This sermon was given by our Authorised Lay Minister (ALM), Carol, on Sunday 28 October 2018.
- Isaiah 55.1–11
- Timothy 3.14 – 4.5
- John 5.36–47
When I finished high school, some time ago I admit, I left with a reference in the shape of a blue report book together with my O Level certificates. These summed up my talents/qualifications I had achieved over the past five years, and proved I had reached a certain standard of education, testimony, if you like, of what I could or could not do. But, if you needed a written reference the trick was to get the right teacher to write it, one that knew you and preferably liked you.
Why were we so concerned, so hung up about our references? I don’t think I’ve ever used my high school references in a job interview, except for the first one I had. But I have used references from other people and have also written them. Nowadays, references which are accompanied by a curriculum vitae (CV) for short, or detailed application form, tell a prospective employer who you are. They tell them what you have done and what you are qualified to do. They help inform the interviewer if you are the right person for the job. Earlier this year I took my granddaughter to a few places when she was looking for some Saturday employment, all that was asked for was her CV, with a reply of “we will text you if there are any vacancies”. Very recently my nephew put his CV online and proceeded then to have a telephone interview and he got the job, that was it, wow times have changed.
In the Gospel reading today, which begins earlier in John 5 at verse 31, Jesus is being asked about his references. Jewish leaders are attacking Jesus as they demand to know by what right he is saying the things he is saying and doing the things he is doing. Just previously to this, Jesus has healed a man on the Sabbath. This was a big no-no in the culture at the time, as the Jews believed that they should not work at all on the Sabbath and they considered healing someone as work. These Jewish leaders confronted Jesus and demanded to know what gave him the right to do and say the things he did. Who gave him permission to do these things?
Imagine Jesus in a job interview. He’s sitting there on one side of the table and the Jewish leaders on the other.
“Have you got any work experience?” “Well, I’ve healed the sick, given sight to the blind, cast out demons, walked on water, fed thousands with virtually nothing, and preached about God all over Israel.” “Okay, but do you have any references?”
The Jewish leaders wanted to know who Jesus was. They wanted to know why he was upsetting their way of doing things. Just who did he think he was?
So, Jesus pulls out his references. They liked John the Baptist, right? John had been baptising people and calling them back to God. His testimony would have to be worth something, right? In verses 31-33 Jesus says: “If I testify about myself, my testimony is not true. 32There is another who testifies on my behalf, and I know that his testimony to me is true. 33You sent messengers to John, and he testified to the truth.” John pointed towards Jesus as the one God has promised. The great Messiah who will bring glory to God and make Israel a great nation. But they didn’t believe what John said. If John’s testimony isn’t good enough, what about the things he has done? What Jesus is saying is that if he was the only one saying he is the Son of God then the claims would not be valid. But He is not the only one, is He?
If all the burden for proving his claims came down to just his word, then those claims must be false. For, if Jesus does everything in unity with God the Father, then God the Father also should testify for him. Jesus says God the Father does testify for him and that testimony is true. Verse 36 – “The works that the Father has given me to complete, the very works that I am doing, testify on my behalf that the Father has sent me.” Surely the work that the Father gave him to do, is testimony to who he is? Who else can do the things Jesus does, except the one who God sent?
John the Baptist was a good witness, but Jesus has greater ones. Jesus has been doing God the Father’s work. His pure lifestyle, focus on God, teachings, and miraculous powers all speak of his identity as the one sent by God the Father. The deeds Jesus was doing were miraculous, showing the power of God; they were in fulfilment of scriptural prophecies, identifying him as the Messiah-Saviour; they pointed to the redemptive work he would do on the cross as our sacrifice for sin; and they reflected the heart of God. Simply looking at what Jesus was saying and doing, the religious leaders should have been able to see who he really was. There was a lot of revelation from God in the Old Testament about the coming Messiah and the deliverance he would offer, even more about the character of God.
Even if the Jewish leaders ignore both references, they can’t ignore the next one. In verse 39, Jesus appeals to the Scriptures. The very Scriptures that these leaders have been studying all their lives. The very Scriptures that are foundational to everything they believe. Jesus points to the Scriptures and says, “These Scriptures? They’re all about me.”
In our second Reading this morning, Paul in his letter to Timothy referred to the scriptures saying that all scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work. Exactly, equipped for work – isn’t that the reference we all need to have, we all need the correct training to give us the right credentials to find our way in life. What better than the scriptures, the words of the bible.
Jesus is the promised son of God. He is the one that God said he would send to earth to deal with the problem of sin. These Jewish leaders had been waiting for him all their lives. But now that he was here, they didn’t want to have anything to do with him. They rejected the one who had come to save them.
Think about your life. Are you missing something? Are you searching and searching for something but haven’t found it? Are you looking to fill a hole in your life, but no matter what you try, it just doesn’t fit? Have you tried to find satisfaction and purpose in friends, family, material possessions, work, play, whatever? Have you found all the applicants lacking?
Are you looking for someone or something to be your saviour, but so far only found fakes? Have you tried interviewing Jesus? The reason that Jesus brings up his references is because he is the saviour. He is going through all of this because he is concerned about you, about us. He wants us to know that we can be rescued from sin. That we can be restored to a right relationship with God. And all we must do is accept him in our lives. All God asks of us is to believe. Jesus said, that those who responded in faith to his message about his identity, and his offer of salvation, through his sacrifice on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins, would be born again by the Holy Spirit and receive eternal life.
So consider Jesus for the position of your own personal saviour, your rock, the one who gives you strength. When you weigh up the evidence, when you examine the testimonies, when you look at his qualifications, you’ll find that Jesus is the only man for the job! Jesus came into this world to save you, to save us. Will you consider him for the position? After all He has God and the scriptures as his reference or testimony and who can have better than that?
Let us pray:
- May God’s Word be in your heart.
- May God’s Word be on your lips.
- May God’s Word be in your touch.
- May God’s Word direct your feet.
- On this day and all your days to come
- May God’s Word be the life you live. Amen