Charles Barry arrived at the Dunkin’ Donuts in Trinity, Florida to get some donuts and coffee. He wasn’t in uniform when he would arrive most every day at the Dunkin’ Donuts…and he always asked for the “police discount” when he flashed his badge. The workers assumed Charles was an officer of the law so they gladly gave him the discount. Then Charles began showing up on weekends, with his family, and asking for the same discount for his whole family. Workers began to get suspicious. They asked him about his job and Charles told them he was a U.S. Air Marshall. One time Charles came through the drive-thru window, flashed his badge and gun, and demanded the discount. The manager wrote down Charles’ tag number, contacted the police, and they began to investigate. Officers set up surveillance near the Dunkin’ Donuts. When Charles came through the drive-thru they pulled him over. He had his donuts, badge, and gun in the front seat, but he quickly confessed that the badge and gun belonged to his father who was a police officer in New Jersey. As Charles was being arrested he told officers, real officers, “I did a stupid thing! I showed a badge to get the law enforcement discount for my food.” Charles was an imposter.
Dr. Keith Barton of La Mesa, California advertised on the internet that he could cure cancer and HIV. He told the public that he provided treatment for cancer, allergies and other ailments, with more than 200 doctors on staff, including surgeons working for him in Tijuana. He was convincing. He was the only hope for a woman and her two children who had HIV. One of the children, a 9 year-old girl, died after receiving Dr. Barton’s treatments. A 60-year-old woman had her teeth and part of her jaw removed after going to see Dr. Barton for an auto-immune disease. Dr. Barton would charge $13,000-$18,000 for his treatments which included taking his patients to Mexico for their therapy. Complaints began to pour in, an investigation took place, and Dr. Barton was arrested. As it turned out, Barton was no doctor at all, but he shared his first and last name with a real medical doctor who is licensed in California. Keith Barton is sitting in prison while you sit in this sanctuary this morning. He was convincing, people were hopeful that the supposed doctor had found a miracle cure, but he was nothing more than an imposter.
Imposters have been around since the beginning of time. Some of you have been duped by folks who held themselves out to be something they really weren’t, they promised to provide something they couldn’t, and in time you learned they were a fraud.
I’ve taken the time to share this with you because in John 5 Jesus made some pretty bold claims; what many in His day saw as outlandish claims. Let me refresh your memory with some of the claims Jesus made. Jesus told the listening crowd of religious leaders and gawkers that He was “the Son of God,” the “Giver of life,” the “Judge of all humanity,” the “Voice” that will raise the dead. Those are some pretty bold claims. Some believed Jesus, others were curious about what Jesus was saying, and many saw Him as an imposter, a fraud. In our Scripture for today we will see Jesus put Himself on trial and present His witnesses. Before we get to that, let’s read our Scripture for this morning found in John 5:31-47.
31 “If I testify about myself, my testimony is not true. 32 There is another who testifies in my favor, and I know that his testimony about me is true. 33 “You have sent to John and he has testified to the truth. 34 Not that I accept human testimony; but I mention it that you may be saved. 35 John was a lamp that burned and gave light, and you chose for a time to enjoy his light. 36 “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. 37 And the Father who sent me has himself testified concerning me. You have never heard his voice nor seen his form, 38 nor does his word dwell in you, for you do not believe the one he sent. 39 You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me to have life. 41 “I do not accept glory from human beings, 42 but I know you. I know that you do not have the love of God in your hearts. 43 I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not accept me; but if someone else comes in his own name, you will accept him. 44 How can you believe since you accept glory from one another but do not seek the glory that comes from the only God? 45 “But do not think I will accuse you before the Father. Your accuser is Moses, on whom your hopes are set. 46 If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me. 47 But since you do not believe what he wrote, how are you going to believe what I say?” (John 5:31-47 NIV)
In John 5:31, Jesus said, “If I testify about myself, my testimony is not true.” Jesus didn’t mean that He was giving false testimony, but rather that His testimony wasn’t enough. In Jewish jurisprudence you had to have at least two witnesses. A claim was not enough. This wasn’t simply true for criminal cases. Let me explain to you what I’m talking about.
Important commercial transactions, business transactions, took place in the presence of witnesses at the city gate. We see this happen in Genesis 23, when Abraham bought the cave of Machpelah from Ephron the Hittite. In Ruth 4, Boaz gathered at the city gate when he bought the property of Elimelek, Kilion and Mahlon from Naomi and acquired Ruth in the transaction. In Ruth 4:9-10 we read,
9 Then Boaz announced to the elders and all the people, “Today you are witnesses that I have bought from Naomi all the property of Elimelek, Kilion and Mahlon. 10 I have also acquired Ruth the Moabite, Mahlon’s widow, as my wife, in order to maintain the name of the dead with his property, so that his name will not disappear from among his family or from his hometown. Today you are witnesses!” (Ruth 4:9-10 NIV)
In criminal cases such as murder, the murderer was to be put to death if he was found guilty, but he couldn’t be found guilty on circumstantial evidence. There had to be at least two witnesses. Number 35:30 tells us,
30 “‘Anyone who kills a person is to be put to death as a murderer only on the testimony of witnesses. But no one is to be put to death on the testimony of only one witness. (Numbers 35:30 NIV)
In Deuteronomy 19:15 we learn that a conviction could not be reached against any criminal accusation without the testimony of two or three witnesses. Read along with me from Deuteronomy 19:15.
15 One witness is not enough to convict anyone accused of any crime or offense they may have committed. A matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses. (Deuteronomy 19:15 NIV)
Jesus submitted Himself to legal examination in the presence of His accusers and He presented His witnesses. There are three witnesses that Jesus presents. We will only have time to take a look at the first two this morning, but we’ll come back next week to examine the third witness. Let’s take a look at them one at a time.
The first evidence that Jesus presents is the testimony of John the Baptist, human testimony. Take a look at John 5:33-35 with me.
33 “You have sent to John and he has testified to the truth. 34 Not that I accept human testimony; but I mention it that you may be saved. 35 John was a lamp that burned and gave light, and you chose for a time to enjoy his light. (John 5:33-35 NIV)
John was the first prophet in 400 years when he stepped onto the scene and began to proclaim the Word of God. The Jewish leaders sent a delegation out to interview John. They wanted to know, “Who are you? Are you the Messiah? Elijah? The Prophet?” John’s answer could not have been more clear. He said,
23 John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet, “I am the voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord.'” (John 1:23 NIV)
In John 5:35, Jesus said John was a “lamp that burned and gave light…” John is called a “lamp,” the Greek word is “??????” (luchnos), a small portable lamp. John was not the light; he was kindled by the Light and lit the way to Jesus. John was a witness—Jesus is the Light of the world. Jesus said as much in John 8:12. Read along with me.
12 When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12 NIV)
John was a lamp pointing the way to the Light—he was a witness. That’s what you and I are called to be in our own generation. We are witnesses bearing testimony to the truth of Jesus’ claims. As we live our lives others will take notice, they will see Jesus at work in us, and some will be drawn to Him.
I went this past week to meet my friend John O’Dell who is the Director of The Fellowship of Christian Athletes in Oklahoma. They had a College Retreat this past weekend for athletes in Oklahoma and over 400 young athletes came out for the event. While we were talking John told me about Jed Chappell, the man who gave his testimony at the retreat. Jed is a witness and as he told his story the young men and women saw beyond Jed to the One who had changed his life, Jesus.
Jed was 17 when he and some of his friends spent the day breaking into houses. As they were breaking into the last house of the day the Police pulled up. As Jed was running out of the house the officer pulled his gun. Jed pulled his gun and said, “Stop or I will shoot!” The officer shot Jed five times. Blood was everywhere when the ambulance arrived. He died on the way to the hospital, but they were able to revive him. Jed recovered and was taken to the Oklahoma County Jail.
When Jed appeared to be sentenced his pregnant girlfriend was in the courtroom. She pointed to her stomach and told Jed that she was in labor. As she left the courtroom Jed was sentenced to 47 years and led away to prison. He said that when he got to prison he fell face down in his cell and cried out to God to change him. It was a turning point in Jed’s life. He began to go to Bible study and he took advantage of every program that was offered at the prison. Jed got out after 8 years for good behavior.
When he got out of prison Jed felt compelled by the Lord to contact the officer who had shot him. Jed called the officer, introduced himself, and said, “I’m sorry I put you in a position where you had to shoot me. Will you please forgive me?” The officer began to cry. He had left the police force because he had been so traumatized over what had happened. He told Jed that he forgave him. The two men continued to talk and Jed told the officer that he had become a follower of Jesus and his life was very different than before he went to prison.
Fast forward one year. The officer called Jed one day and told him that he needed his help. His son was strung out on heroin and he didn’t know what to do. He asked if Jed would be willing to meet with his son. Jed said, “Of course.” Jed began to meet with the officer’s son and as of last Friday night the young man has been clean from drugs and alcohol for 4 years!
As Jed finished telling the college athletes his story he let them know that the change that has taken place in him was change that Jesus has brought about, that God’s grace is sufficient no matter what they were dealing with, that Jesus died so that they might be forgiven for their sins, and reconciled to God. Over 100 of the athletes in attendance last Friday night came forward to surrender their lives to Jesus Christ. Jed, like John the Baptist, is not the light, but his witness, his testimony, is a bright light pointing others to Jesus.
A changed life is irrefutable evidence of the claims of Jesus my friend. When we surrender our lives to Jesus, die to ourselves, and begin to allow Him to make the changes He desires to make in our lives—others will notice. They can debate our doctrine, argue about the lack of evidence for the existence of God, and make all kinds of outrageous claims about the Bible, but they can’t argue with a changed life. You are a witness!
The Testimony of Jesus’ Works
The witness offered by John the Baptist is valid and powerful testimony that Jesus is who He claimed to be, but Jesus said that He has a second witness. The testimony of His second witness is far weightier than that of John the Baptist. Take a look at John 5:36 with me.
36 “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. (John 5:36 NIV)
The testimony of the Father pertains to the “works” that Jesus did. Jesus said that the works He did were works given to Him by His Father and that they testified that the Father had sent him.
Many people today, when they read about Jesus’ “works” or “signs,” automatically think of “signs and wonders” or the miracles that Jesus did. We need to understand that all of the works of Jesus were a sign pointing to the reality that God had drawn near to humanity in Jesus. The Greek work for “works,” “?????” (ergon) is a common word that is used of all kinds of work in the New Testament and in the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible. Jesus used the word when He was praying to the Father in the Garden of Gethsemane. In John 17:4 we read,
4 I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do. (John 17:4 NIV)
Jesus did everything the Father had given Him to do while He was walking on the planet. He taught what He had been given to teach, He reached out to those the Father desired for Him to reach out to, He confronted and rebuked those the Father led Him to confront and rebuke, He healed those He was led to heal, He made His way to the Cross where He would fulfill His Father’s will to reconcile humanity to Himself, and He perfectly fulfilled the Father’s will for Him. He completed the work the Father had given Him to do.
There is a second word that is used for Jesus’ “works,” or the signs and miracles that He did. The Greek word, “???????” (semeion) means, “sign, mark, or that which distinguishes one from anther.” The “signs and wonders” of Jesus and His followers were not the “end all,” they were merely signs that pointed to the One who is the end all of everything in life and eternity.
When you take a look at all of the occurrences of the word for “sign” in Scripture then you will learn the true meaning of “signs.” Let me give you just a few examples. In Genesis 17:11, Abraham was told to undergo circumcision. God then told Abraham that “it will be the sign of the covenant between me and you.” Circumcision was a sign to remind Abraham of the covenant God had made with him.
Do you know that the Bible calls the birth of Jesus a sign? In Luke 2:12, the shepherds who were out in the field tending their flocks were visited by the Angel of the Lord. They were told the Good News that the Savior had been born in the city of David. Then the Angel said,
12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:12 NIV)
In Luke 11:30, the crowds are growing by leaps and bounds, but Jesus was not impressed. He said to them,
29 As the crowds increased, Jesus said, “This is a wicked generation. It asks for a sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah. 30 For as Jonah was a sign to the Ninevites, so also will the Son of Man be to this generation. (Luke 11:29-30 NIV)
Jonah was a sign to the Ninevites. Jesus was a sign to His generation. As Jonah brought the message of repentance to the Ninevites, so Jesus brought the message of repentance to His generation, and every generation that has followed. Jonah was a visible reminder to the Ninevites of God’s presence. Jesus was God come to humanity! Jonah was a sign, Jesus was both the sign and the reality!
I’ve taken the time to share this with you this morning because many in our day are more fascinated by signs and wonders than they are by Jesus. If word gets out that miracles are taking place at some church in town then folks will flock to the church and totally disregard what is being taught simply for the opportunity to see some miraculous occurrence take place. The signs and wonders that we find in God’s Word were done with purpose—to point people to the One behind the miracle. Let me show you what I’m talking about. You remember when we read about the Pharisee Nicodemus and his fascination with Jesus? Nicodemus came to Jesus under cover of night because he wanted to talk to Jesus. We read in John 3:1-2,
1 Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. 2 He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.” (John 3:1-2 NIV)
The truth of the matter is that all kinds of “wonders” are done every week by people who say that God has empowered them to do them, but they are “wolves in sheep’s clothing.” Those are Jesus’ words and not mine. Still, in this instance, Nicodemus had seen Jesus do many signs while He was in Jerusalem and they drew him to Jesus.
John the Baptist was a sign pointing others to Jesus. He said, “I’m not the One! He is the One!” The signs that Jesus performed, healing the man who hadn’t been able to walk for 38 years at the Pool of Bethesda, turning the water into wine, raising Lazarus from the grave, none of these were done to simply meet someone’s need, but they were ultimately done to point to the reality behind the sign.
Don’t seek a sign—seek the Savior! The works of Jesus validated His ministry and put the spotlight on the reality that God has drawn near to you and me. The miracles that Jesus did were just a small part of the works God gave Him to live out. His life, His teaching, His miracles, and His journey to the Cross are all evidence that His claims were true—He is the Son of God, He is the Savior of the lost, He is the Judge of all the earth, and He is Voice who will sound at the last trumpet and the dead in Christ shall rise. What a Savior!
Jesus called forth the witnesses of John the Baptist and the works He had been given by the Father to do. They stood as irrefutable evidence to Jesus’ critics in His day. Those same witnesses are present for us this very morning. I could call forth lots of human witnesses this morning to testify how Jesus has changed their lives. The witness of a changed life and Jesus’ works still stand as pillars of truth for you and me. What’s your verdict? Will you continue to waver, question, and doubt? I hear people say, “I know your faith is good for you, but I just can’t believe.” My friend, I’m sorry, but I just don’t believe you. You have faith, but you are putting your faith in other things. Won’t you put your faith in Jesus this morning?
Britton Christian Church
922 NW 91st
OKC, OK. 73114
March 2, 2014