Expository Sermon on John 7
Bellevue SDA Church 11/3/2018
©2018 by Maylan Schurch
To hear the audio for this sermon, click the triangular “play” button on the line below:
Please open your Bibles again to first John chapter 7.
We are nearing the end of 2018, and we are also nearing the end of a sermon series I have been preaching all year, called “Red Print.” What we’ve been doing Sabbath by Sabbath is looking at many of the actual words Jesus spoke, finding out what He really said to us.
I don’t know if you had the same experience I have, but every once in a while I come across a quotation which is supposed to be from the pen of Mark Twain or William Shakespeare or Andrew Carnegie or some other eminent person. But as you read the quote, you realize that it sounds so contemporary, so 21st-century, that you wonder if the person it’s attributed to actually said those words in that way.
I am nowhere near an eminent person, but this actually happened to me. Several years ago, Chris Blake (who was the editor of Insight magazine in the 1980s) wrote a book. Since I had written some articles for him, he sent me some of the book’s chapters to get my opinion. My opinion was that Chris is a great writer and had done a wonderful job, and I told him so.
Later on, he emailed me back and asked if he could use something I said on the back cover of the book, as a kind of promo for it. I told him “Sure.” So when the book was published, I get a copy of it at the Adventist Book Center, and looked for my quote on the back. Sure enough, it had a sentence there, and had my name after it. But the sentence was nothing I had ever said. I don’t remember what I did say, but somebody – and I know it wasn’t Chris – had looked at what I’d said and decided it was pretty boring, so they made something up and put my name under it.
Here’s what they put – and I’m paraphrasing here, because last night I couldn’t remember where I the book was so I could look at it. Here’s what they had me say: “This book is the birthed baby of Chris’s passion.”
I never said that. I would never say that. I don’t like people thinking I said that. But people who bought the book and looked at the back probably believed beyond the shadow of a doubt that this was the way I talk.
Since then I’ve found myself looking at the promos on the back of books with a lot more suspicion. And sometimes, even though several people might be quoted on the back of a book, and all these different recommendations seem to have the exact same writing style. In other words, one anonymous person just sat down and made up a lot of quotes.
Now, I’m certain that the fact that my supposed quote was on the back of Chris’s book had absolutely no effect on the sales, so in a way, it’s not that big of a deal. But it was a lie, and I don’t like being part of a lie.
Right now, in our Red Print series, we have arrived at John chapter 7. To me, John six, seven and eight are this book’s most frightening chapters to read. The reason I think that is because in those chapters you hear the words and the shouts and the snarls of people who are viciously disagreeing with Jesus, and about Jesus. He has come to tell them truths that they need to hear, and many of them are bent on revenge toward Him.
But truth needs to be told. Right now we’re passing through an intensely political time—and make sure you vote by the time Tuesday comes around. And politics was what was happening in John 7. Jesus was campaigning for the truth which He was bringing from His Heavenly Father, and some of His hearers were campaigning for Him, and some were campaigning against Him. And several of those campaigning against Him would murder Him within the next few weeks.
Because the truth Jesus was teaching was important. It was important for the people back then, and John recorded it in his Gospel because it has been important for people to hear ever since then. It’s important for us to hear this morning.
So, using the Red Print words of Jesus, I would like us to look at how to find truth – specifically this truth Jesus wants us to know. So let’s dive right into the story.
As far as I could tell, as I read through the chapter this week, what happens here is partly fallout from the event that happened at the start of John chapter 5, the healing of the invalid at the pool of Bethesda on the Sabbath. Everybody was still talking about that, and Jesus’ enemies are trying to use that Sabbath healing to prove that He disobeyed God’s law, and therefore that He was not only untrustworthy but a dangerous heretic.
In this chapter there are different groups who are wrestling with Jesus about truth. So let’s see what’s happening.
John 7:1 [NKJV]: After these things Jesus walked in Galilee; for He did not want to walk in Judea, because the Jews sought to kill Him.
Right away we need to make something very clear. When it says “Jews,” it’s not talking about the entire group of Jewish people. If you are using the New King James Version this morning, as I am, you’ll see a little footnote entry which says that these were “the ruling authorities.” (We know that it wasn’t every single Jewish person who opposed Him, because later in the chapter it says that many believed in Him. And a month and a half later, on the day of Pentecost, three thousand Jewish persons will be baptized.
So here, amid the roiling turmoil of people in this chapter, we see the first group of people Jesus was doing His “truth-battle” with – the religious authorities. As the chapter goes along, Jesus will be giving them more and more truth that they need to know.
Also, as we go along through John 7, we’ll see that these religious authorities’ attitude toward the truth about Jesus was that they ignored truth, and they wanted to eliminate Him. They wanted Him gone.
Earlier this week you may have heard the story about how 89-year-old former Irish mob boss James “Whitey” Bulger was murdered in prison. Bulger had spent most of his life as a criminal, and had been found guilty of being involved in 11 murders. When he wanted someone gone, he made sure they were killed. And in a gristly bit of poetic justice, someone finally wanted Whitey Bulger gone, and saw that it happened.
And as I mentioned, we’ll see the religious authorities at work through this whole chapter.
But there’s another group of people who had to wrestle with the truth about Jesus. Look at verse two.
Verses 2 – 5: Now the Jews’ Feast of Tabernacles was at hand. His brothers therefore said to Him, “Depart from here and go into Judea, that Your disciples also may see the works that You are doing. For no one does anything in secret while he himself seeks to be known openly. If You do these things, show Yourself to the world.” For even His brothers did not believe in Him.
This is a very surprising statement, isn’t it? Here were men who had grown up – we are assuming – in the same house with Jesus. They knew Him better than anyone else except Mary and Joseph. But they still didn’t believe in Him.
But they did have some advice for Him. While the religious authorities want to Jesus gone – and we will see this very clearly in the next few verses – Jesus’ brothers seem to think that if He really wants to be influential, what He needs is a bigger social media platform. They say, “Look, you’ve got ideas you seem to want to spread around? So get out there and do some networking. Build your platform.”
So what truth did Jesus tell His brothers?
Verses 6 – 7: Then Jesus said to them, “My time has not yet come, but your time is always ready. The world cannot hate you, but it hates Me because I testify of it that its works are evil.
In other words, the truth Jesus was doing His best to get across to those who listened to Him was not one that was designed to add to His popularity. He wasn’t telling people things they wanted to hear. Instead, He was telling people what they needed to hear. And what they needed to hear is the same thing we need to hear.
We need to be reminded that there is none righteous, no, not one. All have sinned and come short of the glory of God. All our righteousnesses are as filthy rags. The wages of sin is death, and there’s no way we can redeem ourselves from death. Because the gift of God is eternal life. And back in John three, Jesus told Nicodemus that he needed to be born again, because God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, so that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have that eternal life.
This might be a good time to pause and give ourselves a bit of a spiritual checkup. It’s not easy for any of us to be told how wicked we are. That takes humility. Throughout the Bible, God makes it very clear that He is adamantly opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble. The proud Pharisee who prayed aloud in the temple about how good he was, God totally ignored. But the humble, sinful tax collector who prayed for God’s mercy, God forgave.
About a month and a half after the events in this chapter happened, Peter, one of the disciples who was probably carefully listening to everything that happened here, stood in these same streets of Jerusalem under the power of the Holy Spirit, and preached a powerful sermon about how those listening to that sermon had been accomplices in the death of Jesus.
And because of the Holy Spirit’s gentle influence, Acts 2:37 says, “Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Men and brethren, what shall we do?’”
You see, that’s the Holy Spirit at work, bringing humility to the heart. In fact, in John 16:13 Jesus told His disciples, “When He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth.” So if you and I are intent on finding truth, the Holy Spirit will help us find it.
Back on October 22, the Christian world lost a spiritual giant. Eugene Peterson, who was born just up north in Stanwood, was a clergyman, scholar, poet and author. He provided the world the energetic translation/paraphrase called The Message.
One of the things that is so refreshing about Peterson was his humility. He disliked the idea of megachurches. And when someone asked him how church services could be made more “relevant,” he told them that “relevant” was a Nazi word. What he meant by that was that, in his reading of history, the Nazis came to power by telling the Germans exactly what they wanted to hear. Peterson believed that God is the one who should decide what is relevant for us, and that we should have the humility to listen carefully to what God says.
There’s a third group of people who wrestled with truth in this chapter. As you’ll see, they are a very mixed — and a very mixed-up– group.
After His conversation with His brothers, Jesus tells them to go ahead down to the feast of Tabernacles. He told them that at that point, He was not planning to go to the feast. You see, going to a feast wasn’t a personal, private thing. You went to the feasts with your family, and as you traveled along you linked up with other relatives, and pretty soon you were part of this giant, happy pilgrimage.
Jesus’ brothers evidently thought that this would be a perfect way for Him to generate a whole lot of popularity, get a lot of networking done. But Jesus didn’t want to be on constant display like that. In verse eight, He tells them, “My time has not yet fully come.” Jesus knows that His death is approaching, but He doesn’t want to do anything that would throw off God’s exact timetable.
Verses 10 – 11: But when His brothers had gone up, then He also went up to the feast, not openly, but as it were in secret. Then the Jews sought Him at the feast, and said, “Where is He?”
So here these Jewish leaders are searching for Him, and if He had come along with His family, they would have known exactly where to find Him. Yet even though He is not there, He is definitely the center of attention.
Verses 12 – 13: And there was much complaining among the people concerning Him. Some said, “He is good”; others said, “No, on the contrary, He deceives the people.” However, no one spoke openly of Him for fear of the Jews.
And finally Jesus arrives at the feast, and begins to teach. And to those searching for truth, He provides an extremely important key to verify whether or not something is God’s truth.
Verses 14 – 15: Now about the middle of the feast Jesus went up into the temple and taught. And the Jews marveled, saying, “How does this Man know letters, having never studied?”
And notice how Jesus ignores their question and gets right to the point, answering the questions they should be asking.
Verse 16: Jesus answered them and said, “My doctrine is not Mine, but His who sent Me.
A lot of times, when Christians hear the word “doctrine,” they get turned off. “Oh, no, here comes some boring old doctrine.”
But more recent translations correctly pick up on what the Greek is saying. Back in verse 14 it says that “Jesus went up into the temple and taught.” And in verse 16, when He says, “My doctrine is not Mine,” the Greek word for “doctrine” is simply the noun form of the verb “teach.” In the NIV, Jesus says, “My teaching is not My own.” In the ESV, He says, “My teaching is not Mine.” And the New Revised says the same thing.
So we are not talking about boring doctrine here. Jesus was not boring. Mark 12:37 says, “The common people heard Him gladly,” and the NIV says, “The large crowd listened to Him with delight.” So don’t get tripped up when you read the word “doctrine” in the Bible. It simply means teaching.
And that’s important because of what Jesus says next. Here is that important key to discovering whether Jesus’ teaching is true.
Verses 16 – 17: Jesus answered them and said, “My doctrine is not Mine, but His who sent Me. If anyone wills to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God or whether I speak on My own authority.
I’ve seen this happen again and again as a pastor. If someone truly wants to do God’s will, and steps out and starts following Him and reading His Bible, the Holy Spirit will, as Jesus promised, guide that person into the truth.
What about you this morning? Maybe you were raised in the Adventist church, or were raised in some other Christian group, and you’re wondering if what you’ve learned is really true. Now, maybe in some instances you learned things that weren’t actually in the Bible, or are different than what is in the Bible. Or maybe it’s that your faith simply needs a reboot.
But Jesus promises you right here that if you want to do God’s will, and if you step out and start doing it, the Holy Spirit will begin to fill in the blanks.
But that only happens if you prayerfully read your Bible. One of the most thrilling experiences I’ve had as a pastor is to see people who weren’t familiar with the Bible before, actually dig in and start reading it. What happens is that these people will start to ask you questions that you have never heard before, because they are seeing the Bible with fresh eyes.
Earlier this week I was very inspired by a fellow pastor. We were having a small gathering of Adventist pastors of Eastside churches, and this pastor was asked to do the devotional for our little group.
Now he could have brought a book someone else had written, but instead, he brought a little notebook, and I discovered that this was his Bible reading journal. Now I will occasionally do something like that when I’m working on particular passage like John seven. But he evidently made a habit of reading along in his Bible and also writing his questions and comments in a journal as he did so. That has inspired me to get back into that habit.
Because God likes questions. Jesus likes questions. Any teacher who gets asked serious questions by his or her students is delighted, because it means that the pupils are not simply sitting and absorbing information, but their minds are working with it.
So the next time you’re in a thrift store, go over to the office supplies section and select one of their little writing journals. It’ll probably cost you two or three dollars at most, and then you’ll have something you can take home and use as you are wrestling with the truth, and finding it.