Intro – The Heart of Truth
Let me begin by asking a question… is truth a matter of the head or the heart? Do we embrace truth through the deduction of our rational abilities… or through the disposition of our inward choice?
This is an issue that Jesus is going to challenge us with today.
We are continuing in series „A Journey with Jesus through the Gospel of John.‟ At the beginning of the fifth chapter…we encounter a man had been one born … Jesus healed him… and this begins a confrontation with the religious leaders… because it was the Sabbath. In his response, we read…
John 5:17-18 (NIV) 17 Jesus said to them, "My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working." 18 For this reason the Jews tried all the harder to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.
The religious leaders understood you have to submit to him… or kill him.
Jesus declares simply he is working with HIS Father. This raises the level of divide even farther. Jesus went on to make astonishing claims of deity. Jesus claimed to give eternal life (John 5:24), to be the source of life (John 5:26), and to judge sin (John 5:27).
Now Jesus takes up the issue of validity for such claims… and in doing so… he confronts how the claim to want truth… is never as simple as the mental exercise we might think it is.
John 5:31-47 (NIV) 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?"
The most central figure to ever break into this realm… was the most reluctant to be self-validating. Most of the time he simply WAS WHO HE WAS and when the leaders of his own God
claimed people rejected him… that‟s when he said… can‟t you see that I am the fulfillment of everything that has been pointing and preparing for me?
Jesus refers to the Old Testament principle, central to later Jewish law (both that of the rabbis and that of the Dead Sea Scrolls), that two witnesses are necessary to prove a (capital) case (Deut. 17:6; Deut. 19:15).
In truth God can say “I Am that I Am‟ because he is self existent… and Jesus does just that at points,… but to enter the realm in which men rightfully do not have to accept one‟s own self claims. The gist of what Jesus says to these religious leaders, is that he comes with plenty of sources of validity… AND YET they did not receive him. He mentions each and then how the heart of truth was the problem.
Jesus states four major witnesses… each testify and authenticate who he is.
1. The spoken testimony of the prophet JOHN „THE BAPTIST‟ (vv. 33-35)
John (the Baptist) had emerged as a prophet that it was time to prepare for the coming of the Messiah. He spoke to the condition of the people so clearly that masses began to come and turn back to God… and were baptized in the Jordon as a sign.
He had come as a prophet to prepare the way… and he testified to the supremacy of Jesus Earlier in the gospel of John, it is written… John 1:29-30 (NIV) „John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is the one I meant when I said, 'A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.'
John 1:34 (NIV) „I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God.‟
John understood that Jesus was the One who bore the salvation of the world.
The religious leaders likely found John the Baptist appealing in some ways… he called the people to return to their faith… he stood up to Roman King Herod… but ultimately he was a threat to them and they and they did not want to receive His message, even though it was commonly considered that he was no less than a prophet.
Jesus reminds them that they sent a delegation to John because they knew he was from God… in fact he was „a lamp that burned and gave light‟… but which they chose to enjoy only „for a time.‟
„For a time‟…. Those words speak to just how deep our pursuit of truth can be… John was fresh… fascinating… but eventually too challenging… too uncomfortable… too unfitting.
He was like the celebrity and causes of our day. As long as it excites us… isn‟t too threatening… too infringing… we‟ll pay some attention. But only for a time.
So a question we do well to each ask ourselves…
Do I want to know Jesus beyond the moment of particular interest or excitement?
2. The outward testimony of the WORKS being done. (vs. 36)
In his gospel, John describes the works of Jesus as „signs‟….that give proof to who Jesus is. We have seen Jesus turn water into wine and heal the diseased and disabled. bodies The “signs” were specific works which God had assigned for the Son to do. As predicted by the prophets (Isa. 35:5-6). These signs were a clear manifestation that God was with Him and that He worked through Him.
While they testify of Jesus on the rational and reasonable level… the human heart may not be so open to receiving all that they imply.
He had just healed a man who was disabled all his life… 38 year s in their midst… and they could not see God in it. Yet one was able to see. Nicodemus could see… John 3:2 (NIV) He came to Jesus at night and said, "Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him."
Nicodemus had come to the right conclusion: Jesus was sent from God…extraordinarily different from everyone else.
The difference between the others religious leaders and Nicodemus… was the heart.
So a question we do well to each ask ourselves…
Do I want to know Jesus because I see the goodness of God in his works… or is my desire more related to the personal gain or threat of such works?
3. The inner testimony of the FATHER in the human heart (vs. 37-38)
Verses 37-38 „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.‟
….refers to the unseen witness of God in a man's heart.
In his first letter John writes:
1 John 5:9-10 (GW) „We accept human testimony. God's testimony is greater because it is the testimony that he has given about his Son. Those who believe in the Son of God have the testimony of God in them.‟
Jesus is saying in essence… "It is true that God is invisible; and so is his witness, for it is the response which rises in the human heart when a man is confronted with me."
The Stoics held that the highest kind of knowledge comes not by thought but by what they called "arresting impressions." We have likely all had experiences where we an‟t fully grasp everything with our mind… but we KNOW inwardly what is true… it is an arresting impression… that bears witness.
God is always at work by the Spirit… but He knows that the human heart has become dull, defiant, and deceptive.
The inner witness of God did not „dwell [menonta, from menô, “remain, abide”] in them‟ and they so they rejected Jesus. Jesus says „rejecting me is really just a reflection that you have already rejected Him.‟
We can reject and repress the Spirit if God.
The Spirit of God makes God known in revelation… but we can quench that work. (Now I believe if we at some point sincerely receive God… the Spirit will reside within us and there will be convictions we may try to repress but he will never leave us. However, if we have never really said fully yes to God… and been indwelled by His Spirit… we can truly reject God.)
So the question for ourselves…
Does my heart truly desire what God speaks and reveals… or have I decided what I want to hear and know?
Finally…Jesus called the witness of Scriptural testimony. Look at verses 39-47:
4. The written testimony of SCRIPTURE (39-46)
Verses 39-40 – 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.
The best Bible students in the world, people who meticulously and continuously read scripture, rejected Jesus. How could that happen? (Barclay) If truth were only a matter of the mind… of knowledge… we could affirm that all we need to do is read the Scriptures. But truth is also a matter of the heart…. And therefore we must value the reading of the Scriptures and HOW we read the Scriptures. They read it with a shut mind.
What Jesus describes of these religious leaders raises a challenge to us all.
So we should consider…
Do I read the Scriptures with humility of need… (and being the object they speak to… ) or with the pride of one who decides what to accept (… and being the subject who controls the object?)
If you do not sense the challenge of Scripture… you just have a projection of yourself.
Do I love God or my own ideas about Him?
They didn‟t love God; they loved their own ideas about him.
Have I reduced the Scriptures to a source of knowledge to be studied… or a living revelation to direct me into true life?
(Drawn from Tim Keller)
Jesus believes that the Scriptures are a divine testimony….There are only 2 views of the Bible. Either it is a human book written by men seeking God or a Divine book by God seeking humankind.
Jesus says it is God‟s revelation… this does not mean apart from human authors…. For he refers to Moses… he understands the nature of inspiration.
2 Peter 1:18 – „men moved by the Holy Spirit‟
If you assume another view… you undermine a personal relationship.
A relationship is based on engagement – it is NOT a biography ABOUT God… but a book bearing a living WORD of God.
If it‟s about God it can inspire you, you can want God, etc… but you cannot know him personally.
Jesus says you study these Scriptures but you refuse to COME TO ME.
Do I read the Scriptures to engage the Living God who seeks me?
Jesus is calling us to understand that to know God is a matter of mind and heart… of deduction and disposition.
They really loved men more than God… and would reject the One who truly represented God and accept those who did not. Their failure was their desire for acceptance and approval from sinful men while ignoring the favor and the will of the only God. True faith was impossible because they were seeking the wrong object: man, not God.
If the Scriptures are just „about‟ God… you can be inspired, you can want God, etc… but you cannot know him personally.
Jesus says you study these Scriptures but you refuse to COME TO ME.
CONCLUSION: There is good news for the heart.
Jesus had said the purpose of all he is saying is NOT to win any argument… he doesn‟t need to… not to gain their acceptance… but rather … "that you may be saved." It is because I love you and want to save you." His voice might be strong but it reflects the strength of his love. „His eyes might flash fire, but the flame was the flame of love.‟(Barclay)
Several years ago an eastern paper reported this story which is an illustration of the way God pursues us with his provisions of love. One evening a woman was driving home when she noticed a huge truck behind her that was driving uncomfortably close. She stepped on the gas to gain some distance from the truck, but when she sped up the truck did too. The faster she drove, the faster the truck did also. Now scared, she exited the freeway. But the truck stayed with her. The woman then turned up a main street, hoping to lose her pursuer in traffic. But the truck ran a red light and continued the chase. Reaching the point of panic, the woman whipped her car into a service station and bolted out of her auto screaming for help. The truck driver sprang from his truck and ran toward her car. Yanking the back door open, the driver pulled out a man hidden in the back seat. The woman was running from the wrong person. From his high vantage point, the truck driver had spotted a would-be rapist in the woman's car. The chase was not his effort to harm her but to save her even at the cost of his own safety. Likewise, we need to know that God is good and for us.
As C.S. Lewis wrote to a friend - “Continue seeking Him with seriousness. Unless he wanted you, you would not be wanting Him.” -C.S. Lewis, Letters of C.S. Lewis, 13 June 1951, p. 233
If you are seeking to know God… I encourage you to ask God to reveal Himself to you… but be honest about the heart of truth… your deeper disposition and desire.
C.S. LEWIS: OUR SEARCH FOR GOD CAN BE LIKE CHILDREN PLAYING BURGLAR GAME . . . FRIGHTENED AT THE IDEA OF FINDING THE REAL THING
It is always shocking to meet life where we thought we were alone. "Look out!" we cry, "it's alive." And therefore this is the very point at which so many draw back - I would have done so myself if I could - and proceed no further with Christianity. An "impersonal God" - well and good. A subjective God of beauty, truth and goodness, inside our own heads - better still. A formless life-
force surging through us, a vast power which we can tap - best of all. But God Himself, alive, pulling at the other end of the cord, perhaps approaching at an infinite speed, the hunter, king, husband - that is quite another matter. There comes a moment when the children who have been playing at burglars hush suddenly: was that a real footstep in the hall? There comes a moment when people who have been dabbling in religion ("Man's search for God!") suddenly draw back. Supposing we really found Him? We never meant it to come to that! Worse still, supposing He had found us? - Miracles, chapter 11, paragraph 19, page 94+
If you are continuing to walk in relationship… hear his call afresh…. that the call is not only reasonable…. But must be wanted. Do we really WANT to have Him as Lord of life?
Jesus reminds us today of the responsibility of knowledge.
What had been the greatest privilege of the Jews had become their greatest condemnation. They had been given revelation… and their hearts had never truly received it.
We will be held accountable for how we responded to what God makes known.
So let‟s take some time for honest reflection as we receive him afresh in receiving the elements of Communion.
„A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup.‟ 1 Corinthians 11:28 (NIV)
Resources: I am grateful for the great thoughts of those I may draw from. I will usually study the text and form my own shape and points. In the process I may insert various ideas and statements from others (commentaries and messages related to the same text) which are related to the points I have developed. I do not use these notes as a manuscript that is either memorized or read… but rather as a guide for the thoughts I offer. If I actually read or quote another I will refer publicly to the source. This message drew thoughts from William Barclay, Tim Keller, and Paul Decker.