In my two years here as Youth Chaplain, I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve had two children in front of me going ‘He hit me’ ‘He called me a name’ ‘I was using that colour and she stole it’ Dealing with children can be a joy, but dealing with the squabbles and disagreements of the kids, especially when it’s one against the other, can be an absolute nightmare. And it’s in times like this that I really appreciate the method of dealing with situations as it is in Deuteronomy.
And we come across it in action in our second reading tonight as Jesus faces some of the Jewish leaders.
To put this in context. Jesus has just healed the paralyzed man at the pool, and it’s the Sabbath. So Jesus was in trouble with some of Jewish Leaders for doing what was not allowed on the holy day. But Jesus is also accused of claiming to be equal with God which causes some serious questioning.
It’s clear they don’t believe in him, and they are asking why they should. Which is fair enough. We all go through a time of questions about who Jesus really is and we all question if he is someone we should believe in, and follow in our lives. So this is the Jewish leader’s time of questioning.
Now I admit these issues are more important then who used the last of the glittery sticker stars or who pushed who when playing a game of football. But the Jewish law concerning accusations and witnesses says that ‘a single witness shall not suffice against a person for any crime. Only on the evidence of two witnesses or of three witnesses shall a charge be established. Which is what Jesus is saying when he tells them ‘If I testify about myself, my testimony is not true’. It is not that he is unreliable or a lair, but the evidence of one is not good enough.
Everything needs to be verified by two or more people before it can stand up.
And so Jesus brings to the leaders four witnesses which can speak in his favour.
The first witness that Jesus mentions is John the Baptist. They liked John. He preached well and brought people back to God through the baptism he offered. But John also spoke a lot about Jesus and said many interesting things, such as. “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” “He must increase and I must decrease” “He is the one coming after me, whose sandal I am not fit to untie”.
Jesus calls John a burning and shining lamp
But Jesus has greater testimonies to offer.
The second witness he brings forward are his works, which are the works of the Father, and proof that God sent Jesus. I can imagine Jesus turning round and saying to them, with a little bit of attitude, ‘Look! Do you see anyone else round here healing the sick, or performing miracles and teaching with divine authority? No? I didn’t think so, so you should listen to the one who does. Me!
Thirdly, Jesus calls on God himself. Jesus says “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” … which I don’t think would have convinced the Jewish leaders too much. This is a statement rather than an argument, and this could go round in circles for a while. But the point that Jesus is trying to get them to understand is that if they believe in the Father, they must believe in both.
And finally he brings in the scriptures as evidence for him. “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 and have life.” Jesus tells them if they want to understand who he is, they have to read their scriptures. They have to go back in the Old Testament to learn about him. They would have to go back to Moses, who predicted the failure of the Israelites and promised a Saviour who would led them, if they paid attention and recognised the signs.
Unlike my kids who come telling tales with only their word against another’s. We have four witnesses to testify for Jesus, and to tell us who he really is. And yet the Jewish leaders still reject him, because of their pride, and their unwillingness, and their ignorance to what has been laid out for them to see. They see and they hear, but they reject it.
And there are many today who still do not believe in Jesus. And so here are Jesus’ four witnesses. But we have many more today, from the church and the saints, to the New Testament, the sacraments and the continuation of God’s works. These all speak to who Jesus is, if we but take the time to explore and learn.
The Jewish Leaders did not know Jesus, because they hadn’t given time to get to know him through the witnesses they were presented with.
How much time do you give to these witnesses? How much have you learnt from them about Jesus?
It’s easy to listen to one voice and follow it. It would be easy for my just to accept the first version of events that is presented to me by one of our kids. But it is not always right.
We have so many ways we can learn and explore the Son of God, and to understand who he is and what he did and how we are to respond. Give yourself some time to get involved in them, and find out for yourself.