You search the scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that testify on my behalf. Yet you refuse to come to me to have life. I do not accept glory from human beings. But I know that you do not have the love of God in you. I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not accept me; if another comes in his own name, you will accept him. How can you believe when you accept glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the one who alone is God? (John 5:39-44 NRSV)
(Earlier in this chapter of John, we learn that the Jewish people had begun persecuting Jesus because he was breaking commandments. They were upset that Jesus had healed a man on the Sabbath and had called God his own Father. In this passage, he was trying to tell the scribes and Pharisees that they were missing the point.)
The scribes and Pharisees felt that they would gain eternal life if they followed every law and rule found in the scriptures (as well as many other rules they created). Jesus was offering them eternal life, but they only continued to look for more rules to obey- and to use against him. He was trying to reveal to them that the scriptures testify about HIM, and yet they refused to see this.
Instead of coming to him for light and life, they used the very scriptures that reveal him to condemn him.
They were also very prideful and egotistical with the way they followed the letter of the law- doing so in order to be praised and honored by one another. The scribes and Pharisees were far from following the way of Jesus; the way of humility, surrender, and denial of themselves. They missed the whole message of the scriptures and the gracious gift of Jesus, God in their midst.
And so Jesus asked them, “How can you believe when you accept glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the one who alone is God?” Do we sometimes miss the point, too? Perhaps Jesus’ words are for us as well.
~ Certainly the Bible provides true guidance for our daily living, but are there times when we might use this guidance to judge others, or to compare our obedience with one another, or strive to earn our salvation? Do we forget the beautiful main story of God’s love shown in the life of Jesus? Do we pick and choose the verses and commandments we like best and ignore the rest? Have we quoted scripture to defend an opinion instead of sharing grace? Do we close our minds to new understandings because we are more comfortable believing the way we always have? Are we willing to spend time in deeper study, to grow in our understanding?
~ Are there times we care about the glory of others and neglect the glory that comes from Jesus? Do we relish the praise or the admiration of others? Do we always need to be “right” or to prove ourselves? Do we lose sight of the eternal glory around and within us as we strive for earthly treasures and admiration? Do our lives truly reflect Jesus?
Are you talking to ME?
Today Jesus is asking, “How can you believe when you accept glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the one who alone is God?”
How does this question personally speak to you? Which problem do you see as your greatest struggle- seeking the glory of others more than the glory of God, or using the Bible for your own purposes instead of his? How might you seek more of Jesus, more of the true Word, in your daily practices?
How can you believe when you accept glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the one who alone is God?
I was helped by a couple of commentaries for background information as I prepared this meditation. I am grateful to these writers at these sites: Adam Clarke Commentary (www.studylight.org/commentary) and Matthew Henry Concise Commentary (biblehub.com/commentaries).