Well – not to be lazy here, but instead of bullet pointing the entire note section of my lesson, I have just given you all my notes in full form here. Of course this may mean that there’s extra bonus material that I didn’t have time to bring up in class! Feel free to skim and enjoy!
5:31 If I alone bear witness about myself, my testimony is not true.
I think there are two things He could be saying here. At first, I thought of this purely as a legal qualification Jesus was pointing out to from Deuteronomy (Deut. 19:15). Not only that, but we know it makes common sense as well, because if someone says something extraordinary about himself or herself and there is no witness to verify their claims, then we have to simply believe what they said or not believe it. The veracity of their statement is wholly based on whether they can be trusted. Jesus is not surrendering to the idea that He is not trustworthy (as MacArthur also points out), rather He is surrendering the right to be His own witness for the time being. As Calvin puts it, “Now we know that what any man asserts about himself is not reckoned to be true and authentic, although in other respects he speak truth, because no man is a competent witness in his own cause. Though it would be unjust to reduce the Son of God to this rank, yet he prefers to surrender his right, that he may convince his enemies by the authority of God.”
But, there is also a secondary thing that I think Jesus is saying here, and I picked it up from something MacArthur seems to see in the text. He seems to almost be saying sarcastically, “you don’t seem to want to believe my word, so if I bear witness about myself I doubt you’ll believe what I have to say.” In light of that, He offers them several other witnesses that can verify His claims to deity.
5:32-34 There is another who bears witness about me, and I know that the testimony that he bears about me is true. You sent to John, and he has borne witness to the truth.  Not that the testimony that I receive is from man, but I say these things so that you may be saved.
Jesus is saying that they went and asked John what he thought of Jesus and John verified His claims and testified about who Jesus was/is. Now, Jesus clarifies His statement by saying that John’s role was as a witness to Him (John 1:29-34), but it wasn’t as though Jesus needed any witness at all, but for the sake of the weakness of the flesh He is providing that in John the Baptist. Obviously these men had already checked out John the Baptist, and many seemed to believe that he was a prophet from God, even if they didn’t like or listen to the essence of his message (John 1:19-27).
Because He spoke these words in the past tense about John, many commentators seem to think this indicated that John was either already in prison or had died. Noting the honor that Christ bestows on His faithful servants, Ryle says of the Baptist, “…this murdered disciple was not forgotten by his Divine Master. If no one else remembered him, Jesus did. He had honored Christ, and Christ honored him.” I find this personally significant because it has always been my desire to leave a legacy for those around me that signaled my love of Christ. I want so badly for those at my funeral to note how I was faithful to God, and what I did for Him and for others on His behalf. However, Ryle’s points struck a chord with me because in death there will be only one voice whose words of commendation I will care about: those of Jesus Christ. This being the case, shouldn’t I ought to act as though this were the case now?
Lastly, turning to the end of the verse we see that He nurtures our small seed of faith until we are strong in faith. This is why He says it was “so that you may be saved.” This mission statement matches John’s mission statement near the end of the gospel as well (John 20:31).
5:35-36 He was a burning and shining lamp, and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light.
I love the use of the light vs. dark here. It is a common theme in Christ’s teachings, and one that John loves to highlight. And in this verse there is a neat thing that MacArthur points out in a sermon on this passage. He mentioned that John here is the lamp – not the light itself. The word for lamp here is luchnos, which is a small portable oil lamp. The word for light that is used to describe Christ and is used in at the end of verse 35 is phos, and is used to describe the essence of what John shown (Christ to the world).
Jesus rebukes them by speaking of their temporary and fading zeal (for a while). John MacArthur uses some Aristotelian thought when he says he thinks of these people like “moths to a flame” and that flame was John the Baptist. When the fire got too hot though, they faded away from the light and went on their way. They didn’t want to repent and change their lives, after all. All they wanted was to see something novel.
Jesus goes on to put together a logical argument of progression “if x then y” – if you rejoiced in the light of John, then you should rejoice all the more in the light that I am bringing into the world.
Jesus sets Himself apart from John by claiming superiority of (1) works, and superiority of (2) testimony as well as a (3) better witness of His work (from the Father). Those are the three ways in which I see Christ as being superior to John here.
5:36 But the testimony that I have is greater than that of John. For the works that the Father has given me to accomplish, the very works that I am doing, bear witness about me that the Father has sent me.
Jesus is giving us the second witness – his works. His works were greater than John’s works. I can’t image anyone disputing that the man who calmed the seas and healed so many people, did not have a superior witness in this way!
Surely no one could have done the works that Jesus did if they weren’t from God. Nicodemus said in John 3:2 that, “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.”
I don’t think that anyone who was around Jesus could have denied the amazing nature of the works He was doing during His ministry.
Sproul has a great reminder to us about the nature of miracles in the witness of Christ:
Many people today look at the biblical miracles and say, “The miracles in the Bible prove the existence of God.” No, they don’t. The existence of God is established before a single miracle takes place. For a miracle to be recognized as a miracle presupposes the existence of God, because a miracle, technically and correctly defined, is a work that only God can do, such as bringing something out of nothing or bringing life our of death. For this reason, I please with you to fall into thinking that Satan can do actual miracles. He can perform tricks, but he can’t do what God can do.
5:37 And the Father who sent me has himself borne witness about me. His voice you have never heard, his form you have never seen,
It is tempting to take 37 and 38 together, but I want to point out that 38 says some distinctly deep things separate from 37. In 37 we see that Jesus is putting the finally cap on the fact that it is the Father that is His witness. This is the third witness that Christ gives as proof that what He is saying is right. It doesn’t matter that no one as ever “seen” the Father, or even “heard” the Father up until this point in history; for no man can see Him in His full radiant splendor and live (Ex. 33:11). But for our sake, He provided times (recorded in the gospels) where He was heard audibly to witness about His beloved Son (Matt. 3:17, 17:5 – 2 Peter 1:17).
Then Jesus goes on to say something even more difficult…
5:38 and you do not have his word abiding in you, for you do not believe the one whom he has sent.
Wow – so this is the judgment here. They don’t have the word of God abiding in them, for they don’t love God. We’ll see more of this reiterated in Jesus’ discourse with the Pharisees in the temple in chapter 8. But we’ve already heard Christ talk about this in those crucial verses in 3:19-21. This would have been such a stern rebuke that from here onward the conversation must have been highly uncomfortable for the listeners.
This is a good reminder that in our flesh we don’t love God, and we don’t receive the testimony of His son because we don’t have the ability to (we’re dead – Eph. 2:1), and because we’re dead we don’t have His word abiding in us prior to quickening. We really don’t want to love Christ prior to what God does supernaturally in our hearts. Christ is telling these people that they don’t get it. They aren’t receiving Him because they are not from God (John 8) and don’t have His word abiding in them. These are harsh, but important words; I’m sure they were swallowed with difficulty.
Incidentally, this is one way that we know Christians are Christians – they have the word of the Lord abiding in them and they show a love for Jesus Christ and for one another (1 John 3:10-11,17, 23-24, 4:8, 12, 15-16 etc.).
5:39-40 You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me,  yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.
This is very clearly the problem the Jews had then and many of them have now. They look through Scriptures but don’t want to recognize that the entirety of the Bible in the OT points forward to Christ. This is also the fourth witness Christ calls against them in this passage. The Son of God, the fulfillment of all they had ever known or been taught was standing before them, yet they were too daft to realize this. They were too dead to come forward and receive eternal life.
And what is probably most interesting for me in this passage is the words “you think” – Jesus is basically catching fools in their folly. He’s saying “you’re zeal for knowledge has left you spiritually bankrupt. You search for eternal life in vain unless you come to me.” MacArthur notes, “The Bible cannot be properly understood apart from the Holy Spirit’s illumination or a transformed mind.”
Herein Christ demonstrates that they needed help, they needed to be saved by the power of God. Despite their great learning, despite His presence, many still refused to “come to him” to have life. This ought to refute the notion that some have that “if we had only been there to see Christ in person, we would believe.” These people were students of the scriptures and they walked and talked with the Son of God and still didn’t come to believe!
5:41 I do not receive glory from people.
Christ never desired to receive praise or glory from humans during His ministry on earth. He only sought to glorify His Father. We are to imitate Him in this and seek only to glorify God. Too often we get caught up in worrying about pleasing people instead of pleasing God. We think too much about what others might think about us.
5:42 But I know that you do not have the love of God within you.
This is His most powerful statement yet. Again, Christ is very straightforward about the condition of these people’s souls. He is confrontational with them, and doesn’t let them off the hook easily.
The same is true today. You may want to think that Jesus is all loving (and indeed He is), but He is more than that. He doesn’t accept your idolatry, and won’t accept anyone who thinks they can reject Him and still somehow make it to heaven. That simply isn’t the case.
The specific accusation here mirrors what He said in vs. 38 – I’m assuming that “love” and “word” are different but have the same end (the acceptance of Christ’s claims). The love of God in our hearts is not something we can manufacture. Christ isn’t saying here “you just haven’t tried hard at all. You need to do better at having the love of God!” No. He’s pointing out that they have a deficiency. They thought they had salvation squared away because they were Jews. In America we have a similar problem. Many Americans think they are Christians simply because they are Americans. Jesus is abolishing that idea. He’s saying that they have a deficiency of love, and that He is the only one who can give it to them.
Romans 5:5 says, “…hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” It is God who pours His love into us. It isn’t self-manufactured.
5:43 I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not receive me. If another comes in his own name, you will receive him.
This pointed accusation is connected to the fact that these people are not spiritual but are sons of disobedience (Eph. 2:1-2). The reason they will reject Christ is because He is spiritual and they are dead spiritually, and the reason they will accept another (the implication is a false prophet) is because they are fleshly and that false prophet would be fleshly as well and would make his appeal to the flesh. MacArthur and Morris both point out that, to their best historical reckoning, there have been some 64 false messianic claims since Christ came.
5:44 How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?
Now, as proof that they are not spiritual, Jesus says that their actions are fleshly in that they seek their own glory. This is the antithesis of faith and of true spirituality.
John Piper says this; “Itching for glory from other people makes faith impossible. Why? Because faith is being satisfied with all that God is for you in Jesus; and if you are bent on getting the satisfaction of your itch from the scratch of others’ acclaim, you will turn away from Jesus.”
5:45-47 Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father. There is one who accuses you: Moses, on whom you have set your hope.  For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me.  But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?”
He goes brings the argument full circle now and says that not only are they not truly spiritual, not only are they not accepting Him, not only do they not have the love of God in their hearts, but they also do not truly understand what Moses said about Him (cf. 39).
MacArthur tries to show just how shocking this statement would have been: “The Lord stunned them by identifying that accuser as Moses – the very one in whom they had set their hope. It is difficult to imagine how profoundly shocked and outraged the Jewish leaders must have been by Jesus’ statement. In their minds, it was utterly incomprehensible to think that Moses – whom they proudly affirmed as their leader and teacher (Matt. 23:3) – would one day accuse them before God.”
Christ points out that they have a misunderstanding of what/who Moses was pointing forward to. They didn’t fully understand Deut. 18:15-18 which states:
The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers—it is to him you shall listen—just as you desired of the LORD your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly, when you said, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of the LORD my God or see this great fire any more, lest I die.’ And the LORD said to me, ‘They are right in what they have spoken. I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him.
And this is just once prophecy. Ryle is right to say, “every part of our Bibles is meant to teach us about Christ. Christ is not merely in the gospels and epistles. Christ is to be found directly and indirectly in the Law, the Psalms, and the prophets. In the promises to Adam, Abraham, Moses, and David, in the types and emblems of the ceremonial law, in the predictions of Isaiah and the other prophets, Jesus the messiah, is everywhere to be found in the Old Testament.”
The last thing that really came to my mind when studying this passage is the parallel to Luke 16 where Abraham says to the rich man in torment who has begged Abraham to send messengers to his family of what awaits them, “If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.” I want to take this seriously and remember the plight of those who are not saved, and who will one day deal forever with this torment and anguish. I want to remember that just because someone claims to “know what Christianity is all about” doesn’t mean they are saved. I need to keep the Gospel foremost on my lips so that God might use me – even if unwittingly – to save someone who hadn’t heard the truth and repented before the throne of Jesus Christ.