The court of the human heart is a terrible place to try a case.
Our hearts are passionate, emotional, and make us humans and not just machines. But our hearts are rarely concerned with facts, figures, and data. Almost by definition, the heart is not rational because it’s emotional.
Yet, as Jesus-followers, we are attempting to speak to the heart as much as the head. The head can be reasoned with, but the heart can be tougher.
In our passage today in our ongoing journey in the Gospel of John, we find Jesus making a point in the court of the human heart.
We read in John 5:31-40:
“If I testify about myself, my testimony is not true. There is another who testifies in my favor, and I know that his testimony about me is true.
“You have sent to John and he has testified to the truth. Not that I accept human testimony; but I mention it that you may be saved. John was a lamp that burned and gave light, and you chose for a time to enjoy his light.
“I have testimony weightier than that of John. For the works that the Father has given me to finish—the very works that I am doing—testify that the Father has sent me. And the Father who sent me has himself testified concerning me. You have never heard his voice nor seen his form, nor does his word dwell in you, for you do not believe the one he sent. You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.John 5:31-40
New International Version
Shouldn’t the Son of God be able to testify about Himself? Why does He need other testimonies? Jesus isn’t lying when He’s speaking the truth of the Lord, so why does He talk this way?
Because He knows His audience. Jesus is speaking to a Jewish audience who knows the Jewish legal system does not allow someone to testify about themselves. Our legal system is different.
Jesus is saying if the burden of proof to support His claims is only His words, then His witness must be rejected. How could it be any other way? Jesus already said everything He does reflects His obedience to His Father. The Father Himself validated the claims of Jesus (verse 32). The court of the human heart demanded more.
Thus, Jesus brings in the testimony of John the Baptizer. This is the “smoking gun” of Jesus’ argument to their hard-heartedness. In essence, Jesus is telling them, “Look at what I’m doing and believe the Father has sent me: His unique and one-of-a-kind Son to save you from your sin.”
But the human heart is passionate and stubborn. They could read the words of God and not see the Word of God standing right in front of them speaking truth and redemption to them. Ultimately, it was because the Lord’s Word was not residing in their heart.
The American criminal lawyer Abraham H. Hummel observed in the latter decades of the nineteenth century that there are two kinds of lawyers: those who know the law and those who know the judge.
Although that little example might hint of something rather underhanded, there’s nothing underhanded about the concept when applied to our encounter with Scripture: we can know all there is to know about the Law found in our heads, but we can still be atheists in our heart.
Yes, the human heart is a terrible place to try a case, but it is the heart the Lord knows must be reached. May those of us who profess to be disciples of Jesus find the Lord’s word not only in our heads, but also in our hearts.
We know the Judge. We know Him through the grace He has shown. We know what forgiveness is. Our hearts sing His praises. As Jesus-followers, our hearts are a phenomenal tool to speak life to those who are rejecting the Word of God.