Would you recognize God if you met Him? How would you know it was Him? And no, were not talking about things like a long white heard or brilliant light or voice like thunder. If God became a man, a normal appearing man, would you or I be able to tell that it was Him? What sort of person would He be? What qualities would you expect to find? This is the question that Jesus was asking these leaders. Here was a group of people who read the Bible
a lot, but in spite of all that reading they hadnt met the God who wrote the Bible. When they read it they saw a book full of rules. So when they actually met Gods Son, someone who was exactly like His Father, they didnt recognize Him. In fact, they didnt like Him.
In the passage we are reading today Jesus is trying to explain to a group of very religious people that if they really knew God, if they had met Him in the pages of scripture, they would know that He had come from God. They had accused Him of blasphemy and arrogance toward God, but the truth was He couldnt be more humble. He was completely submitted to the Father. The real reason for their hostility toward Him was that they didnt know or love the God of the Bible.
Proof (Jn 5:31-47)
vs31-32: Jesus did not expect anyone to believe that He was Gods Son simply because He said He was. In fact He said if the Father did not confirm it, no one should believe Him. But He said God had done so, and because He had it couldnt be doubted.
v33: The religious leaders had sent representatives out to the Jordan River to interview John the Baptist during the time when great multitudes were coming to be baptized (Jn 1:19-28). And they asked John if he was the Messiah. He answered that he was not but that he had already baptized the person who was. Then later he pointed to Jesus and said, Thats Him! (Jn 1:29, 34).
v34: But as wonderful a prophet as John the Baptist was, he was merely a man, so he could be doubted. The only totally reliable witness is God Himself, and when He says someone is our Savior we must believe Him. Our salvation depends on it.
v35: John the Baptist was a true prophet who called Israel to repentance. Through him God shone His light of truth for all to see, and many came to that light. They listened to him preach and responded in faith. But Johns season of ministry had already passed.
v36: As great a prophet as John was, he was still just a man, so his testimony could be doubted. But Gods testimony cannot be questioned, and He was performing great miracles through Jesus which could not be denied or explained away. They were proof that God honored Jesus and had given Him amazing authority. If He were a liar or a mad man God would never perform such wonders through Him.
vs37-38: Not one of these leaders had ever seen God or heard His voice. The main way God could reveal Himself to them was through the Scriptures. So if they read or listened to Gods Word and then meditated on what they heard, the Holy Spirit could show them the heart of God. They would discover that God is full of grace and truth, that He is a God of love who deeply cares for the needs of His people. So if they met His Son, who is exactly like Him, they would recognize Him and welcome Him. If properly understood, the Scriptures would teach them about a God that is full of grace and truth and life, so when they observed Jesus expressing grace and truth and life, they would understand that He had been sent by God.
vs39-40: Yet these leaders preferred religious rituals to relationship with God because keeping rules gave them a sense of achievement and pride. They had become convinced that God would reward them with eternal life if they successfully obeyed His rules. So they, and people like them, actually hated Jesus when they met Him because He didnt keep all their rules. By refusing to recognize who He was and believe in Him they actually rejected the eternal life they were working so hard to attain.
vs41-42: Jesus told them that He didnt need their approval. It was Gods approval that mattered, but the way they were reacting to His ministry was very revealing. It exposed their heart. If they genuinely loved God they would follow people who humbly sought to do His will, not their own, and who wanted to glorify God, not themselves. And if they had Gods love within them they would rejoice to see people healed and set free from demonic oppression. But that had not been the case. For example when a man who had been sick for 38 years was healed, instead of being glad for him, they focused on the fact that he had carried his mat on the Sabbath. Only a loveless heart could do that.
vs43-44: Jesus warned them that they tended to follow people who were seeking their own glory rather than trying to glorify God. And He said they personally cared more about having others hold them in high esteem than being held in high esteem by God.
vs45-47: Jesus told them that He had come to save people not accuse them before the Father, but He warned these leaders that they were bringing condemnation on themselves by the way they reacted to Him. They had set their hope for salvation on obeying the Law of Moses, but Moses had included in his writings many prophetic symbols which spoke of a coming Savior. For example: the seed of the woman (Ge 3:15), Abraham and Isaac on Mt. Moriah (Ge 22), the brazen serpent (Nu 21:9), the Passover Lamb (Ex 12:1-14, 21-36), the Red Sea (Ex 14:10-31), Manna (Ex 16), striking the rock (Ex 17:1-7), the scapegoat (Lev 16:21-22), the feasts (Lev 23), and the sacrificial system (Lev 17:11). On one occasion Moses prophesied that God would send another leader like himself who would speak Gods word to them and warned those who refused to listen (Dt 18:15-19). Either these religious leaders hadnt understood what Moses wrote, or they understood but refused to believe, but in either case they failed to obey him (Lk 16:29-31).
How to read the Bible
How is it possible for two people to read the same book but come away with such different pictures of God? One finds in the pages of the Bible a judge who has written a set of Laws and will reward the person who obeys them down to the smallest detail. While another reads the same Bible and concludes that God is a loving Father trying to draw us close to Him, so He can teach us how to walk in faith. Two people; one book; two different pictures of God. How does that happen?
This was the situation Jesus was facing. He was talking to a group of people who had studied the Bible all their lives but had never met the God who wrote the Bible. When He revealed to them the heart of God by healing a man who had suffered for almost four decades, they became angry. The God they served was deeply offended because the God Jesus served broke a rule by working on the wrong day. What appeared to be a disagreement over a small detail was in reality nothing less than the clash between two different Gods.
Obviously its very important to learn how to read the Bible properly. A wrong reading can ruin a person spiritually. But how do we know which is the right way? Thankfully Jesus told these men who confronted Him where they went wrong. He said:
1) They had not meditated on the scriptures, You do not have His word abiding in you (v38). When they read they needed to let the Holy Spirit reveal to them the heart of God.
2) They searched through the Bible looking for rules, believing that to have eternal life they must obey every rule down to the smallest details (v39).
3) They didnt even see the many promises in the Bible that said God would send a Savior who would save us by grace (v39).
4) They didnt see those promises because they preferred to earn their salvation, not receive it as a gift by faith (v40).
5) The underlying problem behind it all was that they had grown loveless. They didnt love God or people (v42).
6) They let people who didnt love God teach them about God. They followed ambitious, self-seeking people (v43).
7) God Himself had grown so distant in their experience that their goal was to be approved and admired by other religious people rather than by God (v44).
8) They considered the writings of Moses to be the most important part of the Bible, yet when they read those books they refused to believe the symbols and promises God placed there which said that He would send a Savior (vs45-47).
So according to Jesus, in order to read the Bible properly I must:
1) Believe that God still does miracles. Without that faith nothing in the Bible makes sense, nor can I recognize the signs God gives me today that confirm that Jesus is the Savior.
2) Expect to meet God in His Word. Yes, of course, I want to obey His righteous standards, but my goal when I read is to meet Him there, not acquire knowledge.
3) Meditate on important passages, not just read through them. Memorizing can be a great help in doing this. I must let my mind dwell on the truth I find there or keep questioning a passage I dont understand until it releases its treasure. I can be certain that the Holy Spirit wants to teach me its true meaning. I enter into a partnership between my study and His revelation.
4) Watch for the prophetic symbols and promises that are hidden there in plain sight. They hold deep, intended meanings which especially make sense after I meet Jesus and look back at those passages in light of Him.
And He said to them, O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary for the Christ (Messiah) to suffer these things and to enter into His glory? Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures (Lk 24:25-27).
5) See Gods grace and truth in every passage, even those that are hard to understand. And as I read the Bible I will fall in love with the God of the Bible more and more.
6) Never let people who dont love God teach me the Bible. I must follow only those who seek His will and His glory rather than their own .
Philip said to Him, Lord show us the Father, and it is enough for us. Jesus said to him, Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how can you say, Show us the Father? (Jn 14:8-9).
1) Have you ever seen a miracle done in Jesus name that cannot be denied or explained away? What happened? How did that affect your faith in Jesus?
2) Has God revealed to you a truth in the Bible recently? Would you share it with us?