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five separate witnesses

If I alone bear witness about myself, my testimony is not true. There is another who bears witness about me, and I know that the testimony that he bears about me is true. You sent to (1) John, and he has borne witness to the truth. … He was a burning and shining lamp … But the testimony that I have is greater than that of John. For (2) 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. And (3) the Father who sent me has himself borne witness about me. His voice you have never heard … for you do not believe the one whom he has sent. You search (4) 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. … How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God? ... There is one who accuses you: Moses, on whom you have set your hope. For if you believed (5) Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?” John 5: 31-47


Do you believe what people say to you about themselves? When you see a 200 mph black convertible in front of you and look at the driver, what message has the driver given to you about himself – or herself? When election statements are published later this year, will you believe the testimony about themselves which candidates want you to believe?

An autobiography has been described as “a book in which the writer tells the truth…..” After a pause the description is completed with the words “….about others”. Even that terribly cynical statement is regarded as incorrect because auto-biographers not only may not tell the truth about themselves but also may not do so about others. Witnesses need to be evaluated very carefully – cars may be leased – or borrowed.
‘Witness” = Greek “martyroia”. Every witness to Jesus is of necessity a martyr of himself.’ (Anon.)

Jesus the Messiah endorsed this approach for all who were skeptical about him. “If I alone bear witness about myself, my testimony is not true.” He then drew the attention of the Jews to five separate witnesses who would endorse the truth about him. They are numbered and underlined.

(1) First, there is John the Baptist. This unusual man was something of an ascetic. He was fearless in calling everybody in Israel around AD 28 to repent and to be immersed in the River Jordan to show their sorrow. Such was his faithfulness to that message that he was imprisoned and later decapitated. He said, pointing to Jesus, “Look and see, the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” A wonderful message to the sorrowful sinful.

(2) Second, there are the works – the deeds and actions – which the Father had given to Jesus to accomplish. These were works of great compassion and mercy. Jesus, in the city of Nain and greatly distressed by evil, even raised from the dead the only son of a widow. But the greatest deed which the Father had given to Jesus to accomplish was to arrange and go through with his own death for the eternal good of his enemies.

(3) Third, there is the Father.  "The Father who sent me has himself borne witness about me." When did that take place? At Jesus’ baptism when, as recorded by three biographers of Jesus, “a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.””
‘Jesus, and shall it ever be,/ a mortal man ashamed of thee…’ (Joseph Grigg, pastor, 1720-1768)

(4) Fourth, there are the Scriptures - "the Scriptures … that bear witness about me." These are the “Writings” preserved by the Jews - their national archives. One of their most famous prophets, writing around 710 BC, saw into the future: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined. For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

(5) Fifth, there is Moses. Moses lived around 1350 BC. He wrote five books now in the Jewish national archive. He wrote this to his countrymen: “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….."
Who will listen?
Richard Syvret

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