February 2, 2014
A story is told of two old ladies who lived together. One summer evening they were sitting on their porch, enjoying the peaceful scene. One woman was listening to the sound of a church choir a few doors away as they practiced. The other woman was listening to the sound of the crickets chirping. The woman listening to the choir said, “Isn’t that a lovely sound?” The woman listening to the crickets replied, “Yes, and I understand that they do it by rubbing their legs together.”
Sometimes confusion can be humorous, but at other times it can be disastrous. That’s especially true when it comes to spiritual matters. Contrary to the prevailing popular view, spiritual truth is not whatever each person prefers it to be. There are not many ways to God, so that you can just pick whatever suits your fancy. Jesus was very exclusive when He said (John 14:6), “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” Either He was right or He was wrong. You must decide. Spiritual truth is quite narrow. Spiritual confusion is eternally fatal!
In our text, we see different groups of religious Jews who are confused about Jesus. There is the group that John calls “the Jews” (7:1, 11, 13, 15, 35). This refers to the Jewish religious leaders, whom John also identifies as the Pharisees and chief priests, who were Sadducees (7:32). These groups were often rivals, but they viewed Jesus as a common enemy. So they joined together to try to seize Him (7:30, 44, 45). But they knew that many in the crowd liked Jesus. They also remembered Jesus’ disrupting their business by cleansing the temple. So they had to proceed cautiously.
Also, there is a larger group whom John calls “the crowd” (7:12, 20, 31, 32). This would include Jewish pilgrims who had come up to Jerusalem for the feast from all over Israel and from other countries. Many of them were not aware that the Jewish leaders were seeking to kill Jesus, so when He mentioned this, they accused Him of having a demon (7:20).
Then there is a narrower group that John calls “the people of Jerusalem” (7:25-27). They were confused both about who Jesus was and about why their religious leaders were not arresting Him. Because of misunderstanding both about the origins of the Messiah and Jesus’ origins, they concluded that He could not be the expected Messiah.
So the overall feeling of our text is that a lot of people were confused about who Jesus is. But John (20:31) wants us to know the truth about who He is so that we “believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing [we] may have life in His name.” So John is showing us that …
While there are many confused opinions about who Jesus is, your eternal destiny depends on believing the truth about Him.
Some of the people of Jerusalem wondered out loud whether Jesus might really be the Christ and whether the Jewish leaders were not arresting Him because they thought that He was the Christ (7:25-26). But they quickly dismissed this idea because, as they said (7:27), “However, we know where this man is from; but whenever the Christ may come, no one knows where He is from.”
These people mistakenly thought that the Christ would suddenly come on the scene unannounced, with a dramatic flash. They may have based this on Malachi 3:1, where the Lord says, “Behold, I am going to send My messenger, and he will clear the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple; and the messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight, behold, He is coming.” Jesus actually fulfilled that prophecy when He went into the temple and cleansed it at the beginning of His public ministry (John 2:13-16). But all these Jerusalem residents knew was that Jesus was from Nazareth and He had been around for some time, which didn’t fit their ideas of how the Christ would come and from where He would come. Others, however, knew more accurately that the Christ would come from Bethlehem (7:42; Matt. 2:4-5), but since they didn’t know that Jesus was born there, they also rejected Him as the Christ.
As we’ve seen, the crowd was confused about who Jesus was. Some said that He was a good man; others said that He led the people astray (7:12). Some in the multitude thought that He had a demon because of His comments about the Jews seeking to kill Him (7:20). In response, Jesus had told them (7:24) not to judge according to appearance, but to judge with righteous judgment. But John is showing us the general confusion that resulted from people judging Jesus superficially by appearance. Such superficial judgment resulted in misinformation, open hostility, and mocking unbelief, although many did believe (7:31).
Of course, at the heart of all confusion about Jesus Christ is the great deceiver, Satan, the enemy of all souls. One of the early deceptions that he foisted on the church was that of Arius, who taught that Jesus was the greatest of all created beings, but He is not eternal God. Although Athanasius stood firmly against Arius and the church finally adopted the Nicene Creed, affirming that Jesus is “eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father,” we still have Arianism with us today under the name of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. As if that were not bad enough, the Mormons have still a different view of Jesus, but one that denies the New Testament witness to His deity.
Other false cults talk about “the Christ within us all,” or “the Christ principle.” Liberal theologians deny the possibility of the miraculous, so they have to attribute all of Jesus’ miracles to the gullible imaginations of the apostles. They try to figure out which words attributed to Jesus in the Bible are His true words, and which were invented by the disciples or later followers. Of course, such speculations are just that—speculations based on the liberal theologians’ subjective assumptions. And then there is the confusion of the population at large, which thinks of Jesus as a great moral teacher or a religious reformer, but not as God in human flesh. But they have never carefully examined the Gospels to think about who Jesus claimed to be and who the apostles affirmed Him to be. So there is no end to the confusion about who Jesus is.
Jesus Himself warned with reference to the end times (Matt. 24:23-24, “Then if anyone says to you, ‘Behold, here is the Christ,’ or ‘There He is,’ do not believe him. For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect.” So it’s very important that we not be confused about who Jesus is. Rather,
We don’t know whether Jesus overheard the confusion of the people in the temple or whether He knew supernaturally what they were thinking. But He “cried out in the temple” (7:28, 29; the word refers to a loud shout, so that all would hear), “You both know Me and know where I am from; and I have not come of Myself, but He who sent Me is true, whom you do not know. I know Him, because I am from Him, and He sent Me.” Jesus’ stating that the Jews did not know God must have shocked them. The Jews prided themselves on knowing God, in contrast to the Gentiles, who worshiped many false gods.
But what does Jesus mean when He tells them, “You both know Me and know where I am from”? If they didn’t know God, how could they know Jesus and His origin? In 8:19, He tells them, “You know neither Me nor My Father; if you knew Me, you would know My Father also.” So what does Jesus mean when He tells them that they both know Him and where He is from?
It seems that Jesus was speaking with irony, so as to say, “You think that you know Me and where I’m from. I’ll grant, in a superficial sense, this is true. You know that I’m from Nazareth. You know My relatives according to the flesh. But you really don’t know Me at all, as evidenced by the fact that you don’t know God. You don’t know anything about My divine nature and My unity with the Father.” (I am combining the second and third views as explained by J. C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on the Gospels [Baker], 3:33.) Jesus here is testifying to the truth of who He is. To know Him rightly, we must understand and believe His testimony.
John 7:28b-29, “I have not come of Myself, but He who sent Me is true, whom you do not know. I know Him, because I am from Him, and He sent Me.” Jesus again affirms the repeatedly stated truth that He had been sent here by the Father. As I mentioned last time, this points both to Jesus’ eternality and to His authority. There is here the additional thought that since Jesus was sent by God, He was under His providential protection.
He did not begin His existence when He was born to the virgin Mary. Jesus existed forever with the Father in glory before He came to this earth. In John 8:58, He tells the hostile Jews, “Before Abraham was, I am” (not, “I was”). They picked up on His identifying Himself with Yahweh who told Moses that His name is, “I AM” (Exod. 3:14). In John 17:5, He prays, “Now, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.” Or, as John begins his Gospel (1:1), “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Jesus is the eternal God in human flesh.
Contrary to the Arians (and Jehovah’s Witnesses), there never was a time when Jesus did not exist. When He took on human flesh, His deity was not diminished or mixed together into a hybrid form that was less than God. Witness Lee, who was the main leader of “The Local Church” sect, wrongly used the analogy of a tea bag and water to explain Jesus.* Before they come together, you have two substances, but once they come together you have a new substance, “tea-water.” Even so, he taught, Jesus is now the God-man, a hybrid of both. But that is heresy, because it confuses both Jesus’ full deity and His perfect humanity. Through the virgin birth, Jesus’ deity was not diminished or changed in any way. Rather, to His full deity, He added sinless humanity.
He didn’t come on His own initiative or make up His own stuff. As He says in 7:16, “My teaching is not Mine, but His who sent Me.” Back in 5:19, Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner.” In 5:30, He stated, “I can do nothing on My own initiative. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is just, because I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.” He relayed to us exactly what the Father told Him to say. Thus to reject Jesus or His teaching is to reject the Father who sent Him. Also…
In 7:30, we read, “So they were seeking to seize Him; and no man laid his hand on Him, because His hour had not yet come.” We’ve already encountered in John the concept of “Jesus’ hour” (2:4) and we will see it again (8:20; 12:23, 27; 13:1; 17:1). It refers to the cross, which was the ultimate reason that Jesus came to this earth. But the point John makes by using the phrase here is that no one could touch Jesus until the hour that the Father had providentially determined before the foundation of the earth.
We can apply the concept of being sent by God to ourselves. In John 20:21, Jesus told the disciples, “As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” That applies to all of us who have believed in Christ. He sends us into this world as His ambassadors to appeal to unbelievers to be reconciled to God (2 Cor. 5:20). As we represent our Divine King, He assures us that He will be with us, even unto the end of the age (Matt. 28:20). As His ambassadors, we can know that He has an appointed hour for each of us and no one can touch us until that hour. For John the Baptist and for Jesus, that hour came when they were in their early thirties. For the apostle John, the hour was when he was about 90. He has a different purpose for each of us. But we can know that we will not die until the hour appointed by our sovereign King (Ps. 139:16).
Although Jesus’ hearers for the most part did not know God (7:28), Jesus plainly stated (7:29), “I know Him, because I am from Him, and He sent Me.” Jesus had a unique and thorough knowledge of the Father because He is one with the Father (10:30) and He alone existed with the Father from all eternity. Thus Jesus can uniquely reveal the Father to us. As John said (1:18), “No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.”
In John 17:3, Jesus describes the essence of eternal life as knowing God: “This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” In Luke 10:22, Jesus makes this profound statement: “All things have been handed over to Me by My Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, and who the Father is except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.” The only way that we can know the Father is through the Son when the Son wills to reveal Him to us. Are you asking the Lord Jesus to reveal the Father to you so that you might know Him more deeply?
Jeremiah 9:23-24 declares: “Thus says the Lord, ‘Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom, and let not the mighty man boast of his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches; but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord who exercises lovingkindness, justice and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things,’ declares the Lord.” Regarding unbelievers, Paul said (Eph. 4:18) that they are “darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart.” But the goal of the Christian life is that (Eph. 4:13) “we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.” Or, as Paul stated his goal in life (Phil. 3:10), “that I may know Him.”
Is that your aim in life? If so, you are reading and meditating on God’s Word daily with the prayer, “Lord, reveal Yourself to me so that I may know You.” If you’ve never done so, I encourage you to read some books where godly teachers expound on the attributes of God. J. I. Packer’s Knowing God [IVP] is a classic. A. W. Tozer’s Knowledge of the Holy [Harper & Row] is short, but deep. So is A. W. Pink’s The Attributes of God [Baker]. Deeper yet (and much longer at two-volumes) is the Puritan Stephen Charnock’s The Existence and Attributes of God [Baker]. Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology [Zondervan] has an easy-to-read treatment of God’s attributes (as do other systematic theologies). But you will only be able to digest these books if you come to them through faith in Christ as your Savior and with the prayer that the Holy Spirit will teach you.
But I remind you that this knowledge of God is not just so that you can have a cozy “personal relationship” with Him. Knowing God will change you so that you become more like Him. This affects your relationships with others, so that the fruit of the Spirit—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control—become more evident in your relationships with others (Gal. 5:22-23). Also, the better you know God, the more effectively you can represent Him as His ambassador to lost people. The more you have personally “tasted the kindness of the Lord” (1 Pet. 2:3), the more readily you will be able to “proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Pet. 2 9).
So while there are many confused opinions out there about who Jesus is, we need to believe the truth about Him, which we have in His own testimony about Himself. He was sent here by God and He knew God in a unique way. We can only know God through faith in Jesus. But the final verses of our text give us a solemn warning:
In John 7:31 we read, “But many of the crowd believed in Him; and they were saying, ‘When the Christ comes, He will not perform more signs than those which this man has, will He?’” Some connect the belief of these people with those that we encountered in John 2:23-25, who believed in Jesus because of the signs that He was doing. But Jesus for His part did not entrust Himself to them. But John here does not say anything negative about their faith, although it seems to have been based on somewhat shallow reasoning: “This guy seems to be doing enough signs to qualify as the Messiah, so we’d better believe in Him.”
But it seems to me that the Lord takes most of us at a pretty shallow level and then graciously deepens our faith as we come to understand more of who He is. I committed myself to Christ as a teenager because I saw a godly couple who had a happy marriage and I thought, “If Christ can give me that kind of marriage, I need to follow Him.” That was totally self-centered and immature! But, He took me in at that point and helped me to grow. The important thing is truly to believe in Christ as Savior and Lord while you have the opportunity.
But some miss the window of opportunity and end up facing God’s awful judgment for rejecting His Son. In 7:33-34, Jesus tells the crowd that He will be with them for a little while longer, but then He would go to the one who sent Him. He knew that His hour was rapidly approaching. But then, after He was gone, they would seek Him, but not find Him. And they could not come where He had gone. They would not be able to go to heaven because they missed the day of salvation.
In typical fashion, the Jewish leaders misunderstand Jesus’ statement. In 7:35-36, they seem to be mocking when they speculate that “this man” (a demeaning way of referring to Jesus) may leave Jerusalem and go among the Greeks. Jesus does not respond to their confusion, but leaves them wondering about what He means. It’s a terrible thing to walk away from the day of salvation and then be left in your confusion about Jesus!
It’s kind of funny when someone is confused about a church choir making music by rubbing their legs together! But it’s really tragic when someone is confused about Jesus and rejects His testimony of who He is. God has given you a measure of light, even through this message. He says (2 Cor. 6:2), “Behold, now is ‘the acceptable time,’ behold, now is ‘the day of salvation.’” Don’t miss the opportunity to trust in Christ as your Savior and Lord today!
*I could not find the tea water illustration’s source in Lee’s writings, although in The Economy of God [Living Stream], p. 12, he mentions the mingling of Christ’s two natures. I got it from a Local Church elder who tried to defend the analogy. The Local Church now has an orthodox statement of the person of Christ, although I cannot recommend many other aspects of their teaching.
Copyright, Steven J. Cole, 2014, All Rights Reserved.
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture Quotations are from the New American Standard Bible, Updated Edition © The Lockman Foundation