Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
John 5:40-41 AAnd ye will not come to me, that ye might have life. I receive not honor from men.@
Jesus came calling people unto Himself, but never for selfish reasons. Jesus wanted to give us spiritual life, not receive personal glory. He even withdrew from those who tried to make Him a king.
Jesus wanted nothing for Himself beyond what would honor God and help people. Christ always has much more to give us than we will ever have to give Him. Jesus was eager to save these religious leaders, but they stubbornly refused to be converted. They were evil men, but the people were deceived by them and thought they were devout, good men. These leaders= outward mannerisms impressed others. Christ was able to see the hate in their hearts.
Since their influence was dangerous to the masses, Jesus openly opposed them. It cost Him His life, but He felt compelled to warn people about fatal defects in the leaders they wrongly admired.
Jesus noted four errors that are always dangers of long-term religion. It is easy for the religious to slip into these mistakes.
John 5:42 ABut I know you, that ye have not the love of God in you.@
First, they did not love. They showed no joy at the healing of the lame man. Their hearts were cold. Jesus rebuked them for not having God=s love in them.
Love of God can refer either to God=s love for us or our love for God. The lack of either proves the absence of the other.
Without love, the leaders= religion automatically became selfish. They rejected any idea of genuine self-sacrifice. This often happens in churches today.
God=s love in us gives evidence to God=s presence among us. ABy this shall all men know that ye are My disciples, if ye have love one to another@ (John 13:35). If love is missing in our Christian walk, all else is vain.
As years go by, and we are repeatedly disappointed and disenchanted at people, it is easy to lose this essential virtue. Beware. People are actually worse than we imagine, but Jesus loves them anyway. We should too.
John 5:43 AI am come in my father=s name, and ye receive me not. If another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive.@
Second, the leaders wanted sweet talk rather than straight talk. Jesus came from God, but they rejected Him. If another came expressing his own thoughts and desires, they would accept him if his views harmonized with theirs.
There were about 64 significant claimants to the title of Messiah. Some amassed huge, loyal followings. The leaders embraced false prophets who would proclaim it was time to overthrow Rome and establish a political kingdom.
People follow imposters because they say what the listeners want to hear. False messiahs promised empires, wealth, military success, and a blaze of glory. These are always more appealing than a cross. Imposters offer an easy road.
Jesus sought only God=s pleasure, not the applause of men. He thus never twisted His message to suit any person=s fancy.
Teaching the whole truth of God, Jesus exhibited and demanded holiness, never making any compromise with evil. Hence, the religious leaders rejected Him. Today many still scorn the truth. People usually develop their own attitudes toward living, then expect God to rubber stamp their activities.
God will never be okay with His being used as an afterthought. He expects to be consulted first. God=s message cannot always be sweet. His Word is a sword, a hammer, a mirror, a revealer. God=s Word changes people, and change is necessarily painful.
John 5:44 AHow can ye believe, which receive honor one of another, and seek not the honor that cometh from God only?@
Third, the leaders craved the praise of people. They thrived on it, dressing for everyone to recognize them, praying so everyone would hear them, loving front seats in the Synagogue. They were so busy listening for people=s applause that they could not hear God=s voice.
These leaders made a deadly mistake. They measured themselves by comparing themselves with others. As long as we compare ourselves to others, we will never lack examples that leave us smug.
Judging ourselves by human comparisons leaves plenty of room for self-satisfaction, the murderer of faith and growth. We must ever compare ourselves to Jesus. Comparing ourselves to others and seeking their applause is dangerous. A person who follows the world is a slave to those whose opinion he courts.
People=s praise easily turns its receivers into cowards. They become afraid to lose the praise. It is addicting. People can live on the breath of others.
If our prime motivation is to please people, we will not long please God. We will inevitably let the thunder of human flattery drown out God=s voice.
John 5:45-47 ADo not think that I will accuse you to the Father: there is one that accuseth you, even Moses, in whom ye trust. For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me: for he wrote of me. But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words?@
Fourth, these men praised Scripture, but didn=t obey it. Jesus states they did not believe Moses. This would have sounded strange to these literalists. They prided themselves in their adherence to Scripture.
The only Abelieving@ in Scripture worth speaking of must be Areceiving@ it for the purposes God caused it to be written. The true test of belief is the effect it produces. Many say they believe, but their actions refute their words. Belief in Scripture is ultimately proved by actions, not words.
The Law was given to convince people of sin, but these leaders were never convinced of their own sin. All their knowledge of Scripture was useless because they failed to understand its main emphasis.
Another aspect of their disbelief lay in refusing to regard the Law as transitory. They killed its spirit, petrified its form, and became comfortable with legalism. They became rigid, whereas a mark of God=s people is always a willingness to be molded by God. Conforming to Christ=s image implies change.
The leaders enjoyed their role as chief interpreters of Moses= writings. External privileges and advantages are often the vain confidence of those who reject Christ and His grace. They who rest on their laurels, and do not continue to improve, will find their privileges to be condemning witnesses against them.
The supposed advocate will be found to be their accuser. Moses himself will be a prosecuting witness against the leaders.
The very things of which we are proud may be our worst enemies. Some cease striving for increased Godliness once they achieve a certain position or hold a certain office. Reaching the goal becomes the death of further growth.
These Aguardians of Scripture@ were spiritually dead. They teach us obedience is better than praise, even when it comes to Scripture.
Though these verses rebuke, we do not discern here in our Lord words of hatred. Here is nothing but a broken heart.
The emphasis is sadness, not anger. We see Christ=s heart opened, and it reveals to us the intensity of His love. When Jesus debated, His love always came through. Jesus came neither to condemn sinners, nor to pick quarrels with everybody. He wasn=t a spy. He came to reconcile us to God, to give life.
Jesus was stern, but always the accent was compelling love. Even when His eyes flashed with fire, it was the flame of love.
Jesus died for the Pharisees= sins as well as for everyone else=s. The sinner=s condition made no difference. He loved and made provision for all.