Short Meditations in John 5: 39. Scripture’s Testimony
Jn 5:39 You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me
Having just told the Jews that the word of God is not in them, he now acknowledges that they do actually study the Scriptures, what we would call the Old Testament, and they do it because they think that that will be the means they get God’s approval and receive eternal life. Now Jesus doesn’t actually say, “Not so!” but it is, I suggest, implied. But more than that Jesus almost seems to be saying, “You study the Scriptures but here’s the funny thing – you don’t see me in them although they are about me!”
Now we’ll see where he goes with that in the next study but for now we’ll stay with idea of the scriptures testifying to Jesus. The difficulty is that he doesn’t enlarge on this and simply makes the statement without explanation and so we’re left to ponder it.
Of course in Luke we have a classic illustration: “on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue…. and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor….. Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down…. He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” (Lk 4:16-21) There he was saying about this classic Messianic passage in Isaiah, “That is me!”
When we look in Matthew’s Gospel we find again and again Matthew applying Scripture to things that happened in respect of Jesus. In other words the Old Testament was full of Messianic references and the Jews knew that; they were familiar with these things. It was just that they hadn’t linked them to Jesus.
Let’s see some examples.
His birth: “King Herod … asked them where the Messiah was to be born. “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written: “‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.” (Mt 2:3-6)
His ministry area: “Leaving Nazareth, he went and lived in Capernaum,… to fulfill what was said through the prophet Isaiah: “Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali.…Galilee of the Gentiles— the people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.” (Mt 4:13-16) etc. etc.
Oh yes, it was all there. If Matthew could see it, why could not the rest of the Jews? The answer has to be prejudice blinded their eyes. May ours be open to see the wonder of the Messiah in the Scriptures.