Today’s reading is John 5:30-47 (ESV):
Witnesses to Jesus.
30 “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 true. 32 There is another who bears witness about me, and I know that the testimony that he bears about me is true.33 You sent to John, and he has borne witness to the truth. 34 Not that the testimony that I receive is from man, but I say these things so that you may be saved. 35 He was a burning and shining lamp, and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light. 36 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. 37 And the Father who sent me has himself borne witness about me. His voice you have never heard, his form you have never seen, 38 and you do not have his word abiding in you, for you do not believe the one whom he has sent. 39 You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life. 41 I do not receive glory from people. 42 But I know that you do not have the love of God within you. 43 I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not receive me. If another comes in his own name, you will receive him. 44 How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God? 45 Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father. There is one who accuses you: Moses, on whom you have set your hope. 46 For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me. 47 But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?”
Raised in a nominally Christian household, my knowledge of Jesus Christ largely derived from the song “Jesus Loves Me,” until I started attending church my junior year of high school, a decision motivated by the Holy Spirit and a desire to understand my beliefs. I read the Gospels and finally learned who Paul was, but I only really devoted myself to Jesus my freshman year at college. Different Christian communities at Harvard have taught me so much, and I’ve been amazed and deeply encouraged by the many Godly people I’ve met.
That’s the story I tell at least.
The reality of the origins of my devotion to God will likely evade even myself for the rest of my life, but upon reflection, I can now appreciate some of the countless times God has reached out to me, which extend much further back than my church attendance. When I was a love-struck twelve-year-old, for instance, I spent significant portions of my time on a hill next to my neighborhood under the misguided delusion that somehow my crush would magically emerge. As I stared at the surrounding lake and snow-covered mountains, unsurprisingly, he never appeared, but God did. My tranquil hill presented the perfect place for prayer, and I felt God’s presence for the first time.
Thankfully, God has chosen less embarrassing ways to reach me in college. Stressful semesters have caused me to reevaluate my priorities, recognize different types of idolatry I frequently commit, and reshape my primary identity, from aspiring science scholar to Christian. Unexpected opportunities have shown me God’s infinite grace, goodness, and mercy. Beloved friends have taught me how to selflessly care for another individual, to trust others and God, and to live according to the Gospel.
I imagine most Christian readers of this post can also identify specific instances when they felt God’s presence, intervention, or grace through a person, a place, an opportunity, a well-crafted novel, etc. God reaches out to us throughout our lives in the ways that we’re most open to receiving Him, even if that’s through a hopeless young crush. He always presents us the opportunity to love Him and to follow Him.
In today’s Gospel passage, Jesus appeals to several trusted sources, from John the Baptist to God to the Scriptures, to attempt to save the Jewish leaders who persecute Him (John 5:34), using the very witnesses they are most predisposed to believe. The Jewish leaders had previously listened to John the Baptist (John 5:35), they theoretically follow God and should therefore trust His testimony, and they study the Scriptures (John 5:39). Still, they choose to not believe Jesus and to ignore His numerous witnesses.
We may only recognize God’s work retrospectively, but God certainly crafts our individual stories and surrounds us with testimonies about Him. He leaves us with the same choice as the Jewish leaders: to trust His witnesses, to believe in Christ and allow Him to dwell in our hearts, and to recognize the love and mercy He has poured into our lives, or to deny His holy identity, to crave our own glory, and to falsely understand our lives as the products of our own greatness.
The choice is yours.
Elizabeth Hubbard ’18 is a Junior in Lowell House studying Human Developmental and Regenerative Biology.