“You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.” (verses 39-40)
I remember a professor in seminary telling a story about studying in Israel and meeting a Jewish rabbi who had the whole book of Psalms memorized, word for word, in Hebrew. Yet the man was an avowed atheist. It is very possible to know the Bible inside out, but miss the point. Ultimately, it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.
Knowing Jesus is the issue, not doctrinal knowledge for its own sake. Later, on the night he was betrayed, Jesus would make this clear. “Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent” (John 17:3).
The good news in John 5 is that the Scriptures do indeed lead us to Jesus – if we have a willingness to be led. Throughout, they bear witness, telling us about him, testifying to his Person and power and purpose, so we might know him.
On Resurrection day, walking with Cleopas and his friend on the road to Emmaus, Jesus “explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself” (Luke 24:27). Later that night, meeting with the disciples in the upper room, “he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures” (Luke 24:45), telling about himself.
Leading us to Jesus. That’s exactly what the Apostle John has in mind as he writes this Gospel we’re reading. “We have seen his glory” (John 1:14), he tells us, implicitly desiring that we may see it, too. Later, making it explicit, he says: “these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:31).
People speak of a “come to Jesus moment”. Here’s the genuine article. But the religious leaders of his day missed it. They had the scriptures, the summons was sounding, but they refused the call, shunning the opportunity to come to him and have life to the full.
We, today, have that invitation perpetually ringing in our ears. Taking Jesus’ rebuke of the religious leaders and listening to its positive implications, we pull Jesus' own statement inside out, and hear the invitation sounding:
“The Scriptures testify about me, so submit to their leading, listen to their call, yield to their summons – Come to me and have life!”
That’s what it is to have eyes on Jesus (through the Scriptures). So open your Bible. Pray for eyes to see and ears to hear. Then plunge in afresh, and come to Jesus.
Dear Lord Jesus, I come. I open your Word now, with mind alert and heart ready, waiting to meet you in the quiet. As I draw near to you, do as you’ve promised –draw near to me. Amen.
Pray and Read: Pray the above prayer, then open the Scriptures and read. If you haven’t yet read John 5 today, make that your focus. Or take a favourite story of Jesus – read and watch for him. Or read John 1:1-14. Or read Luke 24. Remember, the intent isn’t mere Bible-reading – it’s knowing Jesus.