In John 7:14ff, there are three different groups of people in Jerusalem. The first group -- is the Jewish leaders…the Pharisees and Chief Priests, as well as the Scribes. These men all have theological differences…different understandings in relationship to God, but they all agreed on one thing – they are all opposed to Jesus. The second group -- is those who have come to Jerusalem in order to worship…many of whom will not be influenced by the attitudes of the religious leaders. The third group -- is composed of Jews who live in Jerusalem, and who will likely side with the religious leaders. Jesus’ character has already been called into question. Now, when Jesus begins to teach openly in the temple, the debate among the folks shifts to His doctrine. The Jews are amazed at what He is teaching, because He does not have any credentials from their approved rabbinical schools. Since Jesus lacks this “proper accreditation,” His enemies say that His teachings are nothing but private opinions and not worth much.
It has often been said that, while the Pharisees and Scribes taught from authorities, quoting all of the famous rabbis, Jesus was one who taught with authority. Jesus explains that His doctrine comes from the Father. He has already made it clear that He and His Father are One in the works that He performs, and in His judgments. The Jewish leaders do not understand Jesus’ teaching, because they have stubborn wills and will not submit to Him. In fact, they are openly trying to kill Jesus…and yet, they claim to understand God’s truth and obey it. I would say that there is a serious disconnect, here. The first debate is with the Jews -- the visitors to the city enter into the discussion, although they are not aware of the religious leaders’ intent to put Jesus away for good. They make a serious accusation of their own in relationship to Jesus’ words by saying that they believe He has a demon. But, Jesus uses their very own Law of Moses in order to refute their arguments; He knows that they will not give in…they have already hardened themselves at this point. Finally, the residents of Jerusalem come into the conversation. They know that the rulers want to get rid of Jesus, and they are amazed that He is teaching openly and getting away with it! Their question seems logical to them – nobody knows where the Christ comes from, but we know where Jesus of Nazareth has come from. Conclusion – Jesus cannot be the Messiah. Once again, the people cannot see the truth, because they are blinded by what they believe are dependable facts.
At this point, Jesus raises His voice so that everyone can hear – “yes, you think you know me and where I come from, but you really do not!” Then He explains why they do not know Him – they do not know the Father! Ouch. This is a serious accusation to make against an orthodox Jew, who claims to know the true God of Israel! Jesus’ claim to be God, needless to say, creates an uproar, but they are unable to seize Him, because His time has not yet come. Some would begin to trust in Him, like Nicodemus…and this creates further resentment by the religious leaders. Had these men truly been willing to do God’s will, they would have know the truth…and soon it will be too late for them. Jesus is God…and He speaks for His Father. This creates both hardship and blessing for Him.
At a banquet honoring Orville and Wilbur Wright, the famous aviation pioneers, the toastmaster calls upon Wilbur to make a speech. Both of the famous brothers are extremely shy. Wilbur rises to his feet only long enough to stammer, “There must be a mistake, I think that you want my brother.” Wilbur quickly sits down and the toastmaster calls upon Orville who replies, “Wilbur just made the speech.” :-) This is kind of funny, but underscores the humility and reserve that we should consider. We don’t know everything…in fact, we don’t know very much in the grand scheme of things. We need to look into our own hearts and consider – where is my focus? Is it upon learning, growth? Or, is it on defending my understanding of life and religion? We look at the account just told concerning Jesus and the crowd…and objectively, we have 2000 years of experience to tell us – we know who is in the right and who is in the wrong. We go, “sic ‘em, Jesus…those idiot Jews didn’t understand a thing.” Yet, one thing I have learned about us humans…we’re not very good at reserving judgment – we jump to conclusions too quickly without giving the Lord to time to work…particularly in our own lives.
I have come to a realization -- we believers think that we are like Jesus in our seeking moral and ethical purity and maturity in spiritual matters, but...we think and act more like the Jews many times. We all have work to do as it relates to humbling ourselves and being willing to submit to one another. We need to think about why we say what we say and do what we do…it all comes from the heart. Our hearts are often too bent toward self-righteousness – I know what is right! Just like the Jews. And yet, nothing may be further from the truth. Jesus tries to get our attention sometimes and we can’t see Him or see it for what it’s worth, because we have been blinded by our own wants, desires…even our own suppositions and traditions can keep us from truly seeing what He may want for our lives. So, we think that we are like Jesus…but are we continually challenging ourselves and being challenged? This is how Jesus lived. Or, like the Jews, am I threatened and upset every time some challenge comes my way? These are important questions that we need to ask ourselves. It is a humbling thing to try to live like Jesus…it is a not necessarily an easy thing, but...we are never going to grow with “easy.” Living and speaking for God is a serious concern…one that frequently turns us upside down. It is humbling, challenging…and in Jesus’ case, continually life-threatening. Let us hope and pray that our speech and actions more closely resembles Jesus…and not that of the Jews…when it comes to living and sharing our faith.