“About the middle of the feast Jesus went up into the temple and began teaching. The Jews therefore marveled, saying, “How is it that this man has learning, when He has never studied?” So Jesus answered them, “My teaching is not Mine, but His who sent Me. If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on My own authority. The one who speaks on his own authority seeks his own glory; but the One who seeks the glory of Him who sent Him is true, and in Him there is no falsehood. Has not Moses given you the law? Yet none of you keeps the law. Why do you seek to kill Me?” The crowd answered, “You have a demon! Who is seeking to kill you?” Jesus answered them, “I did one work, and you all marvel at it. Moses gave you circumcision (not that it is from Moses, but from the fathers), and you circumcise a man on the Sabbath. If on the Sabbath a man receives circumcision, so that the law of Moses may not be broken, are you angry with Me because on the Sabbath I made a man’s whole body well? Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.”” (John 7:14–24, ESV) (Caps added to pronouns in ESV referring to God the Father, Son, and Spirit)
In the last post we focused on the contrast between the intimidation of the crowd for fear of the Jews and the boldness of Christ and His disciples to speak the right words at the right time. The previous verses started with Jesus going to the feast by Himself without being noticed by the crowd such that He could freely observe what was going on without garnering attention. Today’s verses tell us at about the middle of the Feast of Booths (Tabernacles) which lasted seven days, Jesus went up into the temple and began teaching. In doing this He went from not being seen to putting Himself up front for all to see. The words that He spoke in teaching we do not have recorded here, but we do have the response of the people. As they heard Him they “marveled” or were astonished by His knowledge (likely of the Scriptures). They recognized Him as being a man who had no formal instruction, but who for some reason had incredible learning.
It is here in His response that John records for us the words of Jesus. Having said similar words previously to different crowds, Jesus said, “My teaching is not Mine, but His who sent Me.” Here He restates that it was the Father’s instruction that He was giving just as He was sent to do. In this sense He, as the Son of Man, was the ambassador of God the Father sent to say exactly what the Father wanted said, and this is just what He was doing. He spoke the words that He was compelled to speak, and He did so boldly. I could imagine a silent (or maybe not so) retort from His hearers, saying, “And how do we know this is true? It’s just your words!”
But we really have no indication of any response here, likely because they didn’t yet realize who He was. What we do have is Jesus continuing by telling them how His words could be verified. First He pointed to the consistency of His words with the words given before, saying, “If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on My own authority.” Here He spoke to their hearts. If any of them truly were about seeking after God and doing His will then God would give them the assurance that the words that Jesus was speaking are true. Later in this gospel John wrote, “When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all the truth, for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak, and He will declare to you the things that are to come.” (John 16:13, ESV) Just as Jesus was speaking the words of the Father, so would the Spirit at the proper time give the disciples direction in truth as well. This is part of the work of the Spirit, to teach and affirm the truths of God, and Jesus told the crowd that if they were truly seeking to do the will of the Father that the Spirit would give them the same assurance. He told them that God Himself was the endorser of the words that He was speaking, and if they went before Him with sincerity of heart that He would assure them such.
Next Jesus spoke to them about motivation and how that motivation would evidence itself in individuals. He said, “The one who speaks on his own authority seeks his own glory; but the One who seeks the glory of Him who sent Him is true, and in Him there is no falsehood.” Nothing Jesus had said was intended to bring glory to Himself, but such that the Father would be glorified in His works and His words. Sure, people marveled at His words, but they also knew Him to be unlearned in man’s terms. As such it was easy for Him to point to the source of that learning being from God the Father Himself. People also were amazed at the works He had been doing, but even in them He demonstrated over and over that this also was being done to the glory of the Father, as the Father had sent the Son. Jesus did not pad his pockets with money from the miracles He worked. He did not pat Himself on His back because of His ability to capture individuals’ minds with His words. In all things He humbly submitted Himself to the Father, thus evidencing His sincerity in seeking to glorify the One who sent Him and the truthfulness of His words. This was in stark contrast to many who put their thumbs up tightly under their armpits while they loudly proclaimed how good they were and how much people should listen to them as a result. These people were the ones who claimed that they had arrived and they invited the adulation of others. For Jesus, His clear objective was that the Father might be glorified.
“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, He humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:5–11, ESV)
The last point in His response was concerning their own hypocrisy, saying, “Has not Moses given you the law? Yet none of you keeps the law. Why do you seek to kill Me?” All Jews were given the law by Moses, and all Jews broke the law. There was not a single one of them who kept the law in perfection, and like us today every single one of them violated the law willingly in order to satisfy their own desires. Yet, the claim of “the Jews” against Jesus was that He performed a miracle on the Sabbath by healing a man, and broke their added Sabbath rules by instructing that the healed man to take up his bed and carry it away. If they were so intent on His perfect adherence to their understanding of things, then every single one of them stood guilty as well and deserved the same consequence. This issue of healing on the Sabbath was confronted several times by Jesus. Each time He stated in one way or another how much better it is to make one whole on the Sabbath than to focus on the particular prohibition over which they were struggling. As Jesus said earlier in John, their real issue was much deeper than the breaking of their rules. It was that He claimed to be from the Father, making Himself God with the Father. So, it wasn’t as much the breaking of the rules, which they all did in various ways, as it was Him who was doing it.
At this point at least some in the crowd did not recognize Him as the Jesus who the Jews were seeking after. Their response indicates their lack of making this connection. They responded basically by asking Him if he was crazy or possessed or off His rocker. They followed this by asking Him who it was that was seeking to kill Him. In response Jesus pointed back to the one miracle recorded thus far in Jerusalem, which was the healing of the man at the pool of Bethesda which He did on the Sabbath (John 5).
“I did one work, and you all marvel at it. Moses gave you circumcision (not that it is from Moses, but from the fathers), and you circumcise a man on the Sabbath. If on the Sabbath a man receives circumcision, so that the law of Moses may not be broken, are you angry with Me because on the Sabbath I made a man’s whole body well? Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.”
There were some things that the Jews permitted to be done on the Sabbath and others which they did not permit. One of those permitted actions was circumcision. Under Jewish law male children were to be circumcised on the eighth day. If a child was born on the Sabbath then the eighth day would also be on the Sabbath. As such the instructions to circumcise were permitted to supersede the prohibition against work. Circumcision was a ceremony whereby the young child was set apart to God according to the instruction given by God to Moses and again spoken through Moses. The reason for the eighth day was that the mother was ceremonially unclean for seven days following the birth, so on the eighth day she would be ceremonially clean and the observance of circumcision of the son could happen.
“The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the people of Israel, saying, If a woman conceives and bears a male child, then she shall be unclean seven days. As at the time of her menstruation, she shall be unclean. And on the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised.” (Leviticus 12:1–3, ESV)
If it was okay to recognize her being cleansed and the son being circumcised on the eighth day then how much more would it be okay to see one made fully whole on that day as well? This is the question Jesus put before them. Having said this He then told them to step back and really think about what they were saying and believing. There was an inconsistency there that He challenged them to consider.
Emotionalism and legalism both call for responses that tend to alienate themselves from sound judgment. On the emotional side, we can ignore what we know or presume to be right for the sake of what might make us or others feel better. On the side of legalism we can lose the heart of the instruction for the letters we used to write it. Oftentimes legalism results in a hard line being drawn far to one side of where truth might dictate. The Jewish Sabbath rules, of which there are thirty-nine such prohibited activities with numerous considerations of each, were a response to the biblical dictate that the Jews were to observe the Sabbath and do not arduous work on it and an outgrowth of some specific instructions such as not gathering manna on the Sabbath but twice as much on the day before. Regardless of the intention, they were so concerned about not breaking this law that they drew lines not drawn by God Himself. And over time, these lines became the measure of the law itself such that Jesus was charged with breaking the Sabbath. On the emotionalism side lines might be altogether thrown away for the sake of a particular compassion or desire. Jesus told the crowd not to think based upon appearance, but to do so with sound judgment.
“For the Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding; He stores up sound wisdom for the upright; He is a shield to those who walk in integrity, guarding the paths of justice and watching over the way of his saints. Then you will understand righteousness and justice and equity, every good path; for wisdom will come into your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul; discretion will watch over you, understanding will guard you, delivering you from the way of evil….” (Proverbs 2:6–12a, ESV)
“The end of all things is near; therefore, be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer. Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without complaint. As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God; whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” (1 Peter 4:7–11, NASB95)
“Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.” (2 Timothy 1:13, ESV)