Sermon title: GOD’S
PATIENCE WHEN WE QUESTION HIM
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.
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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.
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."
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.
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.
“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.