is a recurring thought in western civilization. It is that our generation,
alone of all generations, has finally figured out what to make of this man
Jesus – and that we can safely bury him as a footnote in the history books.
The thought is much older than we imagine. In this lesson we will examine the
crowd as they try to decide, “Just who is this man?”
1After this, Jesus went around in Galilee, purposely staying
away from Judea because the Jews there were waiting to take his life. 2But when the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles was near, 3Jesus’ brothers said to him, “You ought to leave here and go to
Judea, so that your disciples may see the miracles you do. 4No one
who wants to become a public figure acts in secret. Since you are doing these
things, show yourself to the world.” 5For even his own brothers did not believe
6Therefore Jesus told them, “The right time for me has not yet come; for you any time is
right. 7The world cannot hate you, but it hates me
because I testify that what it does is evil. 8You go to the Feast. I am not yet£ going up to this Feast, because for me the right time has not yet
said this, he stayed in Galilee.
10However, after his brothers had left for
the Feast, he went also, not publicly, but in secret. 11Now at the Feast the Jews were watching for him and asking, “Where
is that man?”
12Among the crowds there was widespread
whispering about him. Some said, “He is a good man.”
Others replied, “No, he
deceives the people.” 13But no one would say anything publicly
about him for fear of the Jews.
14Not until halfway through the Feast did
Jesus go up to the temple courts and begin to teach. 15The Jews were amazed and asked, “How did this man get such
learning without having studied?”
16Jesus answered, “My teaching is not my own. It comes from
him who sent me. 17If anyone chooses to do God’s will, he will
find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own. 18He who speaks on his own does so to gain honor for himself, but he
who works for the honor of the one who sent him is a man of truth; there is
nothing false about him. 19Has not Moses given you the law? Yet not one
of you keeps the law. Why are you trying to kill me?”
20“You are demon-possessed,” the crowd answered.
“Who is trying to kill you?”
21Jesus said to them, “I did one miracle, and you are all
astonished. 22Yet, because Moses gave you circumcision
(though actually it did not come from Moses, but from the patriarchs), you
circumcise a child on the Sabbath. 23Now if a child can be circumcised on the
Sabbath so that the law of Moses may not be broken, why are you angry with me
for healing the whole man on the Sabbath? 24Stop judging by
mere appearances, and make a right judgment.”
25At that point some of the people of
Jerusalem began to ask, “Isn’t this the man they are trying to kill? 26Here he is, speaking publicly, and they are not saying a word to
him. Have the authorities really concluded that he is the Christ£? 27But we know where this man is from; when
the Christ comes, no one will know where he is from.”
28Then Jesus, still teaching in the temple
courts, cried out, “Yes, you
know me, and you know where I am from. I am not here on my own, but he who sent
me is true. You do not know him, 29but I know him because I am from him and he
30At this they tried to seize him, but no
one laid a hand on him, because his time had not yet come. 31Still, many in the crowd put their faith in him. They said, “When
the Christ comes, will he do more miraculous signs than this man?”
32The Pharisees heard the crowd whispering
such things about him. Then the chief priests and the Pharisees sent temple
guards to arrest him.
33Jesus said, “I am with you for only a short time, and then I go to the
one who sent me. 34You will look for me, but you will not find
me; and where I am, you cannot come.”
35The Jews said to one another, “Where does
this man intend to go that we cannot find him? Will he go where our people live
scattered among the Greeks, and teach the Greeks? 36What did he mean when he said, ‘You will look for me, but you will not find me,’ and ‘Where I am, you cannot come’?”
37On the last and greatest day of the Feast,
Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. 38Whoever believes in me, as£
the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” 39By this he meant the Spirit, whom those
who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not
been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.
40On hearing his words, some of the people
said, “Surely this man is the Prophet.”
41Others said, “He is the Christ.”
Still others asked, “How can
the Christ come from Galilee? 42Does not the Scripture say that the Christ
will come from David’s family£
and from Bethlehem, the town where David lived?” 43Thus the people were divided because of Jesus. 44Some wanted to seize him, but no one laid a hand on him.
45Finally the temple guards went back to the
chief priests and Pharisees, who asked them, “Why didn’t you bring him in?”
46“No one ever spoke the way this man does,”
the guards declared.
47“You mean he has deceived you also?” the
Pharisees retorted. 48“Has any of the rulers or of the Pharisees
believed in him? 49No! But this mob that knows nothing of the
law—there is a curse on them.”
50Nicodemus, who had gone to Jesus earlier
and who was one of their own number, asked, 51“Does our law
condemn anyone without first hearing him to find out what he is doing?”
52They replied, “Are you from Galilee, too?
Look into it, and you will find that a prophet£ does not come out of Galilee.”
[The earliest and most
reliable manuscripts and other ancient witnesses do not have John 7:53-8:11.]
53Then each went to his own home.
Preliminary: the Feast of the Tabernacles
is generally assumed (despite Christmas) that whenever Christians have a holy
day (holiday, as we now call them) that long faces and a dreary piety are
requirements. God, after all, wants us to suffer as much as possible. The
ancient Jew would have known better. This feast, the feast of the Tabernacles,
is a joyous occasion. It is a memorial to the wandering in the desert by Moses
and the Jews. You might think forty years of wandering would be something to
be mourned over; but God chose instead to make this celebration come in at
harvest time – when food would be plentiful (and wine, too!) It was one big
party, a joyous assembly.
Jews by this time had made two minor additions to the feast, one of which will
show up in this Scripture. The first was the tradition of lighting lamps
during the festival – both to remember the pillar of fire and (I suspect) so
the partying could go on through the night. The second was the custom of
drawing water from the pool of Siloam (which was used for healing) and pouring
it on the altar. This was done on the “great day” of the feast, the eighth and
last. See verse 37 above, and see how a master teacher weaves the day’s events
into his teaching.
The World’s View of Christ
The Brotherly View
It’s not that his brothers don’t like him. It’s just that
he’s going about this business the wrong way. Of course, they don’t believe
there’s anything going on here except that older brother wants to become a
spectacular success in the world of religion. Perhaps he should work his way
up to a nice pulpit, then see if he can get his own radio show. Then he could
start on the big time: television! Hundreds of volunteer workers praying for
the donors calling in. This could be the start of something big.
problem, of course, is that the brothers don’t believe. So here’s what the
unbelieving world says to the church – take good notes, now.
go to the big city – Jerusalem! Galilee is hicks in the sticks. Go for
the big time.
you don’t think so, remember – you have disciples there too. They need
you. In person, no doubt.
miracles! Everybody loves miracles!
do them in public! No more quiet stuff.
The View from the Crowd
crowd – not having the inside track to Jesus, and therefore not being in a
position to offer great advice – now gets a chance to react to this man Jesus.
The reactions haven’t changed much over the years. See if these sound
a good man.” He says some really cool things, and he seems to practice
what he preaches. Of course, some of the things he says are a little too
“spiritual” for us, but he’s basically a good guy.
deceives the people.” Another televangelist, that’s what this guy is! A
religious fraud, in it for the money. Nobody could be that good – and
did he get such learning?” In our time, this comes down to things like,
“How did he know I had that problem?” After all, no one has had my
problems before; I’m unique.
this the man they’re trying to kill?” The crowd is quick to pick up the
fact that the authorities – in all ages – are very uncomfortable about
this man Jesus. He claims an allegiance which comes ahead of all others –
and that just can’t be good for law and order, can it?
it amazing – the same things can be heard today – and for the same reason. They
missed the point entirely.
What’s the Problem Here?
Worldly success – the brothers
brothers, as we have seen, counsel doing things in the world’s way. It’s
because of their unbelief. Christ shows us three replies to such an argument:
there is his humility in reply. He has the power to “make it happen,” but
refuses to use it. In this he shows us that we need not answer to the
world for our methods, only our Lord. If the world thinks less of us for
it, so be it.
is also the matter of God’s timing – a subject which is almost completely
ignored today. God is quite content to do things in his time – we, on the
other hand, need it today.
day of glory for Christ has not yet come. We need to remember this, that
at the time of the end we shall see many things brought right.
crowd, too, has its flaws – these are easier to see.
first is ignorance – and a willful ignorance, generally. People do not
wish to take the time and trouble to find out the truth. So they ask each
other – people equally ignorant – to determine the truth. The opinion of
the mob fluctuates around their appetites.
than that, Jesus speaks to us on matters of the spirit – and the crowd
listens to matters of the stomach. They don’t want to hear things
spiritual – and so they won’t.
should be noted, in fairness, that much of what Jesus says here is
prophetic, and cannot be fully understood until after the Resurrection.
That’s still true today – anyone reading the Scripture on a regular basis
is constantly enlightened, even though reading it many times.
Does the church today “do it His way?”
often today the church thinks like the brothers – and caters to the crowd.
Attendance figures are everything (at least, after offering numbers). The sad
truth is that many churches today are nothing more than social clubs with good
attendance. They do not call for commitment from the pews; that’s the
debate is often over “modern vs. traditional.” It’s not about technology; it’s
Christ’s Proclamation to the Crowd
Lord is not silent on this issue. He explains it quite clearly here. He makes
three points which should be heeded today.
The world hates Jesus
simple, really. The world hates him because he points out the evil in the
world. Christians – real Christians – do the same. They can’t help it,
because they’re going around being righteous. If you think not, consider these
How the pro-abortion people hate those “weirdo right wing
fundamentalists!” Christians are sub-human; they are demons. They need
to be locked up and straightened out by psychiatry (read: drugs). Not
since abolition have such passions been stirred in America.
– the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy. Hillary Clinton made it perfectly
clear: her dear husband was being persecuted by this gigantic
conspiracy. And why? Because he was acting like a liberated man! So of
course it couldn’t be that those people actually believe that adultery is
wrong; it must be a political conspiracy. Can you hear the hatred in
Psalmist had it right:
8 The wicked freely strut about when what is vile is honored among men. (Psalm 12:8)
been stepping on their strut. If they hated Jesus then, will not this
generation hate his children?
My teaching is not my own
that Jesus does make the effort to get his teaching down to their level. A
full explanation of the Trinity at this point would probably be fruitless. He
makes it simple for them:
is my Father
will return to God when I’m done.
the teaching comes from the Father, it can be brought down to their level
without losing any of its truthfulness.
The Power of Christ
is also a lesson by example in here for us. Jesus slips quietly into
Jerusalem, as if he feared the Jews. But later he walks right through a group
wanting to stone him. It is not weakness, but timing – God’s timing. Power is
best used in restraint; there is so much less to clean up.
Christ Proposes the Tests
suppose you want to know – in a very practical way – just how to know whether
or not this Jesus is who he says he is. He gives you some very pragmatic
a life of obedience to God’s commands. How does this work? If you do
this, you will become quite good at distinguishing between the latest and
greatest psychobabble and what God truly wants. Even if you don’t have
guidance of the Scriptures, that’s OK; do what God wants, and you’ll
become astute at knowing what’s godly and what’s not. Then take a look at
the life of this Jesus of Nazareth – and see if you don’t recognize a lot
of what you already know.
judge by appearances, nor by the whim of the crowd. Investigate. Find
out. Don’t just take some “expert’s” word on the subject; dig into it.
Josh McDowell, the leading writer on apologetics today, started out with
an attempt to prove that Christianity is false. So did Lew Wallace, the
man who wrote Ben-Hur.
best test is that of results. Is it true that when Christ was lifted up
(speaking of the Crucifixion) that he would draw all to himself? Is that
not the central point of Christianity? If that is not sufficient, then
look at his disciples. Those you know to be his real disciples; does the
living water of God flow out from them? Are they caring, giving people
(despite their temperaments) or not?
does not make it easy to know him. It is hard. So he has made it essential to
salvation – and then given you a lot of help along the way.