“I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me. 31 If I alone bear witness about myself, my testimony is not deemed true. There is another who bears witness about me, and I know that the testimony that he bears about me is true. You sent to John, and he has borne witness to the truth. Not that the testimony that I receive is from man, 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 the testimony that I have is greater than that of John. For the works that the Father has given me to accomplish, the very works that I am doing, bear witness about me that the Father has sent me. And the Father who sent me has himself borne witness about me. His voice you have never heard, his form you have never seen, and you do not have his word abiding in you, for you do not believe the one whom he has sent. You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.” (John 5:30-40 (ESV)
“I say these things so that you may be saved… You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life. “
All Jesus wants to do is save people, to give them eternal life, he even wants to do this for Pharisees and Scribes, as he will do for Nicodemus who belongs to these camps, but they refuse to listen. They refuse to believe. Despite the miracles that Jesus performs they still won’t believe. They won’t believe John the Baptist. And the whole reason they won’t believe is because they insist on reading scripture in a wrong way. They have dulled themselves to the call of scripture. It happens too often. Our old Adam, our sinful flesh becomes indignant towards others and their sin. Yes, this too is the effect of the sinful man in us, that we refuse to tolerate another person’s sin. It is his self-defense mechanism, a way for him to ignore his own sin and make himself out to be holier or better than others, a way for him to defend the notion that he is a good person. He sets himself apart from others based on what they do, and what he does. Judges them because their sin is different than his. So we have the so called Christian Right banging the drums against the sin du jour, divorce, homosexuality, teen age pregnancy, abortion, twerking, pornography etc. It isn’t that these things are not sin, they are. (Well, teenage pregnancy is merely the result of sin, and sometimes that isn’t true. Though I’d much rather see teenagers pregnant than having abortions.) But I do see a problem when people are going to scripture to condemn others, rather than to save them. It seems the Christian Right thinks it can save people by the law. And this is precisely what Jesus is speaking against here.
The Pharisees and the Scribes would go to scripture looking for laws by which to save themselves. Of course the whole thing becomes a game of cherry picking. But that doesn’t stop anyone. Most often those who accuse others of cherry picking are just as guilty of it themselves. They are merely arguing over which cherries are ripe, when the whole lot seems to be worm infested. And in the end, it is all for not because no one is saved this way, no one is saved by the law. At best the law shows us a need for a savior because we have broken it, and like it or not we are in the same boat with everyone else there. You just aren’t a good person. You can’t set yourself apart by your works. All you do is align yourself with another group of sinners.
Instead Jesus offers himself as the key to scripture through which there is eternal life. Yes the scribes were right to look for eternal life in the scriptures, they were wrong to think that it came through the law. Instead, all of scripture, (and here Jesus is talking about the entire Old Testament) is to be interpreted in light of him, and his death and resurrection. Finally, even the law finds its fulfilment in Jesus, so that his love for us might be the fulfilment of the law in our life. And now the Old Adam is killed, it can no longer live. It can no longer pretend to save by pointing at others and showing them to be worse than ourselves. Jesus and his death and resurrection is the gift of life to you.