The person with the paralyzed hand.

by K.W. Leslie, 15 August

When Jesus’s lesson in synagogue turned into an ambush.

Mark 3.1-6 • Matthew 12.9-14 • Luke 6.6-11

Matthew bunched together all the stories about Jesus outraging people by doing stuff on Sabbath, but Mark (and Luke follows Mark) sorta told them in the order he knew the stories. Clearly the Pharisees believed curing disease and healing the sick counted as the sort of work you were to stop doing on Sabbath, and Jesus didn’t agree in the slightest.

Considering Jesus couldn’t cure a soul without the Holy Spirit empowering him to do it, you’d think these Pharisees would’ve put two and two together, and realized God had mightily taken Jesus’s side. But we aren’t dealing with the sharpest knives in the butcher shop. They figured they were right, Jesus was wrong; they had 50 years of Pharisee tradition backing them up, and who was he?

So yeah, once again here’s a story about the religious Right of Jesus’s day, taking advantage of their lack of separation of church and state, hoping to get Jesus prosecuted or killed for violating their traditional values.

Okay, enough loaded political buzzwords. Here’s how the story unfolded.

Mark 3.1-2 KWL
1 Jesus entered synagogue again. A person with a paralyzed hand was there.
2 People were watching Jesus: If he healed the person on Sabbath, they could criticize him.
Matthew 12.9-10 KWL
9 Leaving there, Jesus entered their synagogue. 10 Look, a person with a paralyzed hand!
People questioned Jesus, saying, “Ought one heal on Sabbath?”—
so they could criticize him.
Luke 6.6-7 KWL
6 Jesus happened, on another Sabbath, to enter synagogue and teach.
A person was there, and his right hand was paralyzed.
7 The scribes and Pharisees were watching Jesus:
If he healed on Sabbath, they could find a critique against him.

The KJV describes this person’s hand as “withered”—a word that doesn’t mean today what it did in 1611. Back then it meant as the Greek word xirós does: Dry. Like wood you wanna build something with, or burn; as opposed to fresh wood you’ve just cut off the tree. Nowadays we call such wood weathered instead of withered. But the reason the ancients called an arm that, was ’cause all the life appeared to be gone from the arm: It was dead, or numb, or paralyzed. Not shriveled like a dried-up tree branch.

Not that this stops artists from painting or drawing some pretty creepy-looking, messed-up arms for Jesus to heal. But if this guy’s arm had been that level of messed up, he wouldn’t have been allowed to enter synagogue. The Pharisees would consider his arm ritually unclean. So likely it was no more than paralyzed. Still not good, but it wasn’t like this guy had a shriveled tree branch attached to his arm.

My big-ass bibles.

by K.W. Leslie, 12 August

A few months ago, someone left a bible at my church. It’s one of those big, leather-clad bibles. It’s the size of a bible that really should be reserved for large-print bibles for the visually impaired. I tend to call them “big-ass bibles.” Though, when I do, I tend to get startled stares from Christians who can’t handle the word “ass.” Even though it’s in the biblein the KJV, anyway.

I have some big-ass bibles too. But I stopped carrying ’em to church when I was in seminary. Since I needed a bible for nearly every class, I bought a smaller-than-average edition of the NIV, which I always kept in the front pocket of my backpack, and that was my go-to bible for school, church, work, travel, anything and everything. Years later I upgraded to a NASB compact bible with a teal pleather snap cover. But soon thereafter (a few years before phones became smartphones), I bought a pocket computer, loaded bible software onto it, and that became my bible-on-the-go. Today that software’s on my phone.

The reason I own bibles of unusual size? They’re study bibles. They came with notes. Sometimes there’s more notes than scripture.

Remember this verse?—

Revelation 22.18-19 KWL
19 I testify to everyone hearing the prophetic words of this book: When anyone adds upon them,
God will add upon them—of the plagues recorded in this book.
20 When anyone subtracts from the words of this prophetic book,
God will subtract from their share—of the holy city’s tree of life, recorded in this book.

Too many Christians assume “of this book” refers to the whole bible, not just Revelation. It doesn’t—and good thing, too. Otherwise a whole lot of publishers are going to hell for overdoing it on the study notes.

I still have one of those monster bibles: The Renovaré Spiritual Formation Bible. Currently it’s published as The Life with God Bible, and comes in paperback. That’s probably better. I got the old hardcover edition. Sucker’s huge. After I jammed it into a barely-big-enough bible cover, then added pens and a notebook, it weighs about 4 kilos.

Now that’s one of those bibles you carry around to proclaim, “Look! I have a bible. And it’s much, much bigger than yours.” It’s a bible meant to inspire bible envy—a covetousness similar to penis envy, but more spiritual. (As if envy is ever an appropriate kind of spirituality.) Although you can get bigger bibles. Pulpit bibles, they’re called.

But I don’t carry the Renovaré bible around. I use it for private devotional time—in the five percent of the time I don’t use my computer bibles. It stays in my room, along with my other bibles.

What KJV-worshipers believe about the bible.

by K.W. Leslie, 09 August

I know; I already wrote an article about the history of the King James Version—and the people who worship it. But two years ago I wrote a different article, and was asked to repost it. I was a little reluctant to, ’cause it’s largely based on a Chick tract.

Some of you already know who he was: Jack T. Chick (1924–2016) was a conspiracy theorist who believed the devil was behind everything he doesn’t like. Seriously everything—and Chick didn’t like much. In order to prove it, he played really fast and loose with the truth. He’d misquote bible, mangle history, and apparently just make stuff up from scratch. ’Cause for some of his claims, I can’t find confirmation anywhere—well, other than books Chick himself published.

Primarily his company publishes evangelism tracts. Nearly all of them lack fruit of the Spirit: They’re loveless, impatient, unkind, joyless (his humor is the ironic, mocking sort), graceless (any little slip-up on our part sends us to hell), and fearful. I needn’t remind you they likewise make up any facts he needed to prove his points… and hopefully scare you into the waiting, loving judgey arms of Jesus.

His tracts are controversial, because many Christians love love LOVE them. Believe it or not, some of them actually aren’t bad. But most of them are. Christians justify using them ’cause “Chick tracts work!”—but that was just Chick’s marketing slogan. If they win anyone to Christ, chances are you wind up with just another Chick-style conspiracy theorist.

Yep, someone’s supposedly burning the One True Bible. Attack 1
(Reference numbers refer to images on the website; the cover is 1, the next page is 2, etc.)

So I’m loath to use him as an example, ’cause the man doesn’t need any more publicity. Then again, he was mighty typical of what a KJV-worshiper believes. Not only that: You’ll find more than one KJV-worshiper actually turn to Chick’s publications as their “historical” justifications for believing as they do. So if you wanna go straight to the source of the madness, Chick’s got a river of bile flowing out of him.

Chick’s tract, “The Attack,” is his alternative history of how we got the King James Version, and the devil’s conspiracy to deny it to us. You can read it, in its entirety, on his website. As with all his “historical” tracts, a fraction is true. The rest is out of context, hyper-compressed, reinterpreted, whitewashed, or pure fiction.

It uses two sources. One’s David W. Daniels, whose book Did the Catholic Church Give Us the Bible? is published by Chick Publications, and where “The Attack” got its secret history. The other’s Alberto Rivera (1937–97), a con artist who claimed he used to be a Roman Catholic bishop, whom the Jesuits sent to infiltrate and undermine Protestant churches. In the 1970s, Rivera “outed” himself, told all sorts of wacky tales about how the Catholics are secretly behind Islam, Communism, the Masons, the Ku Klux Klan, the Mafia, the Mormons… and pretty much every boogeyman Chick feared. Rivera was debunked years ago by Cornerstone, Christianity Today, and Walter Martin’s Christian Research Institute. But Chick Publications still produces Rivera’s books, and plenty of anti-Catholics still believe his every word.

Picking your label.

by K.W. Leslie, 05 August

Everybody wants to reserve the right to define themselves. Or redefine.

Years ago I joined an internet forum. As you do, when you wanna interact with like-minded or similar-minded people, and you can’t find a whole lot of ’em in your hometown, so you try out the internet. They’re a lot of fun for the first couple years, but I find they invariably deteriorate. They’re so interested in getting more members, or new members, they start letting in the cranks, and cranks ruin everything. Those of you who are cranks know what I mean.

Anyway, after the numbers got up there, the moderator asked that we all re-introduce ourselves for the sake of the many newcomers. “Please tell us your religious background.” How would you label yourself?

A lot of us took the opportunity to be really vague about it:

  • “Student of Christ.”
  • “Disciple.”
  • “Catechumen.” (Seriously.)
  • “Worshiper of the King.”
  • “Christ-carrier.”
  • “Jesus person.”
  • “Grateful believer.”
  • “God-chaser.”

Honest to goodness, I didn’t think I’d joined a group of hippies.

Lefties, you know what I’m talking about. I ran into it all the time in college. Join a group, ask the members of the group what they call themselves, and just about every single person has chosen a different label for themselves. They customized the definition to whatever they wished it would be. ’Cause it’s all about them, isn’t it? Even in community.

I used to see this all the time on Facebook, or any of the other social media platforms where there was an “About” page which invited you to state your religion. Some folks went with the usual “Christian” or “Jewish” or one of the denominations. But lots of ’em, sometimes for fun and sometimes because “Christian” wasn’t enough, would put “Lover of JESUS!!!” or some such. Caps and three exclamation points means you really mean it.

Back to the internet forum. I got specific, because I wanted there to be no question where I was coming from—and if there were, it would only be because people didn’t understand the terms. I went with “Christian / Arminian / Pentecostal / Assemblies of God.” From the general to the specific: Religion, theology, movement, denomination.

Some of the others were specific as well. If you identify with your denomination, or you’re in leadership, you tend to. If you don’t care for it, you tend not to join its hierarchy. (Although there are exceptions: At my last church, we took an informal survey of the people’s attitudes about membership, and asked how they identified themselves. One of our elders identified herself as an attendee. No, there was no box to tick; she wrote the word out. Not an elder; not even as a member. There’s commitment for ya.)

The rest of the forum members picked the usual vague terms we find among bloggers, Twitter users, authors, survey respondents, and average church attendees throughout Christendom. It signified they wanted to be unique. It also signified just how much the other terms don’t work for them.

“God makes all things work together for our good.”

by K.W. Leslie, 02 August

Romans 8.28.

“You make all things work together for my good,” goes the bridge of the 2008 Jesus Culture song “Your Love Never Fails.” (Or are you more familiar with the 2013 Newsboys version? No? Doesn’t matter.) It’s a common variation of a popular idea, borrowed from Paul in Romans, which goes like so:

Romans 8.28 KJV
And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

Frequently people drop a “the” in quoting it, and end it, “to them who are the called according to his purpose.” More like the ESV has it. But however we remember it, the problem is why we remember it; and this being a “Context” article you can bet it’s about wrongly remembering it.

Together with “Everything happens for a reason!” this is a myth we Christians use to comfort ourselves, and one another. When we’re going through a rough time, we like to imagine God’s permitting or allowing or even causing these trials, because he has a greater good in mind. We just gotta trust God, and ride it out.

But this is an idea Calvinism teaches. Not the scriptures. It’s based on the Calvinist belief God sovereignly micromanages everything in the cosmos. They say he’s actually behind all things—even evil things—so of course he’ll work ’em out for our good. But we gotta stretch the scriptures beyond their breaking point before they state any such thing.

You do realize there’s an entire book of the bible dedicated to the existence of meaningless things, right? Not everything happens for a reason! It’s why Qohelét, the author of Ecclesiastes, started his book with “Vapor of vapors. It’s all vapor.” Ec 1.2 KWL

I won’t go as hardcore as Qohelét did, and claim we can’t find meaning in anything. Certain things definitely have meaning. Sometimes we grant the meaning to them; sometimes God does. But Qohelét was dealing with a culture which—like our own—tries to find meaning in everything. A random accident upends our lives, and we go out of our minds playing mental connect-the-dots, trying to find anything deep or truthful or profound in it. So to give his culture a solid slap in the face, Qohelét pulled out the stops: Nothing has meaning. Nothing makes sense. All sorts of stuff that’s “supposed” to happen, doesn’t. Stuff that should be fair, isn’t. Life sucks.

For these people, Ecclesiastes is a bummer, so they avoid it. We don’t wanna believe it. We way prefer the idea God has a grand plan, and these random accidents are secretly part of the plan. We imagine every irrelevant, minor thing triggers a butterfly effect, with great, life-altering consequences. Every decision matters. Every action counts. Every time we talk about God, we plant a seed which never returns void. You know, the usual hyper-optimistic crap.

You know, the usual hyper-optimistic crap. And don’t get me wrong; Christians ought to be optimistic. Jm 1.2 But not delusionally so. We live by faith, not wishful thinking.

Gentleness: Take charge of your emotions!

by K.W. Leslie, 01 August

“Gentle” doesn’t mean “nice.” It means, like a well-trained horse, you don’t spook easily.

When Christians go through Paul’s list of the Spirit’s fruit in Galatians—love, joy, peace, etcetera Ga 5.22-23 —we tend to skip gentleness. ’Cause we figure it’s just a synonym of kindness. Gentle people are kind, right? Gentle Jesus is meek and mild, according to Charles Wesley’s hymn; we assume gentleness is therefore meekness and mildness. Nice, friendly people.

Or gentle people are patient. They handle others softly, not roughly. Like the washing machine on the gentle cycle: Treats your clothes softly and tenderly, kinda like the way Jesus is calling, “Oh sinner, come home” in Will Thompson’s hymn.

What’re the chances I’m gonna tell you both those definitions are incorrect? Better than average.

The word Paul used for gentleness is prahýtis. It describes someone who’s prahýs/“gentle.” In classical Greek literature, it’s used to describe people or animals who were angry, sad, or fearful… but they got control of themselves.

  • In Homer’s Hymn to Hermes, Apollo was enraged, but let music make him gentle. 417
  • In Hesiod’s Works and Days, stubborn mules were made tame, or gentle. 797
  • In Aeschylus’s Persians, Xerxes tried to gentle a team of horses, 190 and Darius advised Atossa to use gentle words to soothe her grieving son. 837
  • In Pindar’s Pythian Odes, Hero was “gentle to his citizens.” 3.71
  • And in the Septuagint, Moses was more gentle than anyone, Nu 12.3 in contrast to his angry brother and sister. Nu 12.1-2

The term refers to someone who’s emotionally stable. You know, like a wild horse that’s been broken, who doesn’t buck every unfamiliar rider, or freak out at every odd thing it encounters. Like a tame animal who’s not passive and quiet one moment, then tearing through your throat the next.

Unlike some humans. And some Christians.

The ancient Greeks highly praised gentility. Gentle rulers weren’t emotion-driven despots, who’d freak out whenever you tweeted something they don’t like. They weren’t easily outraged—which, I remind you, is a work of the flesh. They weren’t thrown into panic, frenzy, depression, or euphoria, at the smallest things. They weren’t quick to sorrow, despair, rejoice, or ecstasy. Like I said, stable.

God’s that way too: Gracious, merciful, slow to anger, quick to forgive. Jl 2.13 Stands to reason it’s a fruit of the Spirit: All those fruits are God’s traits. If we follow his Spirit, we’re gonna take on his attitudes, behaviors, and emotional stability. We’re gonna be gentle like God is. We might feel excitement, rage, sadness, zeal, all sorts of emotions—but we’re never gonna let ’em take over our lives, and lead us to do something sinful. We are in control. Never our emotions.

Master of the Sabbath.

by K.W. Leslie, 29 July

Who defines what’s good and evil on Sabbath? Jesus.

Mark 2.23-28 • Matthew 12.1-8 • Luke 6.1-5

As I said last time, don’t assume Pharisees were questioning Jesus because they wished to challenge him. Sometimes they were. But sometimes they were merely trying to understand why Jesus ignored their traditions—and why he was teaching his students to do likewise.

Just like it came up one Sabbath when Jesus and his kids were going past the fields, and some of ’em began to yank a few of the heads of grain off.

Mark 2.23-24 KWL
23 Jesus himself happened to travel through the fields on Sabbath.
His students began plucking the grain along the road.
24 The Pharisees told Jesus, “Look, why are they doing what one shouldn’t on Sabbath?”
Matthew 12.1-2 KWL
1 At that time, Jesus went through the fields on Sabbath.
His students were hungry, and began to pluck the grain and eat it. 2 Seeing it,
the Pharisees told Jesus, “Look, your students are doing what one shouldn’t do on Sabbath.”
Luke 6.1-2 KWL
1 Jesus himself happened to go through the fields on Sabbath.
His students were plucking and eating, rubbing it in their hands.
2 Some of the Pharisees said, “Why are they doing what one shouldn’t on Sabbath?”

Mark doesn’t mention they were eating the grain, so it sounds a little like petty vandalism—as kids will do. But no, it wasn’t that; the other gospels point out they were eating it. And no, that’s not theft. The Law stated people were permitted to do so.

Leviticus 19.9-10 KWL
9 “When you harvest the harvest of your land, don’t harvest the edge of your field completely.
Don’t take a second pass.
10 Your vineyard: Don’t strip it bare, and take the broken grapes of your vineyard.
Don’t take a second pass.
Leave them for the poor and the foreigner.
I’m your LORD God.”

God capped certain commands with “I’m your LORD God” when he really meant it.

This was all part of God’s welfare plan for the poor: When they’re hungry, let them eat from the edges of your fields, or pick up whatever you left behind after harvest, and God would bless you and make up for it. The nation was kinda on the honor system: They could glean what they needed… so long that they don’t grab a sickle and reap a swath of it. Dt 23.25 But for the most part it worked. Our culture, in comparison, considers any gleaning a form of theft, and farmers are far more likely to grab a rifle and take potshots at ’em to scare them off.

Regardless of feeding the poor: It was Sabbath. And you might recall the Pharisees had a whole list of stuff you can’t do on Sabbath. In the Mishnah’s list of 39 forms of prohibited work, number 3 would be reaping, and number 5 would be threshing. That whole “rubbing it their hands” bit Luke mentioned—getting the chaff off the seeds—counts as threshing. And if you really wanna get anal about it, by selecting which heads of grain to pluck, the students were sorting—number 7.

Three different kinds of work, and work is banned on Sabbath. It’s in the Ten Commandments, remember? Ex 20.10 Back in Old Testament times, it’d even get you the death penalty. Ex 32.2 So this is no minor quibble. It’s a capital crime.

So why weren’t Jesus’s students fasting?

by K.W. Leslie, 28 July

Mark 2.18-22, Matthew 9.14-17, Luke 5.33-39.

In the Sermon on the Mount, when Jesus taught on fasting, it was namely to say it’s to be private; we’re not to do it to seek attention. Mt 6.16-17 Certain Christians claim it also means we’re not to do it at all, and the basis for this claim is this passage, wherein some Jews complain Jesus’s kids don’t fast.

Mark 2.18 KWL
John’s students and the Pharisees were fasting. They came and told Jesus,
“For what reason do John and the Pharisees’ students fast, and your students don’t fast?”
Matthew 9.14 KWL
John’s students visited Jesus, saying,
“For what reason do we and the Pharisees fast so often, and your students don’t fast?
Luke 5.33 KWL
They told Jesus, “John’s students fast frequently and hold vigils.
Same with the Pharisees—and yours eat and drink.”

Ísan nistévontes/“were fasting” Mk 2.18 can also be interpreted “were [the sort of people who practiced] fasting.” The Pharisees were known to fast twice a week, Lk 18.12 probably on Monday and Thursday. Didache 8.1 Since the context of this story is Levi’s dinner party, some folks speculate Levi was throwing it on one of the Pharisees’ fast days. So part of what irritated Pharisees about the dinner wasn’t just the eating and drinking with taxmen and sinners; it was how Jesus was supposed to be fasting along with them, and instead he was enjoying a gourmet lunch, with better wine than they could afford. You know, jealousy.

Of course it’s just as likely this wasn’t a fast day. But they’d been keeping track: They’d never seen Jesus nor his students fast. (They didn’t know about his stint in the desert.) So this was as good a time as any to broach the subject: Why didn’t Jesus do they did?

And lest we blow this off as Pharisees whining about Jesus violating their customs again, all three gospels point out it wasn’t just Pharisees. The students of John the baptist—and we like John, right?—also fasted. Notice Matthew even had John’s students ask the question. Too often we Christians ignore the Pharisees’ considerations, ’cause we presume they were nothing but self-justifying hypocrites only looking to bash Jesus. And partly because we wanna ignore the Law, wrongly figure Jesus taught we can, and wanna bash Pharisees as legalists.

But most Pharisees were good Jews, earnestly trying to follow God, figuring their rabbis knew best… and unaware their rabbis were too often looking for loopholes in the Law. The reason Jesus wound up critiquing the Pharisees so often, was because he chose to be around them all the time. He taught in their synagogues. He ate in their homes. These were, for the most part, his people—who rejected him, Jn 1.11 but still. They followed him around because they wondered whether he was Messiah.

So they asked questions like this, not necessarily to accuse, but understand. Don’t assume they were trying to entrap him till the authors of the gospels, or Jesus, say so. “Why don’t you fast when we do?” is a perfectly valid question.

Jesus calls Levi. Or Matthew. Whoever.

by K.W. Leslie, 27 July

Mark 2.13-17, Matthew 9.9-13, Luke 5.27-32.

I don’t expect anyone’s ever liked taxmen—except of course the kings for whom they were collecting. In first-century Israel, the Judeans and Galileans particularly disliked the taxmen, and to understand why, you gotta understand their history.

In 67BC, Queen Alexandra Salomé of Jerusalem died. Her sons Hyrcanus (whom she made head priest) and Aristobulus fought over who’d be the next king. Antipater bar Antipas, the governor of Idumea (formerly Edom) backed Hyrcanus, and talked him into getting military help from Roman general Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus, whom we know as Pompey. The Romans intervened in the fight, overthrew Jerusalem (and out of curiosity, Pompey took a peek in the Holiest Place of the temple), and imprisoned Aristobulus. But Pompey screwed Hyrcanus over, keeping him head priest, but making Antipater governor of Judea.

Antipater’s son Herod: You might’ve heard of him. He married Hyrcanus’s granddaughter, and despite not being Jewish, used his Roman connections to become king of Jerusalem. After Herod’s death, his sons likewise fought over who’d be the next king—and again the Romans intervened, with Augustus dividing Israel into fourths. Two sons, Antipas and Philip, were made tetrarch/“ruler of a fourth” over the Galilee and Perea (today’s Golan Heights), and a Roman procurator was put over the other half, namely Jerusalem.

The procurators appointed whoever they pleased as head priest. Usually the Levite who bribed them the most. And this was the state of things when Jesus began his ministry: Half-Jewish “kings” over northern Israel, Romans over southern Israel, and a family of corrupt Sadducees—who don’t even believe in miracles!—running the temple. Plus Roman soldiers everywhere, keeping the scum in power, and crucifying anyone who rebelled.

You already don’t like the taxman, but these taxmen were collecting money for the Romans—forcing the people to pay to be oppressed. As a result they were seen as traitors. Most Jews simply hated them. For the most part they refused to let them into their synagogues or temple. Since the taxmen sided with the pagans, they were considered no different from pagans.

Romans didn’t pay their taxmen, but simply let ’em overcharge on taxes, and take their income from the overcharge. So taxmen regularly overcharged. And why shouldn’t they?—the people hated ’em anyway. May as well hate ’em back… and get rich off them.

Loads of proof in Jesus’s favor—but people don’t wanna see it.

by K.W. Leslie, 26 July

John 5.31-47

If you know the story, Jesus cured some guy in Jerusalem who’d been disabled for decades—an event which should’ve triggered great rejoicing, ’cause God had a prophet in Israel who could cure the sick!

Instead the Judeans pitched a fit, ’cause Jesus cured him on Sabbath. And when Jesus correctly pointed out he could cure on Sabbath because his Father authorized him to do so—he is the Son of Man, after all—they didn’t care to hear it. This, despite the obvious evidence Jesus is precisely who he says he is. Today we’ll get into it.

Elsewhere in John, the Pharisees objected when Jesus made similar grand statements about himself:

John 8.13 KWL
So the Pharisees told Jesus, “You testify about yourself. Your testimony isn’t valid.”

Because alithís ordinarily means “true,” various interpreters leap to the conclusion the Pharisees were accusing Jesus of lying. And no doubt some of ’em believed he was lying. But interpreting it “Your witness is not true” (NKJV) means the average Christian will miss the historical context: John, Jesus, and the Judeans were speaking of the sort of “witness” which held up when people were trying a case in court. And for that, the Law mandated the following:

Deuteronomy 19.15-17 KWL
15 “Don’t stand up only one witness against a man
for any act of evil, offense, or trespass, which he committed.
From the mouth of two witnesses, or the mouth of three witnesses,
a word may stand.
16 For when you stand up a false witness against a man,
to accuse him of rebelling against the Law,
17 the two men who are in dispute are before the LORD’s face,
before the face of priests and judges who are in office in those days.

Jesus prefaced his remarks with “Amen amen,” Jn 5.19, 24, 25 which is an oath—he swore what he taught was true, that he is the Son of Man, and will judge the world on behalf of the Father. But he knew by Pharisee standards he only provided his own word, so they wouldn’t accept it. They’d demand further witnesses.

I should point out some commentators claim Judeans wouldn’t accept anyone’s testimony about themselves. Supposedly in a Judean court, neither the accused nor the plaintiff could make statements. Well, the scriptures demonstrate people could, and did. In the trials of Jesus, Peter and John, Stephen, and Paul, all of ’em made statements. (Stephen took a whole chapter. Ac 7) Jesus was even sentenced to death because nobody else’s testimony was valid but his—and he testified he’s Messiah. Mt 26.63-66 One person’s testimony is certainly valid; Jn 8.14 it’s just Jesus’s listeners in this chapter wanted more witnesses.

So Jesus brought ’em forth. Starting with John the baptist.

John 5.31-35 KWL
31 “When I testify about myself, my testimony ‘isn’t valid’:
32 The one who testifies about me must be another person.
Fine. I know a witness who is valid, who testified about me:
33 You sent for John, and he answered truthfully.
34 I don’t accept testimony from people, but I say this so you can be saved:
35 John’s a burning, shining lamp, and you wanted to rejoice in his light for an hour.”

John had referred to Jesus as “God’s ram, taking up the world’s sin!” Jn 1.29 KWL He knew Jesus had pre-existed; Jn 1.15, 30 he’d seen the Holy Spirit stay on Jesus, because he’s the one who baptizes with the Spirit. Jn 1.32-33 John knew who Jesus was, and if you considered John valid (as we Christians do), he counts as a second witness to Jesus.