‘If I testify about myself, my testimony is not true. There is another who testifies on my behalf, and I know that his testimony to me is true. You sent messengers to John, and he testified to the truth. Not that I accept such human testimony, 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. But I have a testimony greater than John’s. The works that the Father has given me to complete, the very works that I am doing, testify on my behalf that the Father has sent me. And the Father who sent me has himself testified on my behalf. You have never heard his voice or seen his form, and you do not have his word abiding in you, because you do not believe him whom he has sent.
One can suppose a challenge to Jesus, “Who bears witness to your claim?” Jesus mentions four: 1. John the Baptist; 2. the “works” that the Father entrusted to him; 3. the Father’s word – though they are deaf to this witness; and 4. the Scriptures. All of these are aspects of the Father’s (“Another’s”) witness to him.
Some scholars believe that what we have here is a worked-out answer that later Christians gave when challenged by Jews. St Paul said that believers should be able to give an account of their faith and hope; and this is so with us too today. We need not trouble ourselves with ‘proof-texts’ in the way that Christian fundamentalists do; but we need to be in tune with the great ‘witnesses’. We should be like musicians, who are able to hear music more deeply than others (others who may be just arguing about the score). The great witnesses: the Father, and the work he accomplishes through Jesus; and the word of Scripture, alive in our hearts and in our lives.
The words ‘testify’ and ‘testimony’ suggest rather a law court than a conversation about religious beliefs. But look at the word ‘belief’. ‘Lief’ is an old word that used to mean ‘love’. Shakespeare used it (“I had as lief the town crier spoke my lines”). As a full word it has faded out of use since the 17th century, but it lives on as part of the word ‘belief’. To believe, then, is in some sense, to love. We are apt to think that belief should be based purely and simply on ‘evidence’ which is entirely objective, and that no subjective factor should enter it at all. If this were the whole story, calculation would be the only law of life, and computers could handle it much better than we could. But there is a deeper kind of belief from which the human factor can never be expelled; it is belief in persons. It is this that is meant when you say, “I believe in God.”
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