In today’s reading, Jesus gets confronted by the Pharisees who tell him that because he is testifying on his own behalf, his testimony is not valid. The law, it seems, requires at least two witnesses to make a testimony valid.
And Jesus says he has a witness, and that he is not merely testifying on his own. He says that his witness is his father. The pharisees, of course, wonder who his father is, and where this supposed father is that will testify for him.
We, of course, have the understanding that Jesus’ father is God, and that he is referring to being sent by the father for a particular mission. But the pharisees are still not quite grasping this concept, because here is a man that is talking around in circles saying that his father sent him, and when asked who his father is, he simply says that if the men knew him, then they would know who his father is too. Perfectly logical if you have the benefit of hindsight as we do, but not so clear or logical when you’re confronting the man. This reading today just really stuck out to me how crazy some of this might have sounded. You have a person who refuses to act according to the regulations, and then claims that he has a right to do these things because his invisible father testifies for him. Just a wee bit crazy, perhaps?
In a former life, I was part of a denomination that put a lot of emphasis on the charismatic, and the miraculous. Often, people would randomly come out and say that they had a “word from the Lord” for you, and then begin to give you information that they had apparently received from God – the invisible second witness in these scenarios. At times, these sorts of things seemed just a wee bit crazy.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I fully believe that God uses other people to speak into our lives at times, and it can certainly come from a stranger who feels a strong compunction to share some information with us. I have had moments like that where what someone said to me rang true, and I have acted on that information to positive results.
At other times, the information hung like a wet towel over a chair, and as the conversation progressed it was clear that the information that they had from God was merely information that they had picked up in conversation with other people, and it was just their own judgement passed off as God’s word. Clearly, I didn’t follow the advice at that time.
I think the case in this matter is that the invisible “second witness” will always be God. God will make it clear to you that he is the second witness when someone brings up these out-of-the-blue conversations by having this information convict you of its truth. And then you act upon it, because the comments have hit home.
And if there is nothing so moving, you do as a friend told me, which is to take the information, thank the speaker, and put it “on a virtual shelf,” and go about your business. If what the person has told you ever comes to pass, then you can re-examine it and decide to trust what this person has to say. I can say that in my personal experience, I have never had a moment where something did not ring true – as with a “second witness” – where what I was told came to pass.
So, now, if Jesus is claiming that he has a second witness, and that that witness is his father, and the pharisees are not feeling it, should we assume that they should just “put things on a shelf” and go about their business?
Well, that’s kind of what they did. They didn’t believe Jesus and in the end, what he had been trying to tell them came to pass. What he had spoken about came to fruition, and all of his comments about his father and about his work in the world came to pass.
One would hope that the Pharisees would take heed of those events and re-examine what Jesus had said and perhaps follow his teachings after all that had come to pass. But instead, most chose to continue to persecute his followers and continue in their own way, because they couldn’t come to believe that their God would allow such things.
Which just proves the point that Jesus had made to them: “You know neither me nor my Father. If you knew me, you would know my Father also.”