Sermon title:  GOD’S PATIENCE WHEN WE QUESTION HIM
John 7:26-49

   

                        Immanuel Baptist Church – Sunday, November 4, 2018

 

 

 

 

We spent the Sundays of October

looking at some of the Bible’s “End Times” prophecies.

And, during November and December

we’ll focus some of our sermons

on the holidays.

 

But, in the meantime, my aim is to resume

our coverage of the Gospels in chronological order.

 

We’ve been looking at everything

that our Lord and Savior said and did,

in the order that those things occurred.

 

Jesus spent the first 30 years of his life on earth

working in the carpentry shop

of his adopted father Joseph.

 

Then at age 30, Jesus was baptized by his cousin John the Baptist,

and our Lord began his active ministry on earth,

which lasted about 3-1/2 years.

 

We’ve reached a point

in our chronological coverage of the Gospels,

more than half way through

that earthly ministry.

 

Jesus has been preaching and teaching

and performing miracles of healing the sick

and raising the dead

for a couple years, now.

 

He speaks more and more about the cross that awaits him.

 

And his enemies, the religious leaders in Jerusalem,

are already looking for ways to kill him.

 

Jesus’ brothers—the sons Mary bore to Joseph in the years

following Jesus’ miraculous virgin birth—

they still don’t believe in Jesus.

 

We left off our chronological coverage

at the time of year when all able-bodied Jews

made their way up to Jerusalem

to celebrate the Jewish “Feast of Tabernacles” —

an 8-day celebration

spelled out in the Law of Moses

for all Jews to celebrate.

[  OPEN  ]

In John Chapter 7, where we pick up our chronology again,

Jesus’ brothers had just left Galilee for Jerusalem,

daring Jesus to go there, too,

and show himself publicly,

even though Jerusalem was becoming

a dangerous place for Jesus,

with enemies looking for the right opportunity

to have him killed.

 

Jesus didn’t leave Galilee with his younger brothers,

but told them to go on without him.

 

Then he himself left with his disciples.

 

On the way, they passed through Samaria.

 

We devoted three sermons

to what Jesus said and did on the way—

including how he rebuked his disciples James & John

who wanted to call down fire from heaven

on a Samaritan village

that refused them hospitality.

 

They traveled openly through Samaria,

but it was Jesus intention to arrive at Jerusalem secretly

and keep his presence there a secret

during the first part of the 8-day feast.

 

We pick up our chronological coverage again,

in the Gospel of John, Chapter 7, Verse 11.

 

11 Now at the Feast the Jews were watching for him

and asking, "Where is that man?"

 

Now we remember, of course,

that the Apostle John who wrote this

was Jewish himself.

 

And Jesus was a Jewish carpenter,

who was now viewed as a Jewish rabbi,

because he had become a preacher and teacher.

 

So, when John writes that the Jews” were watching for him,

he is referring to the religious leaders,

the chief priests and temple officials.

 

They were the ones who were jealous of Jesus

and who felt threatened

by his growing popularity.

 

They were the ones who wanted to kill him.

 

The people, in general, had mixed opinions,

as we continue to read,

 

12 Among the crowds

there was widespread whispering about him.

 

Some said, "He is a good man."

 

13 Others replied, "No, he deceives the people."

 

But no one would say anything publicly about him

for fear of the Jews.

 

Again, the people in the crowds were all Jews,

so when it says they kept quiet about Jesus

“for fear of the Jews,”

that means they were afraid of

their leaders and synagogue rulers.

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Jesus kept himself hidden

throughout the first four days of the 8-day feast.

 

Then, four days into the feast,

he began to teach openly in the temple.

 

14 Not until halfway through the Feast

did Jesus go up to the temple courts

and begin to teach.

 

The temple courts were filled with crowds of people,

and Jesus simply began teaching them.

 

15 The Jews were amazed and asked,

"How did this man get such learning

without having studied?"

 

They knew he was a carpenter

and had not been to any of their rabbinical schools.

 

It was an informal gathering,

there in the temple courtyard—

almost like street corner preaching—

and so, people in the crowds felt free

to speak up,

and to shout things to one another

and to Jesus.

 

16 Jesus answered, "My teaching is not my own.

It comes from him who sent me.

 

17 If anyone chooses to do God's will,

he will find out

whether my teaching comes from God

or whether I speak on my own.

 

18 He who speaks on his own

does so to gain honor for himself,

but he who works for the honor

of the one who sent him

is a man of truth;

there is nothing false about him.

 

So, Jesus identified the source of his teaching

as Almighty God himself.

 

And he made clear that he came from God,

and that his teaching came from God.

 

But now he throws out a challenge and an accusation

against the leaders.

 

19 Has not Moses given you the law?

Yet not one of you keeps the law.

 

Why are you trying to kill me?"

 

So, Jesus exposes them as being unfaithful to God

by not keeping the Law of Moses.

 

And then he shows

that he is aware of their plot to kill him,

and he asks, “Why are you trying to kill me?"

 

20 "You are demon-possessed," the crowd answered.

"Who is trying to kill you?"

 

Demon-possessed people act crazy,

so they are essentially saying to Jesus,

“You’re crazy, you’re paranoid—

who’s trying to kill you?”

 

These back-and-forth exchanges

between Jesus and people in the crowd

are really amazing.

 

When you think of it,

that this is the Lord of heaven and earth—

the one who created the universe

and everything in it—

and yet he puts up with people disrespecting him

and talking to him like this,

it’s really amazing.

 

But Jesus held back

from destroying them on the spot,

and instead continued dialoging with them.

 

He knew that the religious leaders wanted to kill him

ever since he healed a man on the Sabbath

and rebuked them for their hard-heartedness.

 

21 Jesus said to them, "I did one miracle,

and you are all astonished.

 

22 Yet, because Moses gave you circumcision

 

(though actually it did not come from Moses,

but from the patriarchs),

 

you circumcise a child on the Sabbath.

 

Yes, the Law of Moses required

that a new-born baby boy be circumcised

on the eighth day following his birth—

even if that eighth day happened to fall on a Sabbath.

 

23 Now if a child can be circumcised on the Sabbath

so that the law of Moses may not be broken,

why are you angry with me

for healing the whole man on the Sabbath?

 

24 Stop judging by mere appearances,  

and make a right judgment."

 

That reminder

of why the leaders were angry with Jesus

evidently ‘rang a bell’ in the minds

of many in the crowd.

 

Maybe he wasn’t so crazy, after all.

 

It isn’t paranoid to think that people are trying to kill you,

if they actually are.

 

25 At that point some of the people of Jerusalem

began to ask,

"Isn't this the man they are trying to kill?

 

So, it was publicly known that the leaders

were looking for an opportunity to kill Jesus.

 

And that led some of them to ask,

 

26 Here he is, speaking publicly,

and they are not saying a word to him.

Have the authorities really concluded

that he is the Christ?

 

Besides knowing that the leaders really did want to kill Jesus,

the crowds also knew that the real issue

was whether Jesus was the promised Messiah, the Christ.

 

27 But we know where this man is from;

when the Christ comes,

no one will know where he is from."

 

Jesus knew what the people were whispering among themselves,

and even what they were thinking.

 

28 Then Jesus, still teaching in the temple courts, cried out, "Yes, you know me,

and you know where I am from.

 

I am not here on my own,

but he who sent me is true.

 

You do not know him,

29 but I know him

because I am from him and he sent me."

 

30 At this they tried to seize him,

but no one laid a hand on him,

because his time had not yet come.

 

31 Still, many in the crowd put their faith in him. They said, "When the Christ comes,

will he do more miraculous signs than this man?"

 

So, the people were divided.

 

But all of this open discussion

helped some people think through the issues

to put their faith in Jesus as the promised Messiah.

 

And it brought out into the open

the evil that was in the hearts of other people.

 

32 The Pharisees heard the crowd

whispering such things about him.

 

Then the chief priests and the Pharisees

sent temple guards to arrest him.

 

Jesus knew they were coming for him,

but he continued to teach the crowds openly:

 

33 Jesus said, "I am with you for only a short time, and then I go to the one who sent me.

 

34 You will look for me,

but you will not find me;

and where I am, you cannot come."

 

Jesus meant that he would be going back to the Father in heaven.

 

But the crowds didn’t understand.

 

35 The Jews said to one another,

"Where does this man intend to go

that we cannot find him?

 

Will he go

where our people live scattered among the Greeks,

and teach the Greeks?

 

36 What did he mean when he said,

'You will look for me, but you will not find me,'

and 'Where I am, you cannot come'?"

 

The account skips ahead now,

from the fourth day of the feast,

and to the eighth day.

 

37 On the last and greatest day of the Feast,

Jesus stood and said in a loud voice,

"If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink.

38 Whoever believes in me,

as the Scripture has said,

streams of living water will flow from within him."

 

39 By this he meant the Spirit,

whom those who believed in him

were later to receive.

 

Up to that time the Spirit had not been given,

since Jesus had not yet been glorified.

 

Jesus often said things like that—

things that wouldn’t be understood until later,

after his death and resurrection.

 

But, even at that time,

the people standing there listening to him

were able to grasp

that Jesus was the Prophet

who Moses promised would come,

the anointed Messiah, the Christ.

 

40 On hearing his words, some of the people said, "Surely this man is the Prophet."

 

41 Others said, "He is the Christ."

 

42 Still others asked,

"How can the Christ come from Galilee?

 

Does not the Scripture say that the Christ

will come from David's family and from Bethlehem,

the town where David lived?"

 

Apparently this crowd didn’t know

that Jesus was indeed born in Bethlehem, the city of David,

in fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy.

 

But he lived and preached in Galilee,

in fulfillment of Isaiah 9,

which starts out saying,

“in the future he will honor Galilee

and then goes on to talk about the Christ

who would “reign on David’s throne . . . forever.”

 

So, the Old Testament did prophesy

that the Christ would come from Galilee.

 

Perhaps some in the crowd realized this,

while others were looking for reasons to reject Jesus.

 

43 Thus the people were divided because of Jesus.

 

44 Some wanted to seize him,

but no one laid a hand on him.

 

No one laid a hand on him.

 

That’s interesting, because, if you remember

we just read that on the 4th day of the feast

the chief priests and the Pharisees

sent temple guards to arrest him.”

 

Yet, here it was 4 days later,

on the 8th and final day of the feast,

and no one laid a hand on him.

 

Those temple guards who had been sent to arrest Jesus—

they must have been standing there, among the crowds,

for four days, just listening to Jesus,

instead of arresting him.

 

We continue to read,

 

45 Finally the temple guards

went back to the chief priests and Pharisees,

who asked them,

"Why didn't you bring him in?"

 

46 "No one ever spoke the way this man does,"

the guards declared.

 

47 "You mean he has deceived you also?"

the Pharisees retorted.

 

48 "Has any of the rulers or of the Pharisees

believed in him?

49 No! But this mob that knows nothing of the law--there is a curse on them."

 

This shows how arrogant and conceited the religious leaders were.

 

They looked down on the ordinary people

as ignorant and cursed.

 

No wonder the people in the crowd

were afraid of their leaders!

 

And, no wonder the religious leaders rejected Christ!

------------------------------------------

 

But not all of them did.

 

Remember Nicodemus, who we read about back in John Chapter 3?

 

Nicodemus had gone to Jesus secretly,

at night, so no one would see him.

 

And Jesus taught Nicodemus about being ‘born again.’

 

He was one of the religious leaders,

and now he speaks up among the leadership.

 

50 Nicodemus, who had gone to Jesus earlier

and who was one of their own number, asked,

 

51 "Does our law condemn anyone

without first hearing him to find out

what he is doing?"

 

52 They replied, "Are you from Galilee, too?

Look into it, and you will find

that a prophet does not come out of Galilee."

 

They were wrong, of course, but they wanted to reject Jesus,

while Nicodemus went on to become a disciple of Jesus,

and he later accompanied Joseph of Arimathea,

when claiming Jesus’ body after his crucifixion.

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As we think about this passage

it’s amazing how the one who created the universe

allowed people to challenge him

and to doubt him and question him like that.

 

But our God loves of truth and righteousness.

 

And he knows that human hearts and minds

need to engage in free inquiry

in order to arrive at truth,

and to know what is right.

 

We need to compare truth and error,

so that truth will stand out from error.

 

Some human leaders expect their followers

to just “Sit down and shut up!”

 

But our God is not like that.

 

When the Apostle Paul brought the Gospel to the city of Berea,

and the Jews there heard about Jesus for the first time,

Acts 17:11 says that they checked carefully

to see whether what Paul told them was true.

It says,

“Now the Bereans were

of more noble character than the Thessalonians,

for they received the message

with great eagerness

and examined the Scriptures every day

to see if what Paul said was true.”

 

Acts commends them for that attitude.

 

And, not only was it allowable

to check up on the Apostle Paul

but God even allows us to check on him.

 

In Genesis, Chapter 18,[ OPEN ]

Abraham heard that God was going to destroy

the sinful cities of Sodom and Gomorrah,

and Abraham challenged God on it.

 

Here in Genesis 18, Abraham actually

has a back-and-forth discussion with God,

questioning whether it is right for God to destroy Sodom.

 

In Verse 23, we read,

23 Then Abraham approached him and said:

"Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked?

 

24 What if there are fifty righteous people

in the city?

 

Will you really sweep it away

and not spare the place

for the sake of the fifty righteous people in it?

 

25 Far be it from you to do such a thing—

to kill the righteous with the wicked,

treating the righteous and the wicked alike.

Far be it from you!

 

Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?"

 

Imagine!  Our God is open to discussion like that.

 

After the Lord assures Abraham

that he will not destroy Sodom

if he finds 50 righteous people there,

Abraham pushes the issue further,

 

"Now that I have been so bold as to speak to the Lord, though I am nothing but dust and ashes,

28 what if the number of the righteous

is five less than fifty?

Will you destroy the whole city

because of five people?"

 

And Abraham continues the discussion,

whittling down the number each time,

until God finally assures him

that he won’t destroy the city

if he finds even 10 righteous people there.

 

Abraham was concerned about God’s plan

to destroy the city of Sodom

because Abraham’s nephew Lot was living there.

 

As it turns out, God doesn’t find

even 10 righteous people in Sodom,

and so he does destroy the city.

 

But first he sends angels

to lead Lot and his family to a place of safety.

 

Have we ever questioned God’s fairness and goodness?

 

We may have been afraid

that God’s judgment

would ensnare a loved one of ours.

 

Even now, we may have doubts and fears in that regard.

 

Our heavenly Father put these passages into the Bible

to assure us that God is patient with us,

when we question him like Abraham did.

 

He is the judge of all the earth,

and he will do what is right.

 

He will do what is right and good and true and merciful.

 

Jesus was patient with those people in the crowd

who questioned and challenged him.

 

He put up with us

back when we were unbelievers

and thought or spoke disrespectfully of him.

 

And he puts up with us even now,

when we struggle with our faith,

or when we have questions that trouble us.

 

It wouldn’t be appropriate

to stand up and shout questions or challenges

here during Sunday service.

 

But our Wednesday evening Bible study

is open to discuss our questions, doubts and fears.

 

And there’s no shame in bringing questions up privately,

with God in prayer,

or with mature brothers and sisters in the church.

 

Like the crowds that were discussing questions

back-and-forth with Jesus in the temple courtyards,

we may not get all our questions answered.

 

But God will supply what answers we need

to put our faith in Jesus

and to trust that he is the Way and the Truth and the Life,

and that he holds the answers

to all our questions.