Read John 7:14-24
It looks like Jesus couldn’t stay away from the Festival of Tabernacles any longer. Halfway through the week-long celebration, He made an appearance. When He did, He didn’t find some side tent or hidden area, He went straight to the temple courts.
The Jews there were amazed and asked, “How did this man get such learning without having been taught?” John 7:15
Jesus appears to be speaking to several people at the same time. Sure, they want to know where His rabbinic teaching came from, but I really don’t think they’re listening. They seem to be lost in the credentialling world. Until they understand that Rabbi ____ (fill in the blank) approved of Jesus, they are not about to listen to His teaching. Well, not all of them. I have no doubt that some are in fact listening.
Jesus explains that His teaching came from God. He says this in a way to help them understand fully:
Jesus answered, “My teaching is not my own. It comes from the one who sent me. Anyone who chooses to do the will of God will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own. John 7:16-17
It’s good to remember that John is providing the important points from the discussion. This is not a mere transcript. As we unpack the verses above we hear clearly that Jesus was taught by God, His Father. For many, that statement alone was enough to incite incredible anger. In my imagination, I see the faces of men who are about to lose it.
Jesus picks up on their threatening posture and beats them to the very thought that is in the minds of some who are listening (not all):
Has not Moses given you the law? Yet not one of you keeps the law. Why are you trying to kill me?” “You are demon-possessed,” the crowd answered. “Who is trying to kill you?”John 7:19-20
Those who are vocal conclude that Jesus is crazy, out of His mind. We shouldn’t expect those who are convinced that Jesus should be killed will raise their hands. No way. The plot thickens. In John’s gospel, we’re not that far away from Gethsemane.
I can’t help but get lost in thought about John, the Apostle, the man. He’s getting old as he sits down to write this narrative for the benefit of others who are trying to understand who Jesus is and whether they should join the cause of Christ followers, The Way. Imagine yourself in his shoes. Your closest friends, the ones you did ministry with when Jesus was walking around in flesh, these faithful few have been martyred for proclaiming the Good News. They’ve either been killed or will be tracked down and executed as they stand up for the cause of Christ.
Crowds like the one Jesus is debating with are too familiar to John, he saw them all the time. Everywhere he went. Probably every day. As he looks back at the time when Jesus was teaching, he takes comfort in knowing that the Master Himself had to deal with vicious attacks.
Read the last section in this passage from that perspective. Jesus refers to an event where He miraculously healed a lame man on the Sabbath. This is why He’s referring to Moses, the one Patriarch upon which they all agree upon.
Now if a boy can be circumcised on the Sabbath so that the law of Moses may not be broken, why are you angry with me for healing a man’s whole body on the Sabbath? Stop judging by mere appearances, but instead judge correctly.” John 7:23-24
Jewish law required male circumcision on the eighth day after birth. There is a one in seven chance that your baby boy was going to have to be circumcised on the Sabbath. No problem. Since this happens so frequently, we won’t call this breaking the Sabbath. However, if you miraculously heal someone who’s been lame for decades, well, that’s another issue altogether! (I hope the sarcasm sign is flashing in your head.)
Jesus doesn’t tell them to accept everything; He tells them to judge correctly! Stop acting like idiots!
How many times do we get caught checking our rules so carefully that we miss the intent God has for us in the moment. Lord, help us not to judge by mere appearances. Change our hearts to see clearly the direction we should move. And help us to move!