The Torah required at least two witnesses:
"A single witness shall not rise up against a man on account of any iniquity or any sin which he has committed; on the evidence of two or three witnesses a matter shall be confirmed. Deuteronomy 19:15 NASB
So Yeshua, in following Jewish legal practice, brings forth another witness, the Father. In the Mishnah Kethuboth 2:9 it states, "None may be believed when he testifies of himself." Yeshua knows they will not accept His testimony alone. So Yeshua introduces someone else who testifies to His deity.
"There is another who testifies of Me, and I know that the testimony which He gives about Me is true. John 5:32 NASB
The truthfulness of His claims about Himself did not rest on His own "testimony" exclusively. Yeshua had just explained that He only said and did what the Father said and did. Therefore Yeshua's witness about Himself must reflect the Father's witness about Him. The "another" here is the Father.
The Greek word for "another" here is allos, which in classical Greek frequently denoted "another of the same kind" whereas heteros, denoted another of a different kind. So "another" here indicates that it is another witness of the same kind as Yeshua Himself. So again Yeshua is being placed on the same level as His Father.
Some interpreters think that He is referring here to John the Baptist, but the language more closely fits the idea that He is referring to the Father.
So how does the Father testify to the Deity of the Son? Many say that the Father's testimony is at the Lord's Baptism and at His Transfiguration. But at the Lord's Baptism when a voice out of heaven says, "This is My beloved Son in Whom I am well pleased" there's no indication anybody else heard it but John the Baptist.
And at the Transfiguration, where again the Father says, "This is My beloved Son, listen to Him," the only people who were at the Transfiguration where Peter, James and John. So I don't think He is talking about the Father's testimony at the Baptism or Transfiguration:
If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater; for the testimony of God is this, that He has testified concerning His Son. 1 John 5:9 NASB
"So in the end, the final witness to my truthfulness," Yeshua says, "is God the Father." So Yeshua's point in 5:30-32 is that His self-testimony is true because He never acted independently of the Father.
Then in verses 33 to 39 we have the Father's testimony. But it comes through three means. The Father's testimony comes through John the Baptist, then it comes through the miracles of Yeshua, then it comes through the Scripture.
"You have sent to John, and he has testified to the truth. John 5:33 NASB
This wording reflects the words of John 1:19 where the Jews from Jerusalem sent a delegation to interrogate John the Baptist. John replies to them:
And he confessed and did not deny, but confessed, "I am not the Christ." John 1:20 NASB
So the Jews thought John was the Christ. They sent the people, all Judea, all Jerusalem, pouring out to the Jordan River where John was preaching and baptizing. There was a national fever over the prophet John the Baptist. He was clearly a fulfillment in their minds of the promise of the voice crying in the wilderness, make straight the path for the Lord and he was the forerunner they had been waiting for in their minds, and they all knew he was a prophet.
Josephus, the Jewish historian, in his Antiquitous, tells us that when John the Baptist came, the people were "aroused to the highest degree by the ministry of John the Baptist."
Yeshua is saying this is the Father's testimony. John the Baptist is the first one to give testimony to Me, and he is a prophet of God. They all acknowledge that:
"But the testimony which I receive is not from man, but I say these things so that you may be saved. John 5:34 NASB
Yeshua mentions the Baptist's witness, not for His own sake, but for the sake of His hearers, that they may be saved. People are saved by believing in Yeshua; John the Baptist's witness may help them believe: that was it's purpose.
What did John say? "Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world." Salvation was His message. In fact, Zacharias understood that. He said:
"And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; For you will go on BEFORE THE LORD TO PREPARE HIS WAYS; To give to His people the knowledge of salvation By the forgiveness of their sins, Luke 1:76-77 NASB
Yeshua's testimony is not from man, but He uses John because He pointed the people to Christ:
"He was the lamp that was burning and was shining and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light. John 5:35 NASB
John the Baptist's ministry was to light the way for the Old Covenant believers to see and accept Yeshua as the promised Messiah (John 1:31). He came in the spirit of Elijah who was described in similar terms in the intertestamental book Sirach, which describes Elijah as a prophet like fire whose word burned like a lamp (Sirach 48:1).
Evidently John's public ministry had ended by this time, since Yeshua spoke of His witness as past. John was not the true light, but he was a lamp that bore witness to the Light.
I think the issue here is: How can they receive the man, call Him a prophet from God, rejoice in Him, and then reject what He said? That's what they've done. The Father spoke through His prophet John, and they ignored his message. John the Baptizer was a witness from the Father to the deity of Christ:
"But the testimony which I have is greater than the testimony of John; for the works which the Father has given Me to accomplish—the very works that I do—testify about Me, that the Father has sent Me. John 5:36 NASB
Notice that He says this testimony is "greater" than that of John the Baptizer. He moves from the words of God's prophet to signs and wonders. By His "works," Yeshua mainly meant the miracles that He did. His miracles were unique signs that He had been sent by the Father.
How do you explain the miracles that Christ was performing? It must have been the work of God. Remember that the whole context of this discussion on Christ's deity was the healing of the lame man, which was done in public, and which no one could dispute; the man was walking around in Jerusalem as they spoke.
Nicodemus knew that Yeshua was from God:
Now there was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews; this man came to Yeshua by night and said to Him, "Rabbi, we know that You have come from God as a teacher; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him." John 3:1-2 NASB
Nobody in and of themselves could do these miracles, the only explanation is that God was with Yeshua:
But many of the crowd believed in Him; and they were saying, "When the Christ comes, He will not perform more signs than those which this man has, will He?" John 7:31 NASB
They recognized that the miracles demonstrated that Yeshua was the Christ:
Yeshua answered them, "I told you, and you do not believe; the works that I do in My Father's name, these testify of Me. John 10:25 NASB
Christ's miracles prove He is who He says He is, Yahweh:
"If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe Me; but if I do them, though you do not believe Me, believe the works, so that you may know and understand that the Father is in Me, and I in the Father." John 10:37-38 NASB
The miracles should be enough proof that He is one with the Father:
Therefore the chief priests and the Pharisees convened a council, and were saying, "What are we doing? For this man is performing many signs. "If we let Him go on like this, all men will believe in Him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation." John 11:47-48 NASB
The miracles didn't affect the Pharisees, because all they were worried about was losing their power over the people.
"Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me; otherwise believe because of the works themselves. John 14:11 NASB
The miracles testify that Yeshua is one with the Father:
And there are also many other things which Yeshua did, which if they were written in detail, I suppose that even the world itself would not contain the books that would be written. John 21:25 NASB
The evidence is overwhelming, but the Jews were blind. Just think about what it was that they saw. Earlier in our text Yeshua said:
"Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. John 5:25 NASB
What is Yeshua claiming here? He says that He can raise the dead. This is something only Yahweh can do. Yet many of them had actually seen Yeshua raise the dead:
Soon afterwards He went to a city called Nain; and His disciples were going along with Him, accompanied by a large crowd. Now as He approached the gate of the city, a dead man was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow; and a sizeable crowd from the city was with her. Luke 7:11-12 NASB
So here we have a good size crowd at a man's funeral. And Yeshua disrupts the funeral procession:
When the Lord saw her, He felt compassion for her, and said to her, "Do not weep." And He came up and touched the coffin; and the bearers came to a halt. And He said, "Young man, I say to you, arise!" The dead man sat up and began to speak. And Jesus gave him back to his mother. Luke 7:13-15 NASB
Do you think that this would get your attention? Notice what their response was:
Fear gripped them all, and they began glorifying God, saying, "A great prophet has arisen among us!" and, "God has visited His people!" Luke 7:16 NASB
They responded just like Nicodemus, God must be with the man. This is a sign that should get anyone's attention. At Yeshua's command the dead man sits up and talks.
In our text Yeshua says, "The very works that I do—testify about Me, that the Father has sent Me." Commenting on this text a commentator writes, "Miracles alone did not prove Jesus' deity, since Moses, Elijah, and Elisha had done miracles, too." Yes, they also did miracles proving that Yahweh was with them, but they never claimed to be God. Yeshua over and over claimed to be Yahweh, and why would Yahweh be with someone claiming to be equal to Him unless they were?
So the Father testifies to the deity of the Son through the prophet John and through the miracles that Christ did:
"And the Father who sent Me, He has testified of Me. You have neither heard His voice at any time nor seen His form. John 5:37 NASB
How ironic this would be if the feast that Yeshua is in Jerusalem for is Pentecost, where by the first century the giving of the Law at Sinai was being celebrated! So there Celebrating Yahweh giving them the Law and Yeshua says, "You have neither heard His voice at any time nor seen His form."
How has the Father testified of Christ? All of the Father's revelation from the beginning of Creation had pointed to Christ and that revelation is contained in Scripture.
The Jews have not accepted the witness of the Father, because they have not heard God's voice. This is a veiled reference to Mt. Sinai. God spoke, but they did not hear.
Since Yeshua is the very manifestation of God (1:18; 14:9), and the Jews do not see God in Yeshua, it follows that they have never seen God. Yahweh is in fact now standing before them, being accused by them. They are accusing the very One they claim to worship and serve. Yeshua may have been implying that His critics were not true Israelites. They had not even done what their forefathers had done, believe, even though Yeshua was a clearer revelation of God than what the patriarchs had. "God has testified about Me and it's obvious that you don't know Him or you would hear that testimony. You would see Him and you would see Me." Yeshua's words were the Father's words, and those who saw Yeshua had virtually seen God:
"You do not have His word abiding in you, for you do not believe Him whom He sent. John 5:38 NASB
They had the Word of God, they had it in their hands, they had the scrolls in their synagogue, but they didn't have it in them. Edersheim writes:
"…we know that at the time of the Syrian persecutions, just before the rising of the Maccabees, the possession of portions or of the whole of the Old Testament by private families was common in Israel. For, part of those persecutions consisted in making search for these Scriptures and destroying them (1 Macc. i. 57), as well as punishing their possessors (Jos. Ant. xii. 5, 4)." [Edersheim, Sketches of Jewish Social Life, pp. 116-17]."You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; John 5:39 NASB
Here is our third witness from the Father, the Word of God. Scripture testifies about me! By Scripture here it means the Tanakh, the only Bible Yeshua ever had, the only Bible the disciples ever had, the only Bible anybody in the New Testament ever had was the Tanakh. And the Father in the Tanakh gives testimony to Yeshua the Christ.
The word "search" here is the Greek word ereunao, which is a very strong word. It was used in extra Biblical literature in ancient times of a lion prowling after its prey, stalking its prey, used even of wild dogs that are tracking game. The word came to mean track, and then it came to mean trace, and then it came to mean investigate. So He's saying to them, you trace the Scriptures, you investigate the Scriptures.
The verb "search" here can be taken as either an indicative or an imperative. The imperative, "Search the Scriptures," makes this a command. But the context favors the indicative mood: "You are searching the Scripture because you think that you have eternal life in them." The Jewish leaders of Yeshua's day were serious students of the Tanakh , but they studied it for the wrong reason, namely, to earn eternal life through their effort. Judaism believed that the Law was the source of life.
The Jewish rabbis were legendary in their study of the Scriptures. They memorized large portions, some of them memorized the whole Tanakh. They copied it with extreme care. They even counted the words and letters and could tell you the middle letter of a book or even of the entire Bible!
After the destruction of the Temple of Solomon in 586 B.C., the Jewish scholars of the Exile substituted the study of the Law for the observance of the Temple ritual and
sacrifices because they believed that the very study itself would bring them life.
In the rabbinic tractate Pirqe Aboth (The Sayings of the Fathers) it says: "He who has acquired the words of the Law has acquired for himself the life of the world to come." Pirqe Aboth 2:8
"Great is the Law for it gives to those who practice it life in this world and in the world to come." Pirqe Aboth 6:7
One of the most famous rabbis of that time, Rabbi Hillel, had taught the Jews that by studying the words of the law they would gain for themselves life in the world to come. He was repeating the age-old theory that still exists today: that if you are religious, you can earn yourself a place in heaven.
The study of Scripture had become an end in itself, rather than a way of getting to know God better. Eternal life comes through trusting Yeshua, not through Bible study.
"Scripture…testify about Me"—we study the Scripture to see Yeshua. And if our heart is open we see Him everywhere. One of many passages that demonstrate the deity of Christ is found in the Fourth Gospel in chapter 12 where Lazarus quotes Isaiah 6, which is a throne room scene:
In the year of King Uzziah's death I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple. Seraphim stood above Him, each having six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called out to another and said, "Holy, Holy, Holy, is the LORD of hosts, The whole earth is full of His glory." Isaiah 6:1-3 NASB
Who did Isaiah see? Yahweh of hosts! Then after quoting Isaiah 6, Lazarus then says:
These things Isaiah said because he saw His glory, and he spoke of Him. John 12:41 NASB
This is talking about Yeshua. Isaiah is witnessing to the glory of Yeshua because when he saw the glory of Yahweh revealed from heaven, he was seeing the glory of Yeshua.
and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life. John 5:40 NASB
Yeshua makes it clear that life is found in Him alone. He is the way, the truth and the life. Notice the problem here, "You are unwilling"—you do not have a desire to come to Me. This is the doctrine of total depravity. In light of the witness of John the Baptizer, a prophet of God, in light of all the miracles Christ performed, and in light of the truth of Scripture that points to Christ—they are unwilling.
We know the Bible says that the unregenerate man is unable, that he is dead, that he is blind by the Fall. And even when given full light, even when given complete evidence, even when all the testimony is in, the sinner is unwilling. He does not desire to come to Christ. Sinful man is both unable to make any contribution to his salvation and unwilling at the same time to come to the only One who can save him.
This ignorance, this inability of even the Jews to see God and to really know God, underscores what Yeshua has made clear earlier in His conversation with Nicodemus: "We must be born again, we cannot see the kingdom of God unless we are regenerated by the Spirit of God."
"I do not receive glory from men; John 5:41 NASB
This would better be translated, "Glory from men I don't receive." You could maybe put it, "From you, I receive no glory."
but I know you, that you do not have the love of God in yourselves. John 5:42 NASB
Yeshua is speaking to the Jewish leaders of Jerusalem and He accuses them of not loving God. They were violating the Shema which they recited every day. They prided themselves on being the lovers of God. But had they truly loved God, they could not have failed to love God's Son. To not love the Son is to not love the Father.
"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. John 5:43 NASB
The Jews did not receive Yeshua. This echoes John 1:11. Yeshua's statement that they would readily accept other Messiahs is prophetic. When the Jewish revolt began in A.D.66 three men emerged as leaders, each one claimed to be the Messiah and various Pharisees and other authorities broke into factions that acknowledged each of these men as the Messiah. The outcome was devastating for Judea. Not only were they fighting the Romans, but also they were fighting among themselves.
"How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and you do not seek the glory that is from the one and only God? John 5:44 NASB
The truth of their loving to receive glory from one another is found in:
"They love the place of honor at banquets and the chief seats in the synagogues, and respectful greetings in the market places, and being called Rabbi by men. Matthew 23:6-7 NASB
Paul taught that a true Jew, circumcised in the heart, is one whose "praise is not from men, but from God" (Rom. 2:29). But they wanted the praise of men.
I think that the second "glory" in this verse refers to Christ, the glory of Yahweh.
"Do not think that I will accuse you before the Father; the one who accuses you is Moses, in whom you have set your hope. John 5:45 NASB
To the Jews, Moses was the great hero. He was the one who brought them out of Egypt and into their promised land. He was the one who gave them God's law. And the Jewish teachers believed that it was through following Moses that they would be delivered. But Yeshua confronted them with the perversity of their thinking. Moses gave the law so that the people would realize their failure and inability to seek God's salvation and look for God's deliverer. Moses never taught that the Law was an end in itself. He pointed the people to the coming "Prophet" and urged them to listen to Him (Deut.18:15-19).
"For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me, for he wrote about Me. John 5:46 NASB
If you believed Moses, you'd believe in Me? How is that possible? Well the whole Tanakh is about Christ, and it starts with Moses. Remember the parable in Luke 16 where Yeshua talks about Lazarus and the rich man. The rich man pleads to have someone sent to warn his brothers about the place of torment and what does Abraham say?
"But Abraham said, 'They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.' Luke 16:29 NASB
All they need is Moses, because he taught of Christ:
"But he said, 'No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent!' "But he said to him, 'If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.'" Luke 16:30-31 NASB
Someone did rise from the dead, and they lied about it and created a false explanation:
And He said to them, "O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! "Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?" Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures. Luke 24:25-27 NASB
Moses and all the writers of the Tanakh wrote about Christ, but you must have eyes to see. The prophecies about a coming Messiah were about Him. The symbols and ceremonies of the Temple—with their sacrifices and high priests—were about Him. The Passover was about Christ. The tabernacle is an elaborate picture of Christ. The historical passages about a rescuer from the enemy were about Him. The rock that provided water in the wilderness and the manna for food were pictures of Christ (1 Cor. 10:3-4; John 6:31-35). We could go on and on.
Yeshua said of Moses, "He wrote about Me"—today many modern scholars believe that the first books of the Bible were not written down until the 6th century B.C. and therefore were not written by Moses. As I have said before, there is strong evidence that the first 11 chapters of Genesis were written during the Babylonian Captivity. But I believe that most of the Torah was written by Moses.
Yeshua refers to "the Scriptures" as testifying about Him [verse 39], and then to "Moses" as writing about Him [verse 46]. From Yeshua's perspective the Tanakh is about Him. Yes. It speaks of many different things, but in its totality, in its purpose, in its cohesive theme, it is all about Yeshua who is the Christ:
"But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?" John 5:47 NASB
If Jews really put their trust in Moses, they would believe in Christ. This verse raises the final question that Jews could not answer. If the Jews did not believe Moses who wrote about Yeshua, how could they believe in Yeshua? The answer is clear. They cannot.
People, it is not enough to revere the Word of God, or even to diligently read and study it. The Jewish authorities did all this, yet they missed the main point of the Scriptures—the promise of a Messiah exactly like Yeshua, in fact who was Yeshua.
Believer, we need to embrace the Scriptures. All of them. Both the Tanakh and New Testament. Because in them you come to know God for who He really is, and that means coming to know Yeshua.
This is an awesome chapter on the deity of Christ; in the beginning verses Yeshua heals a lame man in front of a large crowd. The authorities accuse Him claiming equality with God, which to them was blasphemy. Then in verses 19-30, Yeshua tells the Jews, you are right, I'm equal with God, equal in every way. Then in verses 31-47 we have the Fathers three fold testimony to the deity of Christ. So by the mouth of two witnesses the deity of Christ is established. "He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him."