Testifying of Christ

After the Jews began persecuting Jesus for healing a man on the Sabbath (John 5:16), Jesus began discussing His equality with the Father (John 5:17-23), the future resurrection (John 5:25-29), and the proof that He was who He claimed to be (John 5:33-47). This final point was critical. Not every claim that one may make of himself is true. This is why Jesus said, “If I alone testify about Myself, My testimony is not true” (John 5:31). He was not saying that He might make false claims. After all, He “always” did the will of the Father (John 8:29). Yet there was a difference between what Jesus claimed about Himself and what others – His enemies, in particular – claimed about Him.

How could the people know that Jesus was the Christ and not an imposter? They would need to have evidence. Jesus explained that this evidence came in the form of witness testimony that verified His claims. In this passage, He described four witnesses that testified of Him and confirmed His claim as the Christ, the Son of God. Let us notice these briefly.

John the Baptist

You have sent to John, and he has testified to the truth. But the testimony which I receive is not from man, but I say these things so that you may be saved. He was the lamp what was burning and was shining and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light” (John 5:33-35).

When John saw Jesus approaching, he announced, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). In this statement, he was providing clear, unmistakable testimony regarding Jesus’ identity. The next day when he was with two of his disciples, he saw Jesus and repeated the same thing with the result that these men left John and started following Jesus (John 1:35-37). He wanted to make sure they knew the truth about Jesus instead of just hoping they might figure it out on their own.

This testimony was not coming from some obscure individual; instead, everyone was familiar with John. Matthew recorded, “Then Jerusalem was going out to him, and all Judea and all the district around the Jordan; and they were being baptized by him in the Jordan River, as they confessed their sins” (Matthew 3:5-6).

Not only were they familiar with John, they could also see in him someone of integrity. Jesus said that “among those born of women there has not arisen anyone greater than John the Baptist” (Matthew 11:11). He was not preaching for his own person gain. He was “in the wilderness” and wore “a garment of camel’s hair and a leather belt around his waist; and his food was locusts and wild honey” (Matthew 3:1, 4). As we already noted, he directed his own disciples to follow Jesus (John 1:35-37). He was not trying to amass a large following for himself; rather, he was pointing people to Jesus and making great sacrifices to do so. There was nothing for him to gain – from a worldly standpoint – by pointing people to Jesus and declaring Him to be the Lamb of God if it were not true.

Miracles

But the testimony which I have is greater than the testimony of John; for the works which the Father has given Me to accomplish—the very works that I do—testify about Me, that the Father has sent Me” (John 5:36).

The purpose of miracles was to produce faith. Near the end of his gospel, John wrote, “Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name” (John 20:30-31). When the leaders challenged Jesus to tell them “plainly” if He was the Christ, He pointed to “the works” that He did (John 10:24-25) – which would include the miracles He performed – to prove that He was the Christ.

The gospel of John records several miracles that reveal certain things about Jesus:

  • Jesus turned water to wine (John 2:1-11) – In having the servants fill the pots to be brim, He demonstrated that this was a genuine miracle and not some trick.
  • Jesus healed a nobleman’s son (John 4:46-54) – This miracle showed that He had the power to heal a specific person from a long distance.
  • Jesus healed a lame man (John 5:1-9) – The account compared the work attributed to an angel to the better work of Christ.
  • Jesus fed five thousand (John 6:1-14) – He created food for them, providing something that was superior to the manna that was provided for their forefathers in the wilderness.
  • Jesus walked on water (John 6:15-21) – He was able to set aside the natural law of gravity.
  • Jesus healed a blind man (John 9:1-7) – This individual was blind from birth, so it was not a temporary condition; yet this did not hinder Jesus from being able to grant him the gift of sight.
  • Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead (John 11:1-44) – Rather than hurrying to him when He was informed that he was sick, Jesus waited until he was dead. When He finally arrived at Lazarus’ tomb, the body already would have started decaying; yet Jesus was still able to raise him from the dead.

As John explained, these signs proved that “Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God” (John 20:31). If that were not true, He would not have been able to perform these miracles.

God the Father

And the Father who sent Me, He has testified of Me. You have neither heard His voice at any time nor seen His form. You do not have His word abiding in you, for you do not believe Him whom He sent” (John 5:37-38).

When Jesus came to John to be baptized of him, the Father provided this testimony of Jesus from heaven: “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased” (Matthew 3:17). He said the same thing at the transfiguration: “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased; listen to Him!” (Matthew 17:5).

Besides these two occasions during the life of Jesus, the Father provided powerful testimony of the identify of Jesus in the resurrection. Paul explained to the philosophers gathered on Mars Hill: “Because [God] has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead” (Acts 17:31). After Jesus claimed to be equal with the Father during His life (John 5:17-18; 10:30), the fact that He was raised from the dead proved the Father’s agreement with His claim. There were hundreds of witnesses that saw Jesus alive after His crucifixion (Acts 1:3; 1 Corinthians 15:3-8), confirming that this event which proved Jesus’ identity as the Son of God was a historical fact.

Scripture

You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life.” “Do not think that I will accuse you before the Father; the one who accuses you is Moses, in whom you have set your hope. For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me, for he wrote about Me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?” (John 5:39-40, 45-47).

The fact that the Old Testament Scriptures testified about Jesus was the basis for Paul’s statement in his letter to the Galatians: “Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith” (Galatians 3:24). One of the ways in which the Old Testament pointed to Jesus was through the prophecies that were made about Him. Several of these were pointed out by Matthew in his gospel:

  • Jesus would be born of a virgin (Matthew 1:22-23; cf. Isaiah 7:14; 9:6-7).
  • Jesus would come out of Egypt (Matthew 2:15; cf. Hosea 11:1).
  • Jesus would heal the sick and cast out demons (Matthew 8:16-17; cf. Isaiah 53:4).
  • Jesus would speak in parables (Matthew 13:34-35; cf. Psalm 78:2).
  • Jesus would ride into Jerusalem on a donkey (Matthew 21:1-5; cf. Zechariah 9:9).
  • Jesus’ arrest and eventual crucifixion was done to fulfill various prophecies about Him (Matthew 26:55-56) – He would be given wine mixed with gall (Matthew 27:34; cf. Psalm 69:21); they would divide His garments and cast lots for them (Matthew 27:35; cf. Psalm 22:18); those who witnessed His crucifixion would speak against Him (Matthew 27:39; cf. Psalm 22:7). He even quoted the words at the beginning of Psalm 22 while He hung on the cross (Matthew 27:46; cf. Psalm 22:1), pointing people back to that psalm and the prophecies it contained which were unfolding in His death.

This is not an exhaustive list; but these prophecies given in the Old Testament were fulfilled, proving that Jesus was the Son of God.

Conclusion

If Jesus simply claimed to be the Son of God, we would have no reason to believe Him. After all, others would make this same claim about themselves (cf. Matthew 24:23-24). Yet the fact that John the Baptist, the miracles Jesus performed, God the Father, and the Old Testament Scriptures all confirmed His claim shows that we can safely believe in Him today as the Christ and our Lord and Savior.


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