Power and Authority

Scripture Reading

Jesus said to the Jews:
“If I testify on my own behalf, my testimony is not true.
But there is another who testifies on my behalf,
and I know that the testimony he gives on my behalf is true.
You sent emissaries to John, and he testified to the truth.
I do not accept human testimony,
but I say this so that you may be saved.
He was a burning and shining lamp,
and for a while you were content to rejoice in his light.
But I have testimony greater than John’s.
The works that the Father gave me to accomplish,
these works that I perform testify on my behalf
that the Father has sent me.
Moreover, the Father who sent me has testified on my behalf.
But you have never heard his voice nor seen his form,
and you do not have his word remaining in you,
because you do not believe in the one whom he has sent.
You search the Scriptures,
because you think you have eternal life through them;
even they testify on my behalf.
But you do not want to come to me to have life.

“I do not accept human praise;
moreover, I know that you do not have the love of God in you.
I came in the name of my Father,
but you do not accept me;
yet if another comes in his own name,
you will accept him.
How can you believe, when you accept praise from one another
and do not seek the praise that comes from the only God?
Do not think that I will accuse you before the Father:
the one who will accuse you is Moses,
in whom you have placed your hope.
For if you had believed Moses,
you would have believed me,
because he wrote about me.
But if you do not believe his writings,
how will you believe my words?”
(John 5:31-47)

Scripture Study

5:31–40. Because Jesus is Son of God, his own word is self-sufficient, it needs no corroboration (cf. 8:18); but, as on other occasions, he accommodates himself to human customs and to the mental outlook of his hearers: he anticipates a possible objection from the Jews to the effect that it is not enough for a person to testify in his own cause (cf. Deut 19:15) and he explains that what he is saying is endorsed by four witnesses—John the Baptist, his own miracles, the Father, and the Sacred Scriptures of the Old Testament.

John the Baptist bore witness that Jesus was the Son of God (1:34). Although Jesus had no need to have recourse to any man’s testimony, not even that of a great prophet, John’s testimony was given for the sake of the Jews, that they might recognize the Messiah. Jesus can also point to another testimony, better than that of the Baptist—the miracles he has worked, which are, for anyone who examines them honestly, unmistakable signs of his divine power, which comes from the Father; Jesus’ miracles, then, are a form of witness the Father bears concerning his Son, whom he has sent into the world. The Father manifests the divinity of Jesus on other occasions—at his Baptism (cf. 1:31–34); at the Transfiguration (cf. Mt 17:1–8), and later, in the presence of the whole crowd (cf. Jn 12:28–30).

Jesus appeals to another divine testimony—that of the Sacred Scriptures. These speak of him, but the Jews fail to grasp the Scriptures’ true meaning, because they read them without letting themselves be enlightened by him whom God has sent and in whom all the prophecies are fulfilled: “The economy of the Old Testament was deliberately so orientated that it should prepare for and declare in prophecy the coming of Christ, redeemer of all men, and of the messianic kingdom (cf. Lk 24:44; Jn 5:39; 1 Pet 1:10), and should indicate it by means of different types (cf. 1 Cor 10:11). […] Christians should accept with veneration these writings which give expression to a lively sense of God, which are a storehouse of sublime teaching on God and of sound wisdom on human life, as well as a wonderful treasury of prayers; in them, too, the mystery of our salvation is present in a hidden way” (Vatican II, Dei Verbum, 15).

5:41–47. Jesus identifies three obstacles preventing his hearers from recognizing that he is the Messiah and Son of God—their lack of love of God, their striving after human glory and their prejudiced interpretation of sacred texts. His defense of his own actions and of his relationship with the Father might lead his adversaries to think that he was looking for human glory. But the testimonies he has adduced (the Baptist, the miracles, the Father and the Scriptures) show clearly that it is not he who is seeking his glory, and that the Jews oppose him not out of love of God or in defense of God’s honor, but for unworthy reasons or because of their merely human outlook.

The Old Testament, therefore, leads a person towards recognizing who Jesus Christ is (cf. Jn 1:45; 2:17, 22; 5:39, 46; 12:16, 41); yet the Jews remain unbelievers because their attitude is wrong: they have reduced the messianic promises in the sacred books to the level of mere nationalistic aspirations. This outlook, which is in no way supernatural, closes their soul to Jesus’ words and actions and prevents them from seeing that the ancient prophecies are coming true in him (cf. 2 Cor 3:14–16).

Scripture Reflection

In today’s Gospel, Jesus declares the source of his authoritative behavior. Notably, the first hearers of Jesus were astonished by the authority of his speech. This wasn’t simply because he spoke with conviction and enthusiasm; it was because he refused to play the game that every other rabbi played, tracing his authority finally back to Moses. He went, as it were, over the head of Moses, as he did at the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount: “You’ve heard it said…but I say.”

His listeners knew they were dealing with something qualitatively different than anything else in their religious tradition or experience. They were dealing with the prophet greater than Moses.

And Jesus had to be more than a mere prophet. Why? Because we all have been wounded, indeed our entire world compromised, by a battle that took place at a more fundamental level of existence. The result is the devastation of sin, which we all know too well. Who alone could possibly take it on? A merely human figure? Hardly. What is required is the power and authority of the Creator himself, intent on remaking and saving his world, binding up its wounds and setting it right.

– Bishop Robert Barron

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.