In the Gospel for Thursday of the Fourth Week of Lent (John 5:31-47), Jesus sets forth a case for his divinity and presents evidence to his Jewish listeners of his divine status. He does not just come out of Galilee calling himself God. He demonstrates his power and calls other witnesses to testify. More of this case he presents in a moment. But ponder first just some of the ways Jesus describes himself to the crowd including claims of his divinity:
Jesus teaches that He is superior to the angels.
- The angels are His servants and minister to Him (Mt 4:11 Mk 1:13; Lk 4:13).
- The angels are His army (Mt 26:53).
- The angels will accompany Him at His second coming and do His will (Mt 16:27; 25:31; Mk 8:38; Lk 9:26).
Jesus appropriates divine actions unto Himself and thus sets forth an assimilation unto the Lord God.
- He declares that it was He who sent the prophets and doctors of the Law (Mt 23:34; Lk 11:49).
- He gives the promise of His assistance and grace (Lk 21:15).
- He forgives sins, which power belongs to God alone (e.g., Mt 9:2).
- He, by His own authority, completes and changes some precepts of the Law (Mt 5:21ff).
- He declares Himself to be Lord of the Sabbath (Mt 12:8; Mk 2:28; Lk 6:5; Jn 5:17).
- Like the Heavenly Father, He makes a covenant with His followers (Mt 26:28; Mk 14:24; Lk 22:20).
Jesus makes divine demands upon his followers.
- He rebukes some for lack of faith in Him (Mt 8:10-12; 15:28).
- He rewards faith in Him (Mt 8:13; 9:2; 22:29; 15:28; Mk 10:52; Lk 7:50; 17:19).
- He demands faith in His own person (Jn 14:1; 5:24; 6:40,47; 8:51; 11:25ff).
- He teaches that rejection of Him and His teachings will be the standard of final judgement (Lk 9:26; Mt 11:6).
- Jesus demands supreme Love for Him, which surpasses all earthly loves (Mt 10:37,39; Lk 17:33).
- He accepts religious veneration by allowing the falling to the feet, a veneration due to God alone (Mt 15:25; 8:2; 9:18; 14:33; 28:9,17).
Jesus teaches that His own death will be an adequate atonement for the forgiveness of the sins of the whole human race (Mt 20:28; 26:28).
Jesus appropriates to Himself the office of Judge of the World, which according to the Old Testament (e.g., Ps 49:1-6), God would exercise (e.g., Mt 16:27). His judgment extends to every idle word (Mt 12:36), and will be final and executed immediately (Mt 25:46).
In John’s Gospel, Jesus indicates that
- He is eternal “Before Abraham was, I am” (Jn 8:58);
- He has full knowledge of the Father (Jn 7:29; 8:55; 10:14ff);
- He has equal power and efficacy with the Father (Jn 5:17);
- He can forgive sins (Jn 8:11);
- He is Judge of the World (Jn 5:22,27);
- He is rightly to be adored (Jn 5:23);
- He is the light of the world (Jn 8:12);
- He is the way, the truth, and the light (Jn 14:6);
- His disciples may and ought to pray to the Father in His name (Jn 14:13ff, 16:23ff);
- His disciples may pray to Him (Jesus) (Jn 14:13ff, 16:23ff);
- the solemn confession of the Apostle Thomas, “My Lord and my God,” is acceptable and in fact an act of faith (Jn 20:28).
Jesus calls himself the Son of God.
- Jesus first reveals Himself to be the Son of God in the temple, when He remarked to Mary and Joseph that He must be about His Father’s business (Lk 2:49).
- Jesus claims to be both Messiah and Son of God in the presence of the Sanhedrin (Mk 14:62). The Sanhedrin perceive this as blasphemous.
- Jesus tells a story of himself in the Parable of the vineyard and the evil tenants, thus confessing himself to be the only Son of God.
- Jesus speaks of being one with the Father (“The Father and I are one” (Jn 10:30,38). The Jews respond by accusing Him of blasphemy.
And many other passages could be listed.
Consider for a moment being a Jew of the First Century, deeply rooted in an understanding of monotheism (i.e. there is only One God) and hearing this sort of talk and these sorts of claims. Would you believe? Or scoff and even shout “blasphemy!”
In a certain sense it is a frightening question. But consider this too, Jesus did give evidence in abundance as to who he was and that his claims were true. In today’s Gospel Jesus makes it clear that there are four things that made the unbelief of some inexcusable. It is combination of external evidence, testimony and internal testimony. Lets look at the case Jesus sets forth:
I. The Testimony of John the Baptist – But there is another who testifies on my behalf, and I know that the testimony he gives on my behalf is true. You sent emissaries to John, and he testified to the truth. I do not accept human testimony, but I say this so that you may be saved. He was a burning and shining lamp, and for a while you were content to rejoice in his light.
John was a revered prophet. Even his enemies admitted his holiness and that he feared no man and sought to flatter no one. John spoke truthfully of Jesus even when it cost him his followers and his own fame. Scripture says, They came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, that man who was with you on the other side of the Jordan–the one you testified about–look, he is baptizing, and everyone is going to him. John replied, “A man can receive only what is given him from heaven….The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom stands and listens for him and is overjoyed to hear the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete. He must increase; I must decrease. The One who comes from above is above all. (Jn 3:26-32).
So John the Baptist, a revered and respected prophet testified to Jesus.
II. The Miracles He Wrought – But I have testimony greater than John’s. The works that the Father gave me to accomplish, these works that I perform testify on my behalf that the Father has sent me.
The scriptures record 37 miracles by Jesus (you can see the list here: 37 Miracles) which included the miraculous multiplication of loaves and fishes, walking on water, raising the dead, healing multitudes from countless illnesses, casting out fierce demons, and calming storms. Of course, the 37 recorded miracles (some which affected multitudes) were only some of the miracles he worked. As St. John notes There are many more things that Jesus did. If all of them were written down, I suppose that not even the world itself would have space for the books that would be written. (Jn 21:25)
So, the miracles testify to his divinity.
III. The Testimony of the Father – Moreover, the Father who sent me has testified on my behalf. But you have never heard his voice nor seen his form, and you do not have his word remaining in you, because you do not believe in the one whom he has sent.
The Father testified at Jesus’ Baptism, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” But Jesus is more likely speaking here of the interior graces the Father is sending to them so that they may believe. Jesus says elsewhere: No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the Prophets: ‘And they will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard the Father and learned from Him comes to Me. (Jn 6:44-45). This indicates an inner inspiration and assistance the Father is providing for them (and us) to believe in Jesus. Even if it is not the grace of faith per se, it is an antecedent grace calling them to faith.
Therefore they are not without supernatural help, and are without excuse for their stubbornness to be docile to the promptings of the Father.
IV. The Scriptures – You search the Scriptures, because you think you have eternal life through them; even they testify on my behalf. But you do not want to come to me to have life.
Jesus fulfilled hundreds of Scriptures that pointed to his coming, his miracles, his divinity (e.g. Psalm 110), his virgin birth, that he would be born in Bethlehem, be called a Nazorean, feed the multitudes, heal the blind, weak, lame and deaf, raise the dead, and bear our sins, and that by his wounds we would be healed. The list goes on and on. Anyone wishing to look at the evidence cannot honestly deny that he is the promised Messiah and Lord.
This video is from John 8, not the passage for Thursday. But here he speaks in greater depth about their resistance to the Father’s testimony.