God in the Dock | John 5.30-35
“I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me. If I alone bear witness about myself, my testimony is not true. There is another who bears witness about me, and I know that the testimony that he bears about me is true. You sent to John, and he has borne witness to the truth. Not that the testimony that I receive is from man, but I say these things so that you may be saved. He was a burning and shining lamp, and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light. John 5.30-35 | ESV
I can’t do a thing by my own power, my own gumption, my own agenda. Not. One. Thing. First I listen, then I decide what to do or say, and whatever I decide is right because it’s not my willful agenda that guides me, but the loving will of the One who sent me in the first place.
You don’t believe me? Well, if it’s just me going off by and about myself, I wouldn’t believe me either! But it’s not just me. You want witnesses, you’ve got them! Others speak up for me, and I know their testimony is right on target.
Exhibit A. John, the Dipper.
You sent and questioned him, giving him the third degree, and he told you the unequivocal, absolute truth about me (Do you remember?). But then, does my identity really stand or fall on the word of the Dipper or on the word of any human being for that matter? Nope. Not one bit. I just make the point in the hope it might crack that hard shell of yours and let some light into that dark cavern of a soul. And talk about a light! John was the brightest, most brilliant light blazing in the darkness of your ignorance – and for a while there you were actually dancing and leaping for joy in that light. Ah, but I can point to an even greater light than John…
“The ancient man approached God (or even the gods) as the accused person approaches his judge. For the modern man the roles are reversed. He is the judge: God is in the dock. He is quite a kindly judge: if God should have a reasonable defense for being the god who permits war, poverty and disease, he is ready to listen to it. The trial may even end in God’s acquittal. But the important thing is that Man is on the Bench and God is on the Dock.” ~ C.S. Lewis
This is very much a “God in the Dock” scenario in John 5. “Who do you think you are that you can speak for God like this? What sign credentials will you produce?” was the constant challenge of the religious panel.
The irony with this religious panel is that Jesus isn’t in the dock because he permitted war, poverty or disease, but because he brought healing to a poor, diseased man on the Sabbath day. As Jesus would protest later, “Many good works have I done, for which of them do you stone me!?” What amazing humility that the Word through whom all things were made, and without whom nothing was made that has been made, allowed (allows!) himself to be placed in the dock.
And as he continues to stand there, he winds down to the end of his testimony with a list of witnesses to the reality of what he was saying and, more importantly, was doing. Each one should have registered, but each was lost on them – which is a sober warning to us of the obvious ways God speaks to us in and through our world, if only we would see it and respond.
What are the key “witnesses” in your life that have pointed you to God – or are you still waiting for these witnesses to show? Is God still in the dock for you? Does he still have to prove himself? How can he do this?
Abba, break my heart anew at your humility to subject yourself to our judgment even as you declare us free from yours. Crack through whatever remains of hard shell of my own religious or irreligious heart and shine, God. Through Jesus.