"Not that I accept human testimony; but I mention it that you may be saved. John was a lamp that burned and gave light, and you chose for a time to enjoy his light. "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." (John 5:35-36)
Why was John a lamp?Jesus is speaking metaphorically. When Jesus says, "John was a lamp that burned and gave light," he is communicating that John taught others with spiritual teachings. The 'light' refers to spiritual knowledge, which is enlightening. When a person has spiritual knowledge, they are enlightened. Metaphorically, this lights their path.
A lamp gives out light just as a spiritual teacher gives out spiritual knowledge. Because such knowledge provides the wisdom to navigate life, we can compare this to light that provides a way to navigate a path in the darkness.
Jesus follows with "and you chose for a time to enjoy his light." This indicates that people were enlightened by John's teachings, and Jesus is now carrying that same torch in his teachings.
What about the human testimony?So why does Jesus say: "Not that I accept human testimony; but I mention it that you may be saved" when he is speaking of John? When Jesus says he doesn't accept human testimony, he is meaning that he only accepts the word of God. As indicated in the verse before (John 5:32), Jesus accepts only God's testimony.
But in this case, Jesus speaks of John because Jesus is teaching the same message that John taught. John was credible because he changed people.
And because Jesus says "the Father has sent me" he is inferring that not only did God send Jesus, but He also sent John and the Prophets before John.
Why are John's teachings important?In the second sentence, "I have testimony weightier than that of John," Jesus states this after saying that John's teachings provided wisdom and truth:
"John was a lamp that burned and gave light, and you chose for a time to enjoy his light."Jesus was not saying that John did not save those whom he taught to and baptized. For we can balance this with other statements by Jesus:
"Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist" (Matt. 11:11)and
"For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him." (Matt. 21:32)The phrase "to show you the way of righteousness" clearly means that Jesus accepted that John was saving those who followed his teachings. Indeed, as Jesus himself followed John's teachings - evidenced by his baptism by John (a ceremony representing becoming a disciple).
Did Jesus teach what John taught?
In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea and saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near." (Matt. 3:1-2)After John was imprisoned, Jesus began his mission with the same principle teachings:
From that time on Jesus began to preach, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near." (Matt. 4:17)Then Jesus also instructed his own disciples to teach the same:
"As you go, proclaim this message: 'The kingdom of heaven is near.'" (Matt. 10:7)
Why is Jesus' testimony 'weightier'?So why is Jesus saying that his "testimony" is "weightier" than John's? Is he saying that his teachings are better than John's?
No. The word "weightier" is being translated from the Greek word μέγας (megas), which can certainly be applied as "weightier" or "heavier" - as the lexicon indicates: "of the external form or sensible appearance of things (or of persons) - mass and weight: great"
However, Jesus is not speaking of physical stature here. He was not saying that he weighed more than John. Or that his words weighed more than John's words. The word μέγας (megas) can also mean, as indicated by the lexicon: "used of intensity and its degrees: with great effort, of the affections and emotions of the mind, of natural events powerfully affecting the senses: violent, mighty, strong" and "things esteemed highly for their importance: of great moment, of great weight, importance."
We must understand the context of Jesus' statement. Jesus is not saying that he is greater than John or his teachings are more important. Why would he accept baptism from John if he thought he was better than John?
Rather, Jesus is teaching among those who had been students of John's - and had been hearing from John, or had heard about John. Now Jesus is explaining that Jesus' teachings - at that moment - were coming from the Supreme Being, and because they were coming from God, they should be given their immediate attention. This is confirmed by his statement just before this:
"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." (John 5:30)This illustrates that Jesus is referring to the fact that his teachings - coming from God - have more importance at that time and place. They were more important at that time and circumstance - they were appropriate for that current situation and audience, just as a live narration about a current event has more importance at that time than a historical reference about a past event. This is even more critical when we are speaking of spiritual teachings.
Let's use an example:
Let's say that a child is in the fourth grade. Their third-grade teacher taught the child to add numbers together by putting them side by side with an equal sign at the end so they could read left to right and add them together. Then the fourth-grade teacher begins teaching them to add larger numbers (say 1031+2672) by putting them on top of each other so that the tens digits can be carried. The child then raises his hand and says "our third-grade teacher taught us to add differently."
Was the third-grade teacher wrong? No. The teacher was teaching them based on their age and level of math. The fourth-grade teacher may say something like, "that method is okay, but this method is a better way to do heavier calculations." In this way, the third-grade teacher is simply giving the kids more advanced teachings. Not that either teacher was teaching a better method.
How do Jesus' teachings get taken out of context?Over the centuries, many of Jesus' statements have been taken out of context. How does this happen?
In some cases, Jesus' teachings were specifically tuned to the particular situation and particular audience. They were also designed for a particular time and circumstance. When the time and circumstances become different, the original context can be lost. And when the audience hearing or reading those teachings is substantially different - from a different society and speaking a different language, the underlying meaning of Jesus' statements can be misunderstood.
We could compare this again with the third and fourth-grade teachers. The fourth-grade teacher was teaching a method that was specific to the readiness of the child. There was nothing wrong with the previous method for the third grade, but the children were now ready for adding larger numbers. So the method the fourth-grade teacher uses becomes substantially different. This could easily be misinterpreted, instead of simply being a different methodology.
Again we must understand that Jesus is not speaking of himself as being the central issue. In fact, he was not speaking of himself at all. He was speaking of his service to God:
"For the very work that the Father has given me to finish, and which I am doing, testifies that the Father has sent me.”Jesus is clearly identifying himself as God's messenger. A person who is sent by another is the messenger of the sender. Furthermore, Jesus is clarifying that he is working for God: "the very work that the Father has given me to finish..." So not only is Jesus God's messenger, but Jesus is God's servant.
Was Jesus' service to God forced?He was not forced by God to testify on behalf of God or do God's work. There is a big difference between being a slave and a loving servant. A loving servant serves his master out of volition: out of love. This means that Jesus is the loving servant of God.
This also means that Jesus enjoyed a personal relationship with God. If one person "sends" another, and the other works hard to do the work of the sender out of choice, there must be a relationship between the sender and his servant the messenger. Furthermore, if the messenger is undergoing great hardship to do the work of the sender, this illustrates a relationship of love must exist between the two.
This also explains the "oneness" that exists between Jesus and God, as Jesus alluded to in other statements. God and Jesus are "one" because Jesus loves the Supreme Being and Jesus does the will of God: He works for the Supreme Being. This creates a oneness of love and a oneness of purpose.
This could be compared to a loving husband and wife. Because of their loving relationship, the wife's and husband's activities, even if done separately, are considered collectively. They act as a unit. When the wife buys something, the household has bought it - they own it collectively. Such a "oneness" is also represented by the fact that the husband can usually sign for the wife and vice versa. They have a theoretical "oneness" of will and purpose - which is founded (hopefully) upon love.
Because the institutional translators and scribes employed under Constantine and his appointed bishops - and the many sectarian institutions that followed - all assumed the Nicene Creed (if they didn't they would have been an illegal group and would have been persecuted) - the real "oneness" of love that exists between Jesus and God has been lost in translation.* They decided to claim that Jesus is God because:
1) They did not know who the Supreme Being is;
2) They did not have a relationship with the Supreme Being;
2) They wanted to create exclusivity within religiosity in order to ban all other forms of religion in Rome. This, in fact, created a monopoly on religion to further the political interests of the Roman empire.
Did the Prophets love God?Even a passing review of the Old Testament indicates that the Prophets enjoyed a loving relationship with God. They were also servants of God, and this is why Jesus often quoted the prophets before him, such as Moses, David, Samuel and others.
And many since Jesus have also been loving servants of God, despite the misinterpretation of the Bible as designed by Constantine and his politically-appointed bishops organized under the Councils of Nicea.
To confuse Jesus - God's confidential loving servant - with the Supreme Being produces two unfortunate byproducts:
1) By accepting Jesus as God, we ignore the real Supreme Being. We are forgetting the very Person who sent Jesus and the One who Jesus loves and wants us to love.
2) This, in turn, offends Jesus because Jesus came to teach us to love the Supreme Being.
This is precisely why Jesus said:
“Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will come to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles? Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!” (Matt. 7:21-23)Now isn't it curious that Jesus, who drove out demons and performed miracles, would reject a person who also healed and performed miracles in Jesus' name?
Rather, he is clarifying that even the greatest charity works will not replace the central teaching of Jesus to love and serve God: "but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven."
This clarifies that Jesus wants us to love and serve the same Supreme Being Jesus was serving. In fact, this was his central message, as stated by Moses before him:
“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment.” (Matthew 22:37-38)
*Here is the translation of Jesus' statement according to the Lost Gospels of Jesus:
"John was the lamp that shined and gave light, and you rejoiced for a time in his light. Yet the testimony is more critical than that of John. For the work that the Creator has given me to finish — the very work I am doing — indicates the Creator has sent me." (John 5:35-36)