John 5:31-47 NKV
31 “If I bear witness of Myself, My witness is not true. 32 There is another who bears witness of Me, and I know that the witness which He witnesses of Me is true. 33 You have sent to John, and he has borne witness to the truth. 34 Yet I do not receive testimony from man, but I say these things that you may be saved. 35 He was the burning and shining lamp, and you were willing for a time to rejoice in his light. 36 But I have a greater witness than John’s; for the works which the Father has given Me to finish—the very works that I do—bear witness of Me, that the Father has sent Me. 37 And the Father Himself, who sent Me, has testified of Me. You have neither heard His voice at any time, nor seen His form. 38 But you do not have His word abiding in you, because whom He sent, Him you do not believe. 39 You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. 40 But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life.
41 “I do not receive honor from men. 42 But I know you, that you do not have the love of God in you. 43 I have come in My Father’s name, and you do not receive Me; if another comes in his own name, him you will receive. 44 How can you believe, who receive honor from one another, and do not seek the honor that comes from the only God? 45 Do not think that I shall accuse you to the Father; there is one who accuses you—Moses, in whom you trust. 46 For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote about Me. 47 But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?”
Jesus knows that simply bearing witness of Himself will not do, so He cites multiple witnesses. This is what Scripture requires: “By the mouth of two or three witnesses the matter shall be established” (Dt 19:15). That is, two witnesses are required, if they agree; if they do not agree, then a third witness is required to break the tie. In a fallen world disagreement and opposition are expected, so the best of two out of three witnesses confirms the matter.
Jesus’ testimony about Himself is receiving opposition, so He cites other witnesses to Him: John the Baptist, the works that He has done, the Father Himself, and the Scriptures (i.e., the Old Testament), specifically Moses, “for he wrote about Me” (46).
“You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life” (39-40).
Luther explains these words in a sermon in Halle on August 5, 1545: “So, then, Christ’s words to the Pharisees are as much as to say: … ‘I will give you a marvelous gloss and interpretation of Holy Scripture, which you do not yet know, so that you may read Scripture and open them aright, and then study the Scriptures so as to find Me, Me in them. Whoever reads the Scriptures so that he finds Me in them is the true master of the Scriptures. The dust is removed from his eyes, and he will certainly find life in them’” (AE 58:248).
Elsewhere, Luther says this: “As for me, I confess: Whenever I found less in the Scripture than Christ, I was never satisfied; but whenever I found more than Christ, I never became poorer. Therefore it seems to me to be true that God the Holy Sprit does not know and does not want to know anything besides Jesus Christ” (AE 14:204). It all hinges on Christ.
Let us pray: O God, by the humiliation of your Son you raised up the fallen world. Give your faithful people constant gladness, deliverance from the danger of eternal death, and make us partakers of eternal joys; through the same Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.