Reflection on John 5:39-47

Scripture: John 5:39-47

“You search the scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that testify on my behalf. Yet you refuse to come to me to have life. I do not accept glory from human beings. But I know that you do not have the love of God in you. I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not accept me; if another comes in his own name, you will accept him. How can you believe when you accept glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the one who alone is God? Do not think that I will accuse you before the Father; your accuser is Moses, on whom you have set your hope. If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me. But if you do not believe what he wrote, how will you believe what I say.”


We’ve finally reached the conclusion of Jesus’ lengthy rebuttal to the Pharisees upon their questioning his authority to heal on the Sabbath. For the most part up until now, Jesus has been concentrating on answering that question of his authority. He’s explained that the Father, the miraculous works that he’s performed, and recent prophets like John the Baptist have all testified to the authenticity of his claim to be the Son of God. Jesus even adds one more witness in our passage, today, claiming that Moses, himself, and his writings point to the divinity of Jesus. However, other than that small detail, in these concluding verses Jesus shifts the conversation away from explanation and into accusation.

The shift in the language, itself, is pretty drastic. Each of the other sections begins with an “I” statement from Jesus. He says things like, “I tell you” or “If I testify.” But that is far from the case in this section. Jesus asserts “You search” and “You refuse.” He has grown tired of being put on trial by these Pharisees. Now, Jesus is putting them on the defensive. And by claiming that even Moses wrote about him, Jesus is using their best piece of evidence against them. This reference to Moses is a reference to the law – that very law the Pharisees accuse Jesus of breaking. So, Jesus is really calling into question the Pharisees on two levels. He is basically saying that not only can’t they see or hear the very presence of God in front of them, but that they can’t even properly understand the very scriptures that they claim to be authorities over. Jesus takes their strength (i.e. knowledge of the law), and he makes it their ultimate weakness.

And so through these accusations, I think the point for us is a continuation from last time: the state of our relationship with Christ affects how we read scripture. However, today, I think the fact that Jesus brings Moses and the law into the conversation gives us something even more specific to consider. The law – that is all of the lists and rules from the first chunk of the Bible – must be read by Christians in light of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. I think this is the ultimate key for us as we try to read the Bible well. The point of it all is Jesus. Just always keep that in mind. Our stories about Jesus should inform the lessons we learn from other parts of the Bible. So, here’s my basic rule of thumb for interpreting the Bible: If I have an idea but it sounds like something Jesus wouldn’t agree with, chances are I should try thinking again.


Holy Spirit, enlighten me as I read the stories of my faith compiled in the Bible. Keep my vision and my thoughts ever on the grace and love of Jesus Christ. Teach me to read through his eyes. Amen.

Thought for the Day:

Just as our lives should, the Bible points to Jesus.


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