Reflection on John 5:31-38

Scripture: John 5:31-38

“If I testify about myself, my testimony is not true. There is another who testifies on my behalf, and I know that his testimony to me is true. You sent messengers to John, and he testified to the truth. Not that I accept such human testimony, but I say these things so that you may be saved. He was a burning and shining lamp, and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light. But I have a testimony greater than John’s. The works that the Father has given me to complete, the very works that I am doing, testify on my behalf that the Father has sent me. And the Father who sent me has himself testified on my behalf. You have never heard his voice or seen his form, and you do not have his word abiding in you, because you do not believe him whom he has sent.”


Today, we read part three of Jesus’ lengthy monologue concerning who he is and the source of his divine authority. These verses make much more sense when we recall that Jesus is addressing the Pharisees. After he healed the man on the Sabbath, they questioned his authority to do so. These thirty verses that we are in now are his formal response to that question. So far, he has leaned pretty heavily on the notion that he is acting on behalf of the Father in heaven who has commissioned him, the Son, as the source of his authority. However, today, Jesus begins to expand the proof for his divinity.

Jesus points, first, to John the Baptist. John was a prophetic voice who pointed to the truth of Jesus’ identity before his ministry even began. Next, Jesus points to the most obvious of proofs: his works. He says, “The works that the Father has given me to complete, the very works that I am doing, testify on my behalf that the Father has sent me.” I like this one the most because he’s pointing out just how ridiculous these Pharisees are being about the recent healing. Jesus is essentially saying, “You remember that guy who was sick ten minutes ago, but is now walking around because of me… Yeah, think about where the power to do that has got to come from.” And finally, he returns to the idea that the Father, himself, has already testified on his behalf. However, this time he adds a little bit of an accusation to the end. He tells these holiest of holy Pharisees that they can’t understand Jesus’ authority because they can’t hear or understand the word of God. The Pharisees prided themselves on knowing the scriptures… aka the word/voice of the Father… backwards and forwards. So, this was a huge indictment on the very character of who everyone believed the Pharisees to be.

I think that it is here, in this shocking accusation about the Pharisees that we find an important lesson about ourselves from this passage. It’s there in that final phrase, “because you do not believe him whom he has sent.” The truth is that we can know the Bible backwards and forwards like the Pharisees. We can read it from cover to cover countless times. But, if we don’t know Jesus personally, and if we don’t let that relationship inspire our reading and allow the words to come alive for us, then we are missing the point entirely. When we fail to see the life, death, and resurrection of Christ at the center of everything we read in scripture, the life-giving potential in these words falls flat. It is when we truly read with the Spirit of Christ that the bible becomes the Word of God for us today, and every other day.


Lord Jesus, fill me with your Spirit as I read and reflect on the scriptures that they may become my source of life, hope, and direction.

Thought for the Day:

Scripture can be life-giving when our reading is inspired by our experience of God’s grace and love.


4 thoughts on “Reflection on John 5:31-38

    • Absolutely, Susan. The deeper our relationship with Christ, the more the Spirit reveals to us the deeper truths of scripture. That’s why a single passage can continue to inform us and teach us even years after we first read it. Thanks for your comment!


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