The book of John is recommended reading for the Alpha Course, in which I participated in different capacities. John did not write Jesus’ life story, instead he provided to us a powerful argument for the reason Jesus, the Son of God became the Son of Man.
Here is a story that evolves into Jesus’ revealing his relationship to God to the Pharisees.
Jesus was in Jerusalem for one of the holy days. After healing a lame man outside the city on the Sabbath, he told the man to take up his mat and walk. According to the Pharisees, carrying a mat on the Sabbath was work. This action did not violate the Old Testament law but it broke the Pharisees “interpretation” of the law. When the leaders eventually learned that it was Jesus who had healed the man, they challenged Jesus. They were more concerned about their petty rules rather than the health and well-being of a human being.
The point of the story is that when the opportunity to do good presents itself, it should not be ignored. But it evokes a deeper question.
After challenging Jesus for breaking the Sabbath by “working,” Jesus replied: “My Father never stops working, so why should I?” John 5:17b. This incensed the Pharisees even more that Jesus claimed he considered himself divine.
Jesus tells them the following: “If I were to testify on my own behalf, my testimony would not be valid. But, someone else is also testifying about me and I assure you that everything he says about me is true.” John 5:31 “But I have a greater witness than John [the Baptist]–my teachings and my miracles. The father gave me these works to accomplish, and they prove that he sent me.” John 5:36
Jesus then supports his claim….
“….the Father who sent me has testified about me himself. You have never heard his voice or seen him face to face, and you do not have his message in your hearts, because you do not believe me–the one he sent to you.” John 5:37
As is the case in other examples, Jesus turns the encounter against the very ones who have initiated it.
“You search the Scriptures because you think they give you eternal life. But the scriptures point to me!” Yet you refuse to come to me to receive this life. Your approval means nothing to me, because I know you don’t have God’s love within you. For I have come to you in my Father’s name, and you have rejected me.” John 5:39-40
Here, Jesus cites information from the Old Testament that convicts the Pharisees. Hear his words:
“Yet it isn’t I who will accuse you before the Father. Moses will accuse you! Yes, Moses, in whom you put your hopes. If you really believed Moses, you would believe me, because he wrote about me. But since you don’t believe what he wrote, how will you believe what I say?” John 5:46-47.
Jesus is referring to God’s words to Moses. “I will raise up a prophet from among their fellow Israelites, I will tell that prophet what to say, and he will tell the people everything I command him.” Deuteronomy 18:16
I can just imagine the Pharisees mumbling and grumbling as they walk away, seething.
The Pharisees had a choice. To believe Jesus or consider him a fake. Because it would cause them to abandon everything they stood for, they chose to accuse him of blasphemy instead of believing that he was the true Son of God.
Sometimes the outcome we want is the wrong outcome, but we can be insistent to our own detriment. In this case, denial of the truth only served to create the deepening revenge of the Pharisees and the eventual crucifixion of Jesus.
Prayer: Jesus, help us examine our hearts in a way that when the truth has been revealed, and our decision was wrong, remind us to ask you for forgiveness so we can carry on. Jesus, remember me, when you come into your kingdom.* Amen
* The last sentence in my prayer is from Luke 23:42. This verse has remained on the Presbyterian Church (USA) website for some time. It is a wonderful reminder all year long that we can be forgiven, even at the last hour.