32 He bears witness to what he has seen and heard, ryet no one receives his testimony.1
JOHN 3:32 ESV
32 ὃ ἑώρακεν καὶ ἤκουσεν τοῦτο μαρτυρεῖ, καὶ τὴν μαρτυρίαν αὐτοῦ οὐδεὶς λαμβάνει.2
JOHN 3:32 SBLGNT
A WILLING REVEALER
In order to be an effective witness, one must be not only an able revealer but also one who is willing. Often, the eyewitness in a criminal case is not willing to testify because he or she does not want to get involved. But Jesus was willing to come from heaven to earth to reveal God’s truth to the world. John states this simply: “He bears witness to what he has seen and heard” (John 3:32).
Jesus was highly motivated to teach God’s Word. In Mark’s Gospel, we find Jesus beginning his ministry by going into the synagogues of Galilee to teach. While there, he encountered a demon-possessed man and he delivered him. Then Peter’s mother-in-law had a fever, so Jesus went and healed her. As Word of these healings spread, many sick and possessed people were brought, and Jesus ministered to them because he could. As a result, there was great excitement about his ministry. Mark tells us that Jesus went to a quiet place to pray, but Peter came to get him to continue with the miracles. To Peter’s mind, this was the way to build a great religious movement—by drawing attention with spectacular events. But Jesus disagreed. “He said to them, ‘Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came’ ” (Mark 1:38). The purpose of Jesus’ ministry was to preach God’s truth; that must be the focus of our ministry as well. Mark summarizes, “And he went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues” (1:39).
Jesus is able and willing to reveal God’s Word. The problem is that people are not willing to receive him. John says, “He bears witness to what he has seen and heard, yet no one receives his testimony” (John 3:32). John means that comparatively few accept Jesus’ teaching, because he goes on to speak about some who do. The fact is that Jesus’ teaching is generally rejected by the world. People have worldly attitudes and opinions that clash with Jesus’ teaching so that they reject him. A. W. Pink explains that most people refuse Jesus because “the message is too heavenly for them. They have no relish for it. They have hearts only for things below.”2 This is why so few people are in church. They have other things that interest them. They prefer to watch the ball game rather than learn about God. They are making lists about work, which seems more important than the state of their immortal souls. They are occupied with trying to hit white balls into holes in the ground, which they find more edifying than worshipping the God of heaven. Man condemns himself for his lack of interest in God and salvation.
When worldly society was forced to pay attention to Jesus, it hated him and unjustly put him to death. Jesus said it plainly: “This is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil” (3:19).
Do you see why faith in Christ is so important and valuable? Do you see why it is precious to God when we believe in his Son and receive his Word? John says, “Whoever receives his testimony sets his seal to this, that God is true” (John 3:33). In the ancient world, people had signet rings that they used as seals. When they wanted to mark something they owned or to affirm something as carrying their authority or approval, they set their seal to it in wax. That is what our faith does to God. It glorifies God when we believe in Jesus, for in doing so, we affix our seal to his Word. George Hutcheson says, “Faith embracing the doctrine of Christ doth also glorify God by subscribing to the truth of his word, and so far as believers can, ratify the truth of the word, that others may embrace it.”
This answers another objection to the Christian faith. People argue that we cannot be sure of what Jesus meant when he taught so long ago, especially since his teaching is preserved only in the apostles’ writings. We answer that Jesus’ revelation was a divine act of communication to us. This was not a merely human process, subject to human error. As the very Son of God, sent by the Father to reveal heavenly truth to the world, Jesus had as his purpose to effectively communicate to the world—and that is what he has done. During his trial, Jesus told Pontius Pilate, “For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth” (John 18:37). The Son of God did not fail in that purpose. Our faith is a seal testifying to Jesus’ success in revealing salvation.
It is noteworthy that John 3:32 does not say that Jesus “bore witness” but that he “bears witness.” This is present tense, not past. Jesus did not come into the world, speak the truth, and then leave it to merely human agencies to present it to the world. Instead, by the ministry of the Holy Spirit, he speaks even now through God’s living Word. James Montgomery Boice writes:
Where do we hear his testimony? The answer is: in the Bible. Is the Bible something that is dead, irrelevant, or dated, then? Not for John! And not for any who have come to know Christ and to have experienced the living power of the Bible to speak on his behalf. The Bible is living. Christ is living. Moreover, it is through the Bible that he continues to speak and bear his witness to heavenly things in our days.