THE EVIDENCE OF JESUS’ DEITY

Bible Reading: John 5:31-47

It is of no value if a defendant in a court of law uses his own testimony to defend himself. Jesus recognised this, and said, “If I bear witness of Myself, My witness is not valid [John 5:31]. The Bible says that a matter is established by the mouth of two or three witnesses [Deuteronomy 19:15]. As an example, when writing to Timothy Paul says, “Do not receive an accusation against an elder except from two or three witnesses” [1 Timothy 5:19].

Jesus claimed to be equal with God [John 5:18], but He also recognised that His testimony alone was not a sufficient witness for them to believe. Because He wanted His hearers to be saved [John 5:31,35], Jesus told them that there were four different witnesses, who authenticate His deity and ministry.

The first witness was John the Baptist [v.31-35]. His hearers had heard what John had correctly testified about Jesus. John had said of Jesus, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” [John 1:29] and “I have seen and testified that this is the Son of God” [John 1:34].

The second witness was the signs and wonders that Jesus performed [v.36]. In his gospel John gives seven miraculous signs that Jesus performed, beginning with the turning of water into wine [John 2:1-12]. These were not just acts of great compassion but also signs that pointed to who Jesus is. The works of Jesus bear witness that He is the Son of God!

The third witness was God, the Father [v.37]. This may have been a reference to the voice of the Father at the baptism of Jesus, when he said, “You are My beloved Son, in You I am well pleased” [Luke 3:22]. It might also be a reference to God, the Father, who speaks through the Scriptures.

The fourth witness was the Scriptures [v.39]. The Old Testament Scriptures pointed to Jesus. Much of the Scriptures foreshadowed the coming of Jesus. Jesus specifically spoke about the writings of Moses [v.45-47]. The Jewish leaders prided themselves in their knowledge of what Moses wrote, but tragically, their interpretation of what he wrote was wrong, and they would not recognise Jesus, to whom the Scripture bears supreme testimony.

It is possible to isolate these witnesses, casting doubt on them individually. But when they are called to the stand together, although they do not prove tha Christ is God in human proofs, they become irrefutable.

Questions:

Why is it important that there should be multiple witnesses in establishing whether a matter is true or not? Why did Jesus see it as necessary to point out the various testimonies to His Person and ministry?

What is the reason, that when confronted with the facts about Jesus people still refuse to acknowledge Him as Lord?

If you were on trial for being a Christian how much evidence would the prosecution have to convict you?

STANDING ON GOD’S PROMISES

Bible Reading: John 5:24-30

I tell you the truth, those who listen to my message and believe in God who sent me have eternal life. They will never be condemned for their sins, but they have already passed from death into life” [John 5:24].

Recently I met with a young man who has begun to doubt his salvation. He doesn’t feel that he is saved, even though he has had several years of walking with the Lord. An attack has come from the enemy. It is like a fiery dart that has cut through his spiritual armour. Jesus’ response when Satan attacked him in the wilderness was to quote the Word of God. Three times Satan attacked Jesus seeking to sow doubt into His mind, and each time Jesus responded by saying, “It is written” [see Matthew 4:4,7 &10].

It is dangerous to depend upon feelings because feelings constantly change. What does not change and is settled in heaven is God’s Word. David wrote, “For ever, O Lord, thy word is settled in heaven” [Psalm 119:89]. Many years ago I read a tract that spoke about faith, feelings and facts. These three were walking on top of a narrow wall. When feelings led the way with faith and facts behind the result was a fall. However, when the order was facts, followed by faith with feelings at the back they were secure.

In our key verse today God has given to those who believe on Jesus three wonderful promises. These promises are totally dependable. We can speak them out when the enemy attacks and seeks to sow doubt in our hearts!

The first promise is that those who believe have eternal life. This is a fact! It is a completed transaction. It is in the past tense – we already have eternal life when we believe on Jesus. To believe on Jesus means to trust in, adhere to, and rely upon Him on Jesus. We will still face physical death but our soul and spirit will live forever and we will have a resurrection body.

The second promise is that there is no further condemnation for our sins! The NIV translates this as, “will not be judged.” What we have uncovered, the blood of Jesus has washed away forever. Corrie ten Boom used to say that He has put my sins into the depth of the sea [Micah 7:19] and then puts up a notice that says, “No Fishing Allowed!”

The third promise is that we have passed from death to life. We now have God’s life in us! The NIV says that we have, “crossed over from death to life.” Paul writes, “He (Jesus) has delivered us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of the Son of His love” [Colossians 1:13]

Questions:

What three promises did Jesus make in John 5:24? According to this verse, what must one do to receive these promises? Explain in your own words the meaning of no longer being condemned?

Something To Do:

When the enemy attacks and you are tempted to doubt and despair speak out the promises that God has given you in today’s verse.

JESUS AND HIS FATHER

Bible Reading: John 5:17-30; 1 John 5:11-12

Remember the purpose of John’s Gospel? “But these are written so that you may continue to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing in him you will have life by the power of his name” [John 20:31 NLT]. At the beginning of his Gospel John declared that Jesus is God. Jesus revealed to the woman of Samaria that He is the Messiah. Now He declares publically that He and His Father are one – a direct statement of His deity. The Pharisees immediately wanted to kill Jesus because they regarded His statement as blasphemy [v.18].

Because Jesus was one with His Father, He lived, as God wanted Him to live. It is remarkable to think that Jesus could do nothing of Himself, and was totally dependent upon His Father. Twice in this passage Jesus says, “By myself I can do nothing” [John 5:19,30]. He does what He sees His Father doing and He speaks what He hears His Father speaking. In His relationship with His Father Jesus set us an example of how we should depend upon Him. The only Christian life that can possibly be successful is the life that is totally surrendered to God and is dependant upon Him. Jesus said, “Without Me you can do nothing” [John 15:5]. The final words of Eric Liddell, the great Scottish athlete and Christian missionary were, “It is complete surrender,” in reference of how he had given his life to God.

Here is a mystery! Jesus is one with the Father and the Father has given to Him certain responsibilities, and yet even in those responsibilities He is totally dependent upon His Father. Jesus has the life of the Father and He is “the life” [v.26 & John 14:6], through whom we live eternally. John reaffirms this in his first epistle, “And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son does not have life” [1 John 5:11-12].

Not only is Jesus our source of life, but the Father has also given to Him the authority to execute judgment [v.27]. In the next verse Jesus speaks about the day of resurrection, and that everyone will face judgment – some to eternal life and others to eternal condemnation. Although the Father has given the authority to Jesus to execute judgment, both Jesus and the Father are one in that judgment.

What a picture of Jesus – both Saviour and Judge! For those who put their trust in Him He promises both abundant and eternal life. To those who reject Him He is their judge! The key issue is, do you have the Son?

Questions:

What do you think that total dependency upon God looks like in practical terms?

What are two important responsibilities that the Father has given to Jesus?

In what way does Jesus’ dependency on the Father mirror the way he calls us to depend upon Him?

FOCUS ON THE POSITIVES

Bible Reading: John 5:1-16; Numbers 12:1-16

Isn’t it amazing that Jesus healed a man who had been infirmed for thirty-eight years and all that the religious leaders could do was criticise because it didn’t fit in with their way of thinking and their agendas. I find it hard to believe that they couldn’t even acknowledge and celebrate the wonderful thing that had happened in his life. What miserable and self-centred people those religious leaders must have been.

This morning, in our morning service, the preacher, Liam Parker, made this wonderful statement, “If we don’t like something, it is not the main thing – the main thing is loving God and loving people!” The great danger is focusing on secondary, unimportant and negative issues, and not rejoicing in the bigger picture of what God is doing.

Some years ago I listened to a teacher who drew a small black dot on a white board, and then asked the class what they saw. Almost all the students focussed on the black dot and not the huge expanse of white! It is so easy to see a person through our prejudiced eyes and thinking, rather than to focus on the positive things in their life.

When the Pharisees paraded openly a woman caught in the act of adultery, and wanted to kill her, Jesus didn’t condone her sin, but challenged the people who were condemning her. It is dangerous to judge others and forget our own weaknesses and failure. Jesus called this worrying about a speck in someone else’s eye when there is a log in your own eye [Matthew 7:1-5].

It does not take long for a negative attitude to become criticism, and spiritually that can be a killer. Miriam and Aaron had a negative attitude towards their brother, Moses. Instead of seeing his amazing walk with God and what he had achieved they chose to focus on what, in their eyes, was negative. They didn’t agree with the woman he had married. Not long after that they were criticising his leadership. That brought God’s judgment upon them.

Let’s make it our goal to focus on positives and not negatives. The apostle Paul said, “And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honourable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise” [Philippians 4:8 NLT]. Beware of seeing a little black dot and not seeing praiseworthy things in other people!

Questions:

Why do you think that the Pharisees failed to see the miracle and the blessing that this man received?

Why is it generally so much easier to be negative than to be positive? What can we do consistently to become more positive towards people?

What was the judgment that came upon Miriam because of her criticism of Moses and what was the opposite attitude of Moses, that caused her to be rescued from that judgment?

A PRINCIPLE AND ITS PRACTICE

Bible Reading: John 5:10-23; Exodus 20:8-10

The religious leaders were angry when they saw that the man infirmed for thirty-eight years was healed on the Sabbath, and when they realised that Jesus had healed this man on the Sabbath they began to persecute him, and wanted to kill Him. The problem for them was not that Jesus healed the man but that He did it on the Sabbath. In their interpretation of the law, the religious leaders considered healing on the Sabbath to be a violation of the law.

Jesus never sinned, and therefore had not broken the commandments. It was clearly not wrong to heal on the Sabbath! We must be careful not to equate rest with doing nothing. Although God rested on the seventh day after creation it does not mean he was doing nothing. Jesus said, “My Father is always working, and so am I” [John 5:17]. God continued to uphold the universe, to be there for the people who cried out to Him and to bless them. He never stops doing that. His mercies and faithfulness are new EVERY morning! The Psalmist said, “He neither slumbers nor sleeps” [Psalm 121:4].

In the Old Testament Jewish people preserved the Sabbath as a day that was different and to worship God. Sadly, the Jewish leaders added many new restrictive and often petty rules that were not part of God’s law. It was a failure to observe these added rules that brought Jesus into conflict with the Jewish leaders.

It is important that we meet together as believers to worship God and have a day that is not necessarily free of work but that is different – a day of rest and recreation. For the early church Sunday was the natural day to do that, because it was the day of Christ’s resurrection. It is understandable that this is not possible for everyone in today’s society, and in many parts of the world Sunday is a normal working day. Where it is possible, let’s keep Sunday as a day of worship and rest. Jesus summed this up by saying, “The Sabbath was made to meet the needs of people, and not people to meet the requirements of the Sabbath” [Mark 2:27 NLT].

One of my heroes was the great Scottish athlete Eric Liddell, immortalized in the film, “Chariots of Fire.” He always guarded his time of worship and rest on Sunday. When he discovered that the heats of the 100 metres in the 1924 Paris Olympics were on a Sunday he chose to withdraw, and instead run in the 400 metres which was his weaker event. Before the start of the race an American team member handed him a note on which was written a quotation from 1 Samuel 2:30: “Those who honour me I will honour.” He won the gold medal, and in the process broke both the Olympic and world records.

Questions:

If Sunday is your day that is different, how do you use it to honour God and allow Him to bring recreation and rest into your life?

If you are not able to use Sunday as a day that is different which day each week do you take for rest, recuperation and spending special time with the Lord?

PARALYZED IN THE HOUSE OF MERCY

Bible Reading: John 5:1-15

Once again Jesus is back in Jerusalem for a feast of the Jews. In chapters three to five of John’s Gospel we see three wrecked lives remarkably changed. Nicodemus was a religious wreck. The woman of Samaria was a moral wreck, and now Jesus heals a physical wreck at the pool of Bethesda in Jerusalem.

The word Bethesda means house of mercy, or house of kindness, and in that place of mercy was a multitude of sick people, blind, lame, and paralyzed. How ironic that they are found in the house of mercy! Even more tragic is the fact that these infirmities have also a spiritual connotation – people in the house of God, the church, who are spiritually unable to see, unable to walk and being stuck are unable to move forward. Their relationship with God is stunted and they are in great need.

In Bethesda, the House of Mercy, Jesus had compassion on an infirmed man, who was barely able to move. He had been in that state for thirty-eight years. We know from verse 14 that the root of the man’s problem was sin. Jesus said to him, “Go and sin no more!” Sin had opened the door to a spirit of infirmity. We don’t know what that sin was. It might have been unforgiveness, anger or bitterness. Similarly in the church, there are people who try to overcome their spiritual condition by religious activity, but remain paralyzed.

It was a popular belief among the people that at certain times an angel would trouble the waters at the pool of Bethesda, and the first person into the waters at that time would be healed. It is probably more likely that the waters bubbled up as a result of an intermittent spring. Every time this infirmed man tried to get into the water someone else got there before him. He was desperate, and we can feel the compassion of Jesus when the man says to Him, “I have no one to put me into the pool when the waters are troubled” [v.7]. On hearing this Jesus to say to him, “Rise, take up your bed and walk.”

The lame man took a step of faith and immediately was made whole. The root issue however, still had to be dealt with. Some time later Jesus found the man in the temple and told him to sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon him. His sin was forgiven, but now he must keep himself free. We too need to keep ourselves free when Jesus has cleansed us and set us free. For us, it is to be filled with the Holy Spirit, to live in obedience to God’s Word, to spend time in God’s presence, and be accountable to other believers in the body of Christ.

Questions:

Why is it so important for a Christian to keep clean and shut the door on every attack of the enemy?

Why is it that sin can have such an effect on a person physically? See also the story of the man with the palsy [Mark 2:1-12] and also James 5:14-16.

In what way did this man take a step of faith? What might have hindered him from believing after having been infirmed for thirty-eight years?

THE NOBLEMAN’S SON HEALED

Bible Reading: John 4:43-54

Recently a friend called my wife and I a “high mileage couple!” Jesus was certainly a high mileage person. He began in Judea and then travelled to Cana in Galilee, before returning to Jerusalem. From Jerusalem He travelled to Samaria and then back to Cana in Galilee, and all that recorded in the first four chapters of John’s Gospel and without our modern means of transport.

Back in Galilee the people still had a vivid memory of Jesus – not because of who He is, but because of what He had done. They had seen what Jesus had done in Jerusalem at the feats of the Passover [v.45, compare John 2:13-25], and many knew about the water being turned into wine [John 2:1-12]. It is one thing to know God’s power but another thing to know His Person and ways. David wrote, “God made known His ways to Moses, His acts to the children of Israel” [Psalm 103:7]. Writing about this verse, C.H. Spurgeon said, “It is wonderful to see God’s acts, but even more wonderful to know His ways.”

On this visit to Cana Jesus was approached by a nobleman whose son was sick. He was desperate because his son was dying and he knew about the amazing miracles that Jesus had done. We know little about this man except the word basilikos in Greek means ‘belonging to or befitting a sovereign.” It almost seems that Jesus is hard on this man, when he replies, “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will by no means believe” [v.48]. The man responds in desperation, “Sir, come down before my child dies’ [v.49]. This man is not interested in signs and wonders – he just wants his child to live, and Jesus responds to his faith by showing compassion on him. Signs and wonders are signs that make people wonder, and they do show the glory of God, but should not be the basis of our faith. Our focus should not be on signs and wonders but on the needs of hurting people, and of seeing God meet their needs, and when we do this we will see miracles and healings.

In the nobleman’s response to Jesus we see both faith and obedience. Jesus told him to go home and that his son would live. Later he realized that the fever left his son at the very moment that Jesus told him his son would live. As a result both he and his whole household believed on Jesus. Notice the progression. He came to Jesus believing that He could heal his son. He acted on the word of Jesus and believed his son would live, and as a result his whole household believed on Jesus.

Questions:

What do you learn about our attitude to signs and wonders and where our focus should be from this story?

Is someone you love and care about in great need? Based on this story what action can you take to help them?

Read Hebrews 11:1. What do you learn from this story about faith being the evidence of things not yet seen? How do you see faith growing in his life?

Why is it important to know God’s ways as well as His acts?

THE HARVESTER’S REWARD

Bible Reading: John 4:34-38

“And he who reaps receives wages, and gathers fruit for eternal life, that both he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together. For in this the saying is true: ‘One sows and another reaps.’ I sent you to reap that for which you have not laboured; others have laboured, and you have entered into their labours.” [John 4:36-38]

Many years ago I stayed on a farm and the farmer told me about harvest time.

He told me that it was intensive and hard work. He brought in all available local workers to supplement his own work force, and they worked for day after day from dawn to dusk. The only break they had was for a few minutes at mid-day to eat a sandwich and drink a flask of tea. At the end of a long day they would have a meal and sleep early, knowing that it would be a very early start the following morning. This intensive season of hard labour continued until all the harvest had been gathered in. When the work had been completed all the labourers sat down around the huge farmhouse table to enjoy a meal, and rejoiced that the harvest had been gathered in.

Among the people who reaped the harvest was the farmer and his faithful workers who had laboured [v.38], prepared the ground, sown the seed and regularly watered it. They also had to protect the seed from the birds that would try to steal it. The farmer had to watch and wait for his seed to grow and ripen. Without all that there would never have been the rejoicing around that farmhouse table at harvest time, when the sowers and the reapers would rejoice together.

In our Bible reading today we can see that both those who sow and those who reap the harvest get a reward [verse 36]. In the spiritual realm it is to gather in the harvest of souls for whom Jesus died, and we will only fully experience that reward in eternity. It is called gathering fruit for eternal life [v.36]. Jesus taught us to pray, “Your kingdom come” [Matthew 6:10]. For believers sowing and reaping is the outworking of that prayer. It is one thing to pray that prayer but another thing to actively work and minister in gathering in the harvest. Solomon said, “They who win souls are wise” [Proverbs 11:30]. Let us work to extend God’s kingdom while there is still time, and one day, like the farmer and his workers, we will rejoice together with Jesus at the marriage supper of the Lamb. What a day that will be! Some years ago I heard a preacher quote this short but powerful statement:

Only one life, it will soon be past, only what’s done for Jesus will last

Questions:

Why did Jesus emphasize the importance of both those who sow and those who reap both being rewarded?

Using this story as the basis, what does it mean to sow and to reap in today’s context? How do you see this happening in your own society where you live?

What are you doing personally to act upon Jesus’ prayer and see God’s kingdom come?

THE HARVEST IS READY TO BE REAPED

Bible Reading: John 4:27-38

The response of the Samaritan woman and then the people of Samaria who responded to His message must have filled Jesus with great joy, and in that context he spoke about a whitened harvest being ready to be reaped. Notice that Jesus used the plural fields when speaking about the harvest. He was speaking of more than just the Samaritans but the harvest among other peoples and nations.

This was not the only time that Jesus spoke about the harvest. He said to His disciples, “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the labourers are few” [Matthew 9:36-38]. At that time Jesus was teaching, preaching and healing the sick [Matthew 9:35]. What exactly was the harvest that Jesus was speaking about? Seeing the Samaritans respond, and other people so open to His message, led Jesus to say that the fields were ready for harvesting.

A closer look Matthew 9:36 reveals that Jesus saw a multitude of people, who were weary, scattered and like sheep without a shepherd. The phrase “sheep without a shepherd” speaks of people having no one to care for them, to feed them or to lead them. Here is the harvest field – people who are weary, hungry, uncared for, disillusioned and looking for someone to lead them. Perhaps the Samaritan woman exactly fitted this picture. These needy people are not the self-sufficient and self-righteous people who saw no need of salvation or of a Saviour but the scattered broken and lost. Every community has these people who are ready to be brought into God’s kingdom.

Five years ago a well-known missiologist said that in the coming years the greatest missionary harvest will be among migrant peoples. Today I have talked with the leaders of a school who are preparing people to minister among migrant peoples. These migrant people exactly fit the picture that Jesus had of people scattered, weary, broken and without spiritual leadership.

The danger is that we will put off this call until a more convenient time. Jesus said, “Do you not say, ‘It is still four months until the harvest comes?’ Look, I say to you, raise your eyes and look at the fields and see, they are white for harvest” [John 4:35 Amp. Bible]. Solomon wrote, “He who observes the wind will not sow, and he who regards the clouds will not reap” [Eccles. 11:4]. Let’s not excuse ourselves and put off until another day what we should be doing today. Today is the time to gather in the harvest for God’s kingdom.

Questions:

Who, in your community, are the people who fit Jesus’ description of the scattered, weary, and like sheep without a shepherd?

What are the most common excuses of Christians who choose not to seek to gather in this harvest of people who are around them?

How do you personally respond to Jesus’ call to gather in the harvest? Will you pray and ask the Lord to send labourers to gather the harvest, and will you also respond to His call?

SATISFIED IN DOING GOD’S WILL

Bible Reading: John 4:27-38

Jesus speaks in terms of the physical world to teach about the different realities of the spiritual world. He began at the well by asking for a drink, but then spoke about “living water.” Now He takes a question about food and talks about priorities and spiritual nourishment. Then He speaks about the whitened harvest and a spiritual harvest. Finally, He speaks about the physical acts of sowing and reaping, and then about sowing and reaping in the spiritual realm. When Jesus speaks it is always so practical and easy to understand.

Jesus had not eaten after the long journey from Judea and His disciples had gone into the nearby city to find food. They had left Jesus at the well, where He spoke with the woman of Samaria. When the disciples returned with food, the disciples were confused because Jesus did not appear to be hungry. They urged Him to eat, but He responded by saying, “I have food to eat of which you do not know” [v.32]. The disciples wondered if someone else had brought Jesus food, not understanding that He was talking about spiritual food.

As He did the will of His Father and ministered life to the woman of Samaria Jesus was physically satisfied. The accomplishment of His mission was more important to Jesus than physical food. Elsewhere we read Jesus quoting from the Book of Deuteronomy, and saying, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but every word that comes from the mouth of God” [Deuteronomy 8:3; Luke 4:4; Matthew 4:4].

There is spiritual nourishment that comes from doing God’s will. John’s Gospel strongly emphasizes that Jesus came to do God’s will. Jesus said, “For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of Him who sent Me” [John 6:38]. He was totally dependent upon the Father. What He saw the Father doing He did, and what He heard the Father speaking He spoke [John 5:19, 30]. His heart was always to glorify His Father [John 7:18].

As Jesus ministered so powerfully to the woman of Samaria, He would no doubt have had tremendous joy at leading her to salvation, and that joy would sustain Him, because He was doing the Father’s will, and the joy of the Lord would be His strength [Nehemiah 8:12]. This is not to say that we should starve ourselves of physical food, but we need to have a right balance between physical and spiritual nourishment.

Questions:

Why is it of the utmost importance that every Christian believer discovers the will of God for his or her life? What does this mean to you personally?

We know that we get spiritual nourishment from reading God’s Word and from prayer, but in what way are we nourished by doing God’s will and blessing others?

What was the food that Jesus spoke about when He said to His disciples that He had food that they did not know about?