Did Jesus claim to be equal to God? A courtroom look at John 5: 31 - 47
claiming equality with God, the Father
-his own words
-working on the Sabbath
-giving life to the dead
-offering forgiveness of sin
-offering eternal life
-claiming the right to judge
Jesus paused. You could have heard a pin drop. The tension in the air was so thick you could cut it with a knife. I stole a glance at the Jewish leaders. They were speechless; you could see the anger growing in their faces. How dare this man claim to be equal with God! Jesus sure knew who he was talking to. This scene could have come right out of one of their courtrooms. First, Jesus had committed the crime; healing a man…on the Sabbath. Then he had defended himself by making a claim that was too preposterous to believe; He was equal to God. Next He showed the proof to his claim; working on the Sabbath, giving life to the dead, offering eternal life and forgiveness of sins, and having the right to judge. All things that everyone understood that only God could do. And now he was going to call his witnesses. He understood that no claim would stand up in the courts without two witnesses to back it up. “If I testify about myself, my testimony is not valid. There is another who testifies in my favor, and I know that his testimony about me is valid.” I held my breath and wondered who he was going to call. The Jews were ready to hang him; I didn’t know how he could possibly get out of this mess.
The Witnesses (two required)
-John the Baptist
-God the Father
The first witness was John the Baptist. We all knew who he was. Many of us had gone out to the desert to hear him preach. He had told us about Jesus, and what he said was true. He was a human witness, flesh and blood. We could all see him and hear what he had to say. The religious leaders had gone out to listen to him as well. I don’t think they were impressed. They were used to being the ones that everyone looked to for spiritual guidance. They were the authorities, not a stranger in the desert. John told us we should repent of our sins to get our hearts ready for the Christ. Our leaders didn’t think they had anything to repent of. They were insulted by his implications.
“You have sent to John and he has testified to the truth. Not that I accept human testimony; but I mention it that you might be saved. John was a lamp that burned and gave light, and you chose for a time to enjoy his light.”
I had to smile to myself. Some of the Pharisees were obviously uncomfortable at the mention of John. I knew he had called them some pretty strong names. Others just grew angrier. They wouldn’t listen to anything John said, truth or not. Jesus obviously knew this, he continued, “I have testimony weightier than that of John. For the very work that the Father has given me to finish, and which I am doing, testifies that the Father has sent me.” We all knew what he was talking about. He had already been over it; he had the authority to judge, forgive sins, work on the Sabbath (although the religious leaders probably didn’t think that even God should have that right), heal, bring the dead back to life, save us and so on. His miracles were hard to ignore. These were all the claims that got him into so much trouble in the first place. Now he was using them as a witness to prove that He was equal to God. I was impressed, he had guts.
His next witness took me by surprise. “And the Father who sent me has himself testified concerning me.” I wondered how this could be. We couldn’t see or hear the Father. How could he be a witness? It was rumored that the Father had spoken at Jesus’ baptism. Well some claimed they had heard a voice, others thought it was thunder. I couldn’t remember if the religious leaders had been there. Jesus must have read my mind, for he continued, “You have never heard his voice nor seen his form, nor does his word dwell in you, for you do not believe the one he sent.” What did he mean by his word dwelling in us? Maybe he was talking about the scriptures. Our prophets from long ago talked to God and recorded his words in their books. We studied them thoroughly until we knew their words by heart. These scrolls told us about the coming Messiah. They contained God’s promises to us as his chosen people. Could it be that they were all pointing to Jesus? Excitement began to build in me. I looked at the leaders to see their reaction. They knew the scriptures better than any of us. If Jesus really was the Messiah, then they should know. All I saw was hatred. There was no sign of dawning realization or recognition. They didn’t believe Jesus. I knew Jesus understood this because he continued to press the point. “You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.” My heart pounded. Yes! I knew the old scrolls contained eternal life. But Jesus was implying that they only showed the way to eternal life. That life was really found in him. If the scrolls were all about him, then it must be true. I couldn’t wait to go and see for myself. But Jesus wasn’t done and I didn’t want to miss a word.
I could tell his next words weren’t accepted well. I wasn’t sure if faces could get any redder or veins bulge any more than what they already were. But they did. One poor guy was so upset that he looked like he was going to pass out. One thing our leaders valued above everything else was praise. They were used to people buttering up to them and telling them how good they were, trying to earn their favor. They passed out their own honors like golden nuggets. Anyone who received a kind word from them was expected to be appropriately grateful for their generosity. To hear praise from one of these spiritual giants was a high honor, and we felt our position. But not Jesus, he didn’t want anything from them and they were insulted. “I do not accept praise from men, but I know you, I know that you do not have the love of God in your hearts.” We all knew he was right. We would never be caught saying it to their faces, but our leaders could not be described as loving. Religion was a serious business to them and any infractions were severely frowned upon. It was all about obeying the law and being as perfect as you could possibly be. Jesus saw right through them. “I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not accept me; but if someone else comes in his own name, you will accept him. How can you believe if you accept praise from one another, yet make no effort to obtain the praise that comes from the only God?”
Jesus had one more witness to reveal and this one hit home. Moses. Not only did he put Moses on the stand as a witness to his identity, but he made him accuser of the Jews and their unbelief. “But do not think I will accuse you before the Father. Your accuser is Moses, on whom your hopes are set. If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me. But since you do not believe what he wrote, how are you going to believe what I say?” Now I knew the leaders would never listen to him. They were so proud of how well they knew Moses. Some of them could probably be accused of worshipping Moses above God. Their lives revolved around his law. But if what Jesus was saying was true, they totally missed the point. Jesus had probably just signed his death warrant. I feared for him. Little did I know that this was his plan all along. It was only through his death that we could have the eternal life we desired.
To continue on to John chapter 6, please read #47 Jesus feeds the 5000