“The Father Bears Witness To Me Himself”
One of the enduring motifs in John’s Gospel is that of ‘witness’, or testimony. Jesus accepts the general principle of jurisprudence; no one is to be taken simply at his own word; one needs the supportive testimony of others.
Already in his opening chapters John presents the great prophet, John the Baptist, as the first witness to Jesus. “John was a lamp burning brightly, and for a time you were content to exult in his light.” That’s what Jesus tells his interlocutors, the Jews. Indeed, John pointed to Jesus as the ‘lamb of God’, a symbol which implies both sacrificial victim and glorious leader of the flock. Still, the Jews did not accept the witness of John the Baptist, as John’s truthfulness was inconvenient to them.
So Jesus goes further. If you do not accept what I say, he challenges, at least accept what I do. It is my works which testify that my Father sent me. But my Father speaks not just through these external signs, but through his voice which resounds in your hearts. It is his voice which bears witness to me, yet you ignore it. You search the Scriptures to find the source of eternal life, yet you will not come to me for that life.
As we read these lines, we might pause and reflect: why were the Jews so slow to accept Jesus as the one sent by God, when to all appearances they claimed to be god-fearing and obedient to the law? This is a difficult question, but it may be related to the fact that we human beings get used to our own ways of seeing and judging. We don’t want our favourite perceptions shattered.
To the Jews, the Law had become an end in itself. They gloried in its minute prescriptions and prided themselves on the many legal observances, the Sabbath rule being one. They failed to realize that the Law was meant to lead them to God and open them to their fellow human beings in compassion and service. They could not accept that Jesus’s life and teachings were imbued with this compassion and service for all around, not just Jews but pagans as well; the people whom Jews held in contempt. They resisted Jesus’s actions. They refused to accept his claims of being sent by God. They even repudiated their great law-giver Moses, who pointed to Jesus as the Law’s fulfillment.
So ironically, those who claimed to observe the Law belied the very spirit of the Law. Such indeed was the attitude of those Jews who claimed to know it all and who were in fact spiritually blind.
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