Unbelief and Our True Hope: John 5:16-47

Focus Passage: John 5:16-47 (NIV)

16 So, because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jewish leaders began to persecute him. 17 In his defense Jesus said to them, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working.” 18 For this reason they tried all the more to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.

19 Jesus gave them this answer: “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. 20 For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, and he will show him even greater works than these, so that you will be amazed. 21 For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it. 22 Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, 23 that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him.

24 “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life. 25 Very truly I tell you, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live. 26 For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. 27 And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man.

28 “Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice 29 and come out—those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned. 30 By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me.

31 “If I testify about myself, my testimony is not true. 32 There is another who testifies in my favor, and I know that his testimony about me is true.

33 “You have sent to John and he has testified to the truth. 34 Not that I accept human testimony; but I mention it that you may be saved. 35 John was a lamp that burned and gave light, and you chose for a time to enjoy his light.

36 “I have testimony weightier than that of John. For the works that the Father has given me to finish—the very works that I am doing—testify that the Father has sent me. 37 And the Father who sent me has himself testified concerning me. You have never heard his voice nor seen his form, 38 nor does his word dwell in you, for you do not believe the one he sent. 39 You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me to have life.

41 “I do not accept glory from human beings, 42 but I know you. I know that you do not have the love of God in your hearts. 43 I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not accept me; but if someone else comes in his own name, you will accept him. 44 How can you believe since you accept glory from one another but do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?

45 “But do not think I will accuse you before the Father. Your accuser is Moses, on whom your hopes are set. 46 If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me. 47 But since you do not believe what he wrote, how are you going to believe what I say?”

Read John 5:16-47 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

As Jesus finishes His counter-challenge to a group of Jewish leaders who were upset about a miracle He performed on the Sabbath, Jesus shares a powerful – and surprising – statement regarding belief, faith, and judgment.

While reading the whole counter-argument Jesus shares, some of those present may have began to think that Jesus was allying Himself against them. Some may have begun to think that Jesus would stand against them when history ends and the Father returns. But Jesus closes by saying He is not their accuser; their accuser will be someone they wouldn’t expect. Jesus tells them, “But do not think I will accuse you before the Father. Your accuser is Moses, on whom your hopes are set. If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me. But since you do not believe what he wrote, how are you going to believe what I say?” (v. 45-47)

The Jewish leaders had verbally placed their faith in Moses. However, by doing so, they missed the point of Moses’ writings and they misled themselves. In this counter-challenge, Jesus tells them that when time ends, Moses will stand up and accuse them because he will tell them plainly that he was pointing them to Someone else.

Moses never claimed to be the Messiah for the people, and nothing in his writings implied this role for him. The unbelief of these leaders in what Moses wanted them to fully realize led to their rejection of the Messiah that God ultimately sent.

Unbelief is a slippery slope. When we start rationalizing ourselves out of a belief, we can find ourselves rejecting other things we believed as being true as well. Many of those who have left Christianity began their journey when facing one or two challenging ideas they could not reconcile in their minds. When left unchecked, these doubts ultimately led to them losing all their faith.

The way to combat unbelief and/or challenging beliefs that we don’t fully understand is not by ignoring the issue. Instead, the way to face these challenges is by studying the options.

At this point in history, there are dozens of angles regarding any belief or doctrine. Rarely is any belief or doctrine a yes and no proposition anymore. Most have three, four, or even five other angles we could take on the subject. While some people might want you to believe the only choices you have are believing the way they do or rejecting “the truth”, they are lying when presenting you with this approach. The way to push through unbelief and challenges are by replacing these things with something you can believe in.

The Jewish leaders fell into a trap that we all can fall into. Anytime we place our eternal lives in the hands of someone who isn’t part of the Godhead, we are opening ourselves up for disappointment and accusation. Only the most delusional people want others to follow them when they themselves are not following anyone else.

A mature leader is really a follower who helps others move forward while pointing them ahead of themselves. This is how Jesus led, and this is how He has called us to lead as well. A mature leader in the spiritual areas of life will not challenge what you believe without pointing you towards a bigger truth about God. True spiritual leaders don’t cut down someone’s faith; they strengthen it by pointing to Jesus.

This thought was inspired by studying the Walking With Jesus "Reflective Bible Study" package. To discover insights like this in your own study time, click here and give Reflective Bible Study a try today!

Subscribe to this blog and never miss an insight.