The message comes from all of John chapter seven, but on Sunday we read only John 7:40-52.
The Feast of Tabernacles looked back to Israel’s journey through the wilderness, and looked forward to the promised kingdom of the Messiah. The Jews lived in these booths (or tabernacles, or shelters) made of branches to remind them of God’s providential care of the nation for nearly 40 years of wandering in the wilderness (Leviticus 23 33-44).
Following the Feast of Trumpets and the solemn Day of Atonement, Tabernacles was a festive time for the people. The temple area was illuminated by large candlesticks that reminded the people of the guiding pillar of fire, and each day the priest would carry water from the pool of Siloam and pour it out from the golden pitcher, reminding the Jews of God’s miraculous provision of water from the rock.
The feast may have been an exciting time for the people, but it was a difficult time for Jesus because it marked the beginning of open and militant opposition toward him and his ministry. Ever since he had healed that paralytic on the Sabbath day (John 5:1-15), Jesus had been targeted by the Jewish leaders who wanted to kill him, so he remained in Galilee, where he would be safer, but he could not stay in Galilee and observe the feast.
1. Before the feast there was DISBELIEF (John 7:1-10)
The first 10 verses in chapter 7 reveal a little bit about the family life of Jesus. Mary, the mother of Jesus, had other children with Joseph, so Jesus would have been their half-brother. It seems incredible that his brothers could have lived with him all those years and not realized the uniqueness of Jesus. Certainly they knew about his miracles because everybody else did. They had the closest contact with him and had the best opportunity to watch him and test him, yet they remained unbelievers.
These men were going up to a religious feast, at the same time rejecting their own promised Messiah. But before we judge them too quickly, think about how easy is it to follow religious tradition and miss an eternal truth? In John 7, the common people were rejoicing at the message of Jesus, but his own half-brothers were making fun of him (see John 7:3-5).
These men certainly have the world’s point of view, if you want to get a following; you take opportunities to do something spectacular. Jerusalem would be crowded with religious pilgrims, and this would give Jesus the ideal platform to present himself to the public and win disciples. No doubt the brothers knew about all those disciples who had deserted Jesus back in John 6:66, so going to Jerusalem was his opportunity to recoup his losses.
Jesus was exercising caution because he knew that the Jewish leaders wanted to kill him (John 7:1). Although they were religious leaders, they were a part of the establishment that hated Jesus because he exposed their evil deeds. By his character and by his ministry, he revealed just how shallow and empty the existing religious system was. But Jesus did not go up with his brothers, his time had not yet come (John 7:6, 8) so he stays in Galilee (John 7:9).
Interestingly enough, Jesus immediately goes up to the feast anyway, but in secret, he did not go publicly as the brothers recommended (John 7:10).
2. In the midst of the feast there is DEBATE (John 7:11-29)
While in Jerusalem, at the Feast of Tabernacles, Jesus gets involved in various debates with three different groups of people.
1) First, there were the “Jewish leaders” who lived in Jerusalem and were involved in the temple ministry. This would include the Pharisees and the chief priests as well as the scribes. While these men differed theologically, they agreed on one thing, they opposed Jesus and were determined to get rid of him. The only known exceptions were Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea.
2) The second group of people would be the “festival crowd” who traveled to Jerusalem to worship. Many of these would NOT be influenced by the attitude of the religious leaders in Jerusalem. In John 7:20, the people were amazed that anybody would want to kill Jesus. They were not up-to-date on all the gossip in the city and had to learn on the streets that Jesus was considered a law breaker by the religious officials.
3) The third group of people was composed of Jews who actually lived in Jerusalem. They would have likely sided with the religious leaders.
The debate begins even before Jesus arrives in the city, and it is centered on his character (John 7:11-13). The religious leaders kept seeking Jesus, but the crowd kept arguing 1) whether he was a GOOD MAN or 2) a DECEIVER who was leading the multitudes astray (John 7:12). In their minds he would have to be one or the other, because a truly good man would not deceive anybody. Jesus is either who he claims to be, or he is a liar.
When Jesus began to teach openly in the temple, the debate shifted to his doctrine (John 7:14-19). It is interesting how character and doctrine go together. It would be foolish to trust the teachings of a liar. The Jews were amazed at what Jesus taught, because he didn’t have any credentials from their approved rabbinical schools (John 7:15). Since he lacked this proper accreditation, his enemies must have said that his teachings were nothing but private opinions and not worth much of anything (but Jesus responds in John 7:18, Those who speak for themselves want glory only for themselves, but a person who seeks to honor the one who sent him speaks truth, not lies).
It is interesting to note that it was often said that “Jesus taught with authority,” while all the scribes and Pharisees “taught from authorities,” quoting all the famous Rabbis.
The first debate was with the Jews, but then the visitors to the city entered into the discussion (John 7:20). Jesus boldly announced that the leaders wanted to kill him because he had violated the Sabbath (back in John 5:1-9) and then he claimed to be God (John 5:10-18). But look what Jesus says in John 7:23, the Jews would break the Sabbath laws when they had their sons circumcised on the Sabbath Day, so why could Jesus not heal a man on the Sabbath? So, “Why do YOU lawbreakers want to kill ME?” (John 7:19)
But the visitors to the city did not know that the religious leaders were out to kill Jesus, so they challenged Jesus in his statement. Their response contained a serious third accusation, 3) that Jesus had a DEMON. This goes way beyond debating whether he was a good man or a deceiver. But it was not a new accusation, because the leaders had said it before (Matthew 9:34, 11:18, John 8:48-49). I’m not sure if they actually believed Jesus had a demon, or if the people were simply saying, “You must be crazy to think that anybody wants to kill you.”
The residents of Jerusalem entered into the conversation in John 7:25, Some of the people who lived in Jerusalem started to ask each other, “Isn’t this the man they are trying to kill?
They knew that the rulers wanted to kill Jesus, and they were amazed that he was teaching openly and getting away with it. Maybe they thought, “Perhaps the religious leaders are now convinced that Jesus was the Messiah, sent from God, but then WHY were they not worshiping Him and leading others to worship Him?”
3. The end of the feast brought DIVISION (John 7:40-52)
So, here, at the point of debate, is the main point, exactly WHO is Jesus and how will YOU respond to him? Jesus mentions that he is the living water that springs up from our innermost being (John 7:38). He give them an opportunity to respond to his claims, but what was the result of his declaration and invitation? The people were divided. Some defended him and some wanted to arrest him. Let’s review a few possibilities, and then add a few more.
- Is he a good man? (John 7:11-12a, 43-46)
- Is he a deceiver? (John 7:12b-13, 47-48, 52)
- Is he demon-possessed? (John 7:20)
- Is he an ordinary man? (John 7:25-27, 41b-42)
- Is he a promised prophet? (John 7:40, Matthew 16:13-14)
- Is he the Christ, the Messiah? (John 7:31, 41a)
If only they had honestly examined the evidence, they would have discovered that indeed, he was the Christ, the Son of the living God.
The leaders refused to face these facts honestly, but passed judgment on the basis of their personal prejudices and their superficial examination of the facts.
Is that not human nature? It is much easier to label people than listen to the facts they present. It’s like the Pharisees were saying, “Have you been led astray? Some other people have believed in Jesus, but these common people know nothing about the law anyway! Have any important people like US believed in him?” (John 7:47-49)
Then Nicodemus spoke up. This man is found three times in John’s gospel, and each time he is identified as “the one who came to Jesus by night.” No doubt Nicodemus had been doing a great deal of thinking and studying since that first interview with Jesus in John 3, and he was not afraid to take a stand for truth.
Nicodemus was sure that the council was not giving Jesus an honest hearing. The rulers had already passed judgment and they were trying to condemn him before they even gave him a fair and lawful trial.
WHAT did Nicodemus want them to consider about Jesus? Examine his words and his works. It was Jesus 1) the teacher and 2) Jesus the miracle worker who has attracted people in the first place. In fact, Jesus previously pointed to his WORKS as proof of his DEITY. He also repeatedly urged people to pay attention to his WORDS. John 5:36 says, But I have a greater witness than John—my teachings and my miracles. The Father gave me these works to accomplish, and they prove that he sent me.
The two go together, because the miracles point to the messages, and the messages interpret the spiritual meaning of the miracles. The miracles were signs; they were events that pointed to something greater than the miracle itself.
In John 7:52, you can almost hear the sarcasm in the reply of the Pharisees, “Are you a lonely and despised Galilean, too?” They refused to admit that Nicodemus was right in asking for a fair trial, but the only way they could answer him was by means of ridicule. This is an ancient debating trick that is present today (especially during an election year), when you cannot answer the argument because of the facts, you attack the speaker.
You cannot help but feel sorry for the people described in this chapter, people who responded to Jesus in the wrong ways. His half-brothers responded with disbelief, various people in Jerusalem responded with debate, and the result was division.
Had they willingly received the truth and had they acted with sincere obedience, they would have ended up at the feet of Jesus, confessing him as Messiah and the Son of God.
As you can see, people today commit the same mistake and permit their personal prejudices and superficial evaluations to blind them to the truth. Don’t let this happen to you.
So, what about YOU? Who is Jesus to YOU? Will you examine the evidence and come to the same conclusion as believers throughout the centuries; just like Peter in Matthew 16:13-16…
When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” “Well,” they replied, “some say John the Baptist, some say Elijah, and others say Jeremiah or one of the other prophets.” Then he asked them, “But who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
Is Jesus Christ a Legend, Lunatic, Liar, or Lord?
You see, there really is only one choice when we think about this logically. It may be a surprise to many people but you actually DON’T put your brain in neutral when you come to faith in Jesus Christ. Christianity knows NOTHING about BLIND FAITH, and let me tell you why…
Jesus claims to be God, this is an unmistakable fact in the gospels, the local people and religious leaders understood his words and wanted to kill him for blasphemy, making himself equal with God. There was no confusion about Jesus claiming to be God.
So, there are only two options, his claim was either TRUE or it was FALSE. Let’s assume for a moment that the claim was false. There are also only two options, he either KNEW the claim was false or he did NOT KNOW the claim was false.
If Jesus KNEW his claim to be God was false, that would make him a LIAR. Remember the character issue that a good man would not deceive anyone, so this does not match the Jesus of the gospels.
If he knew the claim was false, that would also make him a HYPOCRITE since he taught people to be honest, and even worse, this would make him a DEMON because he was telling people to trust their eternal destinies to him. So practically, it makes him a FOOL for dying for a claim that he knew was not true.
Let’s assume he claims to be God and he DOESN’T KNOW that his claim is false. This would make Jesus a LUNATIC, on the level of a crazy man on the street saying that HE is Jesus.
If Jesus’ claim of divinity was false, there is absolutely NO REASON for us to pay any attention to him, he would NOT be a 1) good man, or 2) a great moral teacher, or 3) the founder of a new religious movement. He should be dismissed.
Since the claim of divinity being false is absurd, let’s agree that his claim to be God is TRUE. Then there are really only two choices, we either ACCEPT that fact, which makes Jesus our LORD, or we REJECT that fact, which makes us LOST.
For you visual learners, it looks like this:
In his famous book Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis makes this statement, “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 the level with a man who says he is a poached egg–or he would be the devil of hell. You must make your choice. Either this was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher.”
As we are reading through the Bible, this is the chapter that God has placed in front of us for this weekend; it is unavoidable that we will be confronted with the claims of Christ, whether we do it in THIS life or in the NEXT life. If we wait until the next life, it is too late; there is no second chance because Hebrews 9:27 tells us that, each person is destined to die once and after that comes judgment,
- Are you ready to meet God? Don’t put it off, any decision to wait or put it off is a decision to reject his invitation.
- Where do you stand with Christ?
- Who do you say that he is?
- Maybe you have received him as your Savior, but you are asking yourself why you live as though he doesn’t exist.
Today is the day to make things right, to set things in order, to lay a foundation upon which you can build your life, build your family. You are here for a reason today. What commitments are you going to make now that we have opened up John 7 this morning?
The end of your outline has several questions to consider, and I hope that you get with a couple of friends to talk about these. They are designed to help you chew on what we learned in the Bible today. Those questions are to help you grow in your faith and have spiritual conversations this week.
As we sing this last song, what decisions are you going to make? Maybe you have never officially come to faith in Christ, today is the day to get this nailed down. Let me talk with you after the service, come find me!
Perhaps you have been attending for a while, so there is a reason you keep attending King’s Grant, why not officially join the church? You can do that today. Let’s talk about it.
Maybe you are going to take this information you learned today and have decided to live boldly for the cause of Christ. We can help with your relationship with God, knowledge the Bible, and how to make an impact on those around you. Jesus uses the terms of being SALT and LIGHT in the community, the idea is to make a difference in the lives of those around us.
Father, you know our hearts, you know our thoughts, you know whether we are serious about our faith and our relationship with you, or if we are playing church games. Give us wisdom to take an honest assessment of where we are in Christ and the courage to make necessary changes, in Jesus name, Amen.
[print_link] [email_link] [Thanks to Warren Wiersbe for his insight]