Legal cases are often decided in the court of public opinion long before they are decided in a court of law. In John 5, Jesus was put on trial for all to see. After He was prosecuted for healing a disabled man on the Sabbath, Jesus called several witnesses to His defense and then cross-examined His prosecutors. This cross-examination provides an interesting apologetic for those struggling to make sense of Christ’s ministry.
Jesus concluded his defense by condemned the religious authors for being more concerned about receiving glory than giving glory to God’s. Bible commentators suggest various scenarios here. It could have been that there was another man who had claimed to be the Messiah. This false candidate used flattery to gain a following from the religious elite. The passage says they received glory from “one another,” which could mean they were fond of sharing praise back and forth between each other. This condemnation could also be reference to the general respect and high regard that the people had for their spiritual leaders. The Pharisees were used to receiving accolades for their rigorous approach to Scripture.
Whatever the situation, the glory that the religious authorities was receiving was blinding them to the Savior who was standing right in front of them. They hands were so full of trophies, that they couldn’t see the way forward. They were so busy building their own kingdom, they couldn’t participation in God’s kingdom. This still happens today when are more concerned about receiving their own glory than giving glory to God.
Jesus also condemned the religious authorities for mishandling Scripture and missing the point of the Mosaic Covenant. God tapped Moses to lead the Jews out Egypt. During the Exodus, God gave Moses a robust description of what it would look like to be God’s people longterm. The provisions of the Mosaic Covenant were supposed to point people toward’s God’s grace, not away from it. The standards of the Covenant are impossibly high without divine help.
By the time Jesus arrived, the relational Covenant had deteriorated into a legalistic checklist. Instead of pushing them towards a Savior, the Law gave them a long list of opportunities to save themselves. In their eyes, they were justified before God through their own good works.
Jesus was the cross-examiner, but He allowed Moses to be the accuser at this point in His defense. The author of a document is the one who governs its meaning and intent. Those who read the text must respect the author’s intentions as they are revealed in the text. Moses was the human author of the Covenant that bore his name, and the religious authorities had mishandled and misinterpreted it.
Disrespect for the divine text is still an issue today. At this point history, we have the completed Old and New Testaments. There are a variety of interpretive schemes, but most serious Bible students believe that the Old Testament anticipates a Savior and the New Testament reveals Him, and His name is Jesus Christ. The evidence for the authority and reliability is overwhelming, even though there’s not enough space to describe it in this post. Today’s readers dismiss the Bible at there own risk.
Jesus defended Himself in the court of public opinion before He was ever put before a court of law. That court is still in session as readers like you and I learn about Christ’s ministry. We all have to have to answer the question for ourselves, “Is He innocent or is He guilty?”