Sermon on John 7:10-24 – “Judging Jesus Rightly”

November 3, 2019 at First Presbyterian Church at Unionville, NY (BPC)

Sermon Text:

[Jhn 7:10-24 ESV] 10 But after his brothers had gone up to the feast, then he also went up, not publicly but in private. 11 The Jews were looking for him at the feast, and saying, “Where is he?” 12 And there was much muttering about him among the people. While some said, “He is a good man,” others said, “No, he is leading the people astray.” 13 Yet for fear of the Jews no one spoke openly of him. 14 About the middle of the feast Jesus went up into the temple and began teaching. 15 The Jews therefore marveled, saying, “How is it that this man has learning, when he has never studied?” 16 So Jesus answered them, “My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me. 17 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. 18 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. 19 Has not Moses given you the law? Yet none of you keeps the law. Why do you seek to kill me?” 20 The crowd answered, “You have a demon! Who is seeking to kill you?” 21 Jesus answered them, “I did one work, and you all marvel at it. 22 Moses gave you circumcision (not that it is from Moses, but from the fathers), and you circumcise a man on the Sabbath. 23 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? 24 Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.”

INTRODUCTION

To get the context for this passage today in John’s Gospel we must go back two weeks, since last Sunday we were on our church retreat and did not have a regular service here.

Two weeks ago we saw that the Feast of Booths, or the Feast of Tabernacles, had come and Jesus’ brothers encouraged him to go to Jerusalem to the feast and publicly perform miracles. But Jesus said to them “my time has not yet come” meaning that it was not then time for him to go to Jerusalem, but also referencing the future time when his hour would come and the greatest event in world history occurred, the death of Jesus Christ. But, we saw, Jesus still needs to go to the Feast to fulfill all righteousness, as all Jewish men are commanded in the law to attend the three main festivals each year; Passover, Pentecost, and Booths.

In our passage today we have Jesus, on his own timing, going to Jerusalem for the Feast of Booths. Thus we see Jesus’ “passive obedience” in his death on the cross and part of his “active obedience” in his fulfilling this law that all men are to attend the festival.

In the bulletin in the “Sermon Notes” section I’ve given you a brief outline of the passage that might be helpful in following the account of the passage.

OUTLINE:

I. JESUS TEACHES IN AN ARENA OF FEAR (v. 10-14)

II. TWO CHALLENGES TO JESUS’ TEACHING

A. NO LEARNING? (v. 15-19)

B. A DEMON (v. 20-23)

III. JUDGING JESUS RIGHTLY(v. 24)

 

I. JESUS TEACHES IN AN ARENA OF FEAR (v. 10-14)

10 But after his brothers had gone up to the feast, then he also went up, not publicly but in private. 11 The Jews were looking for him at the feast, and saying, “Where is he?” 12 And there was much muttering about him among the people. While some said, “He is a good man,” others said, “No, he is leading the people astray.” 13 Yet for fear of the Jews no one spoke openly of him. 14 About the middle of the feast Jesus went up into the temple and began teaching.

Imagine, if you will, the scene in Jerusalem at the Feast of Booths. Pilgrims are everywhere, living in tents in the fields, on the roads, and on the rooftops. The candle-lighting ceremony occurs every evening. It is festive all around. But underneath all of the festivities there is a quiet muttering, a murmuring going on. The people are secretly talking one to another about Jesus. They want to know who is he. They want to judge rightly who this man might be; whether merely a man or a prophet, the messiah, the King, or the Son of God. Some are saying “He is a good man.” Others are saying “No, he is leading the people astray.”

In this scene we have an arena of fear. [REPEAT: an arena of fear] First, Jesus himself did not come down to the festival right away for knowing that the Jews were seeking to kill him and that it was not yet his time. And among the people there is genuine fear of the Jews. Because of this fear no one is speaking openly about Jesus. There are no outright supporters of him, promoting his message. He will need to give the message himself.

Into this area of fear, at about the middle of the feast Jesus went up to the temple and began teaching. He had arrived in Jerusalem, having traveled not publicly but in private. The text does not tell us, but he might have taken a back road or concealed himself in some fashion.

He now shows up in the very midst of the arena of fear. And he goes directly the temple and begins teaching. Jesus, it is seen, delayed his travels not because he was afraid of the Jews, but because it was God’s plan that he arrive at just this time.

And we remember at this time the support for Jesus is about at its lowest. The masses of the crowd have left him. His own brothers do not believe in him. There are merely the twelve disciples continuing with him, and even one of them — Judas Iscariot — is a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

II. TWO CHALLENGES TO JESUS’ TEACHING

The first of what Jesus teaches in the temple is not told to us. But, it must have been quite profound, as was all of his teaching. When, previously, Jesus taught to the crowds, it is said in Matthew 7:29 that they were “astonished at his teaching, for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes.”

Now also we find the Jew’s “marveling” and saying “How is it that this man has learning, when he has never studied?”

A. NO LEARNING? (v. 15-19)

This is the first of two challenges to Jesus’s teaching.

15 “How is it that this man has learning, when he has never studied?”

They are asking, can we follow this man, can we listen to this man who has never studied! He has not trained with the rabbis! He is not approved by the council. He does not have a degree from an accredited seminary!

15 “How is it that this man has learning, when he has never studied?”

To this Jesus responds, starting at verse 16,

16 “My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me. 17 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. 18 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. 19 Has not Moses given you the law? Yet none of you keeps the law. Why do you seek to kill me?”

Jesus’ teaching comes not from man, but from God! This is the central difference; it is what gives Jesus authority. His teaching is from God. He doesn’t need the approval of men or institutions. He has the Word of God. He Is, in fact, the Word of God.

Men who teach from their own authority seek to glorify themselves. Not so with Jesus. He seeks to Glorify the Father. And in the Father there is no falsehood. Well, that is a strong statement for the inerrancy of the Scriptures—the teaching that in the Bible there is no error. We might say, along with the passage that “in the word of God there is no falsehood!”

And the Word of God is recognized by believers. Believers can recognize the teachings of God when they desire to do God’s will. They see that the teachings of God are those that do not seek glory for the teacher, but seek to glorify God. [REPEAT: The teachings of God are those that do not seek glory for the teacher, but seek to glorify God.] All of the false religious leaders through the centuries have sought glory for themselves. They’ve sought power, prestige, large crowds, many wives, and a respected divine-like status. Jesus seeks merely to the do the will of His father.

We should take heed in this advice, to do the will of God, not seeking glory for ourselves. Jesus tells us in the Sermon on the Mount, “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteous.”

Like the false religious leaders, many “scholars” have sought to impress their audience rather than to seek the Truth of God. “Scholars” are often known only if they say something new. But “something new” is almost always something contrary to the Scriptures. In anyone’s role in teaching or preaching the Word of God, he must do precisely that — teach or preach the Word of God, not the word of man.

Jesus teaches in order to glorify God and we should seek to do likewise. Teaching is an honorable position; whether in the church, the home, or the school. And teachers are given a great authority and responsibility. In teaching they must not “Lord themselves over” their pupils in an attempt to be seen as a great wise person, but must seek to teach the truth which glorifies God.

When you teach, teach not “something new,” but teach “something Biblical.” [REPEAT: Teach not “something new,” teach “something Biblical.”]

So Jesus has dispatched with the first challenge of his hearers. His teaching is not from man but from God. God is true and has no falsehood in him. But men are sinners as evidenced by the failure of all men to obey the law of Moses. Jesus says, “Has not Moses given you the law? Yet none of you keeps the law.”

And against the commandment given through Moses that “you shall not murder,” now Jesus points out that they are seeking to kill him. This is referring now not just to the Jewish leaders but to all of the people. The people in general are seeking to kill him. And when his time does come, it is the crowd that yells “crucify him.” In their past sins and present murderous hearts they prove that the word of man is false, and that their requirement for Jesus to have studied under men is a sham.

We then come to the second challenge to Jesus and his teaching.

When Jesus says they are trying to kill him, they claim that he has a demon! This is certainly a claim of desperation! When someone disagrees with you and makes a really good point and you’re trapped, you’re stumped, what do yo do? Launch a personal attack!? Well, you should certainly not do this. But this is what people do. In a proper arranged debate such a tactic would be called an “abusive ad hominem.” That is, rather than attacking the argument, the person is attacked and the argument ignored.

B. A DEMON (v. 20-23)

So we read,

20 The crowd answered, “You have a demon! Who is seeking to kill you?” 21 Jesus answered them, “I did one work, and you all marvel at it. 22 Moses gave you circumcision (not that it is from Moses, but from the fathers), and you circumcise a man on the Sabbath. 23 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?

Now, as we well know, Jesus has done a number of miracles as recorded so far in John’s Gospel. When he speaks here of his “one work” he is referring to that which was done previously there amongst people of this very crowd in Jerusalem; the healing of the paralytic at the pool of Bethesda. There, on the Sabbath, Jesus made a man well who had been unable to walk for thirty-eight years. And the Jewish authorities, you should recall, were upset that he had done this on the Sabbath.

But again, Jesus has an answer to the challenge from the crowd.

Now, circumcision, which was to be done on the 8th day of the life of a baby boy, would on occasion (1/7th of the time) fall on the Sabbath day. That is, if a boy were born 8 days prior to the Sabbath, he would then be circumcised on the Sabbath. Jesus uses this point to prove that the law of God is not so rigid in application as Jewish authorities make it out to be. If God allows for this work of circumcision to be done on the Sabbath, surely also he would allow for the much greater work of making a man well.

And such a great work surely cannot be of a demon. The devil seeks to destroy, but Jesus has made a man well.

A similar point is made in Matthew chapter 12 verse 22 through 28.

[Mat 12:22-28 ESV] 22 Then a demon-oppressed man who was blind and mute was brought to him, and he healed him, so that the man spoke and saw. 23 And all the people were amazed, and said, “Can this be the Son of David?” 24 But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, “It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this man casts out demons.” 25 Knowing their thoughts, he said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand. 26 And if Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand? 27 And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. 28 But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.

The good things Jesus does prove that he does not have a demon in him, but rather show the folly of those who have accused him of having a demon.

These two challenges then have come to Jesus. (1) That he has not learned from men, and (2) that he had a demon. The people are not recognizing that, in fact, Jesus’ teaching comes from God. They have not judged well. They have not judged justly.

III. JUDGING JESUS RIGHTLY(v. 24)

Jesus says to the people,

24 Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.”

[REPEAT: Judge with right judgment]

The commentator R. C. H. Lenski explains “This is not a general injunction against forming superficial judgments but a demand to render the right judgment in the present case.”

That is, while it is certainly right in all cases to judge justly, in this present case it is all the more important.

And in the present case, the question is “Who is Jesus?” The people must judge Jesus rightly.

This is the most important question and it is the question that repeats throughout John’s Gospel.

Who is Jesus?

This question answered in John’s purpose statement, the very reason he wrote this Gospel: “These things are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”

We must judge justly. Who is Jesus?

So many times throughout John’s Gospel does the author, John the Apostle, tell us who Jesus is, that no one can get it wrong. No one, except the “scholars.”

In their attempts to come up with something new and to impress men, scholars have presented all sorts of anti-biblical views about Jesus. But the Jesus of the scholars does not save. The Jesus of the Bible saves. And we are called to judge rightly who he is.

Who was he?

To rightly judge Jesus requires faith and the Word.

In faith we believe the Word of God and through the illumination of the Holy Spirit we recognize God’s will. When the people say to Jesus “you are an incompetent teacher.” He responds as if saying “you are an incompetent hearer!” For they do not have faith. And faith is required to judge justly.

Then, in the Word itself we find the truth. This truth tells us who Jesus is, that we may know rightly who he is.

And looking to the Word of God — and disregarding the word of men, the “scholars” — we find, even so far in John’s Gospel, that Jesus is the Logos of God, who was God, and who was in the beginning with God, and is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, and is the Son of God, and the King of Israel, the light of the world, the messiah, equal with God, the I AM – ego eimi, the bread of God, and the bread of life who has the words of eternal life.

To judge rightly is to judge Jesus as Scriptures declare him to be.

You then are truly a scholar when you know and believe the word of God. All else is vanity.

A July 24th, 1916 article from the Middletown Daily Times-Press has a picture of the Sunday school of the Unionville Presbyterian Church. And there are adult and children standing on the front steps of our church. The very steps that have been recently repaired. And the headline of the article rightly says, “Unionville Presbyterian Scholars.” These, even the children, are true scholars when they have judged rightly who Jesus is.

Judge Jesus rightly by accepting what the Word of God says about him. And in this you have eternal life. Amen.

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