7 July 2017

John 5:30-47

“You search the scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that testify on my behalf.” (v. 39)

Psalm: Psalm 32



Jesus responds to the accusation that in referring to God as his Father he is making unsubstantiated claims about himself. In Jewish law two or three witnesses were necessary to prove a case in court. Here Jesus summons his three. First there is the witness of John the Baptist who earlier in the Gospel has announced Jesus' coming and the Holy Spirit resting upon him (John 1). Secondly there is the direct activity of God through Jesus, seen in the healings and other remarkable things he does, described tellingly in John as 'signs' (as in John 2:114:54). Thirdly there are the Jewish scriptures, known in the Christian tradition as the Old Testament, and particularly those that deal with Moses.

None of these witnesses is conclusive, for in each case faith is required, the readiness to recognise what is implied and to respond. Many responded enthusiastically to John the Baptist but were unwilling to accept his witness. Many were enthusiastic about Jesus' powerful deeds, but only as 'wonders' (see John 4:4548). The Torah, the five books dealing with Moses, were read in synagogues regularly, but they were not seen as pointing to Jesus. There is an ironic reference in verse 43 to the many messianic pretenders in New Testament times who attracted enthusiastic followers but delivered nothing or were put down by the Romans.

The Old Testament is shared by Christians and Jews but in many ways interpreted very differently. In the Christian tradition it is seen as pointing forward to Jesus, as is emphasised here.

To Ponder

  • In many church services readings from the Old Testament are rare. Do you welcome that or deplore it? Why?
  • In what ways might we think of the Old Testament as pointing forward to Jesus today? 

Bible notes author

The Revd Brian Beck

Brian Beck is a Methodist minister, now retired, and a former president and secretary of the Methodist Conference. A large part of his ministry has been spent in theological education, both in Limuru, Kenya, and in Cambridge, England..