John 7:1-5, “After these things Jesus walked in Galilee; for He did not want to walk in Judea, because the Jews sought to kill Him. Now the Jews’ Feast of Tabernacles was at hand. His brothers therefore said to Him, ‘Depart from here and go into Judea, that Your disciples also may see the works that You are doing. For no one does anything in secret while he himself seeks to be known openly. If You do these things, show Yourself to the world.’ For even His brothers did not believe in Him.”
If you were to break down Jesus’ roughly 2 to 3-year, earthly ministry into three simple sections it would present as follows: Year #1 was a Period of Obscurity whereby Jesus was largely an unknown quantity outside of Galilee, in Year #2 Jesus enjoyed a Period of Popularity drawing huge crowds wherever He went, with Year #3 being a final Period of Opposition which ultimately concluded with His betrayal, arrest, torture and crucifixion.
As we transition from John 6 to 7 it’s important you note two things… First, several months have transpired and Jesus’ ministry has shifted from this season of popularity to one of opposition. We actually pointed out last Sunday how many of His disciples began bailing because of some of the offensive things Jesus was teaching. No doubt this trend continued.
According to verse 1 the dynamic had become so volatile Jesus refused to venture down into Judea choosing instead to remain in the region of Galilee. John explains the reason for this approach was on account “the Jews (the religious authorities) sought to kill Him.” In the original language the word “sought” describes an active and deliberate seeking to find.
Secondly, in many ways John 7 marks the beginning of the end. While a simple reading of this Gospel wouldn’t naturally indicate this reality (keep in mind John isn’t interested in presenting a strict chronological record of events), as we move from one chapter to the next not only do we find ourselves several months removed from the Bread of Life Discourse, but John picks up the narrative roughly 6 months into this final period of opposition.
In verse 2 John gives you and I a very specific context and timeline by referencing the “Feast of Tabernacles.” Since this final feast in the Jewish calendar occurred in October after the harvest, with the Feast of Passover coming next the following April, the events of these remaining 15 chapters of John’s Gospel occur during these final 6 or 7 months.
It’s interesting that as John dives into this Period of Opposition he begins with Jesus’ brothers coming to Him with a challenge rooted in their skepticism. Note: Jesus wasn’t an only child! According to Matthew 13 we know He had 4 brothers “James, Joseph, Simon, and Jude” along with unnamed “sisters” (at a minimum 2). Technically, they were half-sibling considering that while they shared the same mom they had different fathers.
Before we get to their challenge, we should first address the nature of their skepticism. In verse 5 John makes it clear that Jesus’ brothers “did not believe in Him!” To begin with, you can imagine the difficulties of having Jesus as an older brother. The unfair comparisons alone would have been enough to foster a deep-seeded resentment towards Him.
James, why don’t you make your bed as well as your brother Jesus? Well, it’s hard when you’re not the creator and sustainer of the universe! Simon, why can’t you get your homework done as quickly as your brother Jesus? Maybe because I’m not all-knowing!
Joseph and Jude, why can’t you guys behave like your brother Jesus? Um, neither of us are sinless! For the younger siblings of God-incarnate it’s easy to see how the “why can’t you be like Jesus” parental approach would be frustrating and foster a lasting resentment!
Beyond this, it’s important to consider what they didn’t believe about Jesus? For starters, it’s a leap to conclude their unbelief was rooted in a hidden character flaw they were only privy to as His family. Note: They aren’t accusing Jesus of being a fraud or hypocritical.
Instead, it would appear their unbelief concerning Jesus stemmed from a deeper misunderstanding as to the fundamental purpose and mission of what the Messiah had actually come to accomplish. These men, like many others, believed the Messiah was going to rally the people to arms and lead a violent revolt against the occupying Romans.
Because they knew Jesus’ personality and temperament better than anyone, it’s likely these men couldn’t believe He could do such a thing! Jesus swinging a sword and taking lives seemed like an outlandish proposition. That wasn’t the cloth their big-bro was cut out of!
In an interesting twist to this point, if they had known the Messiah had instead come to lay down His life for the sins of the world (suffering servant), their position may have changed for this view of the Christ would have been more in line with what they knew of their big brother.
Case in point, according to 1 Corinthians 15, we’re told the resurrected Jesus ends up appearing to his brother James! Following His crucifixion and resurrection, these original doubters became instant believers. James would pastor the first church in Jerusalem and write the Book of James. And Jude would also pen a letter which is included in the Cannon.
And yet, at this moment in time, these brothers were far from believers. Seeing that Jesus was avoiding the crowds in Jerusalem, they encourage Him to “go into Judea” and preform the same miracles there as He’d been doing in the Galilee. They add, “No one does anything in secret while he seeks to be known openly… Show Yourself to the world!” Sadly, they didn’t understand the mission of their brother Jesus wasn’t predicated upon His popularity.
Again, with their understanding of the Messiah in mind, such council would have been logical and even warranted. Though personally skeptical, they’re advising Jesus to go into Judea (specifically Jerusalem) and reveal Himself as the Messiah during the Feast of Tabernacles.
John 7:6-9, “Then Jesus said to them, ‘My time has not yet come, but your time is always ready. The world cannot hate you, but it hates Me because I testify of it that its works are evil. You go up to this feast. I am not yet going up to this feast, for My time has not yet fully come.’ When He had said these things, Jesus remained in Galilee.”
It really is a provocative thought, but don’t miss the simple fact people actually “hated Jesus” so much they wanted to “kill Him!” And what’s more, I’m struck by the reality the folks filled with such rage that they were out for His blood were the religious people of the day!
Consider what Jesus had done to deserve such vitriol? First, He was completely sinless and without fault. Second, His crime was teaching the truth of God’s Word to the masses. Third, He was accepting of the outcasts in society. Four, He befriended and ministered to sinners.
Five, He cast out demons thereby freeing people from their internal torment. Six, He restored sight to the blind trapped in darkness. Seven, He returned the ability to speak and hear to the mute. Eight, He liberated people who’d been alienated by the death sentence of leprosy. Nine, He caused the lame to walk and fixed the withered limbs of the handicap.
Ten, Jesus would stay up to the wee hours of the night healing anyone who’d come of their physical infirmities. Eleven, He’d forgive the sins of the condemned and encouraged people to walk in righteousness. Twelve, He filled broken lives with an eternal purpose. Thirteen, He selflessly preferred the needs of others above His own. Fourteen, He enjoyed food and drink.
Obviously, I could go on and on listing all the reasons you could rightfully kill someone over!The truth is there was really no logical or even justifiable reason to hate Jesus so much you’d want to kill Him! Clearly, Jesus had committed no crime worthy of such a reaction by anyone! Before I get to my point I do want to say, if you’re resisting Jesus this morning, what has Jesus actually done to warrant your opposition? Really think about!
In the flow of our text the fundamental question that arises is… Why was hatred towards Jesus the response of the religious leaders? The answer to this question is provided by Jesus in verse 7. He says, “The world hates Me because I testify of it that its works are evil.”
Understand, for the secular man actively doing his best to deny the presence of God, the very person of Jesus becomes a threat for He testifies that their “works are evil” or literally of a bad nature. Because Jesus establishes the essence of right and wrong, man is no longer free to do as he pleases. Frankly, the secular man hates the idea of divine accountability.
And while I think to a large extent this is self-evident, the fact remains it was the religious leaders who hated Jesus enough to kill Him! Though the secular man may hate Jesus for the reasons I just stated, more often than not their strategy, at worst, is to simply ignore Him.
Most interestingly though, this approach is not an option for the religious man or woman. You see the reason Jesus is hated by religious people and cannot be ignored centers on the reality that His very existence establishes a new basis for what is fundamentally good.
Think of it this way… Carnal people hate Jesus because He points out the evil nature of their works; and yet, this can be largely ignored. In contrast, religious people hate Jesus because He points out their good works are evil - this really can’t be ignored.
The fact is deeply religious people build their own moral framework for goodness and therefore basis for self-rightness upon an inaccurate comparison of themselves and what they define as being clearly evil. Basically, the common claim, “I’m a good person” and the pride that comes with it, is really founded upon the idea that “I’m better than you!”
Here’s why Jesus is hated and is impossible to ignore in this circumstance… The very presence of a sinless and perfect man existing as the natural basis for what is defined as “good” blows this entire moralistic framework to pieces. How can anyone honestly claim to be a good person when Jesus is the standard-barer? In light of Jesus and the life He lived, even religious people must conclude their works are evil in comparison.
This is why the religious world in Jesus’ day “hated Him” and wanted to “kill Him!” His very presence “testified” (gave witnesses) that the “works” they found so much personal pride in (their attempts to be good and earn the favor of God) “was indeed evil.” It hit them deeply.
Jesus’ life demonstrated that their best works to please God fell terribly short. Instead of the “us and them” attitude fostered through a religious person’s false sense of moral rightness, they were forced to admit it’s actually “Jesus and us!” If Jesus is the perfect standard for what is good, we all “fall short of the glory of God.” And if you’re unwilling to admit that, you’ll react with hatred and vitriol towards Jesus. Simply ignoring Him really isn’t an option.
Before we move further into the chapter, Jesus introduces an interesting idea He’ll repeat often throughout the remaining chapters of John’s Gospel. He says to His brothers, “My time has not yet come.” Over and over Jesus will repeat this statement until He finally makes His way to Jerusalem for the Feast of Passover when He’ll declare, “My time has come!”
Aside from the fact we understand Jesus was speaking of the moment He’d submit Himself to currents that would lead to a cross, what makes this statement so fascinating is that it reveals the reality Jesus always remained sensitive to a divine timetable for His life.
There is no doubt Jesus lived His life and made decisions according to an internal clock that had been set and was controlled by His heavenly Father. Jesus was willing to surrender to this and patiently allow God’s plan for His life to happen according to God’s timing.
Can I say that if submitting to God’s will and plan for His life was critically important for Jesus, there is no question this approach is essential for you and I! Never forget, God’s work, failed to be done according to God’s timing, rarely receives God’s blessing.
I bring this up because it was such a heavenly perspective that enabled Jesus to wisely choose when to engage a fight and when to avoid one. Jesus knowing the intended purposes of His enemies wisely laid back. While He didn’t avoid confrontation, Jesus never rushed into a situation or debate where He surrendered the vantage-point of higher ground. As we try to navigate the cultural cesspool around us there’s much wisdom in His example.
John 7:10-13, “But when His brothers had gone up, then He also went up to the feast, not openly, but as it were in secret. (Jesus had a plan.) Then the Jews sought Him at the feast, and said, ‘Where is He?’ And there was much complaining among the people concerning Him. (This word “complaining” would be better translated as “murmuring” or “debating”) Some said, ‘He is good’; others said, ‘No, on the contrary, He deceives the people.’ (He’s a liar.) However, no one spoke openly of Jesus for fear of the Jews.”
John 7:14-15, “Now about the middle of the feast (the Feast of Tabernacles lasted for 8 days) Jesus went up into the temple and taught. And the Jews marveled, saying, ‘How does this Man know letters, having never studied?’” (The better translation from the Greek of their reaction would be, “How does He have such a mastery of the Scriptures?”)
John 7:16-18, “Jesus answered them and said, ‘My doctrine (“didachē” literally meaning what is taught) is not Mine, but His who sent Me. If anyone wills to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God or whether I speak on My own authority. He who speaks from himself seeks his own glory; but He who seeks the glory of the One who sent Him is true, and no unrighteousness is in Him.”
One of the grand mysteries about Jesus in His day was the origins of His understanding of the Scriptures. While there was a formal educational process that had to be completed and then the requirement to apprentice under a Rabbi, Jesus had none of this! In other Gospel accounts, in a measure of mockery, Jesus is referred to a the “carpenter from Nazareth.”
And yet, while Jesus lacked formal training, the proof of His learning was unavoidable. No one during His day demonstrate the level of knowledge and insight into the Scriptures that Jesus possessed. For example, in Mark 1:22 we’re told, “They were astonished at His teaching, for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.” A little later in this chapter the officers sent to arrest Him will confess “no man ever spoke like this Man!”
In answering their inquiry about the origins of His educational training Jesus makes a radicle series of statements. First, He begins, “My doctrine is not Mine, but His who sent Me.” Jesus is saying the origins of what He taught the people came from God and not Himself. Because Jesus was sent by God, He came with words from God. It wasn’t His message or doctrine, but God’s that Jesus was communicating to the people.
To validate this claim Jesus provided a litmus test they could use in order to ascertain whether or not what He taught was actually from God or based on “His own authority.” Jesus continues, “If anyone wills (“thelō” means intends) to do God’s will (“thelēma” can be translated as what God wishes), he shall know concerning the doctrine (what Jesus was teaching), whether it is from God or whether I speak on My own authority.”
Jesus is saying the evidence He was speaking the true Word’s of God and not His own could be discovered through one’s obedience. Don’t miss the underlying principle… The only way you can ever really know for certain whether or not Jesus’ Words come directly from God is to obey them… Take them and put them into practice!
In ways this concept substantiates the idea that true spiritual growth and personal transformation is completely relative to your obedience. For example, I talk a lot about the doctrine of grace; and yet, the only way you can test whether or not what I’m sharing with you are simply my thoughts or that I’m articulating the Words of God is to take that doctrine and apply it to your life experientially. Take what I’m saying and put it to the test!
I can talk to you extensively about the mysterious and largely counterintuitive blessing the Bible says comes into a person’s life when they commit to tithing a percentage of their income. But you’ll never really understand what I’m saying until you’re willing to try it out.
I can emphasize the powerful spiritual influence and stability that will result when you commit your family to faithfully attending church on Sunday mornings. But you’ll never really know if what I’m saying is true or a ploy unless you’re willing to actually give it a whirl.
I can preach about the personal liberation of pain and resentment that will flow into your life when you take the bold step and truly forgive those who’ve wronged you. And yet, it’s nothing but a powerless, academic exercise until you actually attempt to forgive!
Most Sunday’s I’ll declare that God’s grace changes everything! But you have no idea if I’m lying or speaking truth if you aren’t willing to step out and open yourself up experience the grace of God. Frankly, I’ve found it almost impossible for someone to really understand the doctrine of grace if they haven’t experienced it by either receiving it when they didn’t deserve it or had to bestow it when they really didn’t want to!
There’s one more component to this we can’t overlook… It was important to Jesus that from the pulpit He articulated a word from God and not a message contrived in Himself. That absolutely blows my mind! As a pastor I believe the easiest way to insure a Sunday message is from God is to simply articulate His Word. Additionally, if you want to make sure a message you hear is from God, examine how much of His Word is included.
Finally, Jesus gives one more proof as to whether or not a person is articulating a message from God or speaking under His own authority. He wraps up His thought by saying, “He who speaks from himself seeks his own glory; but He who seeks the glory of the One who sent Him is true, and no unrighteousness is in Him.”
You see when it’s all said and done a Word from God will exalt and bring public glory to the God behind the Word and not the conduit. On the flip-side a word of man will exalt and bring public glory to the man speaking the word and not God. Look who’s glorified.
John 7:19, “Did not Moses give you the law, yet none of you keeps the law? Why do you seek to kill Me?” Knowing the opposition likely present as He’s publicly teaching in the Temple, Jesus seizes the opportunity to strike the first blow by pointing out their hypocrisy.
How ironic the very men who boast in their ability to “keep the law” were actively looking for a way they might “kill Him!” The word Jesus uses for “kill” implied a premeditated murder.
John 7:20-24, “The people answered and said, ‘You have a demon. Who is seeking to kill You?’ (This is likely evidence the masses were largely ignorant of the plot of the religious leaders.) Jesus answered and said to them, ‘I did one work, and you all marvel… (In this section Jesus will refer back to the last time He was in Jerusalem when He healed the man at the Pool of Bethsaida near the sheep gate on the Sabbath - recorded in John 5.)
Moses therefore gave you circumcision (not that it is from Moses, but from the fathers), and you circumcise a man on the Sabbath. If a man receives circumcision on the Sabbath, so that the law of Moses should not be broken, are you angry with Me because I made a man completely well on the Sabbath? Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.’”
In an attempt to reason with these religious men enraged and seemingly still irked that He had the audacity to heal a man on the Sabbath, Jesus points out a glaring illogic to their argument. According to the Law, a Hebrew boy was required to be circumcised on the 8th day - even if that day happened to fall on the Sabbath. While the Sabbath was to be kept holy, the importance of circumcision would take priority and a concession made.
Jesus’ point is that, if such an exemption was allowed pertaining to circumcision, what could possibly be wrong with Him “making a man completely well on the Sabbath?” Even the Jews knew it was entirely legal to break the Sabbath in order to address a more pressing need. Again, Jesus was emphasizing the actual reality a man sick for 38 years was healed.
This line “not to judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment” is also fascinating. Contrary to those who love to tell Christians how wrong it is to judge people, Jesus takes no issues with the idea of judging and is more interested in the way we judge.
While it’s wrong to “judge” a situation “according to appearance” or literally the “opsis” or optics - what you physically see, it is within your right and even responsibility to “judge with a righteous judgment.” This word “righteous” means “observing divine lines.” As Christians we are called and it is our responsibility to take situations and make judgments about them in accordance with what the Scriptures have to say.
John 7:25-27, “Now some of them from Jerusalem said, ‘Is this not He whom they seek to kill? But look! Jesus speaks boldly, and they say nothing to Him. Do the rulers know indeed that this is truly the Christ? However, we know where this Man is from; but when the Christ comes, no one knows where He is from.’”
As it pertained to those listening to Jesus who knew the religious leaders wanted to kill Him, they find themselves amazed by His boldness and their inaction. Amazingly, some saw this dynamic as maybe even evidence the religious leaders knew Jesus was “truly the Christ!”
Others still remained deeply skeptical. John records that one such argument against Jesus centered on a passage in Malachi 3 that described the suddenness to Christ’s appearing. Since they assumed they knew where Jesus was from they had a difficult time believing!
John 7:28-30, “Then Jesus cried out, as He taught in the temple, saying, ‘You both know Me, and you know where I am from; and I have not come of Myself, but He who sent Me is true, whom you do not know. But I know Him, for I am from Him, and He sent Me.’ Therefore they sought to take Him; but no one laid a hand on Him, because His hour had not yet come.”
Though I don’t profess to be a Greek scholar, those who are claim that in the original language this statement, “You know Me, and you know where I am from” oozes with sarcasm. Responding to the claims of those who thought they knew Him and where He was from, Jesus is saying, “Where I’m from is more mysterious than you could ever imagine!”
John 7:31-36, “And many of the people believed in Him, and said, ‘When the Christ comes, will He do more signs than these which this Man has done?’ The Pharisees heard the crowd murmuring these things concerning Him, and the Pharisees and the chief priests sent officers to take Him. Then Jesus said to them, ‘I shall be with you a little while longer, and then I go to Him who sent Me. You will seek Me and not find Me, and where I am you cannot come.’ (It’s interesting this statement is in the present tense.)
Then the Jews said among themselves, ‘Where does He intend to go that we shall not find Him? Does He intend to go to the Dispersion among the Greeks and teach the Greeks? What is this thing that He said, ‘You will seek Me and not find Me, and where I am you cannot come’?” (Again, they repeat this statement because it’s strange!)
For the sake of time this is where we’re going to leave things this morning. That said… In closing, there is one dominate thread to this passage we need to emphasize. There is no question people who encountered Jesus grappled with His true identity. While a group reasoned Jesus had to be the Christ, others simply concluded He was a good man, some believed He was a liar, and a few concluded Jesus had to be demon-possessed.
What’s interesting is that at a minimum they all made a conclusion about Him - right or wrong. May I ask… What conclusions about Jesus have you reached? Please note… Of all the opinions reached that day the most illogical was that Jesus was simply a good man!
In His book “Mere Christianity” C.S. Lewis writes the following, “I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him that is, Christ: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.’ That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic–on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg–or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse… You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come up with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”
As we close, if these truths concerning Jesus strike a cord in your heart you’re willing to accept and surrender yourself to, please in the depths of your soul pray… “Dear Jesus, I know I am a sinner and that I cannot save myself. I believe You are the Son of God who died on the cross to atone for my sins. I place my complete faith in that work as the only basis for my forgiveness, restoration, and righteousness before You. I confess that on the 3rd day You rose from the dead providing me a relationship with You today. Right now, Jesus I choose to repent of my sins and ask that by Your grace You fill me with Your Holy Spirit. Take my broken life and make it whole. Transform who I am from the inside out. Jesus, I confess You as both my God, my personal Lord, and my eternal Savior. Amen.”