Starting May 1st (2 Sundays’s time) we will be starting our new sermon series in John 5-12 – On Trial. The series gets its name from the hostile interaction between Jesus and the Jewish leaders in these chapters. There are 3 vantage points from which these chapters can be read.
The Jewish Leaders
They thought that they had Jesus On Trial. Here was a Rabbi who didn’t follow the Sabbath (5:16), claimed to be equal with God (5:18, 8:58), and called them children of the devil (8:44). Aware that he was on trial before the Jews, Jesus points to the Father (5:37), the Scriptures (5:39), and his miracles (10:38) as things that bear testimony to who he was. Despite this, the Pharisees argued that his testimony was not valid (8:13).
From their perspective, Jesus was a problem that had to be dealt with. Their ‘trial’ of Jesus ends with a decision to kill him:
“What are we accomplishing?” they asked. “Here is this man performing many signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our temple and our nation…. So from that day on they plotted to take his life.” (Jn 11:47-53)
In Jesus coming to earth, the world was also put On Trial. How would they respond to him? The Father had given him authority to judge (5:22) and so he testified that their works were evil (7:7). Yet despite constant evidence that he was God’s son, they failed to judge him correctly (7:24). In the end, it was their refusal to accept Jesus and his word that would bring the world’s trial to an end.
In condemning Jesus, they brought about their own condemnation:
“If anyone hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge that person. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world. There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; the very words I have spoken will condemn them at the last day.” (John 12:47–48)
There is also a sense in which the crowds are in the jury seat watching these two trials unfold throughout these chapters. Three times we read that ‘the people were divided because of Jesus’ (7:43, 9:16, 10:19). Some believed in him; others rejected him. Some received life; others did not.
As we read these chapters we find ourselves beside the crowds in the courtroom. But we cannot simply watch as spectators. That privilege is not open to us. We are in the jury and so we are forced to pick a side. What will it be? Will we side with Jesus and believe in him for eternal life? Or will we side with the Jews and condemn ourselves by condemning Jesus? The choice is real- we are On Trial.