"“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. “You have sent to John and he has testified to the truth. Not that I accept human testimony; but I mention it that you may be saved. John was a lamp that burned and gave light, and you chose for a time to enjoy his light. “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. And the Father who sent me has himself testified concerning me. 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. 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. “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. 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? “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?”" (John 5:31-47)
It’s hard to accept the testimony of a person who self proclaims that he is God. Even if it is true, we naturally seek more “proof”. Jesus understands this need and so he reminds the people that there was a man who spoke about Him before most people even knew he was. Not only that, the people followed this messenger by the multitudes and many repented of their sins in preparation for the coming Messiah just as he asked them to. And yet, even though they accepted the testimony of John the Baptist, when what he spoke of finally arrived and made Himself known in the person and work of Jesus, they rejected Him.
Oh sure…it sounded great until He arrived and perhaps…well…he wasn’t exactly what they expected.
Jesus was a simple man from Nazareth, the small Galilean city of no special significance. His parents, Mary and Joseph, were everyday citizens of this small, nondescript city. He was not the royal king they anticipated who would make His introduction with pomp and circumstance – a sight to see - something no one would miss – a majestic ruler par excellence.
But it doesn’t stop there. John the Baptist was not the only witness. The ancient prophets, who spoke to the people of Israel, recorded their testimony in the sacred writings of the Old Testament. The religious leaders of Jesus’ time where scholars and they knew the scripture well and the words written by Moses. They were motivated by the assumption that in knowing the Bible, it would be credited to them for salvation. In other words, the more you know, the more likely it is that God will extend favor upon you and invite you into heaven based on the merit of your diligent pursuit of knowledge and religious duty.
Yet, despite their vast knowledge and religious ritual , they had missed the forest for the trees. Just as a person walks amidst a heavily wooded area surrounded by a multitude of trees, and even though he is able to describe every species and detail of the nature that surrounds him, but yet still scratches his head wondering why he cannot find the forest he has been searching for…so it is with the people Jesus is now speaking to. They knew all about Jesus…they just didn’t know Jesus.
Before we point a judgmental finger, we should realize how much we share the blindness of the audience to which Jesus speaks. In our current day, we have significantly more information and testimony about Jesus than they ever did. We too have the sacred scriptures of the ancient prophets like Moses. But we also have the New Testament testimony like those we are reading in the book of John. We can follow the formation of the early church through the letters of the apostle Paul to Christians in Corinth (1 and 2 Corinthians), Galatia (Galatians) and so many others. We have thousands of years of testimony of those whose lives have been changed, miracles of transformation, the validation of science and the created order of our universe. In other words, we have many more trees that surround us than they did. For us to miss the forest would be an even greater tragedy.
And yet what we also learn is that knowledge and miraculous signs are not the key to belief. Every decision to believe, no matter what facts may exist, is ultimately based on faith. One must exercise faith in evolution or politics. In fact, faith is even necessary to believe that there is no God. The question is not, “Are you a person of faith?” You most definitely are. The better question is, “Where have you placed your faith?”
Just as we seen in our verse today, Jesus knows our heart. He has paid the ultimate, most vivid, and public display of His love for us as He was crucified on the cross. The evidence is clear. The question is – Do we have the faith to believe? Pray for that faith today.