Any good lawyer understands that the testimony of a witness can either make or break his case. Without witnesses it is difficult to prove that anybody did anything, was anywhere, or accomplished what he set out to accomplish. And more than that, a case is made stronger by the witness of two or three individuals. The value of witnesses is even mentioned by Paul in 1 Timothy 5:19, “Do not receive an accusation against an elder except on the basis of two or three witnesses.” If a claim cannot be substantiated by more than one person, according to Paul, it is best not to make bold statements.
Jesus Christ claimed a great many things; including His kingship over all the world, His own deity and equality with God, He claimed that He is the Way, the Truth, and Life and that nobody could come to God but through Him, He claimed that it is by His blood that we are sanctified, He claimed that He could conquer death, He claimed that He could heal the sick, feed the hungry, give sight to the blind, give strength to the feeble, He claimed that he could rise again from His own death upon a cross and ascend into Heaven on a cloud!
Those are pretty big statements, and ones that are hard to prove. But, as He will claim in John 5:31-39, Christ had witnesses to all of these assertions. Witnesses, as He says in the text, that are stronger than the witness of simple men!
People of the world tend to disregard Christ. They see the stories about miracles as simply fictional adaptations of the life of a really good man. They consider Christ either a simple man or a man who was crazy. People do not want to believe that Christ is the Son of God! And we have to make a defense for Him. We have to know how to prove Christ to even the most stalwart unbelievers! Like defense attorneys, we must make reference to witnesses and show the world that Christ is who He claims He is.
After all, Christ said Himself that “if I alone bear witness to Myself, My testimony is not true.” If there had been no witnesses, no prophecies, no John the Baptist, no “Behold, My Son, in Whom I am well-pleased,” no proof, then Jesus of Nazareth would have been just another Messianic imposter.
I want to look at the text for a while, then, to study and understand the witnesses of Christ. What proved His deity and His authority? According to Christ, it began with John the Baptist, followed by the works that He did and the miracles He performed, then He references His Father, the God Almighty, as a witness, and finally, He asserts that the scriptures themselves give witness to the truth and validity of His statements.
John 5:33 – “You have sent to John and he has borne witness to the truth.” 34 “But the witness which I receive is not from man, but I say these things that you may be saved.” 35 “He was the lamp that was burning and was shining and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light.”
John the baptizer was born shortly before Jesus of Nazareth. His father and mother were Jews living in a city of Judea. His mother, Elizabeth, a cousin of Mary of Nazareth, was barren but was given the privilege of baring a child when an angel visited her husband Zacharias. The child born to them would fulfill prophecies found in the Old Testament such as Malachi 4:5. The angel even quotes prophecy to Zacharias in Luke 1:15-17.
So John himself was a fulfillment of prophecy, and he made appeals to his validity with the scripture. What, then, was the purpose of John the baptizer? He was sent ahead of Christ, to start his ministry before the preaching of Christ in order to prepare the hearts of the people for the coming of the Messiah. John’s mission was to let people know that Christ was imminent and that there hearts needed to be ready, and there actions needed be like “fruits in keeping with repentance” (Luke 3:8). He baptized people for purpose of repentance, not with the Holy Spirit, but with water which acts as only a sign of the blood of Christ. John says in Luke 3:16, “As for me, I baptize you with water; but One is coming who is mightier than I, and I am not fit to untie the thong of his sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”
In our text in John, Christ claims that John the Baptist came as a witness to Him, to attest to and prove His validity. The reason why this would be valuable is because the people anticipated Christ’s coming, essentially, since the Garden of Eden. They knew that a king would come and lead them to peace and safety and they saw John as the sign of imminence.
Christ says in our text that “you have sent to John.” In fact, many disciples did ask John what he thought of Jesus. We see these events in John 3:26-30.
The Witness of the Works
John 5:36 – “But the witness which I have is greater than that of John; for the works which the Father has given Me to accomplish, the very works that I do, bear witness of Me, that the Father has sent Me.”
But Christ immediately says that He does not need the witness of any man. He does not even need the witness of John the baptist. Rather, the witness that He has is greater than that of any man. To legitimize His claim to authenticity, Christ asserts that the very works prove that He is the Messiah.
Consider the perspective of His audience during His ministry on this earth. For the people of Palestine and the surrounding regions, miracles were only things written in their history, not a commonplace event of the time. According to Old Testament history, no legitimate prophet of God had appeared for the people in about 400 years!
But then this man from Nazareth appears on the scene claiming that He is the One, the Christ. Skeptical yet? Perhaps. But then He proves it by profusely pouring miracles on the people, to such an extent, in fact, that a person need only touch the garments on Jesus’ back to be healed of his infirmities (Matthew 9:20-22).
Let us notice a few things about the miracles of Christ. First, He did His miracles, for the most part, in public, in plain view, often right in front of His most stubborn unbelievers. Even in the face of the guards who were to carry Him away, Christ still healed the temple servant’s ear. He also healed a great many people in the temple and on the steps of the city where the Pharisees could witness the events. He fed thousands of people more than once with nothing more than a snack for a single man. He walked on water before a crowd of people. And on the day He ascended to be with God, He did it in broad daylight, on a cloud, in front of a great multitude. There was no miracle that Christ committed that He did not do for the benefit of those standing by.
Second, Christ’s miracles are actually miraculous! Consider Pentecostals and other Evangelical groups today; they claim that their miracles provide witness to their legitimacy as modern-day apostles. But there is certainly nothing miraculous when a person claims to be speaking in tongues, yet provides no interpretation for those present. Paul wrote that any man who speaks in a tongue ought to have some means of interpretation in 1 Corinthians 14:13. And anybody can push a woman to the floor and say that the Holy Spirit has filled her soul! And any con artist can claim that He has the power to heal when he has a teleprompter, an ear piece, and the right amount of drama in his voice.
Without the means to prove a miracle, then a miracle is useless. But Christ was the opposite. He could prove His miracles, and He chose very well who to heal. Three examples, in particular, prove this point.
First consider the story of Legion in Luke 8:26-39. The man possessed by the demon Legion was a prominent figure in the Gerasene community. Many times before, the people had tried to shackle him up, yet he had escaped. He was also living amongst the tombs, near a busy road. People knew who he was, and they knew his condition. But after Christ came along, they were amazed at the change that occurred in the man. Clothed and calm!
Another prominent miracle happened to a man blind from birth. We find this story in John 9. The man is asked by the Lord to wash out his eyes in the Pool of Siloam and his sight was given to him. Notice how public the miracle was, first of all, and then realize that this miracle was completely provable! Everybody in that area knew the man had been blind since birth, and even his parents are questioned about the condition of his eyes and whether or not this man was even their true son. Can any televangelist prove his miracles with testimony from numerous sources? Can his results be so infallible?
Christ’s death, burial and resurrection prove themselves more than any of His miracles. What man can be witnessed as dead by thousands of people – people who saw him hang on a cross, saw him beaten to a bloody mess, saw him buried in a tomb and wrapped in linens – and then walk out of His tomb three days later alive? How can that miracle be disproved?! Christ promised this miracle in Matthew 17:23 when He said, “and they will kill Him, and He will be raised on the third day” and He proved the miracle by doing it!
The Witness of the Father
John 5:37 – “And the Father who sent Me, He has borne witness of Me. You have neither heard His voice at any time, nor seen His form.”
This third appeal to validity goes straight to the top! No other witness can be called that is greater than the voice of the Living God! And Christ is not afraid to make the bold statement that He comes directly from the Father of all the world. Essentially, Christ is presenting the testimony of the greatest authority He can appeal to. It would be like a man appealing to the supreme court, or a soldier receiving pardon from the President of the United States, the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces. Christ is taking His claim to validity straight to the top!
The most convincing statement is that we have not even seen God, and that such authority is far beyond the reach of man. Only Christ has seen the Father, therefore, only Christ can claim such a witness to his validity. Christ says in John 17:25, “O righteous Father, although the world has not known Thee, yet I have known Thee. . .”
At no point has God ever revealed Himself in His true form, for such a vision would be too powerful for the human eyes, too breathtaking for any man’s heart! God has appeared as a burning bush, a pillar of fire, a dove upon Christ’s brow, and other forms. He has sent His angels and His prophets and He has sent His glorious Son, but at no point has He come Himself to this world.
So when God, who cannot be seen by mortal men, says to Christ, “Thou art my beloved Son, in Whom I am well-pleased” (Luke 3:22) we cannot help but be in awe of the authority imparted to Christ! This is God’s own Son!
Christ is not simply a man, as some would believe. He is not simply a carpenter. He is not simply a very wise prophet, or a socialite out to preach about hunger problems in third-world countries. Christ is exactly who He says He is in His Gospels – The Messiah and the Savior!
Consider what this means, then. There is a whole world of people out there who want to separate the authority of God from Christ, as if we do not need Christ as long as we have the Father. We here the argument, “Well, as long as you believe in some God, then you’re okay! You don’t have to believe in Christ, specifically!”
It seems that that is not what Christ wants, though, and it is not what God wants, either. If God is going to bear witness to Christ, then He is giving Christ the headship over all. It is essentially like an endorsement from a political leader for another. God is putting His stamp on Jesus and cementing His claim to the throne of this world. Turn to 1 John 2:22-23. Here, we see that without the Son, there is no Father. Without the Father, there is no Son. They are the same God, with the same will and intent. In a previous verse, 1 John 2:1, we find that we have only one advocate with the Father, and that is the Son, Jesus Christ. And there is no other propitiation for our sins but Christ. As He says in John 14:6, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life, no one comes to the Father but through Me. . .”
John 5:38 – “And you do not have His word abiding in you, for you do not believe Him whom He sent.” 39 “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is these that bear witness of Me;”
Understand first of all that the Pharisees and priests of the time were very interested in the letter of the Law of Moses. They followed it strictly, yet without any heart. So an appeal to the Scriptures would be very appropriate for them. They have their entire history recorded in the Scripture, yet within those chronicles lies every detail of importance in the life of their Messiah!
Essentially, Christ is saying to them, “You think you understand the words of God. You think you have this whole thing figured out. But you don’t because you don’t believe in the very thing that these scriptures are trying to prove!” The purpose of the Old Law was to prepare a people for the Law of Christ. The sacrificial system, along with all its trappings and details and ordinances, was simply a shadow of the better Law under our Lord Jesus Christ. A mere shadow! And it, too, was a witness to the validity of the claim of Jesus.
Christ had all the scriptures to back Him up! He proved every prophecy and fulfilled, exactly, everything that was given to Him to accomplish on this earth (Luke 24:44). And God makes it clear that Christ will not fail in His mission in Isaiah 55:11.
Consider, now, some of the prophecies that were fulfilled by the Jesus; turn to Genesis 3:15, a prophecy that is completed by the death and resurrection of Christ. Christ even says in Luke 10:18-19, “I was watching Satan fall from heaven like lightning. Behold, I have given you authority to tread upon serpents and scorpions and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall injure you.”
Now look at Psalm 22. The psalm is even quoted by Christ as He is hanging upon the cross – a last plea to the people to consider what they were doing. Look at all the phrases in this psalm that are fulfilled in Christ! “For dogs have surrounded Me; a band of evil doers has encompassed Me; they pierced My hands and My feet. I can count all my bones.”
In Isaiah 7:14 we read that a virgin will bear a son and His name shall be Immanuel, which means “God with us.” Isaiah 9:1 says that the salvation of the Gentiles will come from the land of Galilee. Turn to Isaiah 9:6-7. Another specific prophecy is in Isaiah 29:18-19. The book of Jeremiah is also filled with prophecies concerning the Lord, Jesus Christ. One in particular is found in Jeremiah 23:3-6,11. We find so many phrases here that are specific events in the life of Christ.
But when most of us look for proof of Christ’s validity, we often turn to the highly emotional and graphic depiction of Christ’s death in Isaiah 53:2-9. From every word, we gain an understanding of the deep pain and anguish felt by our Lord and brother in the family of God. We see the awful details and grotesque images of his suffering and mortal pain. Consider the words, read them slowly, and dwell upon the sacrifice of Jesus.
And, perhaps, this is the best place to end our discussion of the validity of Christ. There is no greater act for man to do than to give his life for his friends. Christ said it Himself. And there is no other sacrifice that proves Christ’s validity more than the act of His crucifixion.
Christ came to this earth as a man, from His high seat at the right hand of God. He had all the proof He needed to secure His kingdom and to win the hearts of lost souls. John the baptist gave witness to the truth of Christ. The Father Himself gave testimony to His truth. The scriptures prove Christ time and time again with every accurate detail of His life. And, perhaps more than anything, Christ’s willingness to die for the sins of mankind prove that He Is the Son of God, that He Is at the right hand at this moment, and that He is the King and Lord of all the earth, without exception! Christ had all the witnesses he needed to prove His case!
Maybe you are not a Christian. Maybe you have never been convinced that Jesus of Nazareth was anything at all, let alone a King and the Son of the Most High and living God. It may be hard to accept such a statement. You may be skeptical. But Christ gave us all the proof we need. Peter writes in 2 Peter 1:3 that God has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness. All we need to find salvation is right here in front of us, and if you cannot accept it, if you choose not to believe it, then you have rejected life itself.
Christ says in Mark 16:16 that “he who believes and is baptized shall be saved. . .” Why not believe in Christ now and obey His Word?