Short Meditations in John 8: 17. Requirements of the Law
Jn 8:17 In your own Law it is written that the testimony of two witnesses is true.
From heaven to earth, the focus changes and yet the focus still has its origin in heaven. The Law came from heaven, from the Godhead. These Pharisees like the Law, they almost idolized it and so they should be pleased that Jesus refers to it.
Before we move on in thinking about this, we might ask ourselves how we think about ‘the Law’? Is it something that is outdated, something that has no relevance today? Elsewhere recently I had cause to write about the Law: It shows how God had designed us to live (Israel at least), how a community can live at peace, how things can be put right when we mess up, how to live differently and distinctly from the pagan nations surrounding them, how to live healthily dealing with various health problems that crop up in this fallen world and, of course, how to relate to Him. They were specifically for Israel, an agrarian society that was uniquely called to be God’s people. As Christians we have different ‘laws’ in the New Testament, all enhancing the wonder of our relationship with God through Jesus. God’s ‘laws’ are always for our blessing.
We need to regain the context. Jesus is being questioned as to who he is: The Pharisees challenged him, “Here you are, appearing as your own witness; your testimony is not valid.” (v.13) Jesus had answered that that did not matter, for he knew exactly where he had come from (v.14). We then had this slight ‘aside’ where he spoke about not judging by human standards (v.15) and how the Father was with him, making his judgments always right as he followed the Father’s leading (v.16) The starting point had been them questioning his own testimony and so now he says, very well, let’s go back to basics, the Law demands two witnesses. Right? (v.17)
That was right and that now becomes the springboard from which he is going to launch his next unpalatable teaching – unpalatable, that is, from their perspective. You like quoting the Law, he implies, so let’s go exactly according to the Law. You want two witnesses? Very well, I’ll give you more witnesses.
This matter of reliable witnesses was very specifically laid down in the Law (see Deut 19:15-20) because if the witnesses were shown to be utterly reliable, then the outcome will be, “the testimony of witnesses is true.” Note, not just right, but they thus prove the truth of the situation. If you can provide two reliable witnesses, the case is proved; what they say must be the truth that the court must abide by. So who is Jesus going to call on? See the next verse.
Application: How do I honestly feel about the ‘rules’ of the New Testament? Do I allow them to teach, rebuke, correct and train me in righteousness? (2 Tim 3:16)