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May 14

First Witnesses for the Defence

READ: JOHN 1:19-51

(19) And this is the testimony of John, when the Jews from Jerusalem sent priests and Levites so that they might ask him, “Who are you?” (20) And he confessed and did not deny; and confessed that “I am not the Christ.” (21) And they questioned him, “Then who? Are you Elijah?” And he said, “I am not.” “Are you the prophet?” And he answered, “No”. (22) So they said to him, “Who are you? So that we might give an answer to those who sent us, say something concerning yourself.” (23) He said, “I am a voice shouting in the desert, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord’, just as Isaiah the prophet said.” (24) And they were sent from the Pharisees. (25) And they questioned him and said to him, “Then why do you baptized if you are not the Christ nor Elijah nor the prophet?” (26) John answered them saying, “I baptized in water. Among you has stood one whom you do not know, (27) the one coming after me, of whom I am not worthy so that I should loosen the strap of his sandal. (28) These things happened in Bethany across the Jordan, where John was baptizing.

(29) On the next day, he saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look the lamb of God, the one who takes away the sin of the world. (30) This man is he concerning whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks ahead of me, because he was before me.’ (31) And I had not known him, but so that he might be revealed to Israel, for this reason I came baptizing in water.” (32) And John testified saying, “I have seen the Spirit coming down as a dove out of the sky, and it remained on him. (33) And I had not known him, but the One who sent me to baptize in water, that One said to me, ‘Upon whomever you see the Spirit coming down and remaining upon him, this man is the one who baptizes in the Holy Spirit.’ (34) And I have seen and I have testified that this man is the Son of God.”

(35) On the next day, again, John stood, and two of his disciples, (36) and having looked at Jesus walking, he said, “Look the lamb of God.” (37) And the two disciples heard him speaking and they followed Jesus. (38) And Jesus, having turned and having seen them following, said to them, “What do you seek?” And they said to him, “Rabbi (which being translated means “Teacher”), where are you staying?” (39) He said to them, “Come and see.” So they went and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day. It was the tenth hour.

(40) One of the two, who heard John and followed him, was Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter. (41) This man first found his own brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which translated is Christ). (42) And he led him to Jesus. And having seen him, Jesus said, “You are Simon the son of John. You will be called Cephas” (which translated is Peter).

(43) On the next day he wanted to go out into Galilee, and he found Philip, and Jesus said to him, “Follow me.” (44) And Philip was from Bethsaida, of the city of Andrew and Peter. (45) Philip found Nathaniel and said to him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the law and the prophets, Jesus son of Joseph, the one from Nazareth.” (46) And Nathaniel said to him, “Is it possible for anything good to be from Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” (47) Jesus saw Nathaniel coming toward him and he said concerning him, “Look, truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.” (48) Nathaniel said to him, “From where do you know me?” Jesus answered and said to him, “Before Philip spoke to you, I saw you under the fig tree.” (49) Nathaniel answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the king of Israel.” (50) Jesus answered and said to him, “Because I said to you that I saw you under the fig tree you believe? You shall see greater things than these. Truly, truly I say to you, you will see the sky having been opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”

REFLECT & REASON

John, defence attorney for Jesus, called his first witnesses to the stand – John the Baptist and a few of his followers. Human testimony is powerful, if it can be established that those testifying are trustworthy. The Courts often send people to jail for the rest of their lives solely based on credible human testimony!

The Baptist testified quite clearly and confidently because he was sent to identify the Christ. At Jesus’ baptism, John saw the Spirit come down and remain on Jesus and so he proclaimed that he “is the Son of God.” So confident was he of his claims that he directed his disciples to follow Jesus and each one of them, in his own way, believed the Baptist’s testimony and began to share his convictions with others.

Andrew spent the day with Jesus, and convinced of his identity, he ran to get Peter. Philip was convinced that Jesus was the one whom Moses wrote about and so he found the skeptic Nathaniel, who upon meeting Jesus became a believer as well. These men, by the time John wrote his book, had all laid their lives on the line for their belief and some, if not all, had already been martyred because of their testimony. When people are willing to die rather than renounce their testimony, they are either suffering from a mental illness or they confidently believe what they are saying and thus should be considered credible witnesses.

Could these men have had other motives that would explain their willingness to die for what they claimed to believe about Jesus? I guess so, but what would that motive be? Would it be fear, money or fame? This was not one person, but several, and there are even more who testified on behalf of Jesus. One “crazy” person running around in animal skins and eating locusts could be labeled and ignored, but when there were several (and later, even dozens) from many backgrounds, labeling in order to ignore is not only irresponsible, but it is a sign of someone who knows what he believes and doesn’t want to consider contrary evidence.

You can dismiss the testimony of these men by reasoning that they were followers of Jesus, so of course they would testify on his behalf. But the real catch here is that they became followers of Jesus, believing in him because of what they personally saw and heard. And this was not some kind of casual or convenient mental agreement, but rather full-fledged conviction, so strong and deep, that they were willing to suffer and even die, rather than renounce their faith. Don’t you agree, that while that doesn’t necessarily make their testimony true, it certainly makes them witnesses who must be taken seriously and listened to closely?

RESPOND

Are you willing to really hear what these first-hand witnesses had to say or will you just dismiss them as unreliable because you are convinced that they were motivated by less than sincere motives?

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