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John, Chapter 9, Part 1

John 9:1 – As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth.

At the close of chapter 8, we found Jesus leaving the temple after a serious confrontation with the Jewish leaders.  He was essentially escaping from the Jews who were ready to stone him for blasphemy. 

The question is, how much time elapsed between the last verse in chapter 8 (Jesus left the temple) and the statement here in chapter 9 (as he passed by)? 

Some people believe that Jesus encountered the blind man immediately after leaving the temple.  While this is possible, it would hardly create a ‘cooling off’ period where the Jewish religious leaders had a chance to calm down (remember, they wanted to stone Jesus).  It is much more likely that Jesus left the temple and went directly to the Mount of Olives, where he stayed the night.  This was his customary ‘hang out’ when it was not safe for him to stay in Jerusalem. 

Common sense dictates that Jesus reentered Jerusalem the next day and he encountered the blind man ‘as he passed by’ on his way to the temple.  In fact, scripture reveals that it was common for beggars to be placed near the temple gates, where there was a steady stream of Jews going in and out (Acts 3:2); the man was obviously well known as a beggar to the Jews in that district (John 9:8).  

Back in that day, there were no social programs to assist this man and there were no opportunities for him to earn a living.  That being the case, he probably began begging at a very young age.  His parents probably led him to the temple gates each morning and led him home each evening.  He spent YEARS at or near the exact same location crying out for mercy from those who passed by.  Now he was no longer a child; he was an adult with no hope for the future.  What a pitiful and miserable existence!     

The apostle John stresses that this man was not blind due to an illness or injury.  He had not lost his sight through the normal course of the aging process.  He had been blind from birth.  His blindness was incurable by any known human means. 

John 9:2 – And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

Scripture teaches that all of the sufferings in the human race are a direct result of sin.  We could say that sin is the fountain head or source of all human suffering.  Once Adam and Eve opened it, there was no going back.  The fountain of sin/suffering will never run dry – it will continue to relentlessly flow until this world ends. 

Suffering can be classified into three separate categories: punitive, redemptive and collateral.

Punitive:

Some suffering is punitive – it pertains to punishment for sinning or breaking a law.  For example, in the natural realm, if you kill someone you can expect to be pursued by the police, arrested, tried and punished if found guilty.  The suffering you experience would be punitive in nature; you are being punished for breaking the law. 

The same is true in the spiritual realm.  If you choose to break God’s spiritual laws or direct commands, you can/will experience some suffering.  One example of this can be found in the book of Jonah. 

God gave Jonah a direct command – go to Nineveh and preach a message of repentance (Jonah 1:1-2).  But Jonah chose to ignore God and take off for Tarshish.  Of course, we all know what happened – he suffered in the belly of a big fish for three days.

The children of Israel are another good example.  God led them to the Promised Land, but they refused to go in.  As a result, they were forced to wander in the desert for 40 years while that entire generation perished.  They endured some pretty severe suffering. 

Another example, more common in our day, would be to break God’s marriage laws.  God has ordained that sexual relations take place in only one context – marriage between a man and a woman.  Any other kind of sexual encounter is breaking the spiritual law of God.  The suffering that results (disease, broken homes, children without fathers, financial ruin, emotional scarring, etc) can be devastating.   

Redemptive:

Some suffering is the result of God’s eternal wisdom.  This is something you may not have considered before, so let me explain.  God is not adverse to allowing you to suffer if it will be for your eternal good and/or his glory. 

Keep in mind that this earthly world is not our true home.  God’s plan is to have us join him in the kingdom of heaven and live there with him forevermore.  So if some type or some amount of suffering will greatly benefit us in the future realm, God will certainly allow it to happen.  I am personally convinced that once we are in heaven, we WILL be able to see/understand that some of the suffering we endured on this earth resulted in eternal benefits for us.     

Let’s look at some biblical examples.  The apostle Paul suffered in many ways.  We know that he had something he described as a ‘thorn in the flesh’, which was a type of suffering.  However, he goes on to tell us that God allowed this suffering in his life for his own good; to keep him from pride, which would result in his downfall:

2 Corinthians 12:4, 7 – How that he [I, Paul] was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.  And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.

This suffering served an eternal purpose in the life of Paul – it kept him humble and allowed him to finish the race that God had called him to run.  As he ran that race, he continued to earn eternal rewards.  Without it, he may have fallen into the sin of pride and perhaps have missed the kingdom of heaven altogether.   

At other times, God allows us to suffer in order to build up some characteristic or fruit in our lives.  For example, Joseph spent 13 years in prison for a crime he did not commit.  This suffering was a way of cultivating both faith and patience in his life.  It was a form of training for some of his future duties.  It transformed him from a spoiled boy into a humble man.  He learned to listen to the voice of God and trust him to guide the way.  His suffering matured and shaped him as a leader, preparing him for his ultimate purpose in life – saving the nation of Israel and many other people as well. 

God also allows us to suffer in this life to bring glory to himself, which always results in the salvation of sinners.  A prime example of this is the death of Lazarus, which we will study in greater detail very soon.  In the meantime, lets again look at the life of the apostle Paul.    

In Acts chapter 16 we find that Paul and Silas cast a demon out of a young girl in Philippi.  This resulted in her masters demanding that Paul and Silas be punished.  The authorities arrested Paul and Silas, publicly whipping them without a trial, then placed them in chains in the deepest and darkest part of the prison.  As they lay there suffering, they sang praises to God, glorifying his name.  All of the prisoners heard them (Acts 16:25). 

At the midnight hour, God sent an earthquake which shook the very foundations of the prison and set all of the prisoners free.  As a result, the jailer prepared to commit suicide because he knew he would be killed if the prisoners escaped.  But Paul intervenes, explaining that all of the prisoners were still there.  He and Silas then get a chance to preach to the jailer: 

Acts 16:29-30 – Then he [the jailer] called for a light, and sprang in, and came trembling, and fell down before Paul and Silas …and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved?

Subsequently, the jailer and his entire family receive salvation (Acts 16:34).  In other words, God allowed Paul and Silas to suffer, which resulted in his name being glorified, which led to the salvation of many people.

Collateral:

Finally, there is suffering that is neither punitive nor redemptive.  It is simply the result of living in this fallen world.  Think of it as collateral damage due to sin. 

For example, many years ago my parents experienced suffering when their house caught on fire.  The entire inside of the house was ruined and they lost many treasured possessions. 

So far as anyone could tell, there was no punitive or redemptive basis for their suffering.  It was simply collateral damage – because we live in a fallen world, electrical circuits sometimes fail, allowing fire to burn and travel inside walls until it reaches combustible material. 

Or perhaps you are one of the many people in Ohio who have slipped off the road in icy conditions and damaged your car.  Unless you can identify another basis for it, it is probably collateral suffering.

Before we go on, we definitely want to consider another very important topic – our response to suffering.

Response:

It is no secret that all of us have suffered at one time or another.  One of the most important parts of suffering (regardless of what kind) is your response to it.

If you have broken one of God’s (or man’s) laws, and you are suffering for it, your best bet is humble repentance.  Admit what you did, and ask God to forgive you.  Then seek to remedy your situation.  When Jonah was vomited out onto the beach, he immediately went to Nineveh to preach.  If you are in an unlawful sexual relationship, either break it off or make it right. 

If you find yourself in the midst of redemptive suffering, be sure that all of your words and actions glorify God.  What would have happened in that Philippian jail if Paul and Silas sat around grumbling about the unfairness of their recent beating instead of glorifying God?  Or more importantly, what would NOT have happened – perhaps the jailer and his family (and their future generations) would never have found salvation.     

There is no doubt that this can be difficult to do, especially if you don’t yet see the results that your suffering will bring about.  You can always ask Holy Spirit to reveal his plan to you and to let you see the fruit you are bearing for the kingdom.  But the bottom line is that you must trust God.  You must have faith that what he is asking you to endure has an eternal purpose. 

Collateral suffering always provides you an opportunity to witness about the goodness of God.  Yes, the house burnt down or yes, the car was damaged.  But you still have many reasons to give God the glory for what happens in your life.  Let your attitude and words reflect the goodness of God in every situation.  

John 9:3 – Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.”

In this instance, we don’t need to speculate about what kind of suffering this man endured.  Jesus plainly tells us that it is redemptive suffering (it is not punitive as the disciples believed); so we know that God will be glorified in it,

Jesus says that the works of God will be displayed in this man.  This refers to the mercy and grace that God will demonstrate when he physically heals this man, brings him to salvation and demonstrates his love/power to the Jewish nation.

It is interesting to note that the Jews pity this man, because they can see what he cannot.  While that may have been true in the natural realm, it was not true in the spiritual realm.  All of us (including the Jews) were born into sin; we are spiritually blind (Romans 5:12).  Unless the infinite mercy and grace of God touches our lives (as it did this beggar), we will never understand the truth of salvation and we will die in our sin.

John 9:4 – “We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work.”

In this verse, ‘day’ refers to the time appointed to work (Psalms 104:22-23).  Jesus only had a short time (approximately 3 1/2) years) to accomplish the work which his Father sent him to do.  Therefore, he pursued his work vigorously and tirelessly, never passing up an opportunity to carry out his mission.  He was always aware of the limited time he had on earth. 

Jesus knew that eventually ‘night’ or death would come to him.  After that time, his earthly ministry as the Redeemer was over. 

This is a great reminder for all of us.  We too, have only a limited time on earth.  If we are going to engage in ministry, we should not delay; we should vigorously pursue every opportunity that comes our way.

John 9:5 – “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

In John 6:35, Jesus declared that he was the bread of life.  This was a spiritual truth that he demonstrated by physically feeding 5000 men (plus women and children) from just five small loaves and two fish. 

In John 11:25 Jesus declares to Martha that he is the resurrection and the life.  He demonstrated this spiritual truth by physically raising Lazarus from the dead. 

Now Jesus is declaring that he is the light of the world.  He will demonstrate this spiritual principle by removing the physical darkness of the blind man, and allowing him to see.  Jesus is revealing himself as the one who has come to shine the light of salvation into the darkened minds of mankind. 

Now that Jesus has returned to heaven, we are his representatives, shining his light into a dark world.     

John 9:6-7 – Having said these things, he spit on the ground and made mud with the saliva.  Then he anointed the man’s eyes with the mud and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing.

This healing consisted of two distinct parts. 

One, an act of divine power on Christ’s part:  Jesus healed people in many different ways.  This one is most unusual – he spit into the ground, made clay and smeared it on the eyes of the blind man.

Scholars have put forth numerous theories about why they think Jesus healed in this way.  For instance, one theory interprets the clay as being symbolic of the dust of the earth from which man was created.  The thought would be that Jesus was able to exercise the same creative power that was evident in the beginning at creation.  Therefore, he is God. 

Another theory asserts that Jesus used spittle simply because there was no other water source nearby. 

Others feel that Jesus healed in this manner to show that there is no ‘secret formula’ in healing.  There may be some truth to that.  Let’s face it – if Jesus had used this method to cure all the blind people in the bible, we would be trying it too! 

Although Jesus’ reason for using clay/spit in this miracle may be ‘clear as mud’, the outcome is crystal clear – the man was healed of his blindness. 

Two, an act of faith and obedience on the man’s part:    

After Jesus smeared the mud on this man’s eyes, he told him to go and wash off the mud in a specific pool of water.  Think about that for a minute.  This guy would have needed to find a family member or friend to lead him to that pool because he couldn’t see the way there himself.  Neither did he know the purpose behind the command.  Why that pool?  Obviously, the water itself had no miraculous powers or someone would have taken him there sooner.  Why wash in the water at all?  What was the purpose? 

Jesus gave him this command in order to test his faith and obedience. 

We find this pattern over and over in the scriptures. 

  • Naaman the leper – Elisha commanded him to go and dip himself in the Jordan seven times (II Kings 5:10).  After the seventh dip, he came out fully restored.
  • Widow of Zarephath – She and her son were starving during a famine.  Elijah told her to gather sticks and make a cake/bread for him first, even though she only had enough supplies for one final meal.  She obeyed, and her supply of oil and meal miraculously lasted until the end of the drought.
  • Peter – He needed money to pay the temple tax.  Jesus told him to go and catch a fish.  When he did, he found a coin in the mouth of the fish (Matthew 17:27).

The bottom line is that God often requires that we take a step of faith and obedience, even when it may not make any sense to us in the natural realm. 

Here is something to keep in mind: if you are praying for a miracle of some kind, you should expect to be given a task that shows your obedience and faith.  Holy Spirit is standing by to speak to you; he will tell you what you need to do.  So if you hear his still small voice, or if he speaks to you in a dream or through a word of knowledge, I suggest you do as he commands without delay!     

 John 9:8-9 – The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar were saying, “Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?”  Some said, “It is he.”  Others said, “No, but he is like him.”  He kept saying, “I am the man.”

After he returns home fully healed, the people of the town are astonished.  They are so surprised and confounded that they literally don’t believe their eyes!  They go so far as to ask each other if they are mistaken in what they see – is this really the blind beggar who sat at the entrance to the temple every day? 

As for the man, he is happy to proclaim to anyone and everyone that he was indeed blind, but now his sight has been restored.

John 9:10-11 – So they said to him, “Then how were your eyes opened?”  He answered, “The man called Jesus made mud and anointed my eyes and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’  So I went and washed and received my sight.”

Here we find yet another important spiritual principle:  Testimonies are powerful, because they give hope and increase faith.

This man’s testimony certainly captured the attention of his neighbors and friends.  They knew he was not a person of any importance; he was just a beggar.  So if God was willing to heal him, He would heal anyone!  Thus, faith is built up in the lives of the hearers.  If it is built up enough, they will be able to receive a miracle themselves.

His testimony wasn’t just about healing, either.  The Jews had long believed that only God could miraculously heal.  So if Jesus was healing (and this testimony certainly confirmed that), then Jesus must be the Son of God, the true Messiah.  Therefore, his doctrine/teaching should be fully received and obeyed.

Thus, the testimony of healing also draws people to salvation in Christ. 

What was true for the former blind man is true for us as well: our testimony is a powerful weapon because it gives hope and raises faith in anyone who hears it.

Revelation 12:11 – And they overcame him [Satan] by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto death.    

What has God done for you lately?  Whatever it is, don’t keep it to yourself.  Proclaim it far and wide and give him the glory for it.  When you do, you are helping others to overcome the obstacles that Satan has thrown in their way.

John 9:12 – They said to him, “Where is he?”  He said, “I do not know.”

What was the motivation of the people who asked this question?

  • There were some who truly wanted to connect with Jesus and learn more about what he had to say.  They were ready to consider that he was the long awaited Messiah.
  • There were also some who were probably asking out of idle curiosity.  They viewed this miracle as an entertaining distraction; something that would amuse them.
  • And some were the bitter enemies of Jesus.  They wanted to know his whereabouts so they could arrest him for once again breaking the Sabbath, as we will see in our next post.

Let me offer you some encouragement:

 Miracles have two parts: your part and God’s part.  God is always ready, willing and able to fulfill his end of the bargain.  Many times he is waiting for us to quit praying (or begging) and take the step/action that he has revealed to us.  So… no matter how strange it may seem, get up and do what he told you to do!  

Let me offer you some relief:

Suffering touches the life of every single individual on planet earth.  But let me offer you some relief – we don’t walk alone through suffering.  Jesus is right there with us; he sticks closer than a brother.  He has also given us brothers and sisters in the body of Christ who can comfort us in our suffering.  They can listen to us, encourage us, hug us, cry with us, cook for us and even make us laugh.

Jesus uses us to comfort each other.  So if you hurting, reach out to another Christian who loves you.  If you aren’t suffering right now, then look for someone else who needs comfort. 

 Let me offer you some strength:  

We noted that the testimony of the blind man was a very powerful weapon.  According to the book of Revelation, our testimony, coupled with the blood of Christ, allows us to overcome our enemy. 

If you have a testimony, do the rest of us a favor and share it!  It will strengthen our hope and faith, so that we too can overcome the evil one.

John, Chapter 8, Part 5

John 8:45 – “But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me.”

It is interesting to note that Jesus understands people and he relates to them accordingly.  He was firm but compassionate with the woman at the well, who was truly seeking truth. 

The religious leaders, however, are not seeking truth, they are actively opposing it!  Those who were appointed to be the spiritual shepherds of God’s flock are leading them to destruction.   But God loves the Jews too much to allow them to keep going down the path leading to hell without a fight.  Therefore, we see Jesus speaking sharply and bluntly to the Jews in an attempt to open their spiritual eyes. 

Jesus confirms the statement he made as we ended out last post – the Jews oppose him for no other reason than they find the truth to be repugnant and distasteful.  This proves absolutely that they are the children of Satan, because if they were truly Abraham’s spiritual children, they would love the truth that came from Father God.

We need to be very careful as we follow this example of Christ.  When speaking to the lost, COMPASSION and MERCY should always be our approach, unless Holy Spirit tells us otherwise.  As a general rule, people who are lost and hurting don’t need more condemnation heaped upon them; they need to see the love of Christ. 

John 8:46 – “Which one of you convicts me of sin?  If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me?”

In this instance, the word translated ‘convict’ means to prove, while ‘sin’ means error or falsehood.

Jesus is issuing a challenge to the Jews – if you can prove that either my life or my doctrine are false or contain error, then speak up!  Lay out your case for everyone to see and examine.  The Jews had publicly slandered and rejected him; they should publicly reveal the reasons why. 

If there is proof that Jesus is an impostor (a false prophet/teacher or antichrist), then the Jews are absolutely correct in rejecting his teaching.  But if no such proof exists, then the logical conclusion is that they should believe what he tells them; they must accept his doctrine as being the truth sent to them from Father God.

My guess is that after Jesus said this, there was complete and total silence while the religious leaders seethed with anger.  The silence meant they could NOT show any instance where the life/conduct or doctrine/teaching of Jesus was false.  They could not claim that Jesus unjustly reproved them for their actions.  They could not provide any evidence that he was anything other than what he claimed – the divine Son of God who came to bring them the message of salvation from Father God.  Therefore, they have no excuse for their unbelief!

This is a good time to question our own level of personal holiness.  Obviously, we are not sinless like Jesus.  But on the other hand, there SHOULD be a discernable difference between us and the world.  When people look at your life/conduct, what do they see?  Are we a testimony for the Father, or are we giving the world an excuse to reject the gospel?  If the gospel hasn’t made a real difference in our lives, why would anyone else want it?

John 8:47 – “Whoever is of God hears the words of God.  The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.”

To ‘hear’ God means to listen to his commands and obey them, because we love and honor him.  This requires that we have a relationship with him.

This description certainly applied to Jesus.  At all times, he operated under the constant influence and inspiration of Holy Spirit.  Because he was of God, he was able to hear directly from his Father.  Furthermore, his actions were always in accordance with the commands of God.  His entire life honored his Father.

What about the Jews?  Obviously, they were religious.  They offered the right sacrifices, observed the right feasts and holy days, wore the right clothes and attended the synagogue.  But despite all of this, they were not really ‘of God’.  They were going through the motions without having a relationship with God.  Consequently, they were not ready/able to hear or obey his commands.  In fact, they were not even able to recognize his voice; the voice/words of Jesus WERE the voice/word of God.

The voice they recognized, obeyed and honored was that of their true father – the devil.

Are there any areas of your Christian walk were you might be just ‘going through the motions’? 

John 8:48 –The Jews answered him, “Are we not right in saying that you are a Samaritan and have a demon?”

As we noted in our study of John chapter 4, the Jews did not have any dealings with the Samaritans.  The Samaritans were considered enemies of the Jewish nation, because they had a corrupted form of faith.  The Jews also believed they were base, vile people with wicked morals.  When they call Jesus a Samaritan, it was a term of contempt, tantamount to calling him a heretic.

The basis for this accusation was Jesus’ claim that they (the Jews) were not children of God.  Their anger was further fueled by the fact that Jesus stayed three days with the Samaritans (whom they rejected and despised), preaching the gospel to them (John 4:39-40).  Recently, Jesus had passed through Samaria again on his way to the Feast of Tabernacles (John 7:10).  As this was the case, they considered Jesus the friend of the Samaritans which automatically made him an enemy of Israel.

In the opinion of the Jews, this was proof that Jesus was under the influence of an evil spirit.  In reality, they had no factual evidence to support that Jesus was an antichrist.  Frustrated and enraged, they heaped vulgar, baseless taunts at Jesus like immature junior high school kids!

John 8:49 – Jesus answered, “I do not have a demon, but I honor my Father, and you dishonor me.”

In contrast to the hateful anger expressed by the Jews, Jesus answers their charges calmly and meekly.  He is the true fulfillment of the Messiah as prophesied by David:

Psalm 69:7-9 – Because for your sake I have borne reproach; shame has covered my face.  I have become a stranger unto my brethren, and an alien unto my mother’s children.  For the zeal of your house has eaten me up; and the reproaches of them that reproached you are fallen upon me.

The two things they accuse him of – being a heretic (Samaritan) and being influenced by an evil spirit – are essentially the same charge.  They are accusing him of being a false prophet/antichrist; they refuse to believe that Jesus has been sent to them by God.

Jesus refutes their claims by asserting that he labors to promote the honor of his Father; he who sincerely honors the Father must be guided by the Spirit and is a faithful servant of God.  An evil spirit would never do this, so this was sufficient proof/evidence that he was not under the influence of a demon. 

While Jesus does only what honors Father God, the Jews do everything in their power to dishonor Christ.  Since the majesty, power and authority of God were evident in Jesus, to dishonor him was to show contempt for God himself.

This is significant for us.  Later on in this gospel, Jesus tells his disciples that the world will hate them, because it hated him (John 15:18). 

We can expect times when we too are reviled for honoring God and his truth.  As human beings, our feelings will be hurt.  But as spiritual beings, we have the capacity to forgive and we have the opportunity to rejoice, because great is our reward in heaven (Matthew 5:12).

John 8:50 – “Yet I do not seek my own glory; there is One who seeks it, and he is the judge.”

This statement was true throughout the life of Christ.  He never sought to exalt or vindicate himself.  He was willing to be despised and hated for the sake of the gospel, which was a mark of the true Messiah:

Isaiah 53:3 – He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

Because the entire life of Jesus was one of self-denial and honoring of his
Father, these insults probably didn’t affect him all that much.  Jesus simply does the will of God and leaves his reputation in the hands of his Father.  In due time, God will revenge the insults piled upon his beloved Son.  We can be assured of this, because God tells us:

I Samuel 2:30 – Those who honor me, I will honor…..

This is not to say that we should never stand up for ourselves or fight ugly false rumors that are leveled at us.  But it does tell us we should not try to defend ourselves by responding in the same manner.  We should not hatefully heap false accusations or slurs upon anyone who treats us that way (I Timothy 2:25).

And again, when we suffer reproach for seeking the glory of God, we have the assurance that God, the judge of all things, will one day vindicate us (Psalms 37:6).

John 8:51-52 – “Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.  The Jews said to him, “Now we know that you have a demon!  Abraham died, as did the prophets, yet you say, ‘If anyone keeps my word, he will never taste death.’”

Once again, Jesus speaks in eternal and spiritual terms, while the Jews can only focus on the temporary physical world around them. 

The argument presented by the Jewish leaders is easily predictable.  Jesus has already affirmed that Abraham was a true follower/friend of God.  Yet, he died a physical death.  So according to the Jews, the statement of Jesus that ‘anyone who keeps my word will not see death’ is false.  And if this statement is false, Jesus is everything they have accused him of being. 

It is truly remarkable how hard the religious leaders worked to keep themselves from seeing the truth that was right in front of them!  These men, who were supposed to be astute scholars of the scriptures, forgot the truth that God revealed back in the book of Genesis:

Genesis 3:22-23 – And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever:  Therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden…

Based on the lies of Satan, Adam and Eve had decided to rebel against God and eat the fruit of the one tree God had instructed them not eat.  This action brought sin into the world… and sin didn’t come alone.  It brought sickness/disease, poverty, pain, hatred, lies, murder, envy, addiction and every other kind of wickedness and suffering you can imagine. 

The scriptures are very plain – if Adam and Eve had eaten from the tree of life at that point, they would have lived forever in human bodies that are under the curse of sin and all of its effects

So God, in his infinite love and mercy, forced Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Eden before that could happen.  He forced them to remain in a state where their physical bodies would eventually give out and die.  Now let me tell you something that seems shocking but is actually true:  Physical death is actually a gift/blessing from God.

I know that sound strange, but let me explain.  Once a Christian is separated from his/her physical body, their spirit and soul are free from all the consequences of sin.   God will then give us a new body, free from sin, which is suitable for us to inhabit for eternity with him in the kingdom of heaven (I Corinthians 15:50-57).

Had God NOT done this, we would be doomed to live forever in bodies racked with pain and lives devastated by suffering.  We would live forever in sin.  I don’t know about you, but I am glad that someday I will be separated from my flesh and receive a glorified body that is free from sin!

Again, the Pharisees and other Jewish leaders prided themselves on their knowledge of the scriptures.  They should have been very aware that once sin entered the world, God intended for men to physically die.  They should also have been aware that through the promised Messiah, God made provision for man to have both a new body and everlasting life in the spiritual realm.  

It is inexcusable for them not to understand that the words of Jesus(‘if anyone keeps my word he will never taste death’) were true in the spiritual/eternal realm.  This was especially true since they knew for a fact that the saying was not true in the physical realm. 

John 8:53 – “Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died?  And the prophets died!  Who do you make yourself out to be?”

Back in John 5:18, we noted that the Jews wanted to kill Jesus, because he claimed that God was his Father, which made him equal to God (which they considered blasphemy).  Stated another way, we might say that Jesus is on the same ‘level’ as God.  Obviously, all human beings would be on a lower ‘level’ then God, Jesus or Holy Spirit.   

In this verse, the Jews are insulting Jesus by denying that he is greater than Abraham or the prophets.  In fact, they are insinuating that he actually occupies an even lower station in their opinion, because they consider him to be a blasphemer and antichrist.  They believe Jesus is exhibiting pride and self glorification when he says he is greater than Abraham. 

How blind they are!  How tenaciously they cling to unbelief!  Jesus is the very antithesis of pride and vanity.  He was a member of the Godhead who had veiled his own glory in a body of flesh, making himself less than he was.  He emptied himself of his own will and desires; he is the greatest example of humility that has ever been exhibited. 

Philippians 2:7-8 – But [Jesus] made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.

Sadly, Satan continues to perpetrate a similar lie even today.  Many cults and false religions admit that Jesus existed.  Some of them even include him in their beliefs/doctrines.  They will even go so far as to say that he was a prophet or a good man, but they deny that he is the true Son of God; they lower him to the level of a common man.  This is an example of true blasphemy.

John 8:54 – Jesus answered, “If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing.  It is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say, ‘He is our God’.”

One of the definitions of honor is ‘to esteem or respect, veneration, manifestation of respect or reverence’.  Jesus did not glorify/honor himself, nor did he seek those things from other people. 

Any and all honor he had while walking this earth was bestowed upon him by Father God.  It was God who sanctified him, sealed him and sent him into the world as the Messiah.  He should therefore have been respected and revered by the Jews.

Jesus also looked to his Father to fulfill his promise of future glory/honor.  Father God promised to glorify his son with the glory that was his before the world began.

John 17:24 –Father, I will that they also, whom you have given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which you have given me: for you loved me before the foundation of the world. 

The glory of Jesus is immense and beyond our understanding.  When it is finally revealed, every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord (Philippians 2:11).

If the Jews were honestly and sincerely serving the God that sent Jesus into the world as the Messiah (as they claim), they would recognize this fact.  It is evident that they know about God, but they have not really placed their faith in Him or the Messiah he sent to save them.  

John 8:55 – “But you have not known him.  I know him.  If I were to say that I do not know him, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and I keep his word.”

The key to this verse is the word ‘know’.  What does it mean to know God?

You can know God in the sense that you have lots of facts about him.  You can know that he loves you, that he is the creator/ruler of the universe, that he is righteous and just, etc.  We would describe this as having ‘head knowledge’ about God.  This type of ‘knowing’ God is what the Jews experienced.

You can also know God in the sense of having a relationship with him.  This means that you have a belief in God and you have placed your faith in him.  He speaks to you and you hear his voice (John 10:27).  You speak back to him through prayer.  You partner with him to bring his will to pass on earth.  This is the type of ‘knowing’ God that Jesus was talking about. 

Anyone can give ‘lip service’ to God; anyone can know facts about him (even demons do).  But unless that set of facts or head knowledge is accompanied by a true change of heart, it is useless. The religious leaders have not yet come to know God in this manner.  If they had, they would not have rejected Jesus as the Christ. 

John 8:56 – “Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day.  He saw it and was glad.”

This verse is a bit more complicated than it appears on the surface.  We must first consider what Jesus meant by the phrase ‘my day’.  Some scholars take the broad view that it refers to the entire earthly ministry of the Redeemer, which culminated with his death on the cross.  Others have a more narrow view; they believe it refers specifically to the actual crucifixion event (which is probably the better interpretation in this case).

To ‘see’ does not refer to physically seeing with the eye.  Rather, it means to have a view or distinct concept of something; to understand or comprehend an idea or circumstance.

The next thing to note is that a careful reading of the verse shows that Abraham is described as having two different and separate times which gave him joy.  Specifically, he first rejoiced that he ‘would see’ that day and secondly he was glad when he finally ‘saw it’.  

What does this all mean, and how can it be true of Abraham?

Let’s begin by reminding ourselves of the promises that God made to Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3, Genesis 26:1-5).

  • He was to be the father of a great nation. 
  • This nation would inherit a Promised Land. 
  • All the people of earth would be blessed through his family line.

There can be no doubt that without the intervention of God, none of these three things was likely to happen.  In fact, they were humanly impossible; without God they would never come to pass.  Even in his wildest dreams, Abraham could not imagine a way for these promises to come true. 

Put yourself in Abraham’s position for a minute.  If you were in his situation, wouldn’t you spend time wondering how these promises were going to come true?  Wouldn’t you long to see the manifestation of these promises?  Remember, back in that day there was no TV, no podcasts and no Spotify!  You were alone with your thoughts most of the day; there can be no doubt that Abraham meditated on these promises.

The third promise (all the nations of the earth will be blessed through you), was perhaps the most difficult to ‘see’ (comprehend/understand).  As we know, the fulfillment of that promise was the Messiah, who would sacrifice his life to redeem the world.

Once Abraham received the promise of the Messiah (the blessing of the world), he rejoiced.  In the original Greek, ‘rejoiced’ means to leap forward with joy, to meet the object of one’s wishes.  It denotes ardent desire, intense longing and strong zeal.  So Abraham longed or intensely desired to know/comprehend/understand how the Messiah was going to redeem the world.  And God gave him the desire of his heart. 

Psalm 37:4 –Delight yourself also in the LORD; and he shall give you the desires of your heart.

In other words, God gave Abraham something that allowed him to understand or comprehend (see) the sacrifice of Christ for the redemption of mankind.  And when he understood/comprehended it, he rejoiced once again – he was glad.  ‘Glad’ refers to the calm and settled joy which arises from the fulfillment of the promise.  This means that after Abraham understood God’s plan for blessing the whole earth (redemption by the Messiah), he experienced a profound and calm joy.

This brings up the obvious question: What was the ‘something’ that God revealed to him?

The answer is found In Genesis chapter 22:1-14, where Abraham was commanded by God to take his only son Isaac to the top of Mount Moriah and sacrifice him there as a sin offering.  While Abraham is there with the knife in his hand about to strike the killing blow, an angel appears and stops him.  There, caught in a thicket, is a ram that will be a substitute offering. 

Genesis 22:10-11, 13 – And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son.  And the angel of the LORD called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham: and he said, Here am I.  And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold behind him a ram caught in a thicket by his horns: and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the stead of his son.

Clearly, God gave Abraham a very vivid and unforgettable understanding of the Redeemer.  God would send his only begotten Son into the world, to lay down his own life as a perfect sacrifice to atone for the sin of the world. 

The point that Jesus is making to the Jews is that their ancestor Abraham, whom they held in the highest esteem, intensely rejoiced just to understand the concept of the Messiah.  They, on the other hand, are standing right in front of the literal fulfillment of the promise and they reject him!

If they were true spiritual children of Abraham as they claim to be, they would have celebrated Jesus just as Abraham rejoiced so long ago.

John 8:57-58 – So the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?”Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.”

We find yet another example of the Pharisees perverting the words of Jesus.  Jesus never said that he had seen Abraham.  Jesus said that Abraham had ‘seen’ his day; by faith Abraham understood the incarnation of Jesus and his subsequent death as a sacrifice for sin. 

In his reply, Jesus uses the double phrase ‘truly, truly’, which indicates that what he is about to say is very important. 

He then refers to himself as “I AM”, which is the name God identified himself with back in the book of Exodus (3:14).  This name denotes the continued existence of God without respect to time.  Although it is past our understanding, God has no beginning or end.  He has always existed and he is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8). 

The Jews questioned whether or not Jesus was old enough to have seen and known Abraham.  In his fleshly body, this was impossible for he was less than 50 years old, but because he is God (I AM) he existed before Abraham.

This answer affirms what was said about Jesus in the first chapter of John (1:1) – he was in the beginning with God, and he was God.   

John 8:59 – So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple.

The Jews obviously understood that Jesus was calling himself divine and making himself equal with God.  They considered this blasphemy, so without waiting for a trial they immediately prepared to stone him. 

But his time had not yet come; he was able to escape from their wicked intentions. 

Let me offer you some encouragement and some relief:

Abraham rejoiced in the promises of God.  We too can rejoice and be encouraged by the promises of God that are yet to come. 

For instance, we will one day be separated from our body of flesh.  We will receive a new body, free from all the ravages of sin, which is suitable for an eternity with God.  Hallelujah!

What other promises of God are you waiting to experience?  Dwelling on them will bring us both relief and encouragement. 

Is there something about God’s future plan that you strongly desire to know?  Why not take the time to ask him to reveal that to you? 

Let me offer you some strength:

Jesus knew that despite his ill treatment by the Jews, his full glory would one day be revealed.  His Father would vindicate him.  The same is true for us.  Even though you may be mocked or derided by the world for your beliefs, stay strong!  One day the full truth of God’s plan will be revealed!

John, Chapter 8, Part 4

John 8:31 – So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples,…”

Jesus now reveals a very important truth to those who had just believed on him (see verse 30).

The true litmus test of Christian faith is obedience to God’s commands (John 14:21, I John 2:4).  Obedience comes as a result of being firmly rooted in his word/doctrine and growing in faith.    

By contrast, many will profess to be his disciples, however, mere profession is not enough:  

Matthew 7:21 – Not every one that says unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that does the will of my Father who is in heaven.

In other words, it is not enough to simply receive God’s truth – we must retain it and walk in it; we must live it out in our own lives.  Only then are we true disciples of Christ.

John 8:32 – “… and you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.”

In this verse, ‘truth’ refers to the doctrines of Jesus, which we collectively refer to as the gospel (Galatians 3:1, Colossians1:6).  Those who believe in and live out the precepts found in the gospel know the truth, which sets them free.

But what are we freed from?

First and foremost, we are freed from sin.  The bible often describes sin as a form of slavery.  Obviously, this is why the scriptures give us such vivid detail about the period of Jewish slavery under the Egypt. 

The Egyptians had the Jews tightly enslaved; they had no way of breaking free from that bondage.  They had no hope of having their own nation.  They had no hope of personal well being or peace.  They had nothing for their children to inherit but heartache and suffering.  

But then I AM intervened!  He sent his people a deliverer (Moses) who led them out of slavery and into the Promised Land.  There, they became a great nation.  As they adhered to the just laws of God, they lived in peace and prosperity.  They had hope for themselves and they had a wonderful inheritance to leave their children.

This picture in the natural realm closely mimics what happened in the spiritual realm.  Satan had us all tightly enslaved in sin; we had absolutely no way to break free from that bondage.  No amount of good works would settle our debt of sin.   

But then, I AM intervened!  He sent mankind a deliverer (Jesus) who led us out of spiritual slavery to sin and into the Kingdom of God.  As we live according to the gospel doctrines, we will live victorious lives of power and peace.  Introducing our children to Christ is the best inheritance we could ever give them!

Satan has perpetrated the ugly lie that true religion is a form of oppression when in reality it is true freedom.  The yoke of Christ is easy and his burden is light (Matthew 11:30).   Therefore, nothing is more desirable than knowledge of the gospel.

Second, the gospel freed mankind from the burden of the law.  The law required blood to constantly be applied as a cover for sin, while the blood of Christ was shed once for complete cleansing/removal of sin (Hebrews 9:12-14).  The law allowed one man the chance to come directly into God’s presence – once a year!  But under grace, all of us have the opportunity to come into the presence of God 24/7! 

The law pointed out our sin and placed us under the penalty of death for it, but it could not save us from it.  Only Jesus our Redeemer is capable of saving/freeing us from the penalty of death and giving us spiritual life. 

Third, Jesus frees us from the effects of sin.  Through him, we can have healing, deliverance, peace, joy, and many other benefits.  Are you taking advantage of these benefits?  He has already made provision for you to have them.   

John 8:33 – They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone.  How is it that you say, “You will become free?”

Remember, there is a mixed crowd here in the temple.  While some Jews believed/acknowledged Jesus as the Messiah, many still did not.  The Pharisees and other religious leaders were standing by, contradicting everything that Jesus said. 

They, of course, are fixated on the natural realm.  But even in the natural/physical realm, their rebuttal to the teaching of Christ is simply absurd!  Their fathers had been slaves in Egypt, and their entire nation had been enslaved by Babylon.  Even as they spoke the Jews were groaning under the grievous bondage of the Romans.  To say they had never been slaves in the natural realm was an outright lie.

It is funny how sinners are willing to say or claim anything, no matter how ridiculous or false, to avoid/oppose the truth!  What examples of this can you find in the news today? (Hint – there are plenty.)

Of course, we know the Jewish leaders were well acquainted with the history of their people.  They knew their forefathers were slaves in Egypt and they remembered the painful captivity the Jews suffered under Babylon.  So why do they say they have never been enslaved?

Their claim is based on being a direct descendant of Isaac, son of Sarah. 

Abraham was the man whom God called to start the Hebrew nation (Genesis 12:1-3).  It is true that Abraham was never was a slave.  However, he had two sons:  Ishmael, the son of Hagar (a bond woman/slave) and Isaac, the son of Sarah (a free woman). 

Because the Jews were descendants of Abraham and Isaac, they considered themselves free men who were not in bondage to anyone.  Of course, they were referring to the physical realm.  And again, they were completely wrong in their assertions. 

The fact that this was not true in the physical realm should have led them to search for a spiritual answer/principle.  But because they were spiritually blind, they missed the significance of what Jesus was telling them. 

John 8:34 – Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin.”

Jesus is not speaking about political bondage, but the spiritual slavery of our souls to evil passions and desires. 

In the spiritual realm, ALL men were born with a corrupted nature and are slaves to sin from birth.  Whether habitual or occasional, deliberate or accidental, ALL of us practice sin.  And anyone who sins is bound to it as a slave is bound to his master. Therefore, to practice sin is to live in slavery.  

Furthermore, freedom from sin cannot be found under the law (represented by Ishmael – Galatians 4:21-26), because the law cannot save.  It can reveal what it takes to live righteously before God, and it can show you where you failed, but it cannot redeem you.  The only way to be saved under the law is to obey every single law, every single day, in every single way.  One slip-up, and you are guilty of breaking the entire law (James 2:10) and you are subject to the penalty contained therein, which is spiritual death.

John 8:35-36 – “The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever.  So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”

It was well known that slaves had no lasting place in the house of their masters; nothing is guaranteed to them (case in point – Hagar and Ishmael are cast out of Abraham’s house, Genesis 21:10-12).  As chattel, they could be bought or sold at any time for any number of reasons; they were not considered a true/permanent part of the family.  Neither did they have any rights of inheritance in the family they served. 

By contrast, the son has the master’s blood running through his veins.  He is a permanent part of the family and he is the heir of all things.  If he grants/guarantees freedom for a slave, they are truly free because he has the authority to make that happen. 

The ‘Son’ Jesus refers to in these verses is himself – Jesus the Redeemer/Messiah.  He has the authority to guarantee freedom for any sinner who places faith in him.  As we trust in him, he ensures we are adopted by his Father into the Kingdom of Heaven.  This makes us co-heirs with Christ.    

At that point, we are indeed truly free – free from slavery to sin, free to do good works, free to worship and serve God and free to inherit all the possessions, privileges and blessings of Father God.   

John 8:37 – “I know that you are offspring of Abraham; yet you seek to kill me because my word finds no place in you.”

So while the Jews are the true descendants of Abraham according to the flesh, they are NOT his genuine children according to the spirit. 

This is evidenced by the fact that they do not follow in the footsteps of their forefather.  Abraham revered, honored and served God in both his speech and his actions.  When God appeared unto Abraham and gave him unimagined promises, Abraham believed God and it was counted unto him as righteousness (Romans 4:3). 

But the same group of Jews who are claiming to be the offspring of Abraham are not acting at all like him.  They are certainly not honoring God.  When God sent them the Messiah with the good news of the gospel they did not believe it – they rejected it!  In fact, they planned to shed innocent blood by murdering the very Son of God! 

Their hearts were full of envy, pride, hatred, murder, greed and lots of other wickedness.  A heart filled with earthly passions has no room for the word of God; hearing they do not hear and seeing they do not see (Matthew 13:15).  The word of God literally goes ‘in one ear and out the other’ and never takes root within their hearts and minds. 

So, although they are the fleshly/earthly descendants of Abraham, they are morally and spiritually the children of the evil one. 

John 8:38 – “I speak of what I have seen with my Father, and you do what you have heard from your father.”

The doctrine of Christ was from heaven.  It sprang from the infinite wisdom and love of Father God.  Jesus knew it because he had seen, heard and witnessed it when he was with the Father.  His doctrine is not based on speculation; it is not a hypothesis supported by plausible arguments.  It is undoubtedly the exact and perfect truth of God.

The actions of the Jews came straight from the pit of hell, springing from the heart of their father, Satan.  Just as a small child imitates what he sees his father doing and mimics what his father says, so the Jews demonstrated what was in the heart and mind of their father by actively opposing Christ and the gospel message.    

John 8:39 – They answered him, “Abraham is our father.”  Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing the works Abraham did, …”

In response to the rebuke of Christ, the Jews hotly declare that Abraham is their father, not the devil.  While that was technically true – they were his physical descendants – in reality they showed none of the characteristics that made Abraham a true friend of God. 

Back when God called Abraham to be the father of the Hebrew nation, he had this to say about him:

Genesis 18:19 – For I [God] know him [Abraham], that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the LORD, to do righteousness and justice; that the LORD may bring upon Abraham that which he has spoken of him.  

What does this verse say about the true offspring of Abraham?  That’s right – they will follow in the footsteps of their forefather by keeping the ways of the Lord or, in other words, by practicing righteousness and justice.  Because they walk in the ways of the Lord, they are entitled to all of the promises and blessings that God gave to Abraham. 

Stated another way, those who walk in righteousness and follow the ways of the Lord are the true descendants of Abraham.  By default those who practice wickedness and live in sin are NOT the true descendants of Abraham.

Jesus gives us this same spiritual principal in the gospel of Matthew, where he says a good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces evil fruit.  Jesus then goes on to declare that you can know what kind of tree you have by examining the fruit (Matthew 7:17-19).

John 8:40 – “… but now you seek to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God.  This is not what Abraham did.”

Using the criteria we just mentioned, it is plain to see that the religious leaders were NOT true children of Abraham, because the fruits produced in their lives were evil. 

Jesus even provides a specific example.  The corruption and wickedness in their hearts grew and blossomed into a plot to kill Jesus, an innocent man! 

Think about that for a moment.  The Jews were willing to kill Jesus, who was one of their own (a fellow Jew) even though he had done them no harm.  He had not cheated them, defrauded them, physically hurt them or given them any other reason to hate him, but they were diligently seeking a reason to kill him.

Furthermore, they were immensely ungrateful.  Jesus came to earth to give them the greatest gift possible (forgiveness of sin) and to tell them the truth.  Yet, they branded him as an enemy and did everything in their power to subvert his mission. 

They also rejected him as a messenger of God, despite the many miracles that testified to God’s approval of him and his message.

Abraham believed God; the religious leaders obstinately clung to unbelief.  Abraham obeyed and followed God; the religious leaders fought against him. 

John 8:41 – “You are doing the works your father did.”  They said to him, “We were not born of sexual immorality.  We have one Father – even God.”

It seems that they now have an inkling that Jesus is speaking of a spiritual father, not a physical/carnal one.  In that case, they adamantly declare that God is their father.

But why do they mention sexual immorality?

In the scriptures, a marriage relationship is often used as an allegory for the relationship between God and his people.  God is the husband who provides and cares for his bride (the Jews).  When Israel forsakes God and serves idols or false gods, it is frequently described as spiritual adultery or whoredom (Hosea 2:4, Isaiah 57:3-5).

So by claiming they were not born of sexual immorality, they are claiming that they were true worshipers of God. 

John 8:42 – Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here.  I came not of my own accord, but he sent me.”

Jesus has already proven that these Jews are not children of Abraham, because they do not walk in his footsteps.  This was evidenced by their desire to kill Jesus.

Now Jesus proves that they are not the children of God either, because they do not honor God’s Son.  Because Jesus was sent to the world by God, no one can be a child of God unless he is a faithful friend and follower of Christ. 

The true children of God love and highly esteem Jesus.  They are grateful for his sacrifice and demonstrate a love for his kingdom by working for its good (I John 5:1).  They are also obedient to his commands (John 14:21).   

John 8:43 – “Why do you not understand what I say?  It is because you cannot bear to hear my word.”

In this verse, ‘bear’ should be understood in the sense of ‘tolerate’.  The meaning is that the doctrine of Jesus was offensive to the religious leaders.  They hated his doctrine, so they perverted its meaning and were obstinately resolved not to understand it. 

They couldn’t stand his teaching because their pride, vanity and wickedness opposed it.  As a result, they chose darkness over light and error over truth. 

John 8:44 – “You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires.  He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him.  When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”

Here is the heart of the matter.  The religious leaders are children of Satan.  They have his disposition and spirit.  They are influenced by him and they imitate him.  They know his desires and they purposely do what pleases him.

This is not mere speculation.  Jesus offers specific examples which point to their wickedness: 

They demonstrate a murderous disposition; they want to kill Jesus.  Satan was a murderer from the beginning – he introduced sin and death into the whole human race (Genesis 2:17).    

In addition, they reject the truth and embrace error and lies.  Satan not only lies, he is the originator of falsehood (the father of lies).  All liars possess his spirit and are under his influence.  Since the Jews refused to receive the truth Jesus spoke, it proved that they had the character of their father, Satan.     

Let me offer you some encouragement:

In this lesson, we noted the differences between a slave and a son.  The slave has no permanent place in the family, has no rights and inherits nothing.  By contrast, the son is an heir of all things and all things will one day be under his authority.  So if he makes you free, you are really free!

Jesus has given us freedom from sin.  He adopted us into his kingdom, making us co-heirs with him.  He has given us power and authority.  In his name, we can bind and loose, speak to mountains, heal the sick, cast out demons and even raise the dead. 

So my question is this:  Are you living, thinking, believing and praying like the free man or woman you really are?   Or are you still operating under a slave mentality?

I encourage you to examine your own attitudes, thoughts and motives.  If you are not living out the freedom Jesus purchased for you, make some changes in your life today!    

Let me offer you some relief and some strength:

Could it be that you have not fully accepted the freedom Christ died to give you?  Have you been running from him?  Were you once close to Jesus, but you walked away from him? 

He is waiting and longing for you to come back, just as the father of the prodigal son was watching and waiting for his child to return to him (Luke 15:13).  Would you like to return to him today?  If so, just go to him in prayer and confess all that is in your heart.  Ask him to forgive and cleanse you. 

If you are having trouble because you don’t know what to say, you can pray this prayer:

Dear Jesus,

I confess to you that I am a sinner.  I am sorry for all the wrong things I have done and I ask you to forgive me.  I believe that you are the Son of God, that you died on the cross and rose again, and that your blood paid the price for my sin.  I invite you to come into my heart and life and to be my Lord and Savior.  I commit myself to you right now.  Thank you for saving me from death and giving me the gift of eternal life.  Amen.

John, Chapter 8, Part 3

John 8:21 – So he said to them again, “I am going away and you will seek me, and you will die in your sin.  Where I am going, you cannot come.”

Jesus is still discoursing with the Jews in the temple.  He has adamantly told them he is the light of the world and God is his Father, but they continue to mock and reject him.  They judge according to the flesh and refuse to accept Jesus as Messiah because he does not fit their preconceived notions. 

This is a situation that calls for bluntness, and Jesus supplies it!  He plainly tells the Jews that they will continue to seek a Messiah and desire his coming, but the Messiah they expect will never arrive.  Since they have rejected him (Jesus) and there is no other Savior, they will end up dying in their sin. 

Acts 4:12 – Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is no other name under heaven given among men, by which we must be saved.

Because they will die in sin, they cannot enter the kingdom of heaven where Jesus will be.  They will find themselves in outer darkness, a place without the presence (mercy, favor, life) of God.  Existence apart from God is the very definition of hell; once there all sinners will exist in a state of torment forever and ever.

Jesus has painted a rather disturbing yet true picture for the Jews (and for us).  Yet this harsh truth does not come without an equal dose of mercy – while the day of their visitation is almost over, there is still time to repent.   

In fact, no one should EVER delay in accepting the grace of God.  When the bible speaks about salvation, it is always a ‘right now’ gift for TODAY.  If you think about it, it never could be a ‘later’ or ‘tomorrow’ gift, because ‘later’ and ‘tomorrow’ never come! 

2 Corinthians 6:2 — (For he says, I have heard you in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I helped you: behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.)

If the Jews continue to reject Jesus, they will be completely unprepared for the day of trouble when it comes upon them – and it will come.  This is an extremely harsh reality.  It means that at some future point, both as individuals and as a nation, the Jews will find themselves embroiled in a calamity.  It could be a foreign power threatening their nation.  It could be a famine or a drought.  It could be a plague.  Regardless of what the trouble is, the Jews will seek deliverance, assistance and relief by crying out to God for the Messiah.  They will howl, wail and fast with great intensity, but they will not find him, because he has already come (John 7:34)!

This already happened to the Jews at least once – during the war with Rome in 70AD.  At that time, the Christians escaped Jerusalem, but the Jews who were left experienced horrible suffering and abuse.  There can be no doubt that they called upon God to send them the Messiah, but they received nothing new from him because the Messiah had already been sent.  Sadly, they had missed him due to their unbelief.    

Jesus also warns that anyone who rejects him as Messiah opens themselves up to being deluded/deceived by the antichrist when he comes at the end of time (Matthew 24:5-8).   

John 8:22 – So the Jews said, “Will he kill himself, since he says, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come’?”

Instead of trembling at the thought of eternity without God, the Jews ridiculed the warning Jesus gave them.

In their opinion, Jesus was a deceiver and a false prophet who broke the Law of Moses.  They believed he was out of his mind, and it would not surprise them if he did kill himself.  

The thought process of the Jewish religious leaders went something like this:  Jesus is referring to his own death as being imminent.  They only way that someone could know the date of their own death is if they plan to kill themselves (suicide).  Those who end their own lives will go straight to Hades, the place of torment.  Since this is where Jesus is going, he is absolutely right that we cannot (and will not) go there with him! 

When we eventually die, we will wind up in Abraham’s bosom/paradise, because we are children of Abraham.  Once there, we can look across the great impassable gulf that exists between paradise and Hades and see Jesus again (Luke 16:22-26).  If he is going to kill himself, we hope he does it soon so we can put him in the history books and go back to our ordinary way of life.

Although the Jews exhibited many sins (pride, greed, envy, deception, etc) their greatest sin was unbelief.  This one sin will cause them to miss eternity with God.  It is the reason they cannot go where Jesus is going.  

John 8:23 – He said to them, “You are from below; I am from above.  You are of this world; I am not of this world.”

There is indeed a great gulf between Jesus and the religious leaders, but it isn’t the one in Abraham’s bosom.  It is the gulf between the flesh and the spirit. 

The Jews are ‘from below’.  In other words, they have no real interest in the kingdom of God.  They are earthly/fleshly minded; their greatest desires are for wealth, ease and the praise of other men.  They are slaves to the earth (all of their thoughts are centered on the things of earth and how to obtain them) and heirs of hell.  They are full of pride, envy, slander and malice.  In fact, many of them were seeking to murder an innocent man – Jesus.  They are unspiritual men who refuse to walk in the light of God.  In addition to all of this, they are unbelievers.  Unbelief is the main sin being referred to in this particular passage.  

By contrast, Jesus is ‘from above’.  He was actively involved in the creation of this world and everything on it; he breathed the breath of life into mankind.  He continues to sustain this planet and all the life that lives on it.  He descended from heaven to reveal Father God to mankind and to offer himself as a sacrifice for sin.  Everything about Jesus – his attitude, his choices, his teaching, his upbringing, his mission, his actions, his purpose –is focused on the eternal world.  He is truly from above and his thoughts and ways are immeasurably above the thoughts and ways of the Pharisees (Isaiah 55:8-9). 

As Christians we know and understand this difference.  Before we accepted Christ we too were concerned and interested solely in earthly things.  It took the illumination of Holy Spirit to quicken our understanding so we could perceive the eternal world. 

John 8:24 – “I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins.”

Let’s look at this statement of Jesus another way.  Suppose two different people started feeling ill and went to the same doctor.  She gives these patients bad news and good news.  The bad news is that they have a disease which is 100% fatal if not treated.  The good news is that there is one single medicine that will fully restore them back to health and preserve their lives, as long as they continue to use it.

One of her patients believes in the cure and accepts it.  One scoffs at the idea and rejects it.  

Six months later, as we would expect, the patient who believed in the cure and took the medicine is alive and well.  In fact, they testify that they never felt better.  But the one who refused to take the medicine because they did not believe it would work has died. 

Each of us face the same life or death choice in the spiritual realm. 

As we know, sin is 100% spiritually fatal.  The only cure is belief in Jesus as our Redeemer.  Those who believe and accept this remedy will have everlasting life.  Those who persist in unbelief and reject the remedy will die in sin and fall under the wrath and condemnation of God:

Mark 16:16 – He that believes and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believes not shall be condemned.

Now, if you are a Christian reading this blog post, none of this is news to you.  You have already believed and accepted the blood of Christ which brings eternal life. 

But did you know that even as Christians we can still retain elements of unbelief in our lives, and that these can seriously dim our light for Christ?  Let’s examine the case for unbelief. 

  1. God is not pleased with unbelief:

Do you remember when God delivered the children of Israel from Egyptian slavery and took them to the Promised Land?  They failed to take possession of the land on the first opportunity because they did not believe that God would give them the victory.  The penalty for their unbelief was wandering in the desert for 40 years and the death of an entire generation:   

Hebrews 3:17-19 – But with whom was he grieved forty years?  Was it not with them that had sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness?  And to whom swore he that they should not enter into his rest, but to them that believed not?  So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.

Have you considered that unbelief is actually distrust of God?  When you do not believe a promise or truth he has revealed, you are either saying that he can’t or won’t keep his promise.  These are very serious charges to bring against the God of the universe!  No wonder God is angry with the sin of unbelief!  It not only smears his good name, but it prevents you and me from fulfilling the good works he has ordained for us to accomplish.  

Besides that, what kind of testimony are we giving for the gospel when we don’t believe God will keep his word?  If he can’t be trusted, they how can sinners rely on him for salvation?  (For that matter, how can we?)  Do you see how unbelief can dim your light for Christ?

2. Unbelief will limit the flow of God’s supernatural power:

Consider the case of the disciples who could not cast a demon out of a Jewish boy:

Matthew 17:15-16 – Lord, have mercy on my son: for he is epileptic, and is very ill: for often he falls into the fire, and often into the water.  And I brought him to your disciples, and they could not cure him.  

As you recall, Jesus walked into this situation as he came down the mountain after the transfiguration.  Apparently, the other disciples were praying for people while Jesus was up on the mountain with Peter, James and John.  They prayed for the demon to depart from this boy, but it would not. 

However, after a word from Christ, the demon fled and the boy was restored.  Later the disciples asked Jesus why they were not able to cast out the demon.  Do you remember Jesus’ answer?  The cause was their unbelief:

Matthew 17:19-20 – Then came the disciples to Jesus apart, and said, Why could not we cast him out?  And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief…

Consider this:  God still wants to touch a lost and dying world with the miraculous, and he plans to do that through us (John 14:12).  But if we ourselves harbor unbelief, how can God work through us? 

Let’s ask ourselves some tough questions:

  • Do we believe that God answers prayer?  Don’t answer that question with your intellect – answer it with your actions.  In other words, examine your prayer life.  If you have a robust, active prayer life, then you definitely believe God answers prayer.  If you rarely pray and/or pray for only about two minutes at a time, then in reality, you don’t believe prayer works.  You have some unbelief in your life.  
  • Do you believe that God heals people?  Again, examine your actions for the answer.  If you believe it, then when you encounter a sick person, you will tell them about the power of God, lay your hands on them, and approach God on their behalf for healing.  However, if your reaction is to just murmur some words of sympathy, then you don’t believe God heals.  You have some unbelief in your life.   
  • Do you believe God still speaks to believers today by his word, dreams, visions, an audible voice or an inward confirmation?  If so, then you will be listening to him throughout the day, asking and receiving guidance and instruction.  If you don’t, then you don’t believe God speaks to his children today.  You have some unbelief in your life!

Get the picture?  You can stand around all day claiming you believe in a God who is actively at work in the world today, but does your Christian walk reflect that?

Perhaps our situation can best be described like the father in the gospel of Mark:

Mark 9:24 – And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.

3. There are practical steps we can take to remove unbelief from our lives. 

The first step is to realize that the opposite of unbelief is belief or what we normally call faith.  By building up our faith, we can reduce the amount of unbelief in our lives.   

One way to increase our faith is by meditating on the scriptures:

Romans 10:17 – So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

Another way is by remembering God’s past faithfulness to us:

Psalm 22:4 – Our fathers trusted in you: they trusted, and you did deliver them.

You can also build up your faith by praying in your heavenly language:

Jude 20 – But you, beloved, building up yourselves in your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit,…

One of the keys to increased faith is this:  Don’t give up, no matter what you don’t see! 

You may pray for someone to get healed and nothing happens at that moment.  That does not mean that God did not hear your prayer.  In fact, you can be sure that he is working behind the scenes to not only heal that person, but to bring the healing about in such a way that it has an eternal benefit to them.  Since we will all eventually die, physical healing is temporary at best.  God wants people to be healed because it draws them to him spiritually.  A delay in the answer to your prayer could mean that God is doing an eternal work hasn’t yet come into its moment of manifestation.

So whatever you do, keep on praying, binding/loosing, laying hands on the sick, etc.  Don’t assume that God isn’t taking action because the situation did not turn out like YOU thought it would or because it didn’t happen instantly. 

 This is a lesson that Abraham learned long ago.  Remember when God promised to give him a son and form a great and mighty nation from his offspring?  Abraham had to wait on that promise for years and years and years and years….

To his credit, he refused to allow unbelief to take root in his life.  Even though he was close to 100 years old and Sarah was 90, he still had the faith to believe that God would give him a son.

Romans 4:20-21 – He (Abraham) staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God;  And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform.

And sure enough, God gave him Isaac.  What great and mighty things does God want to do in and through your life?  Heal people?  Cast out demons?  Give words of knowledge or wisdom?  Set addicts free?  Restore order to our world?  God can do all of these amazing things through us, if we just have the faith to believe!

So just to summarize: 

  • Unbelief is an issue that affects everyone.
  • Sinners (like the ones Jesus was addressing in the gospel of John) who persist in unbelief reject the grace of God which takes away sin.  As a result, they will die in their sin and be eternally separated from God. 
  • Christians are often referred to as ‘believers’ because we believe in Jesus and we trust in his atoning sacrifice for our sin.  But even as Christians, we must guard against unbelief.  The opposite of unbelief is faith and as Christians we have ways to increase our faith.

John 8:25 – So they said to him, “Who are you?”  Jesus said to them, “Just what I have been telling you from the beginning.”

The Pharisees are outraged when they hear Jesus say that they would die in their sin.  In their opinion, Jesus is less than nothing and he has no authority over them.  With that in mind they exclaim with contempt, ‘Who do you think you are’ or ‘What right do you have to speak to us about sin and judgment’?

Jesus is exactly who he has been telling them from the beginning of his ministry.  He is the bread of heaven and the light of the world and the one sent by Father God to fulfill the law.  But his beginning goes back even further.

He is the Messiah whose coming was predicted from the beginning of sin.  The first promise of Messiah was given to Eve back in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:15).  The promises of the coming Messiah continued unabated for hundreds of years, all throughout the history of Israel. 

The religious leaders claimed to be students of the Law and the Prophets but they rejected the fulfillment of the promises who now stood before them! 

John 8:26-27 – “I have much to say about you and much to judge, but he who sent me is true, and I declare to the world what I have heard from him.” 

Jesus goes on to say that he has many, many things which he might say to expose their iniquities which include pride, ambition, hypocrisy, hatred for the light, malice against the truth, obstinate unbelief and rejection of the Messiah.   

But he will not openly discuss or judge those things now, because he has not come to judge the world, but to save it.  His mission is to declare only what the Father has sent him to say. 

And whether they like it or not, the Father is true, or in other words, whatever he has spoken shall surely come to pass for his word never fails.  

John 8:27-28 – They did not understand that he had been speaking to them about the Father.  So Jesus said to them, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught me.”

Here is even more evidence of the mercy of God.  Even though the Pharisees are, for the moment, spiritually blind to the fact that Jesus is the Messiah, the day is coming when they will understand.

Just after his crucifixion, the day was turned to night and an immense earthquake shook the world.  These were the first proofs that Jesus was the Messiah, but the ultimate proof came three days later, when Jesus was resurrected from the dead.  By that point, there could be no doubt in their minds – Jesus was the Messiah.  

And if he is indeed the Messiah, then everything he taught MUST be accepted as truth from God.  

John 8:29 – “And he who sent me is with me.  He has not left me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to him.”

Despite the overwhelming evidence that is shortly to come, many of the religious leaders will still reject Jesus as the Messiah.  However, Jesus can rest assured that his labor is not in vain.  He has faithfully and fully said/done everything that the Father asked of him (Psalms 40:6-8).  The Spirit will make his word alive in the hearts of countless numbers of people, who will all willingly and gratefully accept Jesus as Lord and Savior. 

Jesus also has the assurance that he is never alone.  It may have seemed like he was alone in the Garden of Gethsemane when he took the sin of the world upon himself, but he was not for Father God was with him.  It may have seemed like he was alone when all of the disciples fled, but God was still with him.  As he died on the cross, Father God looked down upon him with pleasure and joy has he fulfilled the work that was given him to do.

Jesus was in perpetual communion with the Father because he was always in obedience to his commands.  Like Jesus, we must be diligent to hear the voice of God, to obey all of his commands and to be wholly devoted to his service (John 15:10). 

John 8:30 – As he was saying these things, many believed in him.

Scholars have different view points on this verse.  These views center on the word ‘believe’.   

Some interpret ‘believed’ to mean that the words of Jesus (which were anointed by Holy Spirit) took root in the hearts of some people.  This faith resulted in acceptance of the gospel and subsequent salvation. 

Others interpret ‘believed’ to mean that some of the Jews began to believe or have faith that Jesus was actually the true Messiah sent from God.  Although this did not result in immediate salvation, it paved the way for them to accept the gospel once Jesus died and rose again.

Let me offer you some encouragement and relief:

Unbelief – we all have some of it, and we all need to get rid of it!  While it takes time and diligence to rid ourselves of unbelief, the end result is certainly worthwhile.  Jesus says that if we have faith like a grain of mustard seed, we can speak to the mountains in our lives and cast them into the sea (Mark 11:22-24).

Most of the spiritual growth that takes place in your life (after salvation) is not instantaneous.  The majority mimics growth in the natural realm – it is a process that occurs little-by-little over time.  Replacing unbelief with faith will probably occur by this process. 

So don’t be frustrated if you are still experiencing some unbelief in your Christian walk.  Just continue to lean on Holy Spirit and do your best.  Eventually, you will conquer unbelief and your faith will rise to the level of Abraham, who ‘staggered not’ at the seemingly impossible promises of God!    

Fueled by this kind of faith, our lights will burn brightly for Christ!    

Let me offer you some strength:

Jesus gave the Jews some harsh truth.  It was, no doubt, difficult for them to accept.  It probably stung their pride.  But he didn’t do it out of spite.  He did it out of love.  They were on the road leading to hell and only the truth could cause them to change course. 

Has God revealed any harsh truth to you lately, perhaps related to the level of true belief in your life?  If the truth was a little hard to bear, I encourage you to stand strong; don’t reject what the Spirit is saying to you!  God did not reveal that truth to embarrass or punish you.  He revealed it so that he could heal it! 

If you want to be a person of faith, then begin to take God at his word during every waking moment of your life.  Live like the scriptures are true, even if you don’t see immediate results.  I assure you, God watches over his word to perform it, so your results are not far away!  

 

John, Chapter 8, Part 2

John 8:12 – Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world.  Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

Jesus just finished dealing with the woman caught in adultery.  He quickly and completely shut down the plan of the Pharisees to ensnare him in a controversy that could have potentially ended his ministry and/or his life.

At the same time, he shows the mercy of God to the woman who deserved death (according to the law).  He forgives her sin and sends her on her way with the command to sin no more. 

This shows that Jesus doesn’t just teach with words; he teaches by example.  This is one of the attributes that makes him a good leader.  Anyone can talk about forgiveness or mercy, but Jesus shows us how to shower these blessings on a confused and desperate world.    

To start with, we note that Jesus did not immediately condemn this woman, even though she was guilty of sin.  He did not embarrass her in front of the crowd, nor did he pound his fist on the ground and tell her she was going to hell. 

Why is that?  For one thing, those who are caught in the web of Satan have an immediate need for mercy/grace, not judgment. 

Mark 2:16-17 – And when the scribes and Pharisees saw him eat with tax collectors and sinners, they said unto his disciples, How is it that he eats and drinks with tax collectors and sinners?  When Jesus heard it, he said unto them, They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.

Many Christians, perhaps unwittingly, decide which sins they will accept in other people and which sins they will not.  For example, there are Christians who are willing to forgive people who have an addiction to alcohol, but they immediately condemn and dismiss a person who is addicted to drugs.  Some Christians are willing to support women and men involved in an adulterous relationship, but they turn their backs on people who are confused about their gender.     

In God’s eyes, sin is sin.  ALL those who are caught in Satan’s snare are in need of God’s love.  When dealing with the lost, we should follow the example of Jesus as he dealt with the woman caught in adultery – he demonstrated the love and grace of God without affirming her sin or life choices.  

This is a powerful key in relating to the lost.  Most of them are expecting judgment from you, so when you show mercy it tells them something is ‘different’ about you. This opens the door for you to share the gospel message.

Once Jesus had shown her the mercy of God, then he privately addressed the issue of her sin.  For us, it is best to establish a solid relationship with the lost before we approach the topic of their sin.    

Jesus then reaffirms that he is the light of the world.  As we discussed in John chapter 1, nothing on earth would survive without the light of the sun.  The same is true in the spiritual realm – none of us could live spiritually without the Son.  It is our privilege to give the world a glimpse of spiritual life in Christ.

Here is something interesting to consider:  Although the woman in John chapter 8 saw the light of Christ while in the temple, that is NOT true for most people, because the vast majority of sinners aren’t attending church.  For most of them the only glimpse of Jesus they will get is the one they see in you. 

Let me repeat that:  For most sinners, the only glimpse of Jesus they will get is the one they see in you.  

Therefore, it is imperative that the light of Christ is shining brightly in our own lives (Matthew 5:16).  It is essential that we offer his love and grace to the lost.  Jesus has done his part – he shed his blood so we could be set free from sin.  Now we need to do our part and show that grace to those who need it most.  

John 8:13 – So the Pharisees said to him, “You are bearing witness about yourself; your testimony is not true.” 

When Jesus declares to the religious leaders that he is the light of the world, they immediately oppose him. 

As we have discussed in earlier studies, the Law required two witnesses for a testimony to be accepted as true.  Since Jesus is testifying about himself, the Pharisees reject his testimony as false.

However, they are spiritually blind.  All Jews believed that only God could work miracles.  Since Jesus was working miracles by the hundreds, God was surely confirming that Jesus was the Messiah. 

John 8:14 – Jesus answered, “Even if I do bear witness about myself, my testimony is true, for I know where I came from and where I am going, but you do not know where I come from or where I am going.”

Jesus responds by basically saying he is an exception to this rule. 

The law demanded two witnesses because men are sinful and they often speak from a spirit of pride or falsehood.  In other words, human beings will lie or deceive to gain an advantage or to make themselves look good.  But Jesus is not a mere man.  As the divine Son of God, he never promotes himself or his own agenda.  He says and does only what the Father has commanded him.  Therefore, this law doesn’t really apply to him (John 5:30-32).

Furthermore, Jesus points out that his testimony is true because he fully knows and understands that he came from heaven at the command of God.  He also fully knows and understands that after he has been crucified and resurrected (completed his mission) he will once again return to heaven to sit at the right hand of the Father.

No other man on earth could possibly confirm these facts, because no one on earth had seen or witnessed Jesus as he lived in Heaven with Father God and Holy Spirit.  Consequently, none of them were qualified to pass judge the testimony of Jesus. 

John 8:15-16 – “You judge according to the flesh; I judge no one.  Yet even if I do judge, my judgment is true, for it is not I alone who judge, but I and the Father who sent me.”

There are two ways to perform judgment – by the flesh or by the Spirit.

To judge according to the flesh is to judge according to appearances, preconceived opinions and/or prejudices.  This was exactly how the religious leaders judged Jesus. 

For example, the Jews believed that the Messiah would come as a conquering hero, who would immediately defeat their enemies and set up a kingdom that rivaled the ‘golden age’ of Israel under David and Solomon.  As such, he would obviously be rich and powerful.  Because Jesus did not fit their preconceived ideas, they rejected him as Messiah.  They judged according to the flesh.

We know that when Jesus came to earth as our redeemer, he did not come to judge/condemn the world, but to save it.  Yet even if he did (and he one day will), his judgment would be fair, true and impartial because he judges by the Spirit.  To judge with the guidance of Holy Spirit is to judge righteously (Psalms 72:2) – according to the facts and the motivations of a man’s heart: 

1 Samuel 16:7 – But the LORD said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD sees not as man sees; for man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.           

Unlike the Pharisees, Jesus has the right and authority to pass judgment because he is no ordinary man.  He is the divine Son of God, sent by the Father.  Since he and his Father are in complete agreement, their testimony/judgment is true (two witnesses).    

John 8:17-18 – “In your Law it is written that the testimony of two people is true.  I am the one who bears witness about myself, and the Father who sent me bears witness about me.”

Once again Jesus shows that he has come to fulfill the law, not to abolish it.  There are indeed two persons who agree about his testimony – he and his Father.

As he mentioned earlier, Jesus’ testimony of himself is credible/true because he knows where he came from (heaven) and where he is going (into the presence of the Father and Spirit).  No man on earth could confirm this testimony, but that’s okay; it is accredited by a much higher source – Father God.

The Father had indeed testified to the divinity of Jesus in several ways including audibly at his baptism (Matthew 3:17), through fulfillment of Old Testament prophesy (Zechariah 9:9, Micah 5:2, etc) and through the performance of miracles. 

The same is true for any judgment Jesus makes – it would not be an individual judgment but the judgment of two witnesses because he and the Father are in agreement on all things.  This was discussed at length in our study of John chapter 5.

John 8:19 – They said to him therefore, “Where is your Father?”  Jesus answered, “You know neither me nor my Father.  If you knew me, you would know my Father also.”

There can be no doubt that the Pharisees asked this question in a spirit of mockery and spite, because they were well aware that Jesus was referring to God when he spoke of his Father.  We can even picture them pretending to look around for Joseph as they asked it. 

By ridiculing Jesus, they have also mocked and rejected the very God they claim to serve.  If you were Jesus, how would you deal with these people?  Perhaps your reaction would be similar to mine – I would probably call fire down from heave to consume them!

But Jesus does not allow them to stir up his anger.  Instead, he ignored their contempt and gave them a righteous response – if they will listen to his instruction, and receive him as the Messiah, then they will know his Father. 

The fact is, no man can approach God unless the Messiah (Jesus) makes a way for him through his blood.  Consequently, anyone who rejects Jesus has rejected their only path/avenue to find God.  The Pharisees did not seem to grasp this concept, no matter how many times Jesus taught it to them!

Once again, we find Jesus teaching us by example.  Do we respond righteously when we are mocked or ridiculed for our faith?  We are definitely called to do so:

2 Timothy 2:24-26 – And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, in meekness instructing those that oppose them; if God perhaps will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; and that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will.

The apostle Paul admonishes us to respond righteously, as Christ did.  We are to consider the lost as captives of the devil, snared by his evil schemes.  We are to have compassion for them as a shepherd has compassion for a lost sheep. 

Paul cautions us not to strive with them, but to answer them gently and patiently so they can escape the deadly snare of the enemy.  If Jesus can ignore the taunts of his enemies, can’t we do the same?   

John 8:20 – These words he spoke in the treasury, as he taught in the temple; but no one arrested him, because his hour had not yet come.

The treasury was a part of the temple where the sacred offerings were collected.  It was within the court of the women.  Scholars tell us it held 13 chests or collection boxes – one for each tribe and one that only women were permitted to use for offerings.  It was a much frequented place; we can safely infer that the confrontation between Jesus and the Pharisees was witnessed by a large group of Jews.  But strangely, the religious leaders did nothing to stop Jesus.

Think about what a remarkable miracle this really is.  The religious leaders held immense power and influence in the Jewish nation, especially in the temple.  They had the authority to permanently banish people from the temple with a single command (John 9:22).  Yet, we find Jesus constantly teaching in the temple and they do nothing to stop him!  Furthermore, they had already decided to kill him, but he continues to teach while they stand by and allow him to speak!   

Clearly, God protected Jesus and restrained Satan so that mankind could hear the gospel message.  Eventually, Jesus would die for us, but only at the time appointed by God.

Let me offer you some encouragement and relief:

God had an appointed time for Jesus to finish his ministry by dying on the cross and then rising again.  If you think about it, the same is true for you and me.  God numbered the days of our earthly existence before we were ever born (Psalms 139:16).   He established a plan/purpose for our lives, just as he did with Jesus. 

So let me give you some encouragement and relief – Satan may hate you, but he cannot cut your life short unless God allows it.  Stay close to God, and let your light shine for Christ.  He will make sure you are able to complete all the good works God ordained for you to do. 

Let me offer you some strength:

The religious leaders mocked and taunted Jesus, but he never allowed them to bait him into an angry response.  Instead, he answered them righteously and revealed the truth of the gospel to them. 

We need to follow the example of Christ in this area.  The first step in this process is seeking the help of Holy Spirit, who can give us the strength and wisdom to avoid these traps. 

  

 

John, Chapter 8, Part 1

John 7:53-8:1 – They went each to his own house, but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.

‘They’ refers to all the different groups of people who heard Jesus speak at the temple during the feast of Tabernacles. 

Most were considered ‘common’ or ordinary Jews.  For some of them, it was a long journey home.  Jesus and his doctrine were undoubtedly a subject of conversation/discussion during their travels.  Others in this category lived either in Jerusalem or nearby.  For them, work resumed the very next day; the marketplaces and businesses were surely abuzz with talk of the events that occurred in the temple.

How about the temple guards?  After hearing only a small portion of his doctrine, they believed Jesus to be the Christ.  He was probably discussed at length during their dinner that night.

And then there were the religious leaders.  A few, like Nicodemus, were trying to impartially look at the facts surrounding Jesus.  They desired to judge righteously and arrive at the truth.  But most were doing everything in their power to stop Jesus and his message, because it threatened to disrupt the little kingdom of comfort, wealth and influence they had set up for themselves.  They went home that day in frustration, because God caused their plans to end in chaos.

The point is, no one left that day unchanged.  All of them returned home impacted in one way or another by the words of Christ.   

This should give us encouragement as we share the gospel.  It is our job to spread the Holy Spirit anointed word of God to the lost.  But it is up to each individual person to consider the message and decide what they will do with it.   

As the people headed for home, Jesus departed for the Mount of Olives.

We have discussed this particular location before, in our study of the book of Matthew.  The Mount of Olives is about a mile east of Jerusalem.  Jesus passed through this area regularly on his way to and from the city.  It was his customary place of refuge for the night, when it was unsafe for him to remain in Jerusalem.  He also spent time here in prayer and fellowship/training with his disciples.

The house of Mary, Martha and Lazarus (close friends of Jesus) was located on the eastern side of this mountain in the city of Bethany (John 11:1).  Another favorite place of Jesus, the Garden of Gethsemane, is located on the western side (John 18:2).

John 8:2 – Early in the morning he came again to the temple.  All the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them.

But Jesus only stayed outside Jerusalem for a matter of hours.  Early the very next day, despite the threats of the religious leaders, he was back in the temple taking care of his Father’s business.

And the crowds returned to hear him.  Once again, the audience would have been a mixed group, all with vastly different motives.  The Scribes came to disagree and disrupt. 

Soldiers came to maintain order.  The Pharisees came to tempt and ensnare him.  Many of the common people came to hear a teacher who was different from any other.  Some thought they were hearing the Messiah. 

Each of them had at least one thing in common – they made time to meet with Jesus.

My guess is that the people back in that day were similar to the people of today.  They had children to care for, lawns to mow, money to earn, sheep to feed, water to draw, laundry to wash, houses to clean and many other commitments.  But they still made time to meet with Jesus and hear his word.  Ironically, even those that were against him felt it was important to be present in the temple, listening to Jesus. 

John tells us that Jesus taught them early in the day.  We have a bit more flexibility.  We can meet with God on our lunch hour, in our cars as we commute, while the kids are asleep, on our couches with a cup of coffee or on our knees in our prayer closet. 

The important thing is that we, like the Jews, must ‘carve out’ time each day to be in fellowship with Christ.  If we wait for a convenient time, it will never happen.  What will you do today that is more important than spending some time with Jesus?   

John 8:3-4 – The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst, they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery.”

The incident we are about to study is an excellent contrast between the law and grace.  Keep that in mind as you read it. 

The Jews catch a woman in the sin of adultery (I don’t even want to know how they did that…), and they bring her before Jesus.

They don’t do this because they are great defenders of the law.  They don’t do it because they are distressed about the sinfulness of their nation.  They certainly didn’t do it to save her; they really didn’t care if she was helped or hurt by their actions.  All they really wanted to do was trap Jesus. 

By the standards of man, it was a very clever plot, similar to the case of the tribute money in Matthew 22:17.  If Jesus condemns her to death, he was not the Savior he claimed to be; she would suffer the same punishment under the law. 

Additionally, sexual sins in general were rampant during the reign of the Romans.  While the Jews may have been less guilty than other groups, Jesus still refers to them as ‘an evil and adulterous generation’ (Matthew 12:39).  To pronounce such a drastic punishment for a common form of sin would certainly have been controversial.  If Jesus got caught up in some big controversy, it would take the focus away from the gospel message.  In fact, it could completely overtake all interest in the true message of grace. 

There was also the issue of Roman rule.  Rome reserved the power of life and death for itself (hence the Jews had to get Pilate to condemn Jesus).  Anyone who tried to usurp that power was swiftly and decisively silenced.       

On the other hand, if Jesus simply lets her go, he is accused of being a law breaker; one who contradicts the Law of Moses and encourages sin.  His adversaries would certainly take this opportunity to bring Jesus before the Sanhedrin as a false Messiah, for the true Messiah would never break the law.  Incidentally, breaking the law was the same charge they already tried to bring against him when the accused him of healing on the Sabbath (Exodus 31:14). 

Either way, they would have grounds to accuse him before the Sanhedrin and sentence him to death.  Or so they thought.  

John 8:5 – “Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women.  So what do you say?”

First off, they were right about the Law, but they were selective in how they wanted to enforce it.  The law actually stated that both the woman and the man should be put to death:

Leviticus 20:10 – And the man that commits adultery with another man’s wife, even he that commits adultery with his neighbor’s wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.  

See also Deuteronomy 22:22.  Funny how they were able to bring the woman to Jesus, but not the man! 

Secondly, the statement of the Jews was technically false; the law instituted the death penalty, but it did not specify the particular manner of death.  In such cases (where the mode of death was not specified), the rabbins favored strangulation.  However, past practices included being thrust through with a sword or stoning or both (Ezekiel 16:40).  If the woman was the daughter of a priest, the punishment was being burned to death (Leviticus 16:9).  The Jews living in the time of Christ decided death would be by stoning which explains their statement in this situation. 

In that generation, stoning entailed binding the hands of the guilty and taking them to the top of a high place where they were thrown down head first.  If the fall did not kill them, then a very heavy stone was thrown upon them; the executioners continued to throw stones at the person until they were dead.  If the guilty person died in the fall, they were completely covered with rocks.

John 8:6 – This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him.  Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground.

This scene is taking place in the temple, so when Jesus writes on the ground it actually refers to the pavement or floor.  It was not bare dirt, as we might picture. 

There may have been dust/dirt on the floor, in which case the words he wrote were visible.  However, he may not have ‘written’ words that could be seen by others.  In this case, writing on the floor may have been a way to simply show that he was not interested in what they had to say.  It would be like ignoring them. 

Or perhaps he was simply refusing to be placed in the role of judge, which was consistent with his mission.  He refused the role of judge several times during his incarnation (Luke 12:14, John 12:47, John 8:15, etc). 

Either way, it shows that Jesus was divinely aware of their wicked plans.  Instead of answering their question, he intentionally disregards them.  He effortlessly and effectively takes control of the situation by simply writing in the dust. 

Of course, the big question is, ‘what did Jesus write?’  The truth is that we really don’t know.  Some early versions of scripture say he wrote the sins of all the men standing there, however, most versions do not include this. 

John 8:7 – And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.”

Jesus cannot mean that a person must literally be sinless in order to enforce punishment for guilt.  If it did, the law would be null and void, for no one would have the authority or executive power to punish law breakers.  Society would be in chaos.

The passage becomes clearer when we examine the phrase ‘without sin’.  Grammatically speaking, the original Greek text literally means ‘without the sin of which her sin is an example’.  The implication is that the men who were present as her accusers were also guilty of some kind of sexual sin. 

So obviously, Jesus is NOT saying that men/women cannot occupy places of civil authority in society.  Rather, he seems to be focusing on the hypocrisy of these leaders.

Now, you probably already know that under the law, a minimum of two witnesses were required to prove something was true:

Deuteronomy 19:15 – One witness shall not rise up against a man for any iniquity, or for any sin, in any sin that he sins: at the mouth of two witnesses, or at the mouth of three witnesses, shall the matter be established.

But did you also know that any witness who gave testimony in a trial where the defendant was convicted and sentenced to death, was required to be the first or primary person to carry out the death penalty? 

Deuteronomy 17:7 – The hands of the witnesses shall be first upon him to put him to death, and afterward the hands of all the people. So you shall put the evil away from among you.

This means that if the woman in this case was judged and sentenced to be stoned, these very men would have to be the ones to bind her hands, lead her to the precipice and push her off.  If she was still alive, it would be their responsibility to throw the first heavy stone at/on her. 

Why would God command such a thing?  Well, it certainly is an effective deterrent to perjury.  It would be an awful burden to bear if a person falsely accused someone of a crime, and then they were forced to look them in the eye as they carried out the sentence of death. 

Anyway, we find that as the religious leaders press Jesus for an answer, he proceeds to foil their plans to trap him.  He did not excuse the woman’s guilt, nor did he encourage her prosecution. 

Instead, he effectively turns the tables back on them.  He acknowledges that she deserves to be prosecuted, but asks them to examine their own consciences and see if they are fit to be judge, jury and executioner.  Jesus reminds them that they would have to be the very ones to kill her with their own hands.  Would their consciences allow them to do so?  Should any person be zealous in exposing and punishing the offenses of others, when they themselves are guilty of the same crime?

Matthew 7:5 – You hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of your own eye; and then shall you see clearly to cast out the speck out of your brother’s eye.

When we see a fault in someone else, let us first examine our own lives to see if there is any wicked way in us.  We need to judge our own sin before we judge someone else.

And while we certainly do not condone sin, we should make it our practice to have compassion on others and try to restore that person to fellowship (Galatians 6:1).

John 8:8 – And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground.

Jesus now gives them time to examine their own hearts.  Again, although it is not fully confirmed, many think he went back to writing the sins of these men in the dust.  Regardless of whether that happened or not, their consciences certainly seared their sin upon their own hearts like a hot branding iron.  They could hide their guilt from the world, but not from themselves or from God! 

John 8:9 – But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him.

It makes sense that they simply walked away.  These men realized they were not going to achieve their goal of trapping Jesus.  If they persisted in their endeavors, their own sin was sure to be exposed for all to see, and they certainly did not want that!

They left quietly, one by one.  We might say they slunk away, because they were ashamed of their conduct.  It is interesting to note the order of their departure – the oldest first.  It may be that they were the most guilty, or that they were first aware of the danger of their own sin being exposed to the world. 

The sad part is that this was actually a missed opportunity for the religious leaders.  Now that the wound of their sin had been opened, Jesus could have healed it for them, had they asked.  They could have sought repentance and left that place forgiven, but instead they chose to cover the wound with a band-aid of pride and rebellion.  This type of band-aid has no ability to heal or restore.  In fact, it promotes death – what hope do they have, when they reject the Redeemer? 

Perhaps the religious leaders did not recognize that Holy Spirit conviction is a lot like medicine – you want to avoid it because it is bitter going down, but it is the best thing for you; it brings spiritual healing. 

2 Corinthians 7:10 – For godly sorrow works repentance to salvation not to be regretted: but the sorrow of the world works death.

This healing not only restores, but it brings the peace of God along with it!  Those who turn to Christ Jesus are no longer under condemnation but have passed from death to life!  How sad that they leaders missed this!

And what of the woman?  She was as acutely aware of her guilt as the Scribes and Pharisees were.  She probably had just as much opportunity to slip away into the crowd as they did (none of them was going to stop her at that point), but she did not.  She stayed behind to face her sin.

John 8:10-11 – Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they?  Has no one condemned you?”  She said, “No one, Lord.”  And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go and from now on sin no more.”]

The woman had a very real basis for being afraid.  She was guilty and she knew it.  However, the law stated that two witnesses were needed in order to carry out the sentence of death.  Since they had disappeared, she was free from the penalty of physical/earthly death.

As if that were not enough, Jesus steps in and gives her the greatest gift that can ever be bestowed upon a person – he forgives her of sin and saves her from spiritual death!   

At one time, all of us were in the same situation as this woman – guilty as charged!  But, hallelujah, that was not the final word!  The law rendered a verdict of ‘guilty’ and pronounced a judgment of death, but its demands were silenced by the blood of Christ!

As Paul so powerfully points out in his epistle to the Romans, no one on earth has the right to accuse us before God: 

Romans 8:33 – Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifies.

But this leads us to another point, which we need to carefully consider.  Everyone standing before Jesus that day was guilty of sin.  Not only had the religious leaders committed sexual immorality, they placed this woman in a position to die for that same moral infraction.  Certainly, she had a right to be angry.  She could have chosen to bear a grudge against them.  She could have accused them before Jesus for unjustly condemning her!  This was a prime opportunity to live in unforgiveness – but she didn’t.  She didn’t even bring up the subject of their guilt.

As Jesus instructs his followers, we MUST forgive others!  This is not optional in the life of a Christian. 

Luke 17:3-4 – Take heed to yourselves: If your brother trespasses against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him.  And if he trespasses against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turns again to you, saying, I repent; you shall forgive him. 

Jesus is our example in this; as he hung dying on the cross, he forgave those who put him there (Luke 23:34).  Therefore, we also must forgive those who sin against us.    

Let me offer you some encouragement:

All of us have sinned and come short of the glory of God.  As long as we are on this earth, subject to the malady of sin, we will continue to do so.  The real question is, how do we handle that? 

The religious leaders in this narrative reacted judgmentally; they were willing and eager to end this woman’s life to help make their case against Jesus.  In our day we might say they ‘threw her under the bus’.

We need to be careful that we don’t act in the same way.  There WILL BE Christians around us who fall into sin.  We need to have the wisdom to correct them, without falling into judgment.  Let me reiterate – correction and judgment are two very different things. 

When a fellow Christian falls into sin, they need to repent.  In fact, Jesus will bring a rod of correction into their lives if they don’t (Proverbs 3:11-12).

If the sin is a grievous one, or if they are in a position of leadership in the church, they also need to submit to the oversight of the pastor and/or elders.  This may include stepping down from positions of leadership.  They need time to heal and get back on the right track, before they can be in authority again.

For instance, if a person fell into the sin of adultery (like the woman in John 8), they will need time to work through their marriage and family relationships.  They need time to analyze what went wrong, and how to avoid it going forward.  They will need to rebuild trust in those around them. 

During this critical time, it is our job to love, encourage and support them, as opposed to being judgmental. 

Galatians 6:1-2 – Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in the spirit of meekness; considering yourself, lest you also be tempted.  Bear you one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.    

Notice what Paul tells us in Galatians – by praying and supporting these believers, you FULFILL the law of Christ.  This is the opposite of what the Sadducees and Pharisees did to the woman; they wanted to use the law to condemn her.

Let me offer you some relief:

If you are one of the many Christians who has fallen into sin, remember this:  You can be restored!  It will take time.  There may be a high price to be paid in the natural realm.  But in the eternal realm, Jesus forgives you the moment you repent.  And we have the assurance that Jesus will walk with us through whatever comes next (Hebrews 13:5). 

Let me offer you some strength:

The best thing for us to do is avoid falling into sin in the first place!  We are not ignorant of the enemy’s plans; scripture tells us that he is a roaring lion who seeks to kill us.  In fact, his only goals are to steal, kill and destroy the children of God.

The good news is that Jesus has already given us both victory and authority over Satan.  If we resist him, he will flee from us (James 4:7).  So strengthen yourself in the Lord.  Keep his word in your heart, in your mind and on your lips.  Listen to the leading of Holy Spirit who will help keep you from the unseen snares of the enemy.     

 

John, Chapter 7, Part 4

John 7:37 – On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink.”

Here is what we have noted so far about the Feast of Tabernacles aka the Feast of Booths:

  • It was a seven-day feast immediately followed by a day of solemn assembly before God (Leviticus 23:34-41).  The Jews referred to the eighth day as the ‘great day’.
  • The feast commemorated two things.  One: God brought Israel through the wilderness into the Promised Land, providing for their needs all along the way (especially food and water). Two: It was a celebration of thanksgiving for the current harvest season.
  • The Israelites erected temporary shelters made of frames plus tree branches and lived in them for the duration of the feast to symbolize their desert wandering (Leviticus 23:42-43).
  • This was one of three instances where God commanded all Israelite males to appear before him at the temple (Deuteronomy 16:16). Therefore, this feast was exceptionally well attended; it was second only to Passover.
  • There were specific sacrifices offered on each day of the festival (Numbers 29).
  • There was a public reading of the entire law, spread out over the duration of the feast, as a reminder to the people (Deuteronomy 31:9-12).

Now, in order to fully appreciate the words of Jesus in this passage of scripture, we need to review some additional information:

During the first seven days of the feast, the Jews traditionally offered sacrifices for the heathen nations, as well as themselves. But on the eighth/great day, they offered sacrifices only for themselves.

The eighth/great day was a holy day and no servile work could be performed on that day (Leviticus 23:39).  This was the day they finished the reading of the Law.

The Jews had a custom associated with this feast, although it was not mandated by God.   The priests, along with a great entourage of Jews, would take a large golden vessel to the pool of Siloam (located by the fountain gate) and fill it with water.  With great joy and the sounding of trumpets, this water would be carried back into the temple. 

The priest bearing the golden vial would drink some of the water as the people loudly praised God.  This was done in remembrance of God’s provision of water from a rock during the desert wanderings.  Without this provision, both Israel and their livestock would have died of thirst (Exodus 17:1-6). 

At that point, one of two things would happen, depending on which historian you agree with.  Either the remaining water was mixed with wine and poured upon the sacrifice that was on the brazen altar, or the water and a vessel of wine were simultaneously poured out on opposite sides of the altar as drink offerings. 

As the offering was poured out, the Jews would sing scriptural songs and pray for the Lord to grant them plentiful rain for the next growing season.  One of the songs they sung was found in Isaiah:

Isaiah 12:3 – Therefore with joy shall you draw water out of the wells of salvation.

Interestingly, the Jewish fathers asserted that this scripture (and others they sang) was a reference to the pouring out of Holy Ghost.  There are many Old Testament scriptures that use water to refer to the effusion of the Spirit by the Messiah (Isaiah 44:3, Isaiah 55:1, Ezekiel 36:25-27, Joel 2:28 etc). 

Using your imagination, picture the scene with me.  It is the final, greatest day of the feast.  Anticipation is in the air.  The temple is overflowing with people, watching the procession of priests as it arrives from the pool of Siloam.  The trumpets are sounding.  People are joyously singing.  Here comes the priest, solemnly carrying the beautiful golden flask with the water which represents God’s provision in the natural realm (water in the desert) and his provision in the spiritual realm (the pouring out of Holy Spirit). 

Meanwhile, the temple guards are anxiously searching the crowds, watching for Jesus and looking for a reason/opportunity to arrest him. 

A profound silence overtakes the scene as the priest is about to pour out the drink offering to the Lord.  At that precise moment, Jesus cries out.  He is probably standing in an elevated place of the temple; everyone present can both see and hear him as he loudly proclaims, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink!

The timing and the message are perfectly consistent with the way Jesus has communicated and ministered to people during his whole incarnation. 

First, let’s talk about the timing of Jesus.  Nothing could drive home the true spiritual message more than Jesus loudly speaking into the silence at the exact moment the water was being poured out. I have goose bumps just thinking about it.  I guarantee that none of the Jews present that day could have left the temple unaffected.  (As we will see, the same was true for the temple guards, whom God restrained from arresting Jesus.)

Now let’s talk about the message itself.  As was his usual practice, Jesus takes a common occurrence (in this case, their own tradition/celebration) and shows them the spiritual principle behind it. 

While their ritual was good in that it reminded them of God’s promises of salvation, deliverance and the gift of his Spirit, it was just a ritual that would pass away with the law.  By contrast, Jesus was now in their very midst, offering them the fulfillment of those same promises.

Jesus Christ, the Messiah, is the true fountain of all saving grace and spiritual gifts.  He is not a dry well or a worn-out cistern, but a fresh, clear inexhaustible fountain capable of abundantly supplying all our wants and needs. 

If we approach him in faith, eagerly thirsting for spiritual things like the Israelites thirsted for water in the desert, we can be assured we will be filled (Matthew 5:6, Isaiah 55:1). 

John 7:38 – “Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’”

To believe in Christ means to acknowledge him as Messiah, and trust in him for salvation.

The phrase ‘out of his heart will flow rivers of living water’ is not an exact quote from any particular Old Testament passage.  Rather, this was the substance or meaning that was taught throughout in the scriptures in places such as Isaiah 58:11, Isaiah 44:3-4, Ezekiel 36:23-27, Zechariah 13:1, Joel 2:28 and many others.

According to Jesus, any person who receives salvation by faith in him will become a conduit of living water/spiritual blessings.  Therefore, every Christian (working in conjunction with Holy Spirit) has the capacity to offer the salvation and spiritual blessings of Jesus to other people.  We are his agents here on earth, freely giving as we have freely received (Matthew 10:8).  In other words, we are the instruments by which Holy Spirit will be poured out upon the world.

Notice that everything Jesus says in this passage indicates a flow of his blessings, not a stagnant pond.  The blessings of Holy Spirit should be spilling out of our souls onto the hurting, thirsty souls around us.

It’s no wonder we are told to lay hands on the sick, cast out demons, provide for the poor, travail in prayer, console the broken-hearted, fight for justice and fish for men.  How are you allowing the benefits of Holy Spirit to flow through you?

Just as rivers widen and deepen over time, your spiritual conduit will grow as you allow Holy Spirit to flow through you.  So start ministering today.  As your faith grows, you can expect God to use you in more and greater ways.    

John 7:39 – Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.

Holy Spirit has always been present on the earth.  We first encounter him in Genesis 1:1 as an active agent in the creation, hovering over the waters.  The prophets, priests and kings of early Israel were all endued with a special anointing of Holy Spirit in order to accomplish their tasks in life.

In the New Testament, we find that Zacharias and Elizabeth (parents of John the Baptist) and others were also filled with Holy Spirit before the resurrection of Jesus.  Of course, Jesus himself had the Spirit without measure (John 3:34).  But these instances were limited in number.

However, God’s great plan for the ages called for a full out-pouring of the Spirit upon all believers once Jesus completed the work of redemption and returned to sit at the right hand of the Father (John 16:7).  It had to happen this way, because the indwelling presence and baptism of Holy Spirit are gifts that were paid for by the sacrifice of Jesus.

As we know, this out-pouring initially occurred in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost:

Acts 2:1-4 – And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.  And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting.  And there appeared unto them separated tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them.   And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.

Of course, all Christians have Holy Spirit dwelling in their hearts; we received him during our salvation experience.  He is the seal of our redemption (Ephesians 4:30); the guarantee of salvation/eternal life (Ephesians 1:13-14).

But believers can also receive an additional measure of Holy Spirit which is evidenced by speaking in a heavenly language.  This is commonly referred to as ‘speaking in tongues’.  This gift further empowers the believer, equipping them with boldness and other spiritual gifts, which allow them to serve Christ in a greater capacity (I Corinthians 12:7-11). 

As we know, the great fountain of God’s spiritual blessings never ceases or runs dry.  This includes baptism in the Spirit.  This wonderful, powerful gift is still available to every believer, despite what some people may claim.  If you are unsure about receiving this gift, I encourage you to search the scriptures and personally speak to someone who operates in this gift. 

John 7:40 –When they heard these words, some of the people said, “This really is the Prophet.”

In the next few verses, we find an account of the effects which the outcry or sermon of Jesus had upon the hearts of the common Jews.  (John does not include the religious leaders who were already filled with hatred against Christ).  Basically, the doctrine of Christ caused a schism in the Jewish church – there was a great diversity of opinion and heated contention over who was right and who was wrong. 

Basically, there were three different opinions.

Some of the people felt that Jesus was ‘the prophet’.  This could refer to the prophet mentioned by Moses in Deuteronomy 18:15 or the promised forerunner of the Messiah which the Jews believed to be either Elijah or possibly Jeremiah (Matthew 16:13-14).

This group regarded Jesus with reverence and respect, because they sensed something divine in him, but they clearly did not understand what he taught.  They fell short of coming to faith in him and recognizing him as the true Messiah.

John 7:41-42 – Others said, “This is the Christ.”  But some said, “Is the Christ to come from Galilee?  Has not the Scripture said that the Christ comes from the offspring of David, and comes from Bethlehem, the village where David was?”

There were others who went a step further, acknowledging him as the Messiah.  However, we find no evidence that they became true disciples and followers of Christ.  Their confession was not a life changing result of faith; it was a mere intellectual opinion and nothing more.

Still others rejected him out of simple ignorance.  They had been taught that the Messiah would come from Bethlehem (Micah 5:2) and that he would be a descendent of Jesse (Isaiah 11:1).   This much was true.

But they don’t fully investigate the facts.  It is true that Jesus is often referred to as Jesus of Nazareth or Galilee (Matthew 21:11), but his actual birth place was indeed Bethlehem (Luke 2:4). 

Any one of the people present in the temple could have investigated this apparent discrepancy by simply asking Jesus himself, or his mother, or one of his brothers.  They could have consulted the public records and examined the genealogies of the family of Jesse/David and discovered the truth about his birth place and his lineage (Luke 3:23-38, Matthew 1:1-17), but they did not.  They use their own ignorance as an excuse to reject Christ.

Ignorance of the scriptures can still be devastating to Christians today.

Hosea 4:6 – My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge…

Let’s make sure that ignorance does not steer us in the wrong direction.  We should diligently heed the advice of Paul, who admonishes Timothy to study the scriptures (II Timothy 2:15), rightly understanding the word of truth.  

John 7:43 – So there was a division among the people over him.

We cannot fail to note that the preaching of the gospel often results in division.  This seems to be true in every era, including ours.  There will be some who gladly embrace it, others who scorn it, and many who will actively fight against it.

Additionally, we cannot fail to notice that it wasn’t the heathen who were divided, it was the Jewish church.  Sadly, this is still common today.  While differences of opinion should always be heard, actual division should be closely guarded against because it renders us useless in the kingdom of heaven (Mark 3:25).

John 7:44-45 – Some of them wanted to arrest him, but no one laid hands on him.  The officers then came to the chief priests and Pharisees, who said to them, “Why did you not bring him?”

The reaction of some people in the temple was hatred.  They, like the religious leaders, had an immediate desire to arrest Jesus and take him before the Sanhedrin to be charged with blasphemy.  In fact, the rulers had already called in temple guards to arrest Jesus.

It is interesting to note that although this scenario occurred on the final and greatest day of this important religious festival, the chief priests and Pharisees couldn’t be bothered to attend the services.  Instead of worshiping and celebrating God, they were sequestered away deciding church policy (looking out for their own interests)! 

The rulers were frustrated with the temple guards.  They were sent to do one simple task – arrest a poor, insignificant, unarmed, uneducated teacher.  They even told the officers where the man would be.  It was such a simple task, a child could do it! 

Yet these armed, highly trained men who operated under the highest authority of the Jewish nation returned to their masters empty-handed.  This could be nothing less than the providence of God; He made sure Jesus had the opportunity to preach his message.   

John 7:46 – The officers answered, “No one ever spoke like this man!”

John’s narrative indicates that the officers arrived just as Jesus was making his proclamation in the temple.  They were immediately struck by his eloquence and doctrine.  Power, truth and grace were evident in his words.  By the time Jesus was finished, they were persuaded that he was from God.  They were so convinced of his innocence, that they dared not touch him.

This further enraged the religious leaders.  During the festival, they didn’t dare to openly take Jesus by force (the common people would have rebelled), so they crafted what they felt was a perfect plan – the officers would arrest Jesus and bring him into their private chambers, where they could charge/sentence him to death before his teaching completely took over the nation. 

But they too were thwarted by the hand of God.  It was NOT the time for Jesus to lay down his life, so he passed easily through this trap without getting caught in it.

John 7:47 – The Pharisees answered them, “Have you also been deceived?” 

The temple soldiers were not a bunch of village idiots.  They were experienced, disciplined military men who were street smart and politically savvy.  They had seen humanity at its worst and at its best.  No doubt, they had seen many false Messiahs come and go (Acts 5:34-37).  And they were utterly convinced that Jesus was the true Messiah.

 To any person honestly seeking the truth, these soldiers represented a powerful and credible witness for Jesus as the Son of God.  If the religious leaders were honest seekers of the truth, they would have stopped to ask why the soldiers felt this way. They would have asked to see or hear any evidence that could shed light on the matter.

But they didn’t.  Instead, they were determined to prove that Jesus was an imposter and deceiver, regardless of the facts.  We can plainly discern their envy, contempt and anger as they accuse the soldiers of being deceived by Christ. 

John 7:48-49 – “Have any of the authorities or the Pharisees believed in him?  But this crowd that does not know the law is accursed.”

The authorities mentioned here are members of the Sanhedrin, the ruling body over the religious rites and doctrines of the Jewish nation.  The Pharisees were a sect of Judaism who served on this council, along with Sadducees, priests, elders, etc. 

The main point of the Pharisees is that the soldiers should reject Jesus as the Christ simply because everyone of rank or distinction in the community already did.  The obvious implication is that only the common people, (ignorant rabble/men of earth, in their opinion) believe in Jesus as the Christ.  Obviously, this raises a number of concerns.

  • First, they were repressing the rights of every common person to examine the facts and make up their own minds regarding Jesus.  Although they loved for people to blindly follow them, God never sanctioned that.  Every Israelite should have been able to examine the evidence.    
  • Second, they were trying to refute the teaching of Jesus with contempt, not sound reasoning.  If Jesus was a fraud, then it should be easy for these religiously educated men to prove it.  But they never gave exact reasons or proofs for rejecting his doctrine.  Instead, they tried to influence people by example – they hoped that if they scorned and rejected Jesus, others would too. 
  • Third, they over stepped their authority by claiming the right to pass judgment.  It is true that the Jewish nation needed leaders who could exercise authority.  Without it, the nation would disintegrate in a hurry.  (The same is true for the modern church.  There must be people in positions of authority, or everything will become chaos).

But even though the Pharisees had authority, they made a grave error.  They were unwilling to submit this issue to God for a final judgment.  In Deuteronomy the law states that if a matter of controversy arises which is too difficult for them to judge, they are to submit it to the priests, who will then inquire of the Lord for an answer.  They were to diligently follow whatever direction God gave them.  Anyone who didn’t was to be put to death (Deuteronomy 17:8-12).

Had the Pharisees acted according to the law, they would have known Jesus was the Messiah.  

John 7:50-51 – Nicodemus, who had gone to him before, and who was one of them, said to them, “Does our law judge a man without first giving him a hearing, and learning what he does?”

How interesting that we should once again meet up with Nicodemus!  I am sure you remember him from the third chapter of John’s gospel.  He is a Pharisee and an honored member of the Sanhedrin. 

Unlike his colleagues, he had the courage to set up a meeting with Jesus (albeit at night, in secret) to investigate his teaching and question his purposes.  Nicodemus walked away from that encounter a changed man.

Now we find him in the great council where most of the leaders want to destroy Jesus out of jealousy and hatred. 

Jesus was never arraigned on charges and never had the opportunity to present a defense.  No witnesses were ever consulted in his case; yet the council had already judged and condemned him.  They were ready to carry out his execution, and probably would have if the soldiers had arrested him.  This was a gross violation of law and justice:      

Deuteronomy 1:16-17 – And I charged your judges… saying, Hear the causes between your brethren, and judge righteously between every man and his brother….  You shall not respect persons in judgment; but you shall hear the small as well as the great; you shall not be afraid of the face of man; for the judgment is God’s: and the cause that is too hard for you, bring it unto me, and I will hear it.

Exodus 23:2 – You shall not follow a multitude to do evil; neither shall you testify in a dispute to follow after a crowd to pervert judgment:

Deuteronomy 19:15 – One witness shall not rise up against a man… at the mouth of two witnesses, or at the mouth of three witnesses, shall the matter be established.

Just as things are on the verge of being out of control, Nicodemus steps up and rebukes his colleagues.  He reminds them that the law, which they claim to be experts in, requires an open impartial investigation before judgment is passed.

Although the words of Nicodemus were not exactly a robust testimony in support of Jesus, God used them to dispel this storm of persecution. 

John 7:52 – They replied, “Are you from Galilee too?  Search and see that no prophet arises from Galilee.” 

Obviously, this is a personal attack; an expression of contempt and mocking directed at Nicodemus for standing up for justice. 

To be a Galilean was a term of the highest reproach back in the days of Jesus.  The rulers were well aware Nicodemus was not from Galilee; they were implying that he had become a follower of Christ.  And since Christ was from Galilee (or so they thought) he could NOT be the Messiah. 

Let me offer you some encouragement:

Sometimes we find ourselves in the same situation as Nicodemus – we want to speak the truth and stand up for what is right, but we are timid or afraid. 

If that is the case for you, I encourage you to seek the baptism of the Spirit.  All throughout scripture we find that people who were timid or afraid operated in extreme boldness once they had received this gift. 

Acts 4:31 – And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness.  

Let me offer you some relief: 

Have you ever wanted to say something publicly for the cause of Christ, but feel like you did a poor job of it?  Have you ever thought of the perfect thing to say an hour after the opportunity passed?

I think we have all been in that situation one time or another.  So let the example of Nicodemus offer you some relief – he gave one of the weakest testimonies for Christ that has ever been given!  It was a very feeble attempt (to say the least) at standing up for righteousness, yet God used it for his purposes. 

Let me offer you some strength:

There will always be people who fight against the cause of Christ.  Some will do so out of ignorance, some out of pride and some out of hatred.  We can expect them to oppose us and our message. 

But don’t be discouraged; there will also be people who will listen to the gospel message.  For this reason, we need to be ready to share the hope Christ has given us:     

1 Peter 3:15 – But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asks you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:

Let me help you get started.  If someone asked you about Jesus right now, what would you say?  I suggest you begin with what God has done in your own life.  For instance, has he delivered you from fear or addiction?  Has he healed your body, mind or relationships?  Has he blessed you financially?  Worked some other miracle for you? 

Using your own life as a starting point for the goodness of God will result in a genuine message; you can always quote scriptures later!

John, Chapter 7, Part 3

John 7:25 – Some of the people of Jerusalem therefore said, “Is not this the man whom they seek to kill?”

As we left off last time, Jesus was in the temple at Jerusalem openly teaching and confronting the religious leaders during the Feast of Tabernacles/Booths.  Because this was an important feast, there were Jews present from all over the surrounding rural regions, as well as those of Jerusalem. 

The Jews outside of Jerusalem were obviously ignorant about the plans of the religious leaders to kill Jesus.  This was evident in John 7:19-20, where Jesus openly states there is a plot to kill him, but some of the crowd thinks he is crazy.  

However, the Jews residing in Jerusalem were well aware that something was going on, as evidenced by their comment here in verse 25.  Clearly, they had seen the rage and frustration of the religious leaders as they tried to suppress the growing ministry of Jesus.  They heard their leaders adamantly declare that Jesus was a dangerous false teacher who deceived the people.  They knew the leaders were scrutinizing everything Jesus said and did in order to charge him with a capital crime – one that carried the death penalty under Jewish law. 

The confusion of the Jerusalem Jews seems to center around the inaction of the religious leaders.  Had they not declared this man public enemy number one?  Hadn’t they vowed to arrest him and bring him before the Sanhedrin?  Since the man was right here in the temple, supposedly teaching heresy and false doctrine, why didn’t they take action against him?

John 7:26 – “And here he is, speaking openly, and they say nothing to him!  Can it be that the authorities really know that this is the Christ?”

If this was the man they were trying to silence, why on earth would the rulers simply stand by as he taught in the temple on a holy feast day (or any other day, for that matter)?

The only explanation the Jerusalem Jews can come up with is that the religious leaders had some kind of new evidence confirming that Jesus was the Messiah.  They assumed the leaders had not yet made this information public.

Of course, you and I know full well this was not the case; the religious leaders as a whole never endorsed Jesus as the Christ.  So how can we explain their inaction?

Simple – it was the providence of God.  Although the Jerusalem Jews did not recognize it, God was at work in this situation, delaying the leaders so his divine message could be effectively communicated to the common people.  No matter how hard the religious leaders tried, they could not silence the gospel message!

This is a great encouragement to us as well.  In our current time, we see more and more instances where the enemy tries to silence or hinder the preaching of the true gospel message.  But if we will stand firm and not compromise the life changing gospel, God will provide open doors for his message.  When God opens a door, no man can shut it (Revelation 3:8)!

John 7:27 – “But we know where this man comes from, and when the Christ appears, no one will know where he comes from.”

These Jews then begin to discuss among themselves the reasons why Jesus could NOT be the Messiah.  Their main point was that when the Messiah arrives, no one will know where he comes from.  But they DID know where Jesus was from, so therefore he couldn’t be the expected Messiah.  What a seemingly strange point of view!  Where did it come from?

The Jewish scholars developed their point of view from a number of Old Testament scriptures including this one from Isaiah:

Isaiah 53:8 – By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living….

And this one from Micah:

Micah 5:2 – But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days. 

This is the scripture that is commonly used to show that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem.  But notice the second portion of the verse.  The Messiah’s appearance (coming forth) would also be from ancient or prior days.  Or in the verse of Isaiah, no one would be able to declare his generation/birth/coming.

The early Jewish scholars interpreted this to mean that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem, then be hidden/taken away or disappear in some manner.  Finally, he would appear again from some unexpected place or there would be something so peculiar in the manner of his appearing/coming, that he would be easily identified as the Christ. 

As further proof of their interpretation, they used the example of Moses, who was a ‘type’ of Christ (Acts 3:22, 27).  The Jewish reasoning went something like this:  Moses was present in Egypt; he was known to all the people.  Then, he disappeared for a time (approximately 40 years in Midian) before unexpectedly returning to Egypt and leading the Israelites to the Promised Land.

Again, according to the Jewish interpretation of scripture, Messiah would do the same thing – he will be known, then hidden, and finally appear again in a peculiar manner or from an unexpected place.

In fact, the Jewish Rabbins even incorporated this belief into one of their proverbs: ‘Three things come unexpectedly: A thing found by chance, the sting of a scorpion and the Messiah’.

Now that we better understand the teaching these Jews grew up with, we can consider their case against Jesus as Messiah. 

There was no doubt that Jesus had come from Bethlehem; all of the Jews accepted that fact (Matthew 5:5, John 7:42).  But in their minds, two things prevented him from being the Messiah:

One, they knew were Jesus ‘came from’.  In other words, they knew his heritage, his lineage, his parents and his siblings (or at least they thought they did).  They knew about his flight to Egypt, his childhood in Nazareth and his training as a carpenter. 

Secondly, they insist that Jesus did not come from an unexpected place, nor was there anything peculiar in the manner of his appearing/coming.  Therefore, he could not be the Messiah.   

However, as we know they were wrong on both accounts!  Jesus was the only man ever born of a virgin.  If you ask me, that’s the most peculiar manner of appearance of any human ever born on earth!  On that basis alone, they should have seen him as the Christ! 

Also, despite the testimony of Mary and Joseph, they still believed that Joseph was the father of Jesus.  Therefore they erroneously assume they can pinpoint his father and his lineage.  But as we know, Jesus was conceived when Holy Spirit overshadowed Mary; Joseph was only the step father of Jesus.

As a side note, many modern day scholars point out that Jesus was probably referencing this very same belief when he told the Jews not to believe anyone who said they found the Messiah in a hidden/obscure place (Matthew 24:23-26). 

John 7:28 – So Jesus proclaimed, as he taught in the temple, “You know me, and you know where I come from.  But I have not come of my own accord.  He who sent me is true, and him you do not know.”

Your translation may say Jesus ‘cried’ rather than ‘proclaimed’ as our version does.  Either way, the meaning is that Jesus raised his voice as he passionately spoke these words to the people.  This expresses his earnestness in revealing the truth to them.  It also reflects the hardness of their hearts.

Because the Jews had their hearts and minds completely fixated on the natural realm, they felt they knew all there was to know about Jesus – he was Joseph’s son, an ordinary carpenter from Nazareth.

But Jesus challenges them to look with spiritual eyes; to judge righteously and not by appearance for he is much, much more than just a humble laborer.  He did not come to them under his own authority seeking his own will or glory.  He was sent by his true Father… God. 

Not only was he sent by God in the role of Messiah as a master sends a servant, but he is an actual person of the God head, emanating from God as a beam emanates from the sun.

Furthermore, his Father is ‘true’ or faithful to his word.  For this reason, Jesus could be assured that what he preached in the Father’s name was completely true and would eventually come to pass, even if the Jews rejected it.

  • The law would be fulfilled. 
  • The era of grace would unfold and flourish. 
  • The Gentiles would be welcomed into the kingdom. 
  • No matter how hard his enemies fought against him, the gospel would prevail and change the world.

Hallelujah, the same is true today!

John 7:29 – “I know him, for I come from him, and he sent me.”

The Jews did not know the real Father of Jesus at all. 

Jesus, on the other hand, was obviously intimately acquainted with his Father as they both dwelt together (along with Holy Spirit) in heaven prior to the incarnation.  Since it was the Father who sent Jesus to earth, Jesus had absolutely no doubt concerning his mission as the Messiah.  He knew what he needed to do.  He had perfect assurance that he would be successful in providing salvation for all of mankind (Isaiah 53:10).  

John 7:30 – So they were seeking to arrest him, but no one laid a hand on him, because his hour had not yet come.

Even though there was a plan to catch Jesus in a punishable/capital offense, the rulers stood by and did nothing while Jesus gave this discourse in the temple.  The reason was not as the common Jews thought (that the rulers had accepted him as Messiah).  The reason was because God prevented them from doing the evil that was in their hearts.  Nobody touched him because the appointed time and manner of his death had not yet arrived.  As Matthew Henry said, “Satan fills their hearts, yet God ties their hands”. 

Although it may not always seem like it from our point of view, this is still true.  Satan wreaks havoc in our world, but he is actually on a short leash.  He can only go as far as God allows.  God has a master plan for this world and at the correct time, he will release an anointing of his power to his saints.  He will lead us into battle against the enemy and the kingdom of heaven will be victorious, despite all efforts by Satan.

Sometimes, we have a skewed perception of the power of Satan.  In our culture, we think of good and evil being essentially equal in power, and we always hope that good will win.  While that makes for an interesting movie or book, it is a completely false concept.

The power of good and evil isn’t a 50/50 split, as we subconsciously believe.  It’s more like God allows Satan to have 0.000000001% of power/authority, but only for a hot minute and only over earth and only because mankind gave it to him in the garden.  And even during this short period, Satan’s power is not absolute.  He can only do what God allows. 

Think of it this way:  It’s like an entire football team made up of two-year-olds playing a game against a team of 25-year-old NFL players.  There is no question as to the outcome of the contest.  Satan will NEVER defeat his creator, God.  Satan will NEVER EVER sit upon the throne which belongs to the Ancient of Days.  Satan will NEVER, EVER, EVER destroy the kingdom of heaven (Isaiah 14:12-15).  Satan is a defeated foe and the only power/authority he has in your life is what you give him. 

John 7:31 –Yet many of the people believed in him.  They said, “When the Christ appears, will he do more signs than this man has done?”

Another common belief of the Jews was that the Messiah would work many miracles:

Isaiah 35:5-6 – Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped.  Then shall the lame man leap as a hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing: for in the wilderness shall waters break forth, and streams in the desert.

Jesus had given abundant evidence of his power to work miracles.  Interestingly, the miracles convinced the common people that he was the Messiah, but not the Jewish leaders.  Remember, they were enraged when the paralytic was healed on the Sabbath.

John 7:32 – The Pharisees heard the crowd muttering these things about him, and the chief priests and Pharisees sent officers to arrest him.

The teaching and interaction of Jesus with the temple crowd sparked a debate among the Jews regarding Jesus as the Messiah.  This was a good thing; many Jews believed in him on that day.  Those from more remote regions who were in Jerusalem for the feast would take that idea home with them, and further spread the gospel.

But as far as the Pharisees and priests were concerned, enough was enough!  They hastily called together a meeting of the Sanhedrin (which included the Sadducees too) and agreed amongst themselves to send some temple officers to arrest Jesus before the whole nation began to accept him as the Messiah.

John 7:33-34 – Jesus then said, “I will be with you a little longer, and then I am going to him who sent me.  You will seek me and you will not find me.  Where I am you cannot come.”

Who is Jesus addressing in these verses?  Some believe he spoke to the crowd, others think he spoke to the officers that came to arrest him, while still others believe he spoke directly to those who were actively opposing him (Pharisees, etc). 

In any case, Jesus took this opportunity to let the Jewish community know that his time on earth was drawing to a close (he would be crucified in approximately six months).  If they wanted to hear his doctrine and plant the truth of the God in their hearts, they should do so now, while he was still among them. 

The statement ‘Where I am you cannot come’ is easily interpreted.  After his resurrection, Jesus will be returning to heaven to sit at the right hand of the Father.  The great majority of Jews would reject him and the gospel message.  Therefore, they would not be able to find him as they would not be admitted to heaven (John 8:21).

However, the phrase ‘You will seek me and you will not find me’ is a bit more complex.  It refers to the Jewish nation seeking after the Messiah here on earth.  The implication is that such severe woes and calamities would come upon them, that they (the Jews) would earnestly seek and desire a Messiah/deliverer to come and save them. 

Sure enough, not long after the resurrection of Jesus, the Jewish nation was almost wiped out when Jerusalem and the temple were destroyed by Titus and his armies in AD 70.  It was a horrific war. 

You can be sure that at that time (and in the midst of every severe calamity since), the Jews have earnestly looked for the Messiah.  Sadly, since he has already come, they look in vain.  Even worse, they have also set themselves up to be deceived by anti-Christ.

We also want to note that Jesus describes himself as ‘going to him who sent me’.  This is a powerful statement which indicates that no one will take his life from him; he will both lay it down and pick it up again (John 10:17-18) at the proper time. The religious leaders and heathen kings have no power over him, except what God allows for his own purposes (John 19:10-11).

Just to be clear, ‘You will seek me and you will not find me’ does not mean that they would seek for Jesus as savior and not be able to find him.  All who call upon the name of the Lord are saved; Jesus does not cast aside any who come to him (John 6:37). 

John 7:35-36 – The Jews said to one another, “Where does this man intend to go that we will not find him?  Does he intend to go to the Greeks?  What does he mean by saying, ‘You will seek me and you will not find me,’ and, ‘Where I am you cannot come’?”

‘Greek’ is another term meaning Gentile.  At the time of Christ, the Jews were widely scattered, living in Gentile nations such as Egypt, Asia Minor, Syria, Greece, Rome, etc (James 1:1).  In all of these places they lived in Jewish communities and established synagogues.   

The Jews of Jerusalem are wondering if Jesus intends to travel to one of the foreign nations and preach in their synagogue, since the Jews of Jerusalem will not accept his message.  

Let me offer you some encouragement and some relief:

In verse 29, Jesus declares that our heavenly Father is “true” or faithful.  This means that Jesus could completely trust him because he knew his Father would do exactly has he promised. 

We can rely on God’s faithfulness as well.  He will never falter or fail to keep any of the hundreds of promises he has made to us.  God himself declares that he watches over his word to make sure his promises are kept (Jeremiah 1:12).  What promises has God given to you?  Even if it seems like a long time since the promise was made, don’t give up – God is faithful!

Here’s some more good news:  His faithfulness is not dependent upon us in any way; even when we don’t keep our promises, God is still faithful to us (II Timothy 2:15)!

 Let me offer you some strength:

If you think the world is in a hopeless situation, think again.  God is in control and nothing is impossible for him.  He wants to partner with us to bring change upon the earth.  So the best thing you and I can do is to fully commit ourselves to being good soldiers in the army of God. 

Let’s take up the armor God has provided for us, and follow as he leads us into battle by his Spirit.  Let’s pray for the sick, cast out demons and set captives free by sharing the good news of the gospel.  As we fight God’s battles, he will provide all the strength and resources we will need!

John, Chapter 7, Part 2

John 7:14 – About the middle of the feast Jesus went up into the temple and began teaching. 

Having quietly slipped by the people and religious leaders, Jesus was now present in the temple. 

Because of the feast, there was a large multitude assembled in and around the temple.  This would have been a very favorable time for Jesus to teach the people about the kingdom of heaven.

Although we don’t know exactly what Jesus taught that day, we do know that he most often used ordinary images to explain spiritual truths.  That being the case, it is likely that he taught spiritual truths/principles associated with the Feast of Tabernacles/Booths. 

In particular, he may have included doctrine about mankind being in a spiritual sojourn on earth; if we want to possess the ‘Promised Land’ of salvation, we need to accept Jesus as the ultimate sacrificial lamb. 

He probably also used the theme of harvest to explain how God will use us to assist in gathering a great harvest of souls for the kingdom of heaven.

John 7:15 – The Jews therefore marveled, saying, “How is it that this man has learning, when he has never studied?”

The teaching of the religious leaders of that day had been corrupted.  They twisted religion into something that was a burden to the people, instead of a blessing. 

On the other hand, Jesus taught pure, life-giving doctrines with simple clarity, straightforward reasoning and, no doubt, elegance of expression.  His living words were a joy to the people.

At the same time, his teaching astonished the rulers of the temple.  They couldn’t fathom how Jesus had gained such a thorough understanding of the Old Testament scriptures and Jewish traditions, as he had never earned a ‘degree’ by studying the law with the scribes.  His training from youth had been as a blue collar worker – a carpenter.        

Jesus’ understanding of the scriptures should have been a further proof to the religious community that he was the Messiah.  But instead, these men were inflamed with jealously against him. 

John 7:16 – So Jesus answered them, “My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me.”

Jesus knows how the minds of the leaders work.  They would reason that if Jesus was not teaching doctrine learned from the Scribes and elders, then he was making up a doctrine of his own.  Obviously, this would be condemned by the Jews as heresy/blasphemy.  It would provide them with a good reason to kill Jesus. 

But Jesus confronts that controversy before they even voice it.  His doctrine didn’t come from the scribes, but it didn’t come from himself either – it came directly from Father God.  In his role as the Messiah, Jesus is a messenger, delivering the word of God to mankind.

Ask yourself this…  Why did God allow Jesus to be raised and trained as a carpenter, instead of having him attend the school of the Scribes? 

Could it be because non-religious training draws even more/greater attention to the source/origin of the gospel?  Jesus was considered uneducated in his day; there is no way he should have possessed more than a common, rudimentary understanding of scripture. 

Yet, he is pouring forth astonishing truth to all the people.  The gospel message is unlike anything they have ever heard.  This bears witness to the fact that his teaching was not his own, nor did it come from any man.  It could only have come directly from Father God to Jesus, who would then reveal it to the world.      

If that is true, then Jesus MUST be the Messiah; God has commissioned him to reveal spiritual truths:

Isaiah 11:1-2 – And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots:  And the spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD…   

Interestingly, Jesus selects a group of uneducated men (fishermen, zealots, tax collectors, etc) to be the apostles.  Later, the religious leaders will be astonished at their teaching and understanding of spiritual truths as well (Acts 4:13).  Again, this is proof that the doctrines being taught are not those of man, but of God. 

John 7:17 – “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.”

Again, Jesus addresses objections before they are even raised by his adversaries. 

The people who are inclined to reject the teaching of Jesus would probably raise an objection similar to this:  ‘You claim to be sent from God, but we have no way of knowing that you are here on his behalf.  Why should we believe you are teaching the commands of God?’

Jesus replies that sound judgment flows from a fear or reverence of God.  If the hearts and minds of the Jews are fully set on the performance of God’s true will, something within their spirits will confirm that his doctrine is true.  That ‘something’ is a nudge of confirmation from Holy Spirit, who knows the mind of God (I Corinthians 2:10-13).    

This holds true not just for the Jews of that day, but for ‘anyone’ – including people alive today.     

This is of great benefit to us as believers.  If we are unsure about the teaching of someone, we can ask Holy Spirit for advice.  He will guide us into all truth (John 16:13) and illuminate our path so that we can confidently remain on the road of righteousness.

John 7:18 – “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.”

Further proof/confirmation can be found in the outcome of the teaching.

Any teaching which promotes or results in the earthly glory/honor/praise of the speaker while obscuring the glory of God is false.  It has originated from the mind and authority of man and it ought to be firmly rejected by everyone who hears it.  The true children of God will immediately recognize such a teacher as an imposter.  Again, if there is any question, Holy Spirit will reveal the truth you.    

Any teaching which results in the glory of God alone is holy and divine.  In other words, if the natural outcome of the teaching causes the hearer to love the Lord God with all of his heart, soul, mind and strength and to love his neighbor as himself, then it is a true teaching.  It should be followed closely, for it is the command of God. 

In this passage, Jesus is specifically comparing himself with the professional teachers (Scribes, lawyers, Pharisees) of his day.  They were full of pride in their knowledge of the scriptures.  They regarded teaching as a privilege exclusive to their little group and they sought to gain honor and glory from their position. 

By contrast, Jesus sought only the glory of the One who sent him to earth.  He submitted his own will to the will of the Father, and taught only what the Father expressly desired. For this reason, there was no possibility of unrighteousness being found in him.  The people could safely believe all that he revealed to them from the Father.

John 7:19 – “Has not Moses given you the law?  Yet none of you keeps the law.  Why do you seek to kill me?”

It would seem likely that after the statement of Jesus in verse 18, the religious leaders would have made some rebuttal statement, which John has not recorded for us.  We already know they were publicly branding Jesus as a deceiver of the people (John 7:12), and they probably reiterated those false accusations at this time.    

They are basing this calumny on the assumption that Jesus was not an exact observer of the law, because he had healed a man (the paralytic of chapter five) on the Sabbath.  In fact, their hatred and opposition to Jesus really took off after the healing and subsequent teachings of chapter five.   

Their logic goes something like this:  Since Jesus healed on the Sabbath, he is a violator of the law, which automatically makes him a false prophet.  Because he is a false prophet, he is a deceiver of the people.  Both of these accusations carry the death penalty, according to the law (Exodus 31:14, Deuteronomy 13:5).     

But notice, if you will, how the actions of the Jews perfectly prove the words/teaching of Jesus: 

According to Jesus, if any person has an earnest desire to know/accomplish God’s will, Holy Spirit will nudge their hearts and confirm that Jesus was giving them sound teaching.  Furthermore, they can be sure his teaching is true because it results in the glory of Father God, not his own personal glory. 

Since the Jews have branded Jesus a deceiver and they want to kill him, we can conclude they do not have the desire to know God’s will. 

Instead, they wanted to rely on the law as given by Moses.  This is where we see the final irony – this confrontation takes place during the Feast of Booths/Tabernacles.  Moses mandated that the entirety of the law must be read during this feast as a reminder to the Jews to keep the law (Deuteronomy 31:10).  Tradition says it was customary to read Deuteronomy 1:1-6:3 first.  Within that very section of the law was the command ‘Do not kill’.  But right at that very moment, they were plotting to murder Jesus.  This means that in their hearts they were planning to kill Jesus while being present at the feast and professing their commitment to keep the law!

John 7:20 – The crowd answered, “You have a demon!  Who is seeking to kill you?”

It was a common belief among the Jews that when people have lost all common sense and reason, they are being tormented by the devil or they are under demonic influence/possession.  If that is the case, we could say that many people here in the United States have a demon! 

We see a lack of sound judgment and common sense all around us.  Where does it stem from?  It is the direct result of abandoning the righteous laws of God and rebelling against his authority.  Scripture warns that those who do so will eventually lose the ability to determine right from wrong, and they will make decisions which are bad for themselves and others:  

Romans 1:28 – And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;

In Romans 1:29-31, Paul goes on to list a great number of symptoms found in those who disregard the laws of God.  Go ahead and look it up for yourself – it is an exact picture of what we see in our nation today.  It is the headline in any and every news story of our time!  I want you to notice one description in particular, found in verse 31:

Romans 1:31 – Without understanding, covenant breakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful:

Paul plainly states that those who abandon the righteous laws of God are “without understanding”.  In other words, they make foolish decisions, which result in harm and detriment to themselves and others.  

This is a very simple concept.  The laws of God bring life into our lives.  The closer we live to the righteous laws of God, the better decisions we make and the better off we will be.  Our idea of ‘common sense’ will be in harmony with God’s righteousness. 

However, if we abandon the laws of God, we are left with nothing but our own reprobate minds which have been corrupted by sin and death. 

Proverbs 16:25 – There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.

The closer we live to our own (aka Satan’s) laws, the worse off we will be because this can only result in bringing death into our lives.  Our version of ‘common sense’ will match Satan’s version, and our decisions will bring further death and destruction to ourselves and our nation.

Can this be reversed?  If so, how?

I believe this can be reversed, but it won’t be easy.  First of all, there must be a great revival in the land, which awakens the hearts and minds of people to the principles of righteous living found in the word of God.  People need to firmly believe in absolute truth as well as right and wrong as defined by God.  Only then can we make decisions that breathe life into our earthly existence.

Secondly, people must be willing to renew/conform their thoughts, desires and actions to those of God.  The apostle Paul understood this; he encouraged all believers to renew their minds:

Romans 12:2 – And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.     

Thirdly, we who are already in the kingdom of heaven MUST commit to a holy way of living.  For a long time now it has been almost impossible to determine who is in the world and who is in the church, because there isn’t much of a difference between the two.  How sad!  If we want to be the salt and light of the world, we must be different from the children of darkness.

As we return our focus to the situation of Jesus at the temple, we again notice that the ‘crowd’ asks Jesus if he has a devil, because he thinks someone is trying to kill him.  Their comment can be explained in one of two ways:   

  • The ‘crowd’ or common people present in the temple may be truly ignorant of the plot to kill Christ, which is why they deny it.  This is entirely possible because the majority of the people attending the feast live outside of Jerusalem.  In this pre-social media age, news of the assassination plot may not have been widely known.  Therefore, they think Jesus is being paranoid when he says there is a plot to kill him. 
  • The religious leaders publicly deny their true intentions and support the idea of Jesus being mentally unstable, in order to cast further doubt upon his ministry.  If they fail in their quest to kill him, the second best outcome is to ruin his credibility among the people, so no one will follow him.

John 7:21 – Jesus answered them, “I did one work, and you all marvel at it.” 

In verses 21-24, Jesus gives proof that he is not guilty of breaking the law as they claim. 

Think of him as a lawyer presenting his own defense.  He begins the case by entering the attitude of the Jews into the record.  They ‘marvel’ at the healing of the paralytic man at the pool of Bethesda (house of Mercy) and Jesus’ subsequent command for him to carry his bed. 

Specifically, ‘marvel’ means surprise and displeasure.  Rather than being grateful to God for his mercy, they were consumed by astonishment that the healing (and the carrying of the bed) were done on the Sabbath.  They considered these actions a violation of the Law of Moses (Leviticus 23:3).    

John 7:22 – “Moses gave you circumcision (not that it is from Moses, but from the fathers), and you circumcise a man on the Sabbath.”

The Jews always credit Moses for handing down the law, but not all of the law originated with him.  Specifically, circumcision was instituted long before Moses; it began under the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (the fathers).  Jesus reminds the ‘court’ that Moses was not appointing circumcision as a new institution, he was merely incorporating it into his collection of laws.

Jesus has been accused of violating the Sabbath.  He now goes on to lay out  the defense’s case, beginning with two common examples from the lives of the Jews – circumcision and the Sabbath.

The Jews had been commanded to circumcise their male children on the eighth day of life.  But they had also been commanded not to do any work on the Sabbath.  So what should the people do when the time to circumcise a child fell on the Sabbath?  Which law should prevail?

The reasoning commonly appropriated by all rabbis (including those now opposing Jesus), came from the school of Hillel the Great.  This reasoning concluded that a positive injunction (do this) always took precedence over a negative injunction (don’t do this) when the two coincided. 

Circumcision was a positive command (do this on the eighth day), while observing the Sabbath was a negative command (don’t do work, etc on the Sabbath).  Therefore, the rabbis concluded that Jewish male children should be circumcised on the eighth day, even if it was the Sabbath.   

Consequently, Jewish males were ALWAYS circumcised on the eighth day of life (Genesis 17:10-11).  Period.  No exceptions.  Again, if the eighth day fell on a Sabbath, this work was still performed, since the law of circumcision was a positive law (do this) and positive laws to precedence over negative laws. 

In other words, because it was commanded by God to circumcise on the eighth day, then doing so could not be a breach or violation of the Sabbath. 

In fact, the opposite was true.  From this (and other instances), it is evident that keeping the Sabbath, even in the strictest sense of the word, still allowed works of necessity and mercy to be done on it; and those who failed to perform such works on that day when given the opportunity were violators of every law founded on the principles of mercy and justice!     

John 7:23 – “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?”

Let’s reiterate that one more time: Keeping the Sabbath not only allowed works of necessity and mercy to be done on it; those who failed to perform such works on that day when given the opportunity were violators of every law founded on the principles of mercy and justice.

If circumcision is allowed on the Sabbath, then why are the religious leaders so angry that Jesus completely restored a man on that day?  By their own interpretation of the law, Jesus had not only the opportunity but the duty to show mercy to the paralytic that day.

It should also be noted that when the Jews circumcised a child, it was a sign of the covenant between the Jews and the Lord.  It was an assurance that God had not forgotten his people; he still watched over them and planned to bring about his plans for their lives. 

In the same way, the healing of the paralytic showed that God had not forgotten his people.  He saw the damage sin inflicted upon their lives.  He had a plan to completely heal them – body, soul and spirit.  Rather than being angry when this man was healed, the Jews should have been rejoicing that God was moving among them!  

 John 7:24 – “Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.”

On the surface, it may appear to be a violation of the Sabbath to perform circumcision on that day.  However, if one sets aside prejudice, partiality and pride and looks logically and honestly at the law, they will discover it is NOT a violation.   

Likewise, it may appear to be a violation of the Sabbath to heal a man on that day, but it isn’t.  If the religious leaders would set aside their pride and their prejudice against Jesus, and impartially look at the facts, they would certainly arrive at the correct conclusion – healing a man is NOT a violation of the Sabbath.

If Jesus really were in a court room, he would have just won his case!  Having successfully defended himself and his actions, he now gives a word of rebuke to the ‘prosecutors’ in this case – don’t jump to conclusions; impartially examine a situation and render righteous/correct judgment!

What a profound lesson for all of us!  If you have ever been in a situation where someone else judged you unjustly, you know how much that stings/wounds you.  You certainly won’t want to do that to anyone else.

So make sure you don’t jump to conclusions after hearing or seeing only one side of a situation.  Have the courage to respectfully ask the people involved to tell their side of the story.  Examine their motivations.  If the Jewish leaders had done that to Jesus, they could have avoided a public rebuke by Jesus.  Perhaps, if they laid their pride aside, they could have been convicted by Holy Spirit and accepted Jesus as the Messiah.     

Let me offer you some encouragement:

Sometimes it can be awkward to share the gospel message with people.  If that is the case for you, why not do what Jesus did – he used common examples from daily life which mirrored spiritual truths.

In this case, he used the Feast of Booths to reveal hidden spiritual principles, such as our sojourn on earth or the great end time harvest of souls. 

Think of some everyday conversations you have had recently.  Using these common topics of conversation, can you think of a way to more easily introduce the gospel message?  I bet you can!  Let’s try to make that connection more often.

Let me offer you some relief:

The religious leaders of that day were very intimidating.  If you weren’t fully educated according to their standards, you had no business being a spiritual teacher or leader in any capacity.  They were reluctant to accept anything Jesus said based on the fact that he was a mere carpenter! 

But let me offer you some relief – God doesn’t require a man-made degree in order to use you effectively in his kingdom!  If you have a right relationship with God, he will fill you with his Holy Spirit and give you power to witness, heal, teach and otherwise minister to both believers and non-believers. 

That isn’t to say that we shouldn’t study and understand the scriptures (II Timothy 2:15).  However, don’t let the absence of a degree stop you from being used in ministry!   

Let me offer you some strength:

It is vitally important that we make just judgments in every situation of life.  In order to do so, we must set aside our pride and our personal prejudices.  This can be a difficult thing to do, but unless we look at situations impartially in light of God’s truth/law, we have no hope of making right judgments.  Let’s try to make it a habit not to jump to conclusions, but to examine every side of an issue before we make a judgment.

  

    

       

John, Chapter 7, Part 1

John 7:1 – After this Jesus went about in Galilee.  He would not go about in Judea, because the Jews were seeking to kill him.

As the scene opens here in chapter 7, we find a situation of overall hostility toward Jesus. 

The support of the common people had quickly grown cold after the ‘Bread of Heaven’ sermon in Capernaum. 

The religious leaders had turned on Jesus even earlier; they were already seeking to kill him:

John 5:16-18 – And therefore did the Jews persecute Jesus, and sought to slay him, because he had done these things on the Sabbath day.  But Jesus answered them, My Father works still, and I work.  Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him, because he not only had broken the Sabbath, but said also that God was his Father, making himself equal with God.

Even his own family (see below) did not believe in him; his brothers challenged his ministry at this time and on several other occasions.

Knowing that the rage of the religious leaders had blossomed into a plan to end his life, Jesus simply stayed away from Judea/Jerusalem for a time, as not to aggravate his enemies.  His decision had nothing to do with a fear of the Jews; since his time had not yet come, there was no purpose in confronting his adversaries at that precise moment.

Instead, he travelled around Galilee teaching and ministering to all who would listen.  As he preached his way through the region, his travels brought him closer and closer to Judea and Jerusalem.

John 7:2 – Now the Jews’ Feast of Booths was at hand.

We were told that the events in chapter 6 took place near the time of the Passover (John 6:4).  Here in chapter 7, John relates events surrounding the Feast of Booths which occurs several months later.  This results in a difference of opinion among scholars.  Did Jesus attend the Passover in Jerusalem that year or not? 

  • Those who say ‘no’ maintain that Jesus stayed in Galilee during the Passover due to the open hostility of the Jews.  This theory does carry some weight because we know that the Pharisees, Scribes and other religious leaders were in Jerusalem, actively looking for Jesus so they could kill him. 
  • Others believe that Jesus would never have missed presenting himself before the Lord at the temple, as all males were required to do (Deuteronomy 16:16).  This theory also carries weight, because Jesus perfectly fulfilled the law. 

Regardless of what happened at that particular Passover, John is now relating events that took place during the time of the Feast of Tabernacles (Leviticus 23:34-43) which was also known as the Feast of Booths or the Feast of Ingathering (Exodus 23:16).

What do we know about this feast?

It began on the 15th day of Tisri and it lasted seven days (Deuteronomy 16:13-15).  Tisri corresponds to mid-September/mid-October on our calendar. This week was immediately followed by a day of solemn assembly.  This last day (or eighth day) was actually a separate celebration or closing festival (Leviticus 23:34-36).  It was considered the greatest day of the feast. 

Two things are normally being celebrated during this feast – Israel’s passage through the desert and thanksgiving for the harvest.

During the time of the desert wandering, the Jews lived a nomadic lifestyle – they moved from place to place to place, living in tents or other temporary dwellings.  Even the tabernacle was designed as a movable building.  Obviously, this phase of their existence lasted 40 years. 

Eventually, God brought them into the Promised Land, where they inherited permanent dwellings.  The Feast of Booths was a celebration that honored God for ending their wandering by giving them their own nation/inheritance.   

Since temporary dwellings (booths/huts/tabernacles) characterized the desert wandering, this was the symbol used during the Feast of Booths to remind Israel how God had kept his promises to them (Leviticus 23:34-43).  The Jews would erect temporary booths or huts and live in them for the duration of the seven day celebration.       

In Jerusalem, these structures would pop up almost anywhere –  on the roofs of houses, in the temple court and even on some of the street corners.  These simple structures typically consisted of a frame filled in with boughs of olive, palm, pine, myrtle and other trees (Leviticus 23:40).

Spiritually speaking, this world is a place of desert sojourning for every Christian; eventually God will bring us into our permanent eternal home.  While it may sometimes seem to last forever, the truth is that our lives here on earth are actually very short.  James describes the length of our earthly life as a vapor or mist, which vanishes as soon as it comes:

James 4:14 – Whereas you know not what shall be tomorrow.  For what is your life?  It is even a vapor that appears for a little time, and then vanishes away.

The Feast of Booths is an excellent reminder to us that our time/sojourn here is short.  If we want to be active in the kingdom of heaven, we must do so NOW.  None of us is guaranteed tomorrow!

The second component of this feast was a celebration of the harvest.  During the time of the desert wandering, God provided manna for the Israelites to eat.  Without his provision, they would have starved to death.  Eventually, when God brought them into their inheritance, they were able to plant crops and reap normal harvests.  So this festival is also one of thanksgiving to God for providing the food/harvest for the year.

During the seven feast days, specific offerings were sacrificed to the Lord in the temple.  Each day two rams and 14 one-year-old lambs were sacrificed.  Numerous bulls were also sacrificed – 13 on the first day, 12 on the second day, 11 on the third, etc.  This means that on the final day seven bulls were sacrificed with the weekly total being 70.  There were also specific grain and drink offerings given on these days as well (see Numbers 29:12-38 for full details).

The sacrifices for the next day, or day of solemn assembly (also called the eighth day, even though it was a separate feast) included one bull, one ram, and seven lambs plus grain and drink offerings. 

During the festival the entire Law was read in the hearing of all the Jews – men, women, children and even ‘strangers’ or non-Jewish people who were part of the nation (Deuteronomy 31:10-13). 

Why do you suppose the entire law was read to the people during this time? 

Back in the day, people did not have their own copies of the word of God as we do today.  They couldn’t just read it or study it whenever they desired, so these public days of reading were a very important review of God’s laws. 

The Bible speaks about God’s people falling away from him during times of peace and prosperity:

Deuteronomy 31:20 -For when I [the Lord] shall have brought them into the land which I swore unto their fathers, that flows with milk and honey; and they shall have eaten and filled themselves, and grown fat; then will they turn unto other gods, and serve them, and provoke me, and break my covenant.

It was therefore appropriate for the people to be reminded of God’s provision as they celebrated possession of the Promised Land and the harvests that kept them alive.

All things considered, the Feast of Booths was a very joyous and exciting celebration of the goodness of God.

John 7:3 – So his brothers said to him, “Leave here and go to Judea, that your disciples also may see the works you are doing.”

In our culture, the word ‘brother’ is a specific term used to mean a sibling.  But in the Hebrew culture, the word has a much broader definition.  It can mean any close relative, such as a cousin (first, second, third) or an uncle.

Mary had at least one sister (John 19:25), and historical writings say that Joseph had several children by a former wife.  Potentially, there were lots of ‘brothers’ or close relatives in the earthly family of Jesus. 

So while the use of the word ‘brother’ in this verse might refer exclusively to the actual half-brothers of Jesus, it could also include a much bigger group of people.

At any rate, these relatives felt like they had the right to give advice to Jesus about how to conduct his ministry.  Can you believe that?

In some ways, I can… because people still do the same thing today.  What is your ministry?  Have you ever had a brother or sister in Christ come and tell you how to run it, or what you should/should not do?  Or perhaps they are being critical of your ministry, pointing out areas where they think you could do better, while at the same time, they aren’t helping you in any way.  I have experienced this first hand; it can be a very discouraging experience.

If you have a ministry, it probably falls under the umbrella of some authority like a pastor, board of trustees, church council or something of that nature.  That’s a good idea; this authority can help you avoid trouble/pitfalls, help you manage finances, and give you wise advice.  But the true head of any Christian ministry is Jesus.  He will advise you on how to run your ministry through Holy Spirit.

So if you receive the same kind of help or advice that Jesus is about to receive, don’t let it discourage or irritate you.  Continue to be in close communion with Jesus and he will make your path clear. 

In this particular case, the brothers of Jesus advise him to leave Galilee and head for the more populated/public places.  Their earthly/fleshly minds reasoned that if a person wants to be a celebrity, they need to perform in front of as many people as possible, or at least in front of the most influential people in society.  They think that Jesus needs the support of others to have a successful ministry, or that Jesus will build his ministry on the foundation of other religious leaders. 

Based on this thinking, they conclude that if Jesus really is (or wants to be) the Messiah, he should go to Jerusalem where the church leaders resided and allow the people there to witness his miracles. 

John 7:4-5 – “For no one works in secret if he seeks to be known openly.  If you do these things, show yourself to the world.”  For not even his brothers believed in him.

It is also possible that the relatives of Jesus are mocking his claim to be the Messiah.

They more or less challenge him to prove his claim by going to the upcoming Feast of Booths/Tabernacles and performing miracles in front of the crowds that would ‘prove’ he was the Messiah, or at least make him a wildly popular new leader in the Jewish community. 

Again, their underlying thought process seems to be that any miracle or move of God that happened in a remote region was a waste of time and resources, because people of low esteem in society could not help Jesus reach his goal of being accepted as the Messiah.  The testimony of common people was worth nothing; in their opinion Jesus needed the backing of the religious leaders/influential people of Jerusalem.  They did not think Jesus was doing enough to secure that backing/support.

Although their reasoning seems ludicrous to us, it falls in line with the normal Jewish view that the Messiah was going to be a world ruler who would defeat their enemies (Rome) and immediately set up a physical kingdom on earth.

There may also have been an element of resentment or envy in their lives.  Growing up with Jesus as a brother or relative was probably somewhat difficult as he never sinned or did the wrong thing, as we often do.  Yet, at the same time, his perfection should have been a testimony to them that he was the Messiah. 

One further point:  In our last post, we discussed how Judas Iscariot was a true witness to the genuine character of Jesus.  The same was true of the family of Jesus.  If they had been fervent supporters of Jesus from the beginning, the religious leaders may have accused them of a conspiracy to make Jesus into something he was not. 

But since the family did not believe in him as Messiah, they (like Judas) would have gladly pointed out any part of his life that did not line up with his claims to be the Son of God.  Consequently, their early unbelief is further evidence of his genuine character and divine nature.  The good news is that scripture indicates they eventually DID become Christians.

John 7:6-7 – Jesus said to them, “My time has not yet come, but your time is always here.  The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify about it that its works are evil.”

The word ‘time’ may refer to either his manifestation as the Messiah, or the time of his death.  In either case, Jesus responds to this advice by telling his brothers that they have no idea what they are talking about!

They could freely go up to the Feast of Booths or the capital of Jerusalem at any time without danger, because the world is friendly and favorable to them.  By ‘world’, Jesus means men and women who retain their carnal nature because they are children of the devil (John 15:19).  They have not yet received the gospel message and allowed the Spirit to regenerate or re-birth them into the Kingdom of Heaven.  In our current vernacular we would say they are not yet ‘born again’.

Because they were still part of the world, Jesus’ relatives would largely be unnoticed at the feast.  On the surface, they were common Jews who did not oppose the members of the Sanhedrin or other religious leaders.  Spiritually speaking, they were not going to do anything that would expose the sin of the current religious system; they were of no danger or consequence to the kingdom of satan.  

Jesus, however, was a mortal enemy of the world because he exposed and reproved it of sin.  When the gospel message is clearly proclaimed, men and women recognize their guilt/sin.  Therefore, satan will do anything in his power to oppose the gospel message, because it results in the salvation of people and the destruction of his kingdom. 

For the most part, the religious community of that day was under the influence of satan.  They clearly saw Jesus as an enemy; they already made the decision to silence (kill) him as soon as possible.  Therefore, Jesus had to carefully follow the leading of Holy Spirit in regards to his appearance at the feast.

This brings up two points for our consideration:

One, Jesus didn’t seek persecution, but he didn’t run from it either.  This is a principle he displayed throughout his ministry.  It is one we have already made note of in our study of John’s gospel.  It is a principle we should live by as well.  Just like Jesus, we need to seek Holy Spirit for up-to-date information on when to confront the kingdom of darkness, and when to avoid it.  

Secondly, we can’t help but notice that satan was comfortable operating in the religious system of that day.  What religious system are you operating under? 

James 4:4 – You adulterers and adulteresses, know you not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God?  Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.

Does your church stand by the doctrines of the Bible, even though they are in direct conflict to what the world believes?  Or is satan at home in your church because it mirrors his kingdom? 

What about you personally – is there a difference between your conduct/speech/goals and that of the world?  How big of a difference?  Are you on fire for God or has your association with the world made you lukewarm?  Remember, God would rather that you are either cold or hot; if we are lukewarm like the Laodiceans, Jesus will spit us out of his mouth (Revelation 3:16)!

John 7:8-9 – “You go up to the feast.  I am not going up to this feast, for my time has not yet fully come.”  After saying this, he remained in Galilee.

Jesus tells his brothers not to wait for him.  They should go up to the feast whenever they were ready; he would come at the time that was right for him.

Jesus remained where he was until about the middle of the feast (verse 14).  Specifically, he waited until about four days after his brothers (and the vast majority of the Jews in general) had gone to Jerusalem.  By arriving separately from his family, there was a much better chance of him arriving anonymously or inconspicuously.  It is unclear whether or not he traveled to the feast with the twelve. 

John 7:10 – But after his brothers had gone up to the feast, then he also went up, not publicly but in private.

Based on what we found earlier in the gospel of John, it is very likely that all of the Jews (including the relatives of Jesus) would have traveled to Jerusalem via the roads on the eastern side of the Jordan.  Jesus, however, probably chose to go through Samaria. 

This would have given him the chance to further minister in that community, while also allowing him to avoid the crowds of people using the eastern route to the capital.  In this instance, avoiding the crowds was very prudent.  If he walked with them, he would have attracted a lot of attention; people would certainly have asked him for miracles.  Had he performed miracles of healing/deliverance/provision, it would have been published immediately upon his entrance to Jerusalem which in turn would have caused swift confrontation with his enemies.

So the combination of coming at a later time, coming alone and taking a different route resulted in his ‘private’ journey to Jerusalem.

John 7:11 – The Jews were looking for him at the feast, and saying, “Where is he?”

In this verse ‘the Jews’ refers to the Scribes, Pharisees and other official representatives of the nation (not the inhabitants of Jerusalem in general).  Apparently, they were all anxiously looking for the arrival of Jesus. 

The fact that they were looking for him tells us several things:

  • They naturally expected him to be there.  As a devout Jew and adherent to the law, Jesus attended all of the mandated feasts.  Therefore, the rulers could be absolutely certain that Jesus would attend the Feast of Booths.
  • Their hostility towards him had reached a level that produced some kind of a definite plot against him.  There can be no question about this.  They intended to kill him about six months earlier, at the Passover (John 5:18) for allegedly violating the Sabbath and for making himself equal with God.  When that didn’t work, they came up with a new plan, which they were anxious to execute. 
  • They were actively trying to prevent the common Jews from turning to Jesus.  The next verses plainly show that the Jews wanted to hear more from Jesus, but they lived in fear of the religious rulers, who warned them against following Christ.  In fact, the rulers threatened the people with expulsion from the synagogue if they supported Jesus (John 9:22, John 12:42).

John 7:12 – 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.”

Anytime people congregate in crowds or gatherings they tend to discuss current events and/or the noteworthy people of their day.  No doubt you and I can verify this by our own behavior. 

The Jews back in Jerusalem did the same thing.  As they saw friends, relatives and even acquaintances at the feast, Jesus was a common topic of conversation; his character was a source of great debate. 

  • Was he a good man?  A new prophet sent to them directly from God?  Those who had seen or experienced his miracles and heard his teaching certainly thought so.  How could anyone do such miracles unless God was with him?  Besides, Jesus taught with authority, not like the Scribes and Pharisees.      
  • Was he a charlatan; a false Messiah who was deceiving them for his own gain?  Those who were offended at his teaching certainly thought so.  Besides, if the religious rulers of the nation labeled him a heretic and a fake, who were the Jews to argue?

The multitude was certainly divided in their opinions concerning him. 

John 7:13 – Yet for fear of the Jews no one spoke openly of him.

In this instance, ‘openly’ means ‘boldly’.  This comment refers to Jesus’ supporters, not his critics.  Those who sided with the religious leaders had no reason to fear sharing their opinions. 

However, those who believed he was the Messiah dared not boldly declare it for fear of reprisals from the leaders of the nation.  They quietly said good things about him but did not boldly support him in public. 

Interestingly, our culture is moving in the same direction.  Those who believe in definite truth or right and wrong as outlined in the Bible are marginalized or accused of being hateful to certain segments of society.  Many media outlets and social media sites want to block any free speech about Jesus or absolute truth or what the Bible classifies as right/wrong.  Even government is trying to curb our freedom to practice Christianity and stand up for righteousness. 

Personally, I expect this trend to continue.  But I also expect God to release a powerful move of Holy Spirit on the earth.  With his anointing, we can boldly confront those who oppose us, as the disciples did after the day of Pentecost.  With his anointing, we can expect miracles to once again be commonplace in the church.  And we can expect a world-wide harvest of souls… perhaps even the greatest enemies of the cross will become our brothers and sisters.  AMEN!

Let me offer you some encouragement, relief and strength:

Family… sometimes there is nothing better and sometimes there is nothing worse!

The family of Jesus did not understand or accept his role as the Messiah (at first).  They had a mixture of unbelief, envy and true concern which caused them to ridicule and question his every move.  Some of us have family who do the same!

But Jesus did not allow them to side track his mission; he continued to follow the leading of Holy Spirit.  He maintained his relationships with his family, despite their efforts to make his life harder.  There is no evidence to suggest that he argued or became angry with them, even though they did not believe in him as Messiah.  (Let’s face it… he could have called down fire from heaven to consume them, but he didn’t.  I wonder if we would make the same choice!)

Scripture indicates that eventually, after Jesus’ death and resurrection, his brothers become Christians and entered into the kingdom of heaven.

Perhaps you have a similar situation – a loved one who mocks and/or questions your faith.  They may even throw every mistake you make in your face.  I have a relative like this, and sometimes it can be very exasperating!

My advice (or what I try to do anyway), is follow the lead of Jesus.  I continue to lift this relative up before the throne of God, asking for their salvation.  I continue to maintain contact with them, even when they spew hateful rhetoric about the gospel.  I try to reason with them and engage in debate with them, while still loving them.  I know you are doing the same for your unsaved loved ones.

Let us steadfastly continue to minister to them, no matter what.  I have faith that someday they will surrender to Christ, just as the brothers of Jesus did.  In the meantime, we will not give up on them!