Witness For The Defense Of Jesus

Bible Book: John  5 : 16-47
Subject: Jesus
Series: That You May Believe

How many of you have ever served on a jury? A few years ago I did. I had been summoned before but never actually got to the trial itself because my number was never low enough...but not this time. This time I made it all the way through jury selection - the whole deal - and I have to say: It was very cool - pretty much just like those lawyer shows on TV - just not as dramatic.

There were twelve of us on the jury. The bailiff had us rise when the judge entered. He wore a black robe and carried a gavel. We heard both sides present their case. Witnesses were called and lawyers said things like “objection!” The judge said things like “over-ruled” or “sustained.” The judge even asked the attorneys to “approach the bench” a couple times - and used a “white noise” button so we couldn’t hear their conversations.

Once both the defense and the prosecution “rested” all 12 of us filed into a real live jury room to deliberate. We chose a foreman and voted. It didn’t take us long because the man was obviously innocent...but it was still a wonderful experience that made me proud of our legal process here in America. I even got paid a whopping $15 for my troubles!


If - like me - you enjoy legal drama - then you’ll love this morning’s text because John’s testimony in the last part of chapter 5 is the record of a “trial” of sorts that took place during Jesus’ earthly ministry. Our text begins with verse 16 but in the interests of time I want to start reading at verse 31 where Jesus, the “defendant” says to the prosecutors in this case, A.K.A. “the Pharisees:”

31 - “If I testify about Myself, My testimony is not valid.

32 - There is Another Who testifies in My favor, and I know that His testimony about Me is valid.

33 - You have sent to John and he has testified to the truth.

34 - Not that I accept human testimony; but I mention it that you may be saved.

35 - John was a lamp that burned and gave light, and you chose for a time to enjoy his light.

36 - 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.

37 - And the Father Who sent Me has Himself testified concerning Me. You have never heard His voice nor seen His form,

38 - nor does His Word dwell in you, for you do not believe the One He sent.

39 - You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about Me,

40 - yet you refuse to come to Me to have life.

41 - I do not accept praise from men,

42 - but I know you. I know that you do not have the love of God in your hearts.

43 - 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.

44 - 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?

45 - But do not think I will accuse you before the Father. Your accuser is Moses, on whom your hopes are set.

46 - If you believed Moses, you would believe Me, for he wrote about Me.

47 - But since you do not believe what he wrote, how are you going to believe what I say?”

If you were here last week then you should remember that the 5th chapter of John’s gospel is a “hinge chapter” in that it records a time when Jesus’ earthly ministry turned a corner and a new phase of opposition to our Lord began to build - organized opposition from the Jewish religious leaders. It was just as John said back in his first chapter, “He - Jesus - came to His own but His own received Him not.” (John 1:11) From now on this kind of rejection would be a continual thing. It would build until the point that Jesus was crucified.

We see the beginnings of this CONTINUED attack on Jesus’ ministry reflected in the TENSE of the verbs that John uses. Look back at verse 16 and I’ll show you what I mean. It says, “So, because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jews persecuted Him.” The verbs here are in the IMPERFECT tense and that means they refer to ONGOING action. It starts here when Jesus returned to Jerusalem for the feast...but it kept on going. So understand, this wasn’t a one time deal. No - Jesus continually did things that upset the Pharisees - like healing people on the Sabbath. He kept on breaking their man-made rules...and the Pharisees kept on persecuting Him for it. It was like Newton’s law that I talked about last Sunday. Jesus kept on “gracing” people and the legalists kept opposing Him for it to the point that their attacks took the form of a drumhead TRIAL of sorts. Rather than hauling Jesus into a real court, every chance they got the temple officials brought the makeshift courtroom to Jesus. They assumed the role of prosecutor and hoped the jury of public opinion would side with them.

In verse 18 John tells us that in their drumhead trial they charged Jesus with two “crimes:”

“...breaking the Sabbath...” and...
“...calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God.”

Jesus’ response whenever they made these charges was basically to say, “guilty as charged.” In fact, He justified His “crime” of breaking of their Sabbath traditions by saying that He was indeed God in the flesh. Look at verse 16. Jesus said: “My Father is always at His work to this very day, and I, too, am working.” Jesus was saying: “Look - I am God’s Son - I am God become flesh - and as the Author of the Sabbath law, I interpret it, not you. God is always at work - even on the Sabbath - and as God’s Son, I am always at work.”

And of course this is true. The Genesis record tells us that God rested from CREATION on the 7th day but His higher works of judgement and mercy and compassion and love went on. Listen people, if God ever stopped working - if He ever stopped doing what He does - we would cease to exist. I like how Philo put it: “God never ceases DOING. As it is the property of fire to burn and snow to chill, so it is the property of God to DO.”

In any case, verses 19-30 this trial continued as Jesus began His defense in earnest by basically saying, “The testimony I am about to give is absolutely true - so help Me, ME...because, Yes - I am God’s only begotten Son.” And please understand, whenever He said that, the Pharisees would have heard Jesus making the claim to be God in the flesh. You see, as C. S. Lewis points out, the word, “begotten” demands that Jesus BE God, because we only beget IN KIND with what we are. Humans beget humans, and God begets God. Yes - men and women are said to become God’s children - but through adoption. Jesus is never spoken of as “becoming” God’s Son but rather that He’s always been God’s Son. So, with these words, His clear, bold, claim was that He was God - God become flesh.

Now - liberal theologians say this isn’t true - that Jesus never said He was God. But the only way you can say He didn’t is to ignore this part of John’s gospel - and other texts as well like: John 1:1-3, where he said, “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word WAS God. All things were made by Him and without Him was not any thing made that was made.”

Here’s a second: John 20:28 where Thomas said to Jesus, “My Lord and MY GOD.”

...and Hebrews 1:3 where it says, “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His being, sustaining all things by His powerful word.”

I could go on - but if anyone ever tells you that Jesus didn’t claim to be God, say, “That is not true!” and point them to these verses.

Well, to support His claim to Divinity, in His “opening arguments” Jesus told the Pharisees that He does things only God can. Here’s a quick summary.

In verses 19-20 Jesus says He is equal with God.
In verse 21 He says that, as God, He is the giver of life.
In verses 22-23 Jesus says He is the final Judge.
In verse 24 He says He will determine the eternal destiny of humanity.
In verses 25-29, Jesus says He will raise the dead.
In verse 30 He says He is always doing the will of God.

Now - how do you think these Jewish religious leaders FELT as Jesus made these bold claims? I think they were SEETHING! I think they thought, “HOW DARE HE! WHO DOES HE THING HE IS?!” In fact, I think that there was a miracle going on in this part of the trail. I believe Jesus literally held them in place so that they were forced to hear His teaching. Otherwise they surely would have grabbed stones and began to attempt to kill Jesus on the spot. I mean, Jesus was clearly - boldly - CONTINUALLY claiming to be God. Well, after 12 verses in which Jesus repeatedly says He has the authority to do things that only God can do He says, “Listen, if I testify about Myself, My testimony is not valid.” (Verse 31)

At this point Jesus was in essence holding up a law book and reading from it because in both Jewish, Greek, and Roman law, one’s witness by itself was not considered admissible evidence.

For example: Deuteronomy 19:15 says: “One witness is not enough to convict a man accused of any crime or offense he may have committed. A matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.” So in verse 31 Jesus was simply bowing to the rabbinical demand for witnesses outside Himself as to His true nature. As we just read, their law called for not more than three witnesses, but Jesus went the law two better as He proceeded in verses 32-47 to cite FIVE witnesses to prove His words were true. Jesus was going the 2nd mile here and in verse 32 He literally starts at the top because His first witness was:

(1) GOD.

Jesus said, “There is ANOTHER Who testifies in My favor and I know that His testimony about Me is valid.” (Vs 32) Now Jesus didn’t mention the Father’s NAME here. He did that later in verse 37 - but this word that is translated “another” means “another of the SAME KIND” so that’s what He was saying. He was saying that God the Father had verified His claim -

- and this was a BRILLIANT legal maneuver. I like what Swindoll points out here. He writes, “Without denying complete unity or oneness with the Father, Jesus treated the Father’s testimony as independent. If His accusers objected, they would have admitted that He and the Father are indeed one being or “essence.” By failing to object, His accusers had to receive the independent testimony of the Almighty into evidence.”

Well, I’m sure citing this first Witness really ticked the Pharisees off because these guys considered themselves to be extremely religious people. They were God’s chosen people and PROUD of it. I mean, not only did they know it, they let everybody else know it. But even THAT wasn’t exclusive enough for these people, because ALL Israelites were God’s chosen people...so just being a Jew was way too common for these Jewish leaders. In their minds, they were UNCOMMON. They were the religious cream of the crop. They were Pharisees. They wore their righteousness on their sleeve. The clothes that they wore told people how religious they were. The way that they talked told people how religious they were. The way they ate - and who they ate with - told people how religious they were. They piously prayed out loud so everybody would know how holy they were. Everything they did was religious. And everything religious that they did, they did it in public so everyone could see. So - if anyone was in touch with God, these people should have been. After all, they were the elite among God’s chosen people and very proud of it. But what did Jesus tell them? In essence He said, “God the Father bears witness of Me! But there’s no way that you guys could know that. You couldn’t know that because you have no idea who God is. You don’t know anything about God. You’ve never heard Him. You certainly have never seen Him. You haven’t even seen His shape or His form.”

Now - this doesn’t mean these proud Pharisees hadn’t had the OPPORTUNITY to hear the Father’s voice because God has spoken audibly about Who Jesus was. Remember? At Jesus’ baptism God said, “This is My own dear Son, in Whom I am well pleased.” (Matt 3:17) The Father also gave audible testimony to His Son at Jesus’ transfiguration (Matt 17:5). On each of these occasions, the Father affirmed that yes, Jesus was His Son.

The Pharisees should have believed. After all, God had SAID so. Jehovah Himself had born witness that Jesus was Who He claimed to be. I’m reminded of the popular bumper sticker that says, “God said it; I believe it; that settles it” Have any of you seen one of them? Now - think about that bumper sticker statement for a moment. Wouldn’t you say that’s a bit arrogant? How about this as an alternative bumper sticker: “God says it; that settles it.” I mean, it doesn’t matter whether I believe it. It’s settled long before my assent. If God almighty opens His holy mouth and declares something, we don’t need another witness. It’s over. It’s settled. Amen?

So, Jesus could have stopped there but He respected their legal process and continued to call witnesses in His defense. His next was...

(2) JOHN the Baptist.

In verse 33 Jesus said, “You have sent to John and he testified to the truth.”

Now...in verse 34 Jesus made it clear that as God, He didn’t need to appeal to a mere MAN to bear witness of Himself. I mean, John’s witness didn’t MAKE Jesus the Son of God. Jesus of course was God’s Son WITHOUT John’s witness. But, Jesus says, “I’ve called attention to it that you might possibly believe and be saved.” After all, in verse 35 Jesus says, “John was a lamp that burned and gave light, and you chose for a time to enjoy his light.” Jesus was reminding His accusers that, until Herod the Tetrarch took John’s life on a whim, along with all of Israel, these Pharisees had ENJOYED John’s ministry. I mean, everyone went out there in the desert to hear John preach. He drew multitudes both because he was entertaining to hear and watch...and also because he represented the restoration of the Old Testament office of prophet. There hadn’t been a prophet of God in Israel for 400 years. So, John the Baptist was popular.

There was a time when he was more famous than Jesus. Every Jew in Israel had heard of John the Baptist. Even the Pharisees had send emissaries to hear John preach. These emissaries would have heard and reported on this desert celebrity’s testimony. They would have heard him say of Jesus, “Behold the Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world.” They would have heard John say, “This is He of Whom I said, After me comes a Man Who is preferred before me for He was before me.” (John 1:30) They would have heard John proclaim, “I saw and bare record that this Jesus is the Son of God.” (1:34) I mean, the Pharisees respected John - and John constantly pointed people to Jesus. In John 3:31 he said, “The One Who comes from above is above all; the one who is from the earth belongs to the earth, and speaks as one from the earth. The One Who comes from Heaven is above all.” Then in verses 34-36, John went on to say, “The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in His hands. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him.”

Well, by using John the Baptist as a witness for the defense Jesus was reminding His accusers of how John the Baptist testified that Jesus was God. But before we go any further there’s a beautiful thing here that I don’t want you to miss. John had faithfully borne witness to Jesus...and here Jesus is bearing witness to John. I think this is a great example of what Jesus wants to do someday when we stand before the Father in glory. He wants to say, “Father, this is Mark....he’s a forgiven sinner like all My followers...but he confessed Me before men and now I want to acknowledge him before You.” I’m basing this on Jesus’ words in Matthew 10:32-33 where He says, “Whoever acknowledges Me before men, I will also acknowledge Him before My Father in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, I will deny Him before My Father in heaven.”

In any case Jesus was pointing to John - someone the Pharisees at least begrudgingly respected - and saying, “Listen to him. He testified that I am God’s Son.” It was much like we point to a celebrity like Tony Dungee or Joe Gibbs and say, “You respect these guys. Because of their coaching expertise you hang on their every word. Listen to what THEY say about Jesus Christ. They are believers. They are Christ-followers. Listen to them.” Well, even though the Pharisees enjoyed listening to John the Baptist, they obviously didn’t hear a word that he said because they refused to see Jesus as God.

Knowing this Jesus called His third witness:


Look at verse 36 where Jesus refers to this and says, “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.”

You know, for all of the ways that John the Baptist testified of Jesus, he never performed a single miracle, did he? But Jesus did. Jesus did things - He did WORK that only God could do - as a SIGN that He was God in the flesh and at least one of the Pharisees responded to these SIGNS or miracles. Do you remember Nicodemus’ words when he came to Jesus by night? He said, “Rabbi, we know that You are a Teacher come from God, for no one can do these SIGNS that You do...unless God is with him.” (John 3:2) That was sound reasoning on Nicodemus’ part. He understood that Jesus’ ability to do miracles meant that God endorsed Him. And that kind of reasoning is what Jesus was appealing to here. He was saying, “If you won’t believe My WORDS - believe My WORKS. My works ought to be enough to prove to you that I am sent by the Father.” In John 10:37-38 Jesus used the same platform saying, “Do not believe Me unless I do what My Father does. But if I do it, even though you do not believe Me, believe the miracles, that you may know and understand that the Father is in Me and I in the Father.”

Another thing - when John was in prison and began to wonder if he had been mistaken - he sent emissaries to Jesus to find out for sure if Jesus were the Messiah, or if he should wait for another.

What did Jesus say to them? He said, “You go back and tell John the Baptist the things you see and hear...tell Him that the BLIND receive their sight...and the lame walk....and the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear...and the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached unto them. Tell John about the WORKS that I am doing - WORKS only God could do!”

The late Bishop Ryle called attention to five things about Jesus’ miracles.

Their NUMBER - they were not a FEW but MANY.
Their GREATNESS - they were not LITTLE but MIGHTY.
Their PUBLICITY - they were not done in a corner but generally in the open day and before many witnesses and often before His enemies.
Their CHARACTER - they were works of love and mercy and compassion - helpful and beneficial to man.
They were VISIBLE - and would stand examination.
They were NOT STAGED - they happened in the normal course of His ministry. There was nothing pre-arranged about them.
Their EFFICACY - Christ’s cures were perfect and complete...people were fully healed.

But, remember - Jesus didn’t do miracles to attract a crowd. He didn’t even do miracles primarily to meet people’s physical needs. Jesus did miracles to bear witness to the fact that He was and is God.

Well, you would think that healing the blind and lame and raising the dead...you would think His miracles would be enough, wouldn’t you? But Jesus didn’t stop there.

(4) He provided another witness: the SCRIPTURES

Look back at verses 39 and 40. Jesus says, “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.

Now as Jesus infers here, if anyone knew the Scriptures backwards and forwards, it was these people. After all, they were experts in the law of God. They knew every jot and title of every single commandment. They knew it so well they could spot a sinner a mile away. They just couldn’t recognize the one that was reflected in their mirror every morning. You see, they read the Scripture in order to apply it to other people’s lives. They used God’s written Word as a whip and not a mirror. Do you know anyone like that...someone who loves to criticize others but is blind to their own shortcomings?

Even worse - these guys thought that if they could just follow the law to the tee, they would have eternal life. I mean, they thought that they could be righteous enough to EARN godliness. Do you know what that means? It means that they might have known a lot of things about the Bible, but they didn’t know the God of the Bible. If they had known the God of the Bible, they would have known they could never be holy enough. Plus - if they had known the God of the Bible they would have known the One Who was standing before them. Because, from cover to cover, their Scriptures testified of Jesus. As someone once put it, “Cut the Scriptures anywhere and they bleed with the blood of the Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world.”

The Scriptures these Pharisees studied week after week...these writings they had devoted themselves to copying and preserving they contained nine centuries FULL of Messianic prophesy, which Jesus had fulfilled precisely. How could they NOT see Who Jesus was?! I can’t help but think of a segment of Good Morning America! that I saw this week. It featured an interview with Stephen Hawkings in which he talked about his new book...a book in which Hawkings says science proves that the universe began from nothing. When I heard that I thought, “Hey - maybe he’s about to talk about intelligent design!” Maybe this genius has figured it out!

But then Hawkings said that the laws of physics make a creator - GOD - unnecessary. I thought,

“How can he be so smart and not get it? How can you see that the universe began from nothing...and NOT deduce that something or Someone must have started the creative process?

I mean, even I know that nothing comes from nothing unless there is an outside force. How can you understand the amazingly intricate laws of physics and NOT conclude that there had to be a “law Writer?”...SOMEONE wrote those laws of physics and programed them into the universe’s operation?”

I mean, as Romans 1:20-22 says, “Since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities - His eternal power and divine nature - have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools...”

Well, I respect Hawkings for the brave way he has responded to his physical handicaps but I don’t respect him for the way he has used the amazing mind God has given him. I mean, in spite of his great intellect, he is a fool - because he has said in his heart there is no God. And these Pharisees were just as foolish - just as blind! Listen friends, when you boil it all down - when you rightly divide this Word of truth, the Bible only points to one thing - the Bible always and only points to Jesus.

Thus far in His defense Jesus has called four witnesses so far: God, John the Baptist, Miracles, and the Scriptures, but when you remember who His opponents were, I’m sure you’ll agree His last witness was truly brilliant.

(5) You see, Jesus’ fifth and final witness was MOSES.

Look back at verses 45-47 where Jesus says, “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?”

In these verses Jesus affirmed the fact that, inspired by God’s Spirit, Moses wrote the first five books of the Bible. The Pharisees knew this of course - Moses was their hero - so Jesus says in essence, “You call yourselves disciples of Moses. You trust in the teaching of Moses. You exalt the Torah. You say you believe it but you don’t - not really because Moses was writing about Me.” And he was. Moses wrote Genesis 3:15 where God said to the serpent, “I will put enmity between you and the woman and between your offspring and hers; He will crush your head, and you will strike His heel.” That offspring was Jesus because He was the only offspring ever born of a woman - the only Person born of a virgin! And in Deuteronomy 18:18-19 through Moses God wrote, “I will raise up for them a Prophet like you from among their brothers; I will put My words in His mouth, and He will tell them everything I command Him. If anyone does not listen to My words that the Prophet speaks in My name, I myself will call him to account.” Peter quoted this text from Deuteronomy in Acts 3 when he preached about Jesus in the temple, reminding some of the same Pharisees that the Jesus they had crucified was the Christ. Other people in their day found Jesus in the Mosaic books. But these Jewish rulers did not and on this basis Jesus accuses them of not even believing Moses or else they would have believed in Him.

John does not record any answer which they gave to Jesus’ words. In all probability they gave none because they were so ticked they couldn’t speak. I imagine they just gave up their drumhead trial and stomped off.

(6) The Christ-follower

Now - as I said, Jesus called five witnesses but there is a sixth - and I’m referring to yours as a Christ-follower. I mean, think about it for a moment. What if this drumhead trial were held today - right here. “If Jesus were on trial here at RBC for claiming to be the SON OF GOD...the MESSIAH...the SAVIOR OF THE WORLD...and if you were called to give witness on His behalf, what would you say? What has Jesus done in your life that proves He is Who He claims to be?”

And - there is a sense in which this kind of trial goes on even today as we bear witness to Who Jesus is with co-workers and neighbors and even family members who don’t follow Him as we do. With that in mind, I’ve asked several Redlanders to answer this question. I don’t have time to share them all but here are some of their responses:

REDLANDER #1 - “In 2000 before my doctor gave me the news, Jesus told me in a dream one night that I had cancer. But He promised to be by my side through the treatment process and thankfully He was. He gave me a peace that I did not think would be possible.”

REDLANDER #2 - “Before asking Jesus into my heart and to be Lord of my life, I was very selfish and focused only on bettering MY life. After becoming Jesus-centered, a major focus of my life has been on others and I am only concerned about my NEEDS instead of my WANTS.

After knowing Jesus and asking Him into my heart, I was a changed man - born again.

This could not have happened unless Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, my Savior. I am a big, tough, strong man...but my eyes are filled with tears like a boy as I sit here and think about how amazing my Father is! I now have a PERSONAL relationship with Jesus. He answers me when I pray. He cares for me. Throughout my daily and often stressful life I am calmed and comforted after talking to Jesus. I feel His presence in my life daily. I am: saved by His Amazing Grace, sustained by His unequaled mercy, and blown away by His never-ending love!”

REDLANDER #3 - “Jesus has helped me in my marriage. Without Jesus in my life, it would have been easier to walk away. But with the prayers of faithful Christians, Jesus has given me strength, patience, and wisdom so that I work towards being the wife that I need to be...and accept my husband for the man who he is. I see Jesus’ hand in my marriage and that has made it possible to remain an intact family for our child.”

REDLANDER #4 - “Jesus Christ is my Lord, my Redeemer and my Savior. He has been with me through grief and pain. He was the strong Hand that held me steady and secure.”

REDLANDER #5 - “What work has Jesus done for me that demonstrates to me the power that He has in my life? One example is that I used to be judgmental of others and frequently jealous of those who seemed more successful or more popular. As Christ’s Spirit has patiently worked in me over the years, I have changed in the realization that the only basis that I have for God’s favor is that Jesus agreed to become a sin offering for me. In comprehending what He has done for me, I now know that I have no basis for judging others or for jealousy.

Even knowing this, I would not be able to change by my power alone. I feel that Jesus is making me over into a grace-driven person and that is testimony to the power that comes only from God.”


Well, how would you answer that question if called to give witness? What would you say in Jesus’ defense? What has He done in Your life that only God could do?