Bearing Witness of the Light
John uses the word witness. That is one of his favorite words in his Gospel. He uses it many times. The concept of one who bears a testimony, who sheds light on the truth about a situation or, in this case today, of another person.
John listens as Jesus told the Jews of those who bore witness of His ministry when He was challenged by the Jews as a blasphemer because He healed on the Sabbath. A group that paid no attention, it seemed, to the healing, the miraculous, heaven-sent power Jesus was using but focused on the Scripture about the Sabbath to the point they could not even see they were blind. And so, Jesus shares, and John records for us that Jesus was not just a miracle Worker, but these miracles testify of His very power and He was in fact the very Son of God.
As we come to our text today, I want us to look at Bearing Witness of the Truth that All Men Might Believe. What we see in Scripture that Jesus is showing us really does bear witness to the light. You remember in John's Gospel, light is a metaphor for truth. When it says that Jesus is the light, that He is the Word become flesh, that He is the embodiment, in other words, of the truths of God.
And so, to bear witness of the light is to bear witness of the truth. It is to show the truth of God to those who are willing to see. And also, John tells us light overcomes darkness…that darkness is not stronger than light. People may reject the light, they may reject the truth because they prefer the darkness of their own perceptions of truth, but light always exposes that evil. And so, we see even in Jesus' story today of bearing witness of the light.
In John, chapter 5, we pick up in verse 31. Jesus says, "If I bear witness of Myself, My witness is not true." Later on, Jesus will say, "My bearing witness of Myself is good enough." But here, His audience would certainly see just because Jesus said He was the Messiah, they would not accept that in the same way if I told you I were Superman, you would not just accept that. You would want some outside proof. Well, that is the skeptical audience Jesus is certainly speaking to here as well.
And so, He means in verse 31, "There is Another who witnesses of Me. It's not just Me saying I am the Son of God. You're claiming I'm a blasphemer because I claim to be equal with the Father, but you need to see there are other witnesses who are saying that as well."
In fact, in verse 32, He says, "There is another who bears witness of Me, and I know that the witness which He witnesses of Me is true." Now, the He in this verse is going to turn out to be the Father. It's going to be God Himself. Jesus says, "I don't bear witness of Myself because God is bearing witness of Me. The Father is showing you and has shown you who it is I am."
And so, Jesus begins to unfold how the Father has borne witness of who Jesus is in different encounters of the Jews with Christ that should have shown them Jesus is that Messiah. And as we look at each of these three…beginning with the witness of John the Baptist and looking at the witness of His miracles and then the witness of Scripture itself…I hope you'll see in each of these is an example of how we need to be a witness. Those of us who know Christ as Savior, how we need to emulate the work of John the Baptist, how we need to be able to share the awesome power of God, how we need to not just know the Scriptures, but be transformed by them.
In verse 33, we see the witness of John the Baptist as Jesus continues. He says, "You have sent to John…" and that's John the Baptist, "…and he has borne witness to the truth." In other words, "You have John, and you were very interested in John. You were very impressed with John. And John spoke about Me. He was a witness. He was the forerunner, and he was talking about the fact that the kingdom of heaven is at hand."
Later in verse 34, Jesus says, "Yet I do not receive testimony from man, but I say these things that you may be saved." What does Jesus mean? Well, Jesus is saying He did not depend on the testimony of man, in this case John. In other words, "It's not John's testimony that is really bearing witness of Me, that I'm really even talking about. I'm talking about the Father bearing witness. But I want to focus on this," He said, "because I know you were impressed with John. And if you would listen to what John said, you might be saved…if you would listen to the witness of John, the one whom they were impressed with."
Now, the problem was they were impressed with John but not with what John was saying. In verse 35, Jesus said, "He was the burning and shining lamp, and you were willing for a time to rejoice in his light." Now, they were impressed not in the Light of the Messiah but in the smaller light of Messianic fervor. They were excited for a time about the stir John was creating over a coming Messiah.
Their religion had become stale and dull, and now here comes an evangelist who is getting people revived and stirred up, who is creating this Messianic fever and fervor in the community. And they were very impressed by that. They rejoiced in that; not rejoiced in the truth of what John was saying. They were just rejoicing John was doing anything, that he was creating a stir, that he was excited. They were excited for a time about the stir he was creating with his preaching without ever listening to what he was preaching. If they had listened, it would have helped them to be saved.
It's not unusual for people to respond to the excitement of a new revival evangelist or a new church or a new program. Folks may find comfort in attending without ever giving attention. They are those who listen but never hear; those who watch but never see. They sit but never bow. They come to worship but never worship. They read but don't comprehend. They come but they never move. They pray for others but not to the Master. They give up their Sunday mornings without ever giving enough on Sunday to mourn. They are willing for a time to rejoice in the light but only for a time.
These are those whom Jesus spoke of in another Gospel as that seed which sprouts up quickly, but the cares of the world take it away…Those who seem to be excited but only for a time. Oh, I pray that that is not you; that you're not one who responds to fervor in and of itself or to newness in and of itself without listening to the message the church is trying to preach, without listening to the message the Scriptures are trying to tell.
Jesus said in verse 35 that John was a lamp. And that is so key. It didn't say he was a light, did it? He said he was a lamp, not the light. You see, a lamp bears the light. And the Bible has already told us Jesus is the Light. John the Apostle tells us that. Jesus is the Light of men. John was a Light-bearer. He was the torch that bore the truth about the Messiah.
The problem is they marveled at the lamp but not at the Light. They marveled at the lamp but not the Light that made the lamp a thing of joy. And so too, my friends, the Church is not an end to itself. It is but a Light-bearer. It is merely the Body. It is to do the work of its Head, Jesus. It is to be alive and functioning and growing and healthy.
Just to have a body is not sufficient for any of us. An inactive body is an atrophied body. An inactive body is a dead body. And no head wants to be attached to an un-functioning body. That crippling power, that lameness, is those who are excited about the Body but don't do anything with the Body; those who come…as I said…but they're never moved; those who want to be a part of the Body but not a functioning part of the Body.
Jesus says we are a lamp, and our job is to bear Light. Our job is to sacrifice and to serve and to witness and to live our lives in such a way that they see not our greatness but the greatness of God. They see not our successes but the beauty of Christ. That we decrease, and He increases.
Jesus said, "I sent you John. And for a time you rejoiced but only for a time. He got you excited, but you never listened to what he was trying to tell you." And then He says, "But I have a greater witness than that, and that is the witness of the works the Father gave Me to do; the witness of the very miracles you're upset about."
In verses 36 and 37, He said, "But I have a greater witness than John’s; for the works which the Father has given Me to finish—the very works that I do—bear witness of Me, that the Father has sent Me. And the Father Himself, who sent Me, has testified of Me." Jesus is saying, "I'm so in tuned with the Father." He has already said that in the previous dialogue we've looked at in previous weeks. He said, "I'm so in tuned with the Father that I don't do anything of Myself. Whatever it is I do, it's the Father doing it through Me. I only do that which the Father wants Me to do.
"And so, having the power to take this man who has been lame for 38 years by the pool of Bethesda and to speak to him to stand up and walk, and to see those withered legs gain strength and that curved spine straightened, and to see that man stand up and to walk to you, that is nothing more or less than the witness of who I am. It is a sign to show you that the Messiah is in your presence; that the Messiah is here. I have a greater witness," Jesus says, "than just the words of the evangelist. I have the very miracles of God at work before you."
The greater witness is the Father, and His witness is the empowerment to perform the signs they witnessed. And people should have noticed that. If you'll remember back in John 3, even Nicodemus saw the works of Jesus showed He was of God. He may not yet have realized He was the Messiah, but he knew He was of God.
In John 3, over in verse 2, it tell us that Nicodemus "came to Jesus by night and said to Him, 'Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.'" Now, here is a member of the Sanhedrin counsel who is able to look at the witness before him and acknowledge, "I don't know quite know who You are yet, but I know You are of God because God would not grant such power and beauty and blessing unless You were with Him. God does not indiscriminately do this to those who are not part of His program," is what Nicodemus said.
And yet, many of the Jews who saw the same signs and the same miracles Nicodemus saw refused to believe Jesus. They saw the works of the Father before them, but they would not accept them. They were living in exceptional times. God had been silent for 400 years, and now the miracle power of God was stirred and was at work before them. It was a special moment, a unique moment. How could they not see it is the question. How could they not?
You know, it's amazing still that when God begins to move, when He awakens hearts, when He shows His mighty hand among His people even today, that if the same unique time when His light shines, some will still see only darkness. When His blessings flow, bitterness flows. When rejoicing occurs, it seems at that time rebellion occurs.
You know what we like to do when we see that happen in someone's life? God is blessing their life, and then a tragedy kind of comes in out of left field, or a church is being blessed and used of God, and then some trouble comes into that, we like to blame the old devil. We say, "Oh, the devil is at work." But you know, it's interesting when we look at these following verses, Jesus didn't blame the devil.
He said in verse 37, the last part of that verse, "You have neither heard His voice at any time, nor seen His form." In other words, "I've done all these miracles, and yet you've not heard His message. You've not seen His hand at work." How can that be? How can it be when God does that which we desire God to do that some do not see it?
In verse 38, He says this is why. "But you do not have His Word abiding in you, because whom He sent, Him you do not believe." How can people fail to see God at work and instead work against Him? It's because His Word does not dwell in them. It does not abide in them. It does not live in them.
Oh, they may know Scripture…and certainly these Jews knew that…but the Scripture does not guide their vision. It's not ignorance of the Word that is the problem. These people know their verses, but those verses do not lodge in their hearts. They make decisions on other criteria.
You know, you can memorize whole chapters of the Bible, and yet when you encounter a problem, use your fleshly ways to solve it, use your friends' advice, the world's perspective. You can know Scripture and yet not listen to that Scripture. You can know words you've memorized, and yet those same words have no affect on the outcome of the decisions and the actions you take. These men studied the Scriptures. They knew them far better than the average Christian knows the Bible today. They had it memorized in large portions.
And Jesus goes on in verse 39 to say, "You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me." In other words, "You're not ignorant of the Scriptures. You study them. You peruse through them. You memorize them. You learn of them. You talk about them."
Every year at the feast of the Passover at the porch of the Temple…Jesus was there when He was 12 years old…the rabbis would come and have a general audience with the average Joe out there… or the average Joshua, I guess, out there…who didn't normally have an education in the things of the law. And they could ask questions, and the rabbis would dialogue back and forth with them. They knew the Scriptures, but they didn't know what it said.
How many people today know their Bible, but they don't live it? They don't know it enough to live it. It's not ignorance of the Word that is the problem. The problem is the decisions of life are being based on other criteria.
Jesus said, "You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life." What is He saying? They thought that reading and studying the Scriptures in and of itself made them good people. That study, that head knowledge, somehow made them holy. But again, they were reading and not comprehending.
Oh, does the knowledge of the Bible, my friends, give you a big head or a burning heart? You see, that's the issue. Does what you learn result in you witnessing to another person or just being the first to answer a Bible question? You see, if the Bible is there for you to listen to, it's going to speak to you this morning to be a witness of the Light; not just to know where to find the verse, but to live the verse and to share the verse. To be one who bears the Light like a lamp to a lost and dying world.
The true test of how much you know the Bible is how much does that Bible direct and guide you every day? How much does it dictate your decisions, or how much does your family history dictate? How much does your temper dictate? How much does your education dictate? Where do you really go to, to decide what you're going to do? Is it what God has shown and His example, or is it something else, as was with these Jews?
Does the Bible give you head knowledge or a burning heart? Does it cause you to witness, or are you afraid to witness? That is not just a fair question; it's a crucial test. Do you witness? What do people witness about you? What has all those years of Bible study taught you? To share Christ? To sacrifice your possessions for Him? To not judge? To have compassion? Or does your life testify of another gospel, which Paul says there isn't another? "Any other is just evil," he said.
What gospel does your life show? Is it a gospel where there is no testimony, just the quiet living of coming to church on Sundays, or is it what the Bible says? To be a disciple. To be a witness. To live for Him. To die to self. To walk in a newness of life. To see the old passions and desires and priorities are in the grave now, and in their place are the plans and the purposes of God for your life. Oh, that's what Bible study ought to do. But for the Jews it seems they searched the Scriptures and completely missed the subject of the Scriptures. They didn't see the Messiah.
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