Moses

Three Women and a Baby

Joy Bible Institute Chapel • Thursday, 7 May 2020
J. Gary Ellison

NIVO Exodus 2:1-11 Now a man of the house of Levi married a Levite woman, 2 and she became pregnant and gave birth to a son. When she saw that he was a fine child, she hid him for three months. 3 But when she could hide him no longer, she got a papyrus basket for him and coated it with tar and pitch. Then she placed the child in it and put it among the reeds along the bank of the Nile. 4 His sister stood at a distance to see what would happen to him. 5 Then Pharaoh’s daughter went down to the Nile to bathe, and her attendants were walking along the river bank. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her slave girl to get it. 6She opened it and saw the baby. He was crying, and she felt sorry for him. “This is one of the Hebrew babies,” she said. 7 Then his sister asked Pharaoh’s daughter, “Shall I go and get one of the Hebrew women to nurse the baby for you?” 8 “Yes, go,” she answered. And the girl went and got the baby’s mother. 9 Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Take this baby and nurse him for me, and I will pay you.” So the woman took the baby and nursed him. 10 When the child grew older, she took him to Pharaoh’s daughter and he became her son. She named him Moses, saying, “I drew him out of the water.”

11 One day, after Moses had grown up, he went out to where his own people were and watched them at their hard labor. He saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his own people.

INTRODUCTION

What is it like to raise a child in difficult times? How do you keep your children safe when the world is not a safe place? Where do parents get the resources to raise godly children in an ungodly world?

We find in this second chapter of Exodus the story of three women and a baby.

1. A Mother

The first woman’s name is Jochebed. We get her name from

ESV Exodus 6:20 Amram took as his wife Jochebed his father’s sister, and she bore him Aaron and Moses, the years of the life of Amram being 137 years.

We know that Aaron was three years older than Moses.

ESV Exodus 7:7 Now Moses was eighty years old, and Aaron eighty-three years old, when they spoke to Pharaoh.

So when we come to Exodus 2, Aaron would have been about three years old. It does not seem that he had been in danger of the Pharaoh’s order.

We have seen in chapter 1

  • how God’s blessing had multiplied the children of Israel
  • how the Egyptians had seen this population growth of the Israelites as a growing threat,
  • how Pharaoh had put cruel taskmasters over the Israelites to try to work them to death,
  • how the blessing of God had thus made life bitter,
  • how Pharaoh then instituted his gender selection policy to have all the male children killed by the midwives and how that did not work.

Then we come to the end of chapter 1 where we read,

ESV Exodus 1:22 Then Pharaoh commanded all his people, “Every son that is born to the Hebrews you shall cast into the Nile, but you shall let every daughter live.”

It was in this context that we read that Jochebed became pregnant.

What was it like for a Hebrew woman to be pregnant in Egypt at this time? What was it like for Jochebed to realize that she was pregnant? Jochebed and Amran had been married for several years. They already had a young daughter, and three years before Jochebed had given birth to a son whom they named Aaron. But that was before Pharaoh’s edict to kill the newborn males. Pharaoh’s ethnic cleansing policy, his command to all his people to throw newborn Hebrew males into the Nile river, was new.

  • It had been bad enough that the slave masters had made life bitter for the Israelites. But they had been able to endure it.
  • It was worse that the midwives had been instructed to kill the male children. Those women feared God and not the king.
  • But now, Pharaoh had commanded all his people to take the male babies of the Hebrews and to throw them into the river.

What was it like for Amran and Jochebed to know that she was pregnant? In other circumstances, the awareness that they were going to have another child would have been a subject of great joy. They would have seen this as the blessing of the Lord even as God had been multiplying the nation. Now God would be using them to fulfill His promises.

But what it if were a boy? How had they prayed during those months of waiting? Had they prayed that God would give them a girl and not a boy? Had Pharaoh’s edict turned a subject of great joy into a great worry?

And then the day came. Jochebed gave birth to a baby boy. What would this mother do? What did she say when the midwives announced to her that it was a boy? “Oh, no! Not a boy!” Was she fearful? What would she do? What would they do?

It would be very dangerous to defy the king’s edict. If it were discovered that they were hiding a male child, the penalty could be very severe.

Was Amran on the same page with her? Were they in complete agreement about the child, about running the risk of keeping the baby boy?

How are we to face uncertain days? How did Amran and Jochebed face an uncertain future? With fear? Or with faith?

The writer to the Hebrews gives us the answer:

ESV Hebrews 11:23 By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw that the child was beautiful, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict.

They were not fearful, nor were they foolish. They did not parade the baby boy around for everyone to see, singing, “We are not afraid.”

They were motivated, not by fear but by faith. By faith, they hid the child for three months. They hid him to protect him.

Faith Sees What Fear Cannot See

Verse 2 tells has a strange explanation in it:

ESV Exodus 2:2 The woman conceived and bore a son, and when she saw that he was a fine child, she hid him three months.

Translators hardly know how to translate this verse.

  • ESV: a fine child (NIV, NIVO)
  • NAU: beautiful (CSB)
  • NET: a healthy child
  • NLT: a special child
  • FR: beau (all French versions)
  • BSL: i gud tumas

Maybe that’s the best translation. The word in Hebrew is טוֹב, tov and is used 300 times in the Old Testament, seven times in Genesis 1 where God saw that it was “good.”

Again, Hebrews 11:23 says, “they saw that the child was beautiful.”

Steven in his final sermon in Acts 7 tell us:

ESV Acts 7:20 At this time Moses was born; and he was beautiful in God’s sight. And he was brought up for three months in his father’s house,

Did you see that? Hebrews tells us that the parents “saw that the child was beautiful.” Steven tells us that “he was beautiful in God’s sight.” That tells us that the parents saw what God saw.

The parents saw what God saw.

  • God saw that the child was beautiful.
  • The parents saw what God saw.

When you look at your child, do you see what God sees?

God says things like this:

ESV Jeremiah 1:5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”

Believers through the ages have said things like this:

ESV Job 10:8 Your hands fashioned and made me…

ESV Job 10:11 You clothed me with skin and flesh, and knit me together with bones and sinews.

ESV Psalm 71:6 Upon you I have leaned from before my birth; you are he who took me from my mother’s womb. My praise is continually of you.

ESV Psalm 119:73 Your hands have made and fashioned me…

ESV Psalm 139:13-14 For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. 14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.

When you look at a child, what do you see? When you look at your child, what do you see? Do you see what God sees? Do you see that God has created that child with purpose and destiny?

It is clear from the Scriptures that abortion is a terrible sin against God. The child in the womb is God’s handiwork. However that child was conceived, it is God Himself who is making that child in His image.

Amram and Jochebed saw what God saw. And because they saw what God saw, they did everything they could to protect that child from the evil king.

2. Child in the Nile, Baby in the Boat

Jochebed and her husband hid him until they could hide him no longer. In case you did not know it, babies have a tendency to cry. Little babies have a little cry, but big babies make a big noise. This baby would soon be discovered. They baby’s life was in danger, and so were the lives of Amram and Jochebed. Something had to be done.

Pharaoh had commanded, “Every son that is born to the Hebrews you shall cast into the Nile” (1:22). So this baby would be put into the Nile! But not without protection.

NIVO Exodus 2:3 But when she could hide him no longer, she got a papyrus basket for him and coated it with tar and pitch. Then she placed the child in it and put it among the reeds along the bank of the Nile.

The baby was protected from the elements. He was placed in a safe place among the reeds. Now the child was completely in God’s hands.

There are times when a parent has done all that he or she can do. You have taken care of your child. You have protected it, fed it, nourished it and done everything to insure its health and success, but then you can do no more. How many times have you taken your little one to the doctor because you could do nothing else? You entrust your child to God and to others to do what you cannot do, to heal what you cannot heal, to fix what you cannot fix. This too is part of faith.

With a heavy heart she must have made the basket and made it waterproof. How difficult was it for Jochebed to put her baby in that basket? How did her heart break to leave him there in the waters of the Nile?

I imagine that she nursed her baby boy one last time and put him in the basket made of bulrushes or papyrus. She took him to the place and mixed her tears with the waters of the Nile.

The word here used for basket is tébâ ‎תֵּבַת (Exodus 2:3 WTT). It is only used here and one other place in the Bible. It is found in Genesis 6:14 where God instructed Noah to build an ark. Noah built the world’s largest ark and covered it inside and out with pitch. Jochebed build the world’s smallest ark and covered it with tar and pitch. Noah’s ark would save the human family from the judgment of God. Jochebed’s ark would save the baby who would deliver the people of God from Egypt.

3. Big Sister

We now read that the baby boy has a big sister, not very big, but bigger than him. This is the first time we see this sister, but it will not be the last time. We read about this family in Numbers:

ESV Numbers 26:59 The name of Amram’s wife was Jochebed… And she bore to Amram Aaron and Moses and Miriam their sister.

It is estimated that Miriam was six to twelve years old. How often had big sister helped her mother with the baby boy? Had she changed him? Had she bathed him? Had she held him and rocked him to sleep?

What had her mother told her about Pharaoh’s decree? Did Miriam know that her baby brother was in danger? How many times had she asked her mother, “What’s going to happen to him?”

Miriam would be part of the plan. She would be the first Israeli spy!

NIVO Exodus 2:4 His sister stood at a distance to see what would happen to him.

Miriam was old enough to carry on a conversation, and she was able to do it in Egyptian, a second language. But she was young enough not to stir up suspicion. Who would suspect a little girl walking along the river bank of being a spy?

No doubt she was following her mother’s instructions and her heart as she stood at a distance to see what would happen to him.

4. A Daughter Who Was a Princess

Miriam, the daughter of Jochebed, was soon to meet the daughter of Pharaoh.

NIVO Exodus 2:5 Then Pharaoh’s daughter went down to the Nile to bathe, and her attendants were walking along the river bank. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her slave girl to get it.

The waters of the Nile were considered sacred. This princess, the daughter of Pharaoh, had probably come to the river to a ceremonial cleansing rather than simply a bath.

But then she saw something strange. Something in the reeds. A floating basket. She sent one of her attendants to get it.

NIVO Exodus 2:6 She opened it and saw the baby. He was crying, and she felt sorry for him. “This is one of the Hebrew babies,” she said.

This is not what she was expecting. She had not come to the Nile to find a basket with a baby, but a crying baby in front of her feminine eyes provoke motherly instincts and feelings of compassion for the child.

Why was it here? Why was it in this basket? Who had put it here? There could only be one answer. This had to be one of the Hebrew babies. Someone had hidden this baby in the basket to protect it from her very own father! It was her father who had ordered the killing of the Hebrew baby boys.

This princess no doubt knew of her father’s concerns. She no doubt knew of his edict that Hebrew baby boys were to be cast into the river. Well, here was a Hebrew baby boy in the river, just as her father had commanded. Immediately there was a bonding with this infant. But what to do? She could hardly take the baby boy home. “Dad, look what I found in the river!” “Throw it back!”

Just then, in steps Miriam.

NIVO Exodus 2:7 Then his sister asked Pharaoh’s daughter, “Shall I go and get one of the Hebrew women to nurse the baby for you?”

Where did this come from? Where did Miriam get these words? Had she rehearsed them with her mother? Were they expecting the princess?

Or were these words given by the Spirit’s inspiration? After the crossing of the Red Sea, Miriam will be called “the prophetess”:

NIVO Exodus 15:20 Then Miriam the prophetess, Aaron’s sister, took a tambourine in her hand, and all the women followed her, with tambourines and dancing.

“Shall I go and get one of the Hebrew women to nurse the baby for you”?

If her words were not according to the careful plan and instruction of her mother, then her inward prompting must have come from God—not a moment too soon or too late, with not a word too many or too few!”[1]

Perhaps it was these very words of Miriam that put the idea of adoption in the heart of the princess.

“Shall I go and get one of the Hebrew women to nurse the baby for you?”

“One of the Hebrew women.” Did the princess see through this? Did she discern that this little girl was not just any little girl walking along the river bank, but perhaps the baby’s own sister? Did she understand that Miriam would bring back not just any Hebrew woman, but the boy’s very own mother? Did the princess willingly go along?

One word in the Hebrew: “Go.” “Yes, go.”

I can imagine Miriam trying to maintain her composure. She walks home, quickly, without running. She gets to the house, “Mom! Mom! You’ll never believe what just happened! Come, you’ve got to come!”

She tells her Mom the whole story while they hurry to the river.

ESV Exodus 2:9 And Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Take this child away and nurse him for me, and I will give you your wages.” So the woman took the child and nursed him.

Jochebed tries to act normal. “Sure, I can babysit for you. I’ll nurse the child for you. Salary? Oh, right. Whatever the going rate is, that will be fine.”

“The woman took the child.” Not “the mother.” Of course, it was his mother, but did the princess know that? Does she know that she is paying wages to the child’s mother to nurse him?

Steven tells us:

ESV Acts 7:21-22 and when he was exposed, Pharaoh’s daughter adopted him and brought him up as her own son. 22 And Moses was instructed in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and he was mighty in his words and deeds.

Now the big question is: How do you get a deliverer for the Hebrews from a boy who is brought up as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter and instructed in all the wisdom of the Egyptians? How does that happen?

The Nurturing of a Deliverer

Notice these two phrases side by side:

ESV Exodus 2:9-10 …So the woman [Jochebed] took the child and nursed him. 10 When the child grew older, she brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter, and he became her son…

How much time elapsed between the time when Jochebed took the child and brought him back to Pharaoh’s daughter? How much time did Jochebed have with her son as “the child grew older”?

The princess would have to wait until the boy was older. She would have to wait until her father, the Pharaoh, would be able to accept it. How much time did the boy’s mother have to invest in this baby boy?

All indications are that Jochebed did not have much time, perhaps a very few years. But Steven is clear:

Pharaoh’s daughter adopted him and brought him up as her own son.

Verse 11 is very instructive.

NIVO Exodus 2:11 One day, after Moses had grown up, he went out to where his own people were and watched them at their hard labor. He saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his own people.

Steven tells us that he was forty years old when this happened:

ESV Acts 7:23 “When he was forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his brothers, the children of Israel.

“His own people.” “His brothers.” “It came into his heart…”

I thought that he was Egyptian. I thought that he was raised as an Egyptian. He was “instructed in all the wisdom of the Egyptians” (Acts 7:22). Later when he flees to Midian, the daughters of Reuel refer to Moses as an Egyptian:

NIVO Exodus 2:19 They answered, “An Egyptian rescued us from the shepherds. He even drew water for us and watered the flock.”

He must look and dress like an Egyptian. But no, he is a Hebrew. How is it that Moses, forty years after being fished out of the Nile and brought up as an Egyptian, identifies with “his own people,” “his brothers”?

I will tell you in one word. It was his mother.

During those few short years, while nursing little Moses, she would sing him songs about the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob. This is not written in the text, but this is what must have happened.

  • Jochebed told her son how God had called his many times great grandfather Abraham out of Ur of the Chaldees and had promised him a land and a family that would be like the dust of the earth and the stars of the heavens.
  • She told him that God had told Abraham that his descendants would be strangers in a country not their own, and that they would be enslaved and mistreated for four hundred years (Genesis 15:13)
  • She told him how according to God’s promise, his many times great grandmother Sarah gave birth to Isaac when she was 90 years old!
  • She told him how that God had put his grandfather Abraham to the test when he was about 116 years old and was told to offer his only son Isaac as a sacrifice, and how that by faith Abraham offered up Isaac, knowing that God would provide a lamb.
  • She told him how that God had led Abraham’s servant Eliezer to find Rebekah, a wife for Isaac.
  • She told him how that God had answered Isaac’s prayer for Rebekah who had been barren, but God gave her two sons, Esau and Jacob.
  • She told her young son about the LORD appearing to Abraham’s son Isaac and renewing the covenant and promising to multiply his offspring as the stars of the heavens and to give them the land of Canaan. He promised that in his offspring all the nations of the earth would be blessed (Genesis 26:3-4).
  • She told him about Jacob and his twelve sons and how his great Uncle Joseph had become the Prime Minister of Egypt, and how the LORD had used Joseph to saved all the descendants of Abraham.
  • She told him about Joseph’s last words:
  • ESV Genesis 50:24-25 And Joseph said to his brothers, “I am about to die, but God will visit you and bring you up out of this land to the land that he swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. 25 Then Joseph made the sons of Israel swear, saying, “God will surely visit you, and you shall carry up my bones from here.”

  • She explained to him how God had been fulfilling His promise to Abraham by multiplying his descendants there in the land of Egypt, and that the four hundred years would soon be coming to an end, that the exodus from Egypt would take place in his lifetime.

Over and over again, Jochebed told little Moses of the promises and the faithfulness of God. And when he had grown up, Moses knew who he was and who his people were and who his God was because he had a mother who instilled faith in his heart.

ESV Hebrews 11:24-25 By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, 25 choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin.

Mothers have a limited time but a powerful influence on their children. Tell your children the story of Jesus. Tell them the stories of His wonderful works. Tell them of His love and His plan for their salvation.

Then the time will come when you will have to let them go. Trust God to bring back to their mind and hearts the Word of God that you have planted and watered through the years.

In these first two chapters of Exodus, God uses women to preserve the line of Israel and defy the wicked king who is dead-set on killing the Hebrew male children.

  • The midwives Shiphrah and Puah fear God and not the king.
  • A mother: the mother of Moses is moved by faith in God rather than fear of the king.
  • A sister: Miriam, the sister of Moses. She helps save her brother by her courageous suggestion to Pharaoh’s daughter.
  • And the princess: the daughter of Pharaoh has the compassion and courage to adopt a baby boy that her father was intent on killing.

Never underestimate what God can do through you, man or woman, boy or girl.

The daughter of Pharaoh named the boy “Moses.” “Because,” she said, “I drew him out of the water” (Exodus 2:10).

This baby boy who was drawn out of the waters of the Nile, would draw out from Egypt the children of Israel.

1,400 years later, a tyrannical king named Herod the Great, like Pharaoh before him, would order that all the baby boys in Bethlehem be killed. Joseph and Mary, the parents of Jesus, believed the promises of God and fled to Egypt.

“Just as God saved Moses to save his people,
so God saved baby Jesus to save his people…
He delivered Moses so that he could deliver the Israelites.
1,400 years later, he would deliver Jesus so that he could deliver us.”[2]


[1] Kaiser, Exodus (EBC), p. 309.

[2] Kevin DeYoung, https://www.universityreformedchurch.org/sermons/three-women-and-no-funeral/

John 05:30-46, “Jesus’ Witnesses”

 

English: Jesus Christ - detail from Deesis mos...

English: Jesus Christ – detail from Deesis mosaic, Hagia Sophia, Istanbul (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In John 5, Jesus claimed to be equal with God. Anyone could claim to be equal with God. But where’s the proof? We need evidence for such a claim. Jesus serves as his own defense attorney, calling witness after witness to the stand. You must make a verdict. Stay tuned…

A few years ago someone came into our home and stole some important items. Thankfully, we were insured and were able to make a claim to our insurance company. Now insurance companies are not in the business to give away money. They are in the insurance business to make money, so when you make a claim and ask them to give you money to compensate for your loss, they require that you present proof of your claim. They want proof of the value of the items that were stolen in the form of receipts. And they want proof that the items were really stolen in the form of a police report. So when you make a claim against an insurance company, they in effect ask you, “What’s your proof?”

Some time ago, Josh McDowell wrote the book Evidence that Demands a Verdict and later he wrote a followup book: More Evidence that Demands a Verdict. The book is packed with evidence that proves that the Bible is reliable.

In John 5, Jesus makes an astounding claim. It was not an insurance claim, but a claim about himself. He claimed that God was his own Father. Jesus understood the implications of his claim for his next remarks show that he knew exactly what he was saying. The Jews understood the implications of his claim that God was his own Father for that was the reason why the Jews wanted to kill Jesus. And John, the author of this Gospel, understood what Jesus meant, because John is the one that tells us the importance of what Jesus was saying.

As you may remember, it all began with Jesus healing a lame man. The Jewish authorities were persecuting Jesus because he had healed the lame man on the Sabbath. In effect, they were asking him, “Who do you think you are, healing people on the Sabbath?”

Jesus simply responded, “My Father is working until now, and I am working” (John 5:17). In other words, ‘”Whatever God does, I do.”

It is now that John gives us one of his many explanations in this Gospel. Literary specialists have counted over one hundred such parenthetical comments or “asides” as they call them. In each of them, John is leading “his readers to his desired conclusion.”[1] John tells us here in the next verse, John 5:18, exactly what we are to conclude:

This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God (John 5:18 ESV).

John, the writer of this Gospel, wants us to understand what the Jewish authorities understood and what Jesus understood and what John himself understood: Jesus was making himself equal with God.

Jesus “justified his work of healing on the Sabbath by reminding the Jewish authorities that they admitted God worked on the Sabbath. This explains the violence of the reaction. The Sabbath privilege was peculiar to God, and no one was equal to God. In claiming the right to work even as his Father worked, Jesus was claiming a divine prerogative. He was literally making himself equal to God, as John 5:18 goes on to state explicitly for the benefit of the reader who might not have made the connection.”[2]

This is what John tells us from the first verse of this Gospel,

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (1:1).

Again in the 18th verse of chapter one, John tells us,

“No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known” (John 1:18 ESV).

In several other places in this Gospel, John makes the same point: Jesus is God. “Who do you think you are, healing people on the Sabbath?” “My Father is always working, and so am I.” John tells us that Jesus was making himself equal with God.

What right do you have?

Later we considered the verses that follow John’s explanation. Jesus tells us that though he is equal with God, as Son of the Father, he is always submission to His Father’s will. Nonetheless, he has all the rights and privileges of God.

  • He does the works of God: “Whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise” (5:19).
  • He raises the dead and gives them life: Just “as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will” (5:21).
  • Like the Father, Jesus has life in himself: “For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself” (5:26).
  • Jesus will execute judgment: “The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son” (5:22).

The Son is to be honored just like the Father: “That all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him” (5:23). So the Son receives equal honor with the Father.

Today, we want to look at the evidence.

What proof do you have?

What is your evidence? Talk is cheap. Anyone can make claims. Anyone can claim to be God. Just visit the psychiatric ward of a major hospital and you will probably find people who believe that they are God.

When we were living in French Polynesia, I had the opportunity to talk with a short little man with long hair who rode a blue bicycle. He claimed to be Jesus Christ. My Tahitian friends told me that the man had eaten the wrong kind of mushrooms. I did share the gospel with the man that day in hopes that the Holy Spirit would be able to penetrate the man’s deranged mind with the truth about Jesus Christ.

Through the centuries, many people have made strange claims. Many have had dreams and visions and revelations and as a result, some have started new religions or cults or religious groups. What makes Jesus any different from them? What proves that Jesus wasn’t simply another lunatic? Jesus had proof. Jesus had witnesses. In fact, Jesus operates in the passage as his own defense attorney, calling witness after witness to support his claims.

 The Need for Witnesses

In a court of law, a witness is commonly sworn in. In my country, the witness is asked, “Do you promise to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God?” The witness swears an oath before God that his testimony will be true.

In the Old Testament, when capital crimes were committed — those crimes calling for the death penalty — before the death penalty could be given, there had to be at least two witnesses to the crime and their testimony had to agree completely. The idea of giving a true and accurate testimony was so important in the nation of Israel that God made it one of the Ten Commandments. The ninth commandment states, “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor” (Exodus 20:16). If a witness were to bear false witness against another, he would receive the sentence and punishment he had intended for the other (Deuteronomy 19:18-19). If a man were to bear false witness against another to get him executed, he might be found out and be executed instead.

In John 5:30-31, Jesus makes the following statement:

“I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me. 31 If I alone bear witness about myself, my testimony is not true (John 5:30-31 ESV).

Jesus says that his judgment is just, but then he says, “If I were to testify on my own behalf, my testimony would not be valid” (John 5:31 NLT). What does he mean by that? Jesus makes a lot of statements about himself. He is not saying that every time he says something about himself that it is not true. He is referring to the need for additional witnesses.

…The facts of the case must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses (Deuteronomy 19:15 NLT).

You may have had to go to a notary public to have your signature verified on an official document. Some documents require two signatures: there is a line your signature and another line for the signature of someone who witnesses you sign the document. Now suppose you were to sign on both lines. That would not work. You could not legally bear witness to your own action. You need someone else to confirm that you are the one who signed on the first line.

That is what Jesus mean when he said, “If I were to testify on my own behalf, my testimony would not be valid” (John 5:31 NLT).

But Jesus is not without supporting witnesses.[3] The Defense calls…

Witness Number One: John the Baptist

There is another who bears witness about me, and I know that the testimony that he bears about me is true (John 5:32).

Jesus first makes reference to God and will come back to God as his witness, but his hearers need another witness first, so Jesus calls John the Baptist as the first main witness:

33 You sent to John, and he has borne witness to the truth. 34 Not that the testimony that I receive is from man, but I say these things so that you may be saved. 35 He was a burning and shining lamp, and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light (John 5:32-35 ESV).

The importance of John the Baptist can hardly be overestimated. Other founders of cults and religions have had followers, but none have had a forerunner announcing their arrival before they came. John the Baptist did not come after Jesus to confirm him as the Messiah. John the Baptist came before Jesus. John’s ministry was outstanding. Multitudes were going to him to be baptized. People began wondering if he was the promised Messiah or the prophet that Moses had promised. “I am not,” the Baptist told them. “Then why are you baptizing?” they asked. “I am preparing the way for the one who comes after me,” he responded.

Though his ministry follows mine, I’m not even worthy to be his slave and untie the straps of his sandal” (John 1:27 NLT).

The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! 30 He is the one I was talking about when I said, ‘A man is coming after me who is far greater than I am, for he existed long before me.’ 31 I did not recognize him as the Messiah, but I have been baptizing with water so that he might be revealed to Israel.” 32 Then John testified, “I saw the Holy Spirit descending like a dove from heaven and resting upon him. 33 I didn’t know he was the one, but when God sent me to baptize with water, he told me, ‘The one on whom you see the Spirit descend and rest is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 I saw this happen to Jesus, so I testify that he is the Chosen One of God” (John 1:29-34 NLT).

Christ was born after John the Baptist and would come after him, but

John testified about him when he shouted to the crowds, “This is the one I was talking about when I said, ‘Someone is coming after me who is far greater than I am, for he existed long before me.'” (John 1:15 NLT).

John the Baptist points to the pre-existence of Christ. Though Jesus was born at least six months after John the Baptist, John says, “He existed long before me.” Christ did not begin to exist when he was conceived in the womb of Mary. According to the first verse of this Gospel, he is the Word who was in the beginning with God, and who was God (John 1:1).

“Jesus, what proof do you have to back up your claims?” Jesus calls John the Baptist as his first witness. John testifies that Jesus is eternal. He is the Christ. He is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit. He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

John the Baptist was an excellent, competent, and reliable witness.

But Jesus has an even greater witness than John…

The next witness is called to the stand…

Witness Number Two: The Works that Jesus Does

Jesus says in John 5:36,

But the testimony that I have is greater than that of John. For the works that the Father has given me to accomplish, the very works that I am doing, bear witness about me that the Father has sent me (John 5:36 ESV).

The Jewish authorities frequently asked for signs, miracles to prove that Jesus had the authority to do the things he was doing. For example, when Jesus cleansed the temple, the Jewish authorities understood that he was making a claim. He was claiming the right as Messiah to cleanse the temple. So they asked for a sign to show that he was indeed the Messiah. Instead, he challenged them to destroy the temple and he would raise it up in three days.

The author, the apostle John, tells us that Jesus was actually speaking of the temple of his body. Jesus was predicting his own death and resurrection. The Jewish authorities would destroy him, but Jesus had the authority to raise himself up again. On the third day, he would rise from the dead.

But there were plenty of signs for those who had eyes to see. The signs were miracles pointing beyond themselves. The signs signified something about Jesus. They pointed to his identity, who he was, and what he came to do. Jesus simply calls them his works. He says that his works prove that the Father had sent him.

In John 2, Jesus changed about 600 liters of water into wine. His disciples saw his glory and believed on him.

After cleansing the temple, we read in John 2:23 that Jesus did other signs and “many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing.”

In John 4, Jesus simply spoke the word and the nobleman’s son was healed at a distance of some 30 kilometers.

And in John 5, Jesus healed the man who had been lame for 38 years. It was that healing — that work on the Sabbath — that had stirred up the controversy with the Jewish authorities. It was their complaint against that work that had led him to explain, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working.”

“Think about it!” “…the works that the Father has given me to accomplish, the very works that I am doing, bear witness about me that the Father has sent me.”

How is it that Jesus is able change the water into wine, heal a dying boy with a word, and give a man legs who has been lame for 38 years? The “works that Jesus was doing showed that God was authenticating His identity.”[4]

Again in chapter 10 Jesus will say, “The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me,” (John 10:25 ESV).

If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; 38 but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father” (John 10:37-38 ESV).

Witness Number Three: The Father Himself

Jesus calls a third witness on his behalf, and that is the Father Himself. The works that Jesus did were an indirect witness of the Father to Jesus’ identity. But now Jesus says that there is a direct and personal witness that the Father gives. Perhaps Jesus is referring to the voice that many heard at his baptism: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17 ESV). Or perhaps he is referring to the Father’s audible testimony when Jesus was transfigured before Peter, James, and John.

In any case, Jesus said that the Jewish authorities were totally ignorant of the Father; they did not know Him.

  1. First, “his voice you have never heard,” Jesus said (John 5:37). Moses had heard God’s voice (Exodus 33:11). And Jesus speaks the words of God (John 3:34; 17:8), but the Jewish authorities did not hear God’s voice in Jesus.
  2. Second, “his form you have never seen” (John 5:37). Jacob had seen his form. “I have seen God face to face,” Jacob said. Jesus was himself the manifestation of God (John 1:18; 14:9), but the Jewish authorities failed to see God in Jesus.
  3. Third, Jesus told them, “you do not have his word abiding in you, for you do not believe the one whom he has sent” (John 5:38). Joshua meditated on the Word of God day and night (Joshua 1:8). The psalmist stored up God’s word in his heart (Psalm 119:11; 1:2). Jesus was himself the Word who was in the beginning with God and who was God, but the Jewish authorities did not delight in God’s word. They failed to recognize the Word when he was standing before them.

Jesus calls a fourth witness, a witness that the Jewish authorities should have known:

Witness Number Four: The Scriptures

You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life (John 5:39-40 ESV).

This is a most stunning indictment. The Jewish authorities searched the Scriptures but failed to understand that the Scripture themselves bear witness to Jesus Christ. Jesus is speaking, of course, of the Jewish Scriptures, what we call today the Old Testament.

We read in Luke 24:44 that before his crucifixion, Jesus had told the disciples that everything written about him in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalm had to be fulfilled. It was all written about him. Then after his resurrection, talking with two disciples on the road to Emmaus,

…beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself (Luke 24:27 ESV).

The Old Testament Scriptures pointed to Christ. The Christ would be more than just a man. He would be fully human, but he would be fully God: the God-man. So later in his ministry, Jesus asked the Pharisees how David in Psalm 110 could call the Christ “Lord” if the Christ were simply a descendent of David (Matthew 22:41-46). You don’t call your many times great-grandson “Lord,” unless he is… ah.. the Lord. The Christ would be much more than a human descendent of David. He would be that, but he would also be the Word made flesh, God in the flesh.

Isaiah said that he would be born of a virgin and would be called Immanuel, which means “God with us” (Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:23). Again Isaiah said this virgin-born son would be called “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6).

“Mighty God, Everlasting Father!” Yes, Jesus made himself equal with God, but that is exactly what the Scriptures had said he would be. The Scriptures gave witness to Jesus.

Witness Number Five: Moses

We might consider Moses simply as part of the Old Testament Scriptures, but Jesus mentions him specifically:

For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me. 47 But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?” (John 5:46-47 ESV).

Moses wrote of Jesus in a number of ways, but let me point to one very specific prophecy that Moses gave concerning Christ:

“The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers– it is to him you shall listen– (Deuteronomy 18:15 ESV).

[God says] I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. 19 And whoever will not listen to my words that he shall speak in my name, I myself will require it of him (Deuteronomy 18:18-19 ESV).

But at the end of the Book of Deuteronomy, they were still looking for that prophet:

And there has not arisen a prophet since in Israel like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face, 11 none like him for all the signs and the wonders that the LORD sent him to do in the land of Egypt, to Pharaoh and to all his servants and to all his land, 12 and for all the mighty power and all the great deeds of terror that Moses did in the sight of all Israel (Deuteronomy 34:10-12 ESV).

The people were still waiting. So when John the Baptist came on the scene, they asked him, “Are you the prophet?” “No,” he replied.

When the people saw Jesus feed 5,000 men with five loaves of bread and two fish, they said, “This is surely the prophet who is to come into the world” (John 6:14).

In John 7, Jesus promises flowing rivers of living water, that is to say the Holy Spirit, to those who come to him. When they heard these words, some of the people said, “This really is the Prophet” (John 7:40 ESV).

Yes, Moses was another witness of Christ. Christ was the Prophet that Moses had spoken of.

Witness Number Six: The Spirit of Truth

Jesus calls on four or five witnesses in chapter 5 to verify his claim to being equal with God. But there are two more witnesses in the Gospel of John.

In John 15:26, Jesus says that the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, will bear witness about him.

“But I will send you the Advocate– the Spirit of truth. He will come to you from the Father and will testify all about me (John 15:26 NLT).

Jesus describes the ministry of the Holy Spirit in John 16,

When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own but will tell you what he has heard. He will tell you about the future. 14 He will bring me glory by telling you whatever he receives from me. 15 All that belongs to the Father is mine; this is why I said, ‘The Spirit will tell you whatever he receives from me.’ (John 16:13-15 NLT).

So the Holy Spirit is a witness to Jesus.

Witness Number Seven: The Disciples

Finally, Jesus mentions the disciples. The disciples will be witnesses to Jesus Christ:

And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning (John 15:27 ESV).

As disciples of Jesus Christ, we are his witnesses. Forty days after his resurrection and just before his ascension into heaven, Jesus said this,

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere– in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8 NLT).

We are Jesus’ witnesses. The message of the early Church was Jesus Christ. The disciples went everywhere preaching and teaching about Jesus (Acts 5:42). Peter preached Christ (Acts 10:36). Stephen was a witness to Jesus Christ (Acts 22:20). Philip went to Samaria and preached the good news about Jesus Christ (Acts 8:12). The disciples that were scattered because of the persecution went everywhere preaching the Lord Jesus (Acts 11:20). Paul preached Jesus and the resurrection (Acts 17:18).

Paul wrote to the Corinthians,

For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified (1 Corinthians 2:2 ESV).

For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake (2 Corinthians 4:5 ESV).

Yes, the focus of the church has always been on Jesus Christ, who he is – God in the flesh – and what he did for us on the cross.

We are Jesus’ witnesses. He claimed equality with God. He had the rights and privileges of God, and he called seven witnesses to authenticate his claims.

  1. John the Baptist bore witness to Christ that he was the Son of God.
  2. The works — miracles — that Jesus did showed that God authenticated his identity.
  3. The Father himself in a personal and direct manner bore witness to His Son at his baptism, at his transfiguration, and again in John 12 when his voice thundered from heaven.
  4. The Scriptures all pointed to Christ and identified him as the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, Immanuel: God with us.
  5. Moses bore witness to Christ as the Prophet whose words we must obey.
  6. The Holy Spirit glorifies Jesus.
  7. True disciples will always preach Christ. He is the message we preach:

… Christ in you, the hope of glory. 28 Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ (Colossians 1:27-28 ESV).

So you have heard the evidence. What is your verdict? Is Jesus who he says he is? Is he equal with God? He does what God does. The witnesses say that he is equal with God. What do you say? As many as received him, to them he gave the power to become the children of God. He is the only way to the Father.

[1]Andreas Köstenberger, A Theology of John’s Gospel and Letters, 135.

[2]New English Translation (NET) note on John 5:18.

[3]R. C. Sproul. John (St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary) (Kindle Location 1262). Kindle Edition.

[4]R. C. Sproul. John (St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary) (Kindle Location 1292). Kindle Edition.

See also “Gospel of John”: