Summary: When we talk to the genuinely curious, we show God’s love. We show that we want to be with God and want others to be with him. We will love the things and people that he loves. We will hate the things and people that he hates. We will love others.
The reading we heard from John 5:30-47 a few minutes ago takes place during a “trial”, but it was not held in a courtroom. Jesus had just healed the paralyzed man at the pool of Bethsaida, and the healing took place on the Jewish Sabbath. The Jews had strict rules about what could and could not be done on the Sabbath, and healing the sick was one of the things that could not be done. The religious officials found out about the healing and confronted Jesus about it. Jesus accepted responsibility for breaking the rules that governed working on the Sabbath. He also accepted responsibility for claiming to be equal to God.
Jewish law was based on procedures and rules that Moses laid out in Deuteronomy 17:6 and Deuteronomy 19:5. The testimony of an accused person was not valid unless it was backed up by more than one eyewitness and/or undeniable facts. During the confrontation, Jesus referred to five people or things that could testify regarding his actions-God, John the Baptist, Jesus’ miracles, the Scriptures and Moses. Jesus had no need to prove himself because he had the backing of God, John the Baptist and the Scriptures. He could be trusted because of his deeds.
When Jesus introduced the testimony of God, he treated it as an independent testimony. If his accusers objected, they would be admitting that Jesus and God are one and the same, and their case would have been dealt a severe blow. John the Baptist’s purpose was to lead people to the Messiah. Jesus’ miracles authenticated the message that he and God are equal. If his accusers had studied the Old Testament, they would have known that Jesus was the son of God. The writings of Moses became a religion of works. This was contrary to Moses’ intention. Moses predicted the failure of the Israelites and promised a Saviour to lead them if they would listen to the Saviour. The religious leaders had all of this evidence, but they rejected it because of their pride and their unwillingness to accept the evidence. They had a case of selective hearing and tunnel vision. They saw and heard only the evidence that they wanted to see and hear.
We are also on trial when we are asked about our faith. Some questioners are genuinely curious, but others are really rebelling against the truth. Their purpose is to justify remaining on their current path-a path that leads to destruction. If we can’t offer them a compelling reason to submit to Jesus, they will not give up their control over their lives.
So how can we tell if the person is a rebel or someone who is genuinely interested? Here are a few ways:
1. We are challenged with a negative opinion of God and are expected to talk the other person out of it. For example, the person might say something like, “God doesn’t care about people or he would end all suffering.”
2. The person asks a question that has no definite answer, such as “What about people who were never told about God? Are they lost and on the way to hell?”
3. The person tries to convince us that God does not exist.
4. The conversation changes as soon as we start to prove our point.
5. The person becomes angry or resorts to name-calling.
6. Our qualifications are called into question.
If we find ourselves in a debate with a rebel, we are to politely end the conversation.
In contrast, people who are genuinely interested listen. They ask intelligent questions. They are humble and receptive, especially when we answer their questions with “I don’t know.” The conversation will naturally flow into presentation of the Gospel.
When we talk to the genuinely curious, we show God’s love. We show that we want to be with God and want others to be with him. We will love the things and people that he loves. We will hate the things and people that he hates. We will love other Christians. We will long for his return. If we do these things, God the heavenly judge will pronounce us “guilty” of being Christians and will sentence us to eternal life with him in heaven.