Personal testimony

Jesus’ healing of the man born blind provided an opportunity for him to give his personal testimony to the religious leaders that denied Jesus was the promised Savior of God’s people. When the man was asked how he had received his sight, “He said unto them, He put clay upon mine eyes, and I washed, and do see” (John 9:15). This straight forward account of what happened left little room for the Pharisees to question the man any further. As usual, the religious leaders were divided about the authenticity of Jesus’ miraculous power. John recorded, “Therefore said some of the Pharisees, This man is not of God, because he keepeth not the sabbath day. Others said, How can a man that is a sinner do such miracles? And there was a division among them” (John 9:16). In an attempt to discredit the man who was healed, the Pharisees brought in his parents to see if they would corroborate his story or deny that a miracle had taken place.

The parents of the man that was healed refused to put their own reputations on the line, but instead claimed that their son was old enough to testify on his own behalf (John 9:23). It says in John 9:24, “Then again called they the man that was blind, and said unto him, Give God the praise: we know that this man is a sinner.” The Pharisees’ persistent haranguing of the man who was healed did little to shake his confidence in what had happened to him. In what appeared to be a sarcastic jab at the Pharisees ignorance, “He answered them, I have told you already, and ye did not hear: wherefore would you hear it again? will ye also be his disciples?” (John 9:27). This man’s courageous personal testimony left the Pharisees with little choice but to ban him from their synagogue in order to prevent him from influencing others into believing in Jesus. In a final attempt to convince the Pharisees he was telling the truth, the man said:

Why herein is a marvelous thing, that ye know not from whence his is, and yet he had opened mine eyes. Now we know that God heareth not sinners: but if any man be a worshipper of God, and doeth his will, him he heareth. Since the world began was it not heard that any man opened the eyes of one that was born blind. If this man were not of God, he could do nothing. (John 9:30-33)

After the man was cast out, Jesus found him and encouraged him in his faith. Jesus told the healed man that he was the Son of God and gave him the opportunity to be born again (John 9:35). Immediately, the man committed himself to Jesus, “And he said, Lord, I believe. And he worshipped him” (John 9:38). The commitment the man made to Jesus was not based on the miracle he done for him, but an understanding of who Jesus really was, God in human form. Jesus allowed this man to worship him because he knew his faith was genuine.

Controversy

Toward the end of Jesus’ ministry, there was a lot of public debate about his true identity. Part of the problem was that Jesus intentionally tried to keep his identity a secret. Many times after he performed a miracle, he would tell the recipient not to tell anyone what had happened to him. Even when Jesus took three of his disciples to the top of a mountain and showed them his glorified state, he instructed them saying, “Tell the vision to no man, until the Son of man be risen again from the dead” (Matthew 17:9). It says in John 7:1, “After these things Jesus walked in Galilee: for he would not walk in Jewry, because the Jews sought to kill him.” The controversy about Jesus stemmed from the fact that many people knew him as the son of Mary and Joseph, a carpenter who had lived an ordinary life until the start of his ministry around the age of 30. When it was time for Jesus to begin his work of salvation, he tried to win the common people over without impressing them with his holy grandeur. Often times, Jesus had to sneak away to remote locations just to get a break from the masses of people that sought his help. During a popular religious festival, that would be attended by the majority of the Jewish population, Jesus was encouraged to “go into Judea, that thy disciples also may see the works that thou doest. For there is no man that doeth any thing in secret, and he himself seeketh to be known openly. If thou do these things, shew thyself to the world” (John 7:3-4).

The crux of the argument being presented to Jesus was that his intention of being the savior of the world meant that he had to be known by everyone. Therefore, it was necessary for him to go where masses of people could witness his miracles. Jesus knew that the risk of being killed was too great for him to expose himself to anymore public appearances. After Jesus’ brethren were gone, it says in John 7:10, “then went he also up to the feast, not openly, but as it were in secret.” Jesus’ intention to keep himself hidden from the religious leaders was nearly an impossible feat. When it was discovered that Jesus was somewhere in the vicinity, “Then the Jews sought him at the feast, and said Where is he? And there was much murmuring among the people concerning him: for some said, He is a good man: others said, Nay; but he deceiveth the people” (John 7:11-12). When the Pharisees heard the murmuring about Jesus, they sent officers to arrest him, but Jesus told them, “Yet a little while am I with you, and then I go unto him that sent me. Ye shall seek me, and shall not find me and where I am, thither ye cannot come” (John 7:33-34).

Jesus’ reference to his ascension to heaven was probably meant to startle the officers that came to arrest him so that they would realize he wasn’t an ordinary man that they could just take into custody. When the officers were asked to explain why they hadn’t arrested Jesus they told the Pharisees and chief priests, “Never man spake like this man” (John 7:46). In other words, they recognized the supernatural power of Jesus’ words and were unwilling to try and take him by force. Like the prophet Elijah, Jesus could have brought fire down from heaven and consumed these men if he chose to (1 Kings 1:10). At the heart of the discussion about Jesus true identity was the question about whether or not the Pharisees intended to allow the Jews’ Messiah to accomplish his mission on earth. At that time, it was becoming clear to the religious leaders that Jesus had already won over the majority of people and proven himself to be who he claimed to be, “the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). Among the Pharisees that were debating what to do about Jesus, was Nicodemus (John 7:50), the Pharisee that had come to Jesus by night and admitted, “no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him” (John 3:2). Even though Jesus had given him an in depth explanation about how he could be saved (John 3:3-21), Nicodemus didn’t appear to have been converted, because rather than sharing what had happened with the other Pharisees, Nicodemus suggested a trial should be conducted in order to settle the controversy about Jesus’ identity once and for all (John 7:51).

 

A sign

The scribes and the Pharisees were notorious for their criticism of Jesus and went so far as to suggest that he was performing miracles by the power of Beelzebub the prince of the devils (Matthew 12:24). After Jesus told these hypocrites that they would be judged for their blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, it says in Matthew 12:38, “Then certain of the scribes and Pharisees answered, saying, Master, we would see a sign from thee.” The fact that the scribes and Pharisees used the title Master to refer to Jesus and then asked him for a sign showed their disrespect for his authority. Essentially, what these men were doing was asking Jesus to show them his credentials. The scribes and Pharisees didn’t believe Jesus was their Messiah and wanted evidence that he was who he claimed to be. At a deeper level, these men expected Jesus to act like their version of what they thought God’s Messiah would be, a revolutionary that would overthrow the Roman government.

In spite of their disrespectful attitude, Jesus told the scribes and Pharisees that he would give them a sign similar to the one that was given to Nineveh, the wicked city where Jonah the prophet was sent with a message of God’s judgment (Jonah 1:2). Jesus said, “For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Matthew 12:39). Interestingly enough, Jesus didn’t tell the scribes and Pharisees that his resurrection would be the sign of his authenticity, but told these sceptics that the proof he would give them that he was their Messiah would be his death and burial. In other words, the proof that Jesus was the Jew’s Messiah was that he would be killed by the very same people he came to save. This was also a prophetic sign because it was foretold hundreds of years earlier that Israel’s Messiah would suffer and die for God’s chosen people (Isaiah 53).

Jesus depicted the spiritual state of God’s people as being susceptible to demonic influence (Matthew 12:45). This may have been the case because Satan had gained significant ground in God’s territory through Roman occupation. Jesus’ illustration showed that God’s people should expect things to get worse, rather than better, after the Roman government was out of the picture. He said, “When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest, and findeth none. Then he saith, I will return unto my house from whence I came out; and when he is come, he findeth it empty, swept, and garnished. Then goeth he, and taketh with himself seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter in and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first. Even so shall it be also unto this wicked generation” (Matthew 12:43-45).

Witnesses

Jesus responded to the Jews rejection of him as their Messiah by first letting them know that they would be jusged for their choice (John 5:22) and then, explained to them that there would come a day when everyone would be resurrected from the dead, but rather than entering into the presence of God and living with him for eternity, those who rejected Jesus would spend eternity in hell (John 5:29). Jesus intentionally made a point of declaring the truth about God’s judgment early in his ministry, and also talked about it often, so that no one could say, I didn’t know about that. Comparing God’s judgment to a legal case in which each person would be charged with some offence, Jesus said, “Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father: there is one that accuseth you, even Moses, in whom you trust” (John 5:45). Jesus said this because his “listeners prided themselves on their attachment to Moses, the great lawgiver. So it was an unexpected thrust for Jesus to say Moses himself would accuse them before God” (note on John 5:45).

Thinking about the evidence required to convict someone of a crime in a court of law, Jesus identified four witnesses that could testify that he was in fact the Jews’ Messiah. The first witness Jesus called to their minds was John the Baptist (John 5:33). The Jews were familiar with John’s message and many saw him baptize Jesus in the Jordan river (Matthew 3:16). During his first encounter with Jesus, John stated, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). Jesus told the Jews, “But I have greater witness than that of John: for the works which the Father hath given me to finish, the same works that I do, bear witness of me, that the Father hath sent me” (John 5:36). Jesus was referring to his works of salvation. The Messiah’s mission was to save God’s people and Jesus intended to finish that assignment through his death and resurrection. Ultimately, there was no better way for Jesus to prove he was who he said was than to resurrect himself from the dead. If that wasn’t enough, Jesus added that God himself had testified to his identity (Matthew 3:17) and the Scriptures also testified of him (John 5:39).

Miracles

Jesus’ ministry began with a great display of the power he possessed as the Son of God. This supernatural activity drew a lot of attention to Jesus’ ministry and resulted in both good and bad circumstances that he had to deal with throughout the rest of the three years he ministered to God’s chosen people. Matthew described the start of Jesus’ ministry this way.

And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people. And his fame went throughout all Syria: and they brought unto him all sick people that were taken with divers diseases and torments, and those which were possessed with devils, and those which were lunatick, and those that had palsy; and he healed them. (Matthew 4:23-24)

Jesus’ ability to cure any and every disease by supernatural means was recognized as a sign of his deity. Not since the time of Elijah and Elisha, hundreds of years earlier, had God’s people seen such a display of God’s power. Mark’s account of the launch of Jesus’ ministry focused on the authority with which he worked his miracles. He said,”And they were all amazed, insomuch that they questioned among themselves, saying, What thing is this? what new doctrine is this? for with authority commandeth he even the unclean spirits, and they do obey him” (Mark 1:27).

One of the keys to understanding Jesus’ approach to his ministry was the connection made between sin and disease in the mind of God’s people. The Mosaic Law stated that disease was a consequence of sin. Shortly after the Israelites left Egypt, Moses told them “If thou wilt diligently hearken to the voice of the LORD thy God, and wilt do that which is right in his sight, and wilt give ear to his commandments, and keep all his statutes, I will put none of these diseases upon thee, which I have brought upon the Egyptians: for I am the LORD that healeth thee” (Exodus 15:26).

Perhaps the clearest demonstration of Jesus power, authority, and compassion for the sick was displayed when he healed a paralyzed man who was let down through the rooftop tiling by his friends so that he could get close enough to Jesus to be healed. Luke’s gospel states:

And when he saw their faith, he said unto him, Man, thy sins are forgiven thee. And the scribes and the Pharisees began to reason, saying, Who is this which speaketh blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone? But when Jesus perceived their thoughts, he answering said unto them, What reason he in your hearts? Whether is easier to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Rise up and walk? But that he may know that the Son of man hath power upon earth to forgive sins, (he said unto the sick of the palsy,) I say unto thee, Arise, and take up thy couch, and go into thine house. And immediately he rose up before them, and took up that whereon he lay, and departed to his own house, glorifying God. (Luke 5:20-25)

John’s account of the start of Jesus’ ministry provided a timeline of the first three days of his activities and recorded that only a few days into his ministry, Jesus declared his intent to rise from the dead after he was crucified. This final miracle was to be the ultimate sign to the Jews that Jesus was in fact their Messiah. After cleansing God’s temple, the Jews confronted Jesus about his unorthodox behavior. It says in John’s gospel, “Then answered the Jews and said unto him, What sign showest thou unto us, seeing that thou doest these things? Jesus answered and said unto them, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up. Then said the Jews, Forty and six years was this temple in building, and wilt thou rear it up in three days? But he spake of the temple of his body” (John 2:18-21).

The Son of God

The genealogical records of his birth (Matthew 1:1-16; Luke 3:23-38) both showed that Jesus was Israel’s Messiah, but looked at his unique position from two different perspectives. First, Matthew established that Jesus was the legal heir to David’s throne and therefore, he had the right to identify himself as the king of the Jews. Luke traced Jesus’ ancestry all the way back to the original man, Adam. In his account, Luke did not specifically stated that Jesus was the son of Joseph, but said he was “being (as was supposed) the son of Joseph” (Luke 3:23). Luke’s comment was intended to show that Jesus could inherit his father’s estate, even though he was not his biological relative. His position as the first born son of Joseph’s family entitled Jesus to certain rights and privileges. What Luke was most likely getting at by linking Jesus to Adam, the first man whom God created, was that Jesus inherited not only the blessing that God bestowed on Adam as his “son” (Luke 3:38), but also the sin nature or curse that was passed on from generation to generation after Adam sinned in the garden of Eden. The importance of Jesus’ humanity and identification with the sin nature of man was stressed by Luke in his gospel because he wanted to make it clear that Jesus was a member of the fallen human race.

Jesus held a dual position from God’s perspective, he was both a member of the human race and a member of the three-person trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. As the Son of God, Jesus also had certain rights and privileges. God said after Jesus was baptized, “Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased” (Luke3:22). This statement clearly identified Jesus as God’s biological offspring. Mary was told before Jesus was conceived that he would be “called the Son of God” (Luke 1:35). The implication being that Jesus would not be called or recognized as the biological offspring of Joseph. As his human offspring, Jesus was well pleasing to God because he was the result of God’s long and arduous attempt to save mankind. Thousands of years had transpired since Adam’s sin in the garden of Eden, but Jesus’ birth essentially brought to a conclusion God’s plan of salvation and marked the beginning of a new era; one in which God’s relationship to man would be restored and his spiritual offspring would finally come into existence. At the onset of his ministry, Jesus acknowledged that he was destined for a single mission, to establish the kingdom of God on earth (Mark 1:15). In order to do that, Jesus had to overcome the constraints of his humanity and enter into the realm of the spirit where man and God become one.

Prophecy

Following the birth of Jesus, his parents Joseph and Mary took him to the temple to have him dedicated to the Lord. While they were there, Joseph and Mary encountered a man named Simeon to whom it had been revealed that the birth of Israel’s Messiah would take place before his death. Simeon blessed the couple “and said unto Mary his mother, Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against; (Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also,) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed” (Luke 2:34-35). This strange prophecy may have baffled Joseph and Mary because although they were very familiar with warfare, the idea that a person’s soul could be pierced by a sword had never been spoken of before. The only clue Mary had to understanding what Simeon told her was an ancient prophecy from Isaiah that stated, “Listen, O isles, unto me; and hearken, ye people, from far; The LORD hath called me from the womb; from the bowels of my mother hath he made mention of my name. And he hath made my mouth like a sharp sword; in the shadow of his hand hath he hid me, and made me a polished shaft; in his quiver hath he hid me; and said unto me, Thou art my servant, O Israel, in whom I will be glorified” (Isaiah 49:1-3).

It wasn’t until the book of Ephesians was written many years later by the Apostle Paul that a clear understanding of Simeon’s message became evident. Talking about spiritual warfare, Paul told believers to “put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil” (Ephesians 6:11) and then specifically stated, “and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:17). Spiritual warfare was impossible before Jesus was born because there were no “weapons” for believers to use against Satan. The point Simeon was trying to make when he told Mary “a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also” (Luke 2:35) was that Jesus’ words would convict even his own mother of her sinful human nature. Luke eluded to the power associated with Jesus’ words when he stated, “And they were astonished at his doctrine: for his word was with power” (Luke 4:32). The full extent of the power of Jesus’ words won’t be realized until his second coming. John’s vision of the resurrected and glorified Jesus Christ is recorded in Revelation 1:16, where it says, “And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp twoedged sword: and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength.”

God’s ability to reveal the thoughts, and even intents, of human hearts was at the core of Jesus’ ministry. Many times, Jesus made it clear that he knew what people were thinking and could discern whether or not they had a sincere desire to change or merely wanted to be acknowledged as a good person (Luke 18:18-23). One of the essential reasons Jesus came into the world as a man was so that he could determine for himself the extent of Satan’s influence over the human heart. Simeon’s prophecy about Jesus, “this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel” (Luke 2:34) suggested that as a human, Jesus had distinct capabilities by which he could tell whether or not someone was receptive or resistant to the words he spoke to them. Although God is able to see the heart of man, his thoughts and feelings; as a man, Jesus was able to see the looks on people’s faces and could interpret their body language. It says in Proverbs 24:16, “For a just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again: but the wicked shall fall into mischief.” Essentially, what this verse is saying is that when a just or repentant person commits a sin, you can tell by the look on his face that he is sorry for what he’s done, but when a wicked person does something wrong, he won’t show any sign of remorse. Jesus could see from both the inside and outside what was really going on when he confronted people with their sin.