My Father is always at his work.

Grace to you and peace, from God our Father and from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, Amen.

Verse 36 states – “I have testimony weightier than that of John.  For the works that the Father has given me to finish – the very works that I am doing – testify that the Father has sent me.” 

Today we are continuing the journey through the book of John.  Before we go too far let’s recap on where we have come from over the last couple of weeks.  You may recall Jesus gets himself into trouble by healing a lame man on the Sabbath, and then telling him to pick up and carry his mat – both of which were prohibited on the day of rest. In his defence, he says “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working.” This gets him into more hot water, adding the even more serious charge of blasphemy. Last week, we saw Jesus outline his defence: he’s not setting himself up as a rival god. On the contrary, he’s learned alongside the Father like a son learning the family business, and has come to do his work, which indeed is his own work. Now this is a big claim Jesus makes, but can he prove it? This is what today’s part of the trial is all about.”[1]

Reflecting back on my high school days of legal studies (which no doubt qualifies me as an amateur legal expert),  I loved the thought of going to a courthouse and seeing a real-life case.  I recall visiting the Ipswich Court House on a school excursion, where my classmates and I were shuffled into the room, bowing before the judge upon entry.  As I scanned the room, I can vividly see the observers, the jury and judge, the legal teams with their stacks of documents, and finally the big, burly, tough biker gang member, the accused, surrounded by Police.  He glared at us with anger chiselled on his face.  Just then, the bang of the gavel by the Judge brought the room to attention and with a monotone voice stated – ‘the defence can call its first witness.’ 

Now the words ‘witness’ and ‘testimony’ in today’s text are closely related.  The definition of testimony is “Evidence of a witness; evidence given by a witness, under oath or affirmation; as distinguished from evidence derived from writings, and other sources.”[2]  The Greek verb, testify, is repeated 11 times by Jesus in today’s gospel. This places a strong emphasis on the testimony and witness in today’s gospel.[3]

Jesus brings his witnesses forward with a simple argument.  That he is not guilty of saying false things about God if he actually is God.   The Jewish leaders, of course, did not accept this.  To support this argument in Jewish Law in Jesus’ time, Jesus required 3 credible accounts or witnesses.[4]  Now Jesus could make outlandish claims in his own defence, but as Jesus himself says, one would question the credibility or validity of this self-testimony.  Anyone can make bold, and outlandish statements without credible support.  You only need to turn on the TV and watch an episode of Media Watch for examples of this.   As with every Judge or Jury, they look at the collection of evidence, of witness statements and testimony, consider the facts and develop an informed conclusion and opinion.  So, today is not about Jesus asking us to take a blind leap faith.  He reminds us in John 5:31 “If I testify about myself, my testimony is not valid.”

With that in mind, let’s step into the court room as Jesus calls his witnesses to the stand.

John the Baptist[5]

The first witness Jesus calls is John the Baptist, whose ministry many of the Jews had accepted.

5:32-34 ‘There is another who testifies in my favour, and I know that his testimony about me is valid. You have sent to John and he has testified to the truth. Not that I accept [OR need to take for myself] human testimony; but I mention it that you may be saved.’

In fact, John had earlier testified as to Jesus’ identity:

John 1:29b ‘Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world’

John 1:34 ‘I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God.’

So, Jesus reminds them of John’s testimony, as his opening argument. In some ways it’s a bit like our own testimony to what God has done in our lives.

But Jesus extends this testimony to something even more compelling than human testimony – whether it be John the Baptist’s or ours:

5:35-36 ‘John was a lamp that burned and gave light, and you chose for a time to enjoy his light. I have testimony weightier than that of John. For the works that the Father has given me to finish—the very works that I am doing—testify that the Father has sent me.’

Jesus is saying, don’t just accept who I am based on what another person has said about me, but look at what is happening around you.  Look a what I am doing!  See with your own eyes that which the Jewish authorities seem to be oblivious if not blinded to.


The next witness Jesus brings to the stand is is real surprise. It is the star witness of the prosecution! They were quoting the Ten Commandments against Jesus. They recited the words from the books of Moses as charges against Jesus. But Jesus turns their witness against them by calling Moses to the stand![6]

45 “Yet it isn’t I who will accuse you before the Father. Moses will accuse you! Yes, Moses, in whom you put your hopes. 46 If you really believed Moses, you would believe me, because he wrote about me. 47 But since you don’t believe what he wrote, how will you believe what I say?”

Jesus is making a very big statement.  The Jewish people loved the Law of God.  He reminds them that they know Moses.  Not the person, but Moses in the form of the first five books of the Bible, the Torah.  The Law that the Jewish authorities diligently study and strictly adhere to.   However, they missed that Moses pointed to a great prophet to come. With all their study they still did not recognise God in the flesh, staring them in the face.  As the old saying goes – ‘they couldn’t see past the nose upon their face.’

The Father himself[7]

And if that weren’t enough, Jesus goes on to call one more witness.  An even bigger deal and adding weight to the witness of Moses.  Jesus calls God the Father himself:

5:37a ‘And the Father who sent me has himself testified concerning me.’

How does the Father testify about Jesus? The Father would have testified about Jesus through the miracles Jesus has just referred to. He could also have been referring to  the voice from heaven at Jesus’ baptism – which isn’t actually recorded in John’s gospel. I think, given the past tense Jesus uses, that he is referring mainly to the witness of the Scriptures, the OT which points to Jesus. This is what Jesus is referring to a few verses later:

5:39-40 ‘You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.’

That is, the Jews should have recognized Jesus because their own holy writings point toward him. They were in a privileged position, having the plan of God revealed to them. Yet they ended up worshipping the plan instead of God himself. They placed their faith in possessing the word of God, rather than actually responding to it. And when God himself actually turns up, they don’t recognize him. They were so busy dissecting his word that they didn’t have time for God himself. He didn’t fit their preconceived idea of what God should be like.

Now before we jump too quickly to their culpability in the matter, let’s apply the warning to ourselves. How much are we in danger of merely possessing the gospel message, without having any sort of relationship with its author? Of having the words of eternal life that remain for us only on the page and don’t find their way into our hearts, into our minds, into our behaviour. Having a Bible and studying it diligently, knowing the gospel, being able to explain the atonement – that doesn’t save us. We only ‘have life’ if we truly come to the one to whom the Scriptures testify.[8]

You may recall a picture of Martin Luther shared with us previously by Pastor Mark. The image is from St. Mary’s Church in Wittenburg where, Luther preached from 1514 onward.  At the centre of the auditorium, you can see the “Reformation Altarpieces” (paintings of communion, confession, and other ministries). One contains a picture depicting Luther preaching; showing how we should view the Scriptures, and how we should view the preaching of the Scriptures.  It’s a beautiful picture of what is intended to do every week: A finger on the text, pointing people to Jesus, with all eyes on Jesus, not on the preacher. It’s all about Jesus.[9]

And the same is true for us today.  Whenever people are confronted by the claims of Jesus, and ask us “why should I accept what Jesus says?”[10] What will be our response?  We are called to form an opinion.  We need to investigate the evidence.  Either Jesus is right or he’s wrong. Either he’s from God or he’s not.  And if we believe that Jesus is God, what we do or don’t do is critical.

Do we share the joyous news of the Gospel, the saving redemption through the resurrection and the promise of eternal life.  As with the image of the preaching Martin Luther, in which direction do we point the focus and attention?  Do we place the shining light under the table? Or do we find the courage through the power of Holy Spirit to reveal the light in the same way as John the Baptist,  bathing in the warming glow that comes from a Christ-centred perspective.

May God grant us the clarity of heart, the conviction and strength of the spirit to point to the one redeeming saviour, so that all may come to Jesus Christ and find the life that is truly life.


Let us pray – May the peace of God that passes all understanding keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting.  Amen.




[3] S. Renn, Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Bible Words, Hendrickson Publishers, 2005, p.1053.