Friday, December 14, 2007

John 8:1-11

1But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. 2At dawn He appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around Him, and He sat down to teach them. 3The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group 4and said to Jesus, "Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do You say?" 6They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing Him. 7But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with His finger. When they kept on questioning Him, He straightened up and said to them, "If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her." 8Again He stooped down and wrote on the ground. 9At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. 10Jesus straightened up and asked her, "Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?" 11"No one, Sir," she said. "Then neither do I condemn you," Jesus declared. "Go now and leave your life of sin."

John summarized the conclusion of the major confrontation ending the Feast of Tabernacles by saying that everyone went to his own house – a strange ending to a major conflict, but not a surprising one considering God’s providence and the repeated assertion that it was not yet Jesus’ time to be arrested. John continues from that explanation into what we call chapter 8, saying that when everyone went to his own house, Jesus went out to the Mount of Olives. He had no house, and while He certainly could have sought refuge at the home of a friend or disciple, He sought His Father in prayer. It was a much-needed time of prayerful solitude after the exhausting festival experience. But it was a short-lived time, for in the morning, Jesus returned to the temple courts to teach – and “all the people gathered around Him.” This was the day after the Feast of Tabernacles had ended.

The scribes and Pharisees display their wickedness in this effort to slander Jesus. They reveal to Jesus that they have a plain commandment of the Law; therefore, it follows that they act maliciously in putting to Jesus this question, as if it were a doubtful matter. Their intention was to make Jesus either disagree with Moses by acquitting this woman or violate the Roman law (Rome alone had the authority to call for capital punishment) by consenting to stone her in agreement with Moses’ command – adulteresses are to be put to death (Leviticus 20:10; Deuteronomy 22:22-24), and it would certainly be unlawful to acquit this guilty woman. But the man involved was also to be tried and put to death. Why didn’t they bring the man along with the woman to Jesus? They weren’t seeking true justice. It was a ploy to lure Jesus into trouble. The Pharisees were hoping He would disagree with Moses, so they could accuse Him. But if He agreed, the Roman government might come after Him It was a tough scenario – but not for Jesus!

Commentators disagree on the reason for Jesus’ writing on the ground. Liberals say He was buying time, trying to think of what to say. Others say that He was writing a condemning message to them similar to the writing on the wall from Daniel 5:5,25-28. But more likely, He was just showing their unworthiness and His disgust with them. By bending down and doodling, Jesus was “doing nothing” or turning His back on them. He was not giving them attention, for they deserved none. Yet they persisted, v7 tells us. And that’s when Jesus answers according to the custom of the Law (Deuteronomy 17:7). God commanded that the witnesses should, with their own hands, be the first to apply the punishment due. By saying this, Jesus gets them to disqualify themselves from the role of judge and witness. The reason for this law was to ensure greater caution in bearing testimony. Calvin says:

There are many who proceed rashly to overwhelm their brother by perjury, because they do not think that they inflict a deadly wound by their tongue. And this very argument had weight with those slanderers, desperate as they were; for no sooner do they obtain a sight of it, than they lay aside those fierce passions with which they were swelled when they came. Jesus does not here forbid sinners to do their duty in correcting the sins of others; but He only reproves hypocrites, who mildly flatter themselves and their vices, but are excessively severe, and even act the part of felons, in censuring others. No man, therefore, shall be prevented by his own sins from correcting the sins of others, and even from punishing them, when it may be found necessary, provided that both in himself and in others he hate what ought to be condemned; and in addition to all this, every man ought to begin by interrogating his own conscience, and by acting both as witness and judge against himself, before he come to others. In this manner shall we, without hating men, make war with sins.
The KJV and NKJV add within v9 that the accusers, “being convicted by their conscience,” went away one by one. Again, within the context of manuscript evidence, this addition may be unreliable, but it is no doubt true. And we learn a great lesson with these words, that there is great power in the conscience. Though those wicked hypocrites intended to entrap Christ by their ploy, as soon as He pierces their consciences by a single phrase, shame puts them to flight. While it is possible that their shame before men had greater influence over them than the fear of God, more importantly, they acknowledge themselves to be guilty, and they depart confounded. A summons to the judgment-seat of God is the hammer with which hypocrites are broken of their pride. But notice too that this conviction of sin, both extends to everyone – from the oldest and presumably most understanding of what Jesus is saying to the youngest and least understanding – and differs from true repentance. True repentance should not have driven them to seek a place of concealment to avoid the presence of the Judge, but rather to go directly to Him in order to implore His forgiveness.

Finally, Jesus demonstrates His own intrinsic authority to forgive this sinner who openly acknowledged her sin. Just as with the Sabbath controversy, when the Pharisees attempt to show Jesus’ lawlessness, He instead proves that they themselves are the guilty ones, and that He is able to forgive and restore. There is nothing better for us than to be brought, as guilty, to His tribunal, provided that we surrender ourselves mildly and submissively to His reign. There is nothing worse for us than to find ourselves before Him unwilling to repent and be forgiven. And when Jesus says, “Neither do I condemn you…Go now and leave your life of sin,” He is not acquitting this woman; He is simply not presently taking the office of Judge. She has no more accusers; neither has she had a proper and just trial. Jesus will take the office of Judge at His second coming, but here during His first coming, His role is not that. Rather He is to seek and save the lost as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Thus, He exhorts the woman to repentance and comforts her by a promise of grace. The design of the grace of Christ is that the sinner, being reconciled to God, may honor the Author of his salvation by a good and holy life. Though this exhortation looks forward to the future, still it humbles sinners by recalling to remembrance their past life (Ephesians 2). Repent!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

John 7:40-53

40On hearing His words, some of the people said, "Surely this Man is the Prophet." 41Others said, "He is the Christ." 42Still 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?" 43Thus the people were divided because of Jesus. 44Some wanted to seize Him, but no one laid a hand on Him. 45Finally 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? 49No! But this mob that knows nothing of the law - there is a curse on them." 50Nicodemus, 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?" 52They replied, "Are you from Galilee, too? Look into it, and you will find that a prophet does not come out of Galilee." 53Then each went to his own home.

Throughout the rest of the chapter, we see the various responses to Christ’s teaching. Some say that He’s The Prophet of Deuteronomy 18; this is good and makes them reverent and teachable, but it falls short of saving faith. Others say He is the Christ; and they are correct, but still others argue with them, unable to accept that profession, refuting it on account of His residence in Galilee, knowing that the Scriptures claim that the Messiah comes from David’s town of Bethlehem. This third group was so close! They could have easily cleared up the confusion on this if they had taken the initiative to inquire into His birthplace and history. Calvin says, “Such is our natural disposition; in matters of little consequence we are ashamed of being indolent, while, in the mysteries of the heavenly kingdom, we slumber without any concern. It is likewise of importance to observe, that those men are diligent and industrious in seeking an excuse for turning aside from Christ, but, at the same time, are astonishingly slow and dull in receiving sound doctrine. In this manner, out of the Scriptures themselves, which lead us by the hand to Christ, men frequently make obstacles for themselves, that they may not come to Christ.” Most of you know that I’m from Louisville. But do any of you know where I was born? You don’t care, because you’re not contemplating the possibility that I am Messiah. But wouldn’t you have investigated my history a bit further, comparing it the Scriptures, if I was doing miracles and proclaiming to be the Messiah. Lastly note here that disagreements arise because one or more groups are incorrect, compared to the teaching of Christ. That’s how it is for us. When we disagree, it’s because one or both of us are incongruent with Scripture. That’s painful to realize, but let it help us to test ourselves constantly (2 Timothy 2:15).

Note the repeated reality from v44. Some tried to seize Him, but were prevented by the providence of God. It seems so harsh to be so offended by someone that you would seek to do them harm. But that’s what Jesus’ teaching had caused. Matthew 10:34 says, “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” Luke 12:51 phrases it this way: “Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division.” Next, the servants of the Pharisees, the temple guards, amazed but unchanged upon hearing Jesus’ authoritative words (Isaiah 11:4), are powerless to seize Him (see John 18:6). So they return from the failed attempt to arrest Jesus. And note the Pharisees’ response: “Why didn’t you bring Him in?” The Pharisees, having clearly made up their minds about Jesus by now (v47), are surprised that their soldiers were unable to capture Jesus. They see themselves as sovereignly powerful and governing unopposed. They fail to realize against whom they are fighting (Acts 5:38-39). They claim to know the law and deny that the mob does; they even claim that the mob is cursed, as if Jesus has some form of demonic power over those who believe in Him. They suggest that if one has any intellectual sense about him, if a person has a significant amount of higher education, then it would be impossible to believe in Jesus. Doesn’t that frame of mind ring true today as well? Furthermore, they make every effort to denounce the questioning of the soldiers. Are you being seduced too? Are you so foolish to fall into His trap? This line of questioning is a tool of Satan to keep those who are near the truth from taking hold of it.

The only glimmer of light to be seen among their ranks is Nicodemus, who, although still timid and weak, is starting to give some evidence that he truly was regenerated and given faith in Christ at the occasion of his nighttime visit to speak with Him. John presents him as neutral on this occasion; his faith may have taken root, but it has not budded and produced fruit yet. He is unwilling to condemn Jesus without hearing from Him, as a result of his one-on-one conversation, but he is far from siding with those who declared Him to be the Christ. Rather, Nicodemus wants to continue the investigation to get more evidence before prosecuting and issuing a verdict so rashly (v51). And his question is rhetorical with a bit of sarcasm. The Pharisees have just claimed to know the law, and Nicodemus is among their group. So he knows the law well, as they claim to; but he points out through a question that they are being rash to condemn Jesus without further investigation under the law’s guidelines. But his own turn on him with criticism, saying, “Are you from Galilee too?” (Anyone from Galilee was held in contempt by the Sanhedrin for being from a mixed-race region with little zeal for the law.) The extreme violence to which they are excited against Nicodemus, shows with what furious hatred they burned against Christ; for he had not avowedly undertaken to defend Christ, but had only said that He ought not to be condemned before He was heard.

Nicodemus was verbally ridiculed here (a form of persecution) for His lack of zeal for the law – so his own group claimed – but he was clearly the one being truly zealous for the law, wanting to hold to it rather than stray from it. The Pharisees, desiring nothing other than to maintain and increase their political sway with the people practically dare Nicodemus to carry out an investigation. And we don’t hear a response from Nicodemus at this point; he is silenced by their mockery. But their charge to him, “Look in to it,” may have prompted him to do just that. Maybe Nicodemus didn’t have all the answers and was still wrestling with the whole thing. Perhaps he learned, ironically upon the Pharisees charge to investigate (they were certain that he’d find nothing in support of Jesus), that Jesus did indeed perfectly fit the Scriptures’ description of the Messiah. And the confirmation of his already weak faith only served to strengthen and encourage him. The next time we hear of Nicodemus, he is assisting in the burial of Jesus, having generously contributed to the anointing of His body. Does persecution – even the slightest degree – cause you to persevere? Rejoice in your sufferings, for they leading to your perseverance, character development, and increased hope in the truth of Jesus.

Some later manuscripts include v53, “Then each went to his own home.” This can be attributed only to the hand of God. With enragement such as this, it couldn’t have ended peacefully apart from God’s providence. They’re ready for violence against defenseless Jesus, and then they just go home. When so formidable a conspiracy is dissolved, who will not acknowledge that they were scattered by the hand of God? His time had not yet come.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

John 7:32-39

32The Pharisees heard the crowd whispering such things about Him. Then the chief priests and the Pharisees sent temple guards to arrest Him. 33Jesus said, "I am with you for only a short time, and then I go to the One who sent Me. 34You will look for Me, but you will not find Me; and where I am, you cannot come." 35The 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? 36What did He mean when He said, 'You will look for Me, but you will not find Me,' and 'Where I am, you cannot come'?" 37On 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. 38Whoever believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him." 39By 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.

The Pharisees sent temple guards to arrest Jesus, in addition to or among the group trying to seize Him from v30. By saying that He was about to go where no one could find Him, Jesus was primarily addressing those attempting to seize Him – His enemies, the Pharisees; He meant that He was about to go to heaven, after He had accomplished redemption. It is as if He had said, “You will never hinder My Father from receiving Me into His heavenly glory once I have completed the work for which He sent Me. Not only will I be glorified in My Father’s presence and before all creation after My death, but you can’t experience it, because of your wickedness.” For us, we need to seek the Lord while He may be found, because there will come a time when it is too late. Isaiah 55:6; Hebrews 3:7-8,15; 4:7 The crowd did not understand but wondered if Jesus’ statement – You won’t find Me – was meant to imply that He could not be seized. Was He about to depart their region for good, to find the Jews scattered among the Greeks, or barbarians – to teach them instead? They weren’t sure, and they exhibit their stupidity by thinking along these lines; they weren’t the least bit threatened by Jesus’ utterance about being unable to come where He goes (John 13:33,36-37). Jesus said plainly, “I go to the One who sent Me.” Why would they think He was going to Greece or other countries?

Here, between v36 and v37, we have a time gap. We go from the middle of the weeklong Feast to the last and greatest day. Did Jesus just slip away for a day or two to avoid arrest? He shows no fear of death by returning, as He knew when His time would arrive. Would you like to know your time? Why/why not? Regardless, John builds up the story to this climax, and he sets the stage. Allow me to explain:

It’s the great event of the Jewish calendar. Rabbis used to say that if you’ve never rejoiced at the Feast of Tabernacles, then you’ve never rejoiced. It was of great value to be at the Feast of Tabernacles and to see the ritual – in remembrance of the water from the rock during the Exodus (Numbers 20:2-13) – that would take place. For seven days the priests would go to the Pool of Siloam and they would be carrying golden pitchers; they would fill those pitchers with water and then make their way through the streets of Jerusalem towards the Temple courts and they would be singing songs of praise to God. The streets would be crowded with tens of thousands of people from all over Judea and Galilee and the Diaspora, or Dispersion, who would make their way to Jerusalem. On those seven days, they would gather in the streets to watch this procession as the priests carried these golden pitchers towards the Temple. And then one of the priests would take the pitcher and pour out water and a regular offering of wine before the Lord, beside the altar of sacrifice in the Temple where the daily sacrifice would be offered. This was to symbolize the blessings of the Messianic Age, when life-giving water would stream out over all the earth, just as the water flowed from the rock in the wilderness. And the people of God would wave their branches and they would cry out, “God is our Savior; let us draw water from the wells of salvation.”

And then on the last day of the feast, having done this once on day one, twice on day two, etc., they would go around the altar seven times, and then the chosen priest would pour out the water and wine before the Lord by the altar. And he would raise his hand and the whole congregation would fall silent. It was the climax of the Feast of Tabernacles. And at that moment of silence on this occasion, Jesus stands up and cries out loudly, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink.” Can you imagine it? “Whoever believes in Me as the Scripture has said, ‘streams of living water will flow from within Him.’” Other translations render the quote this way: “Out of His heart will flow rivers of living water.” So in essence, Jesus is saying, “Only I can fulfill this reality – I am the true Rock from which the water of life flows.” And, in order to illustrate His claim from the Scriptures, He alludes to a passage – commentators disagree over which one – Isaiah 12:3; 44:3; 55:1; 58:11; Zechariah 14:8, and applies it to Himself. Jesus is saying, “Moses offered pictures and symbols, but I offer the reality. This Feast of Tabernacles ritual that you’ve been doing for centuries is all about Me!” Are you thirsty for the waters that lead to salvation? If you are, it is because the Spirit of God has graciously kindled that thirst in you. And if you are, be pleased to know that Christ – the fountain of life – offers an inexhaustible and abundant flow, so that our desires for His drink will never be disappointed (John 1:16; 4:14; 6:35 are in view). We drink from His fountain by faith – to come and to believe are synonymous, as we saw in chapter 6.

In order to make clear just what Christ is saying, John then tells us in v39 that Jesus is speaking of the Holy Spirit, whom He would send out into the world. The Messianic Age would be one in which the Spirit would flow out over all the earth – echoing a multitude of Old Testament Scripture passages, such as Jeremiah 2 (especially v13) and Ezekiel 34-37 – and bring life to the nations. And, just as the water flowed from the rock in the wilderness (Numbers 20:2-13), so the Spirit would proceed from the true Rock, giving life to all God’s people. As a result of the death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus to the right hand of God, as a consequence of the Father delighting in all that Jesus offered and accomplished, He pours out the Spirit of Jesus. It’s not accidental that John records Jesus’ cry on the cross: “I am thirsty” (John 19:28). He took our thirstiness upon Himself in order that our thirst might be quenched by faith in Him. To those who are thirsty He hands the thirst-quenching Spirit.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

John 7:20-31

20"You are demon-possessed," the crowd answered. "Who is trying to kill You?" 21Jesus said to them, "I did one miracle, and you are all astonished. 22Yet, because Moses gave you circumcision (though actually it did not come from Moses, but from the patriarchs), you circumcise a child on the Sabbath. 23Now 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? 24Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment." 25At that point some of the people of Jerusalem began to ask, "Isn't this the Man they are trying to kill? 26Here He is, speaking publicly, and they are not saying a word to Him. Have the authorities really concluded that He is the Christ? 27But we know where this Man is from; when the Christ comes, no one will know where He is from." 28Then 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, 29but I know Him because I am from Him and He sent Me." 30At this they tried to seize Him, but no one laid a hand on Him, because His time had not yet come. 31Still, many in the crowd put their faith in Him. They said, "When the Christ comes, will He do more miraculous signs than this Man?"

The Jews are appalled at Jesus’ assessment and even suggest that He is demon-possessed to speak so foolishly. But in order to prove His point that they are actually breaking Moses’ law, Jesus reminds them of the miracle that He had done the last time in Jerusalem (John 5), when He healed a man on the Sabbath – it was for this miracle and the teaching that followed it regarding His equality with God that the Jews were trying to kill Him. Those who saw Jesus perform this miracle were astonished, because they presumed that He broke the Sabbath.

Jesus then reminded His indignant audience that circumcision, which brought man into a covenant relationship with God, was allowed by the Pharisees on the Sabbath, despite Moses’ command that no work be done on the Sabbath. His point was that the work of restoring sinful man was clearly excluded from the law; it was proper to circumcise even on the Sabbath – circumcision, done on the eight day no matter when that fell, over-rode the Sabbath, so to speak. Since that was true, the Jews should not have been trying to kill Jesus; He simply restored a man from the devastating effects of the curse on the Sabbath day, essentially the same thing symbolized by circumcision. In fact, Jesus’ argument was not only to compare similar practices, but also to show that that which He performed was the greater of the two similar practices, since it was a complete healing and restoration of a man – body and soul. Jesus’ work represented the reality to which the sign of circumcision pointed. If the Jews allowed for a man to receive circumcision on the Sabbath, then they should have allowed Jesus to accomplish the very work of restoration and salvation to which circumcision pointed – without condemning Him. But they were not willing, because they were not righteous.

At this point the Jews, those living in Jerusalem and aware of the leadership’s very-real-plot to kill Jesus, wonder why, after these accusations, the leadership did not even speak to, or against, Him. The only explanation they can come up with is that they really did know that He was the Messiah. And yet, even granting this much, they were not willing to accept Him as the Messiah, because they “knew” where he was from (v27) – Galilee, from where the Messiah could not possibly come, so they thought. Micah 5:2 The road to faith is often difficult, bumpy, and even mountainous, but even if it was smooth and easy, humanity would make an excuse, as we see here.

But even in response to this unasked question, Jesus yells, “You know everything, yet you know nothing.” His answer was clear: “You should already know where I come from, if you know God – because He is the One who sent Me. I didn’t come from Galilee or anywhere else on earth – I came from God. And everyone who knows God will know Me.” Jesus said in v29, “I am from Him and He sent Me.” These two clauses are said to refer to the two natures in Christ – the first Divine (I am from Him) and the second human (He sent Me). Finally, Jesus’ assertion that those who refuse to believe in Him do not know God (v28) produced two basic responses: some of the Jews attempted to seize Him (presumably for blasphemy), and “many in the crowd put their faith in Him” as the Messiah.

(1) The ones who tried to seize Him failed, because it wasn’t His time to be seized. Calvin reckons this teaching to drive us to consider God’s providence, saying, “The time of every man’s death has been fixed by God. It is difficult to believe, while we are subject to so many accidents, exposed to so many open and concealed attacks both from men and beasts, and liable to so many diseases, that we are safe from all risk until God is pleased to call us away. But we ought to struggle against our own distrust; and we ought to attend first to the doctrine itself which is here taught, and next, to the object at which it aims, and the exhortation which is drawn from it, namely, that each of us, casting all his cares on God, (Psalm 55:22; 1 Peter 5:7) should follow his own calling, and not be led away from the performance of his duty by any fears. Yet let no man go beyond his own bounds; for confidence in the providence of God must not go farther than God Himself commands.” (2) The ones who put their faith in Him prove that the Gospel will not fail to produce fruit, even thought they did so with lack of good motive. They decided that Jesus had to be the Messiah, because, surely even the Christ – if it wasn’t Jesus – wouldn’t perform more miracles than Jesus had done. This is not the best reason to believe, but God takes faith the size of a mustard seed and grows it into a tree large enough to provide shade for a multitude.

Monday, December 10, 2007

John 7:11-19

11Now at the Feast the Jews were watching for Him and asking, "Where is that Man?" 12Among the crowds there was widespread whispering about Him. Some said, "He is a good Man." 13Others replied, "No, He deceives the people." But no one would say anything publicly about Him for fear of the Jews. 14Not until halfway through the Feast did Jesus go up to the temple courts and begin to teach. 15The Jews were amazed and asked, "How did this Man get such learning without having studied?" 16Jesus answered, "My teaching is not My own. It comes from Him who sent Me. 17If anyone chooses to do God's will, he will find out whether My teaching comes from God or whether I speak on My own. 18He 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. 19Has not Moses given you the law? Yet not one of you keeps the law. Why are you trying to kill Me?"

John explains that the brothers of Jesus were not the only ones expecting His presence at the Feast. All of the common people – those who knew about Jesus and His ordinary methods during the first year or two of His ministry – were looking for Him there, and there was widespread gossip over who He was. But even those who believed that Jesus is a “good Man” fail to believe in Him as the Son of God and promised Messiah. This fact will become clear as the dialog between Jesus and the Jews unfolds over the next few days. Notice, as we did with “world,” the various meanings of “The Jews.” This one is perhaps more difficult to discern, as it has cultural imprints on the meaning. The first group of Jews mentioned (v11) is the crowd of common Jewish people. The second group of Jews mentioned (v13) is that of the rulers, the leadership, the governing body of Jews. It is crucial here to notice the condition of God’s Church.

The common Jews were hungry for the promised redemption; yet, when Christ appeared to them, there was confusion. Some remained in suspense, and others flat out rejected Him; there was a variety of opinions, shared only through murmuring and secret gossip. Calvin says, “That [the common Jews] whisper secretly is an indication of the tyranny which the priests and scribes exercised over them. It is a shocking exhibition, indeed, that this Church, which was at that time the only Church on earth, is here represented to us as a confused and shapeless chaos. They who rule, instead of pastors, hold the people oppressed by fear and terror, and throughout the whole body there is shameful desolation and lamentable disorder.”

Jesus arrived secretly, but eventually made His presence known to everyone by publicly teaching in the temple courts. How was He able to do this? Teaching time had been common during the ancient times of this festive celebration, but in more recent times, the teachers had failed to step up with any message to deliver. It might be akin to a worship service with no sermon, which is fine, except that the pulpit remained, and there had traditionally been a message. Activities were carrying on. Jesus simply made His way to the pulpit and began speaking. This happened halfway through the Feast when most everyone who was coming had arrived by now.

Although Jesus doesn’t perform any miracles here, the authority and power of His teaching is so great that the Jews marvel in amazement and question its origin. They don’t recall Jesus having had any formal education; therefore, they struggle to accept His teaching, though it was remarkable. How sad! But I find myself with the same mentality. I like to find out as much as I can about those who teach me. Once I am comfortable with their background, I appreciate almost everything they say. When someone who I don’t know much about teaches, I automatically treat them and their message as less significant than my favorite teachers.

Jesus responds, saying that His teaching comes straight from the Father, and anyone who desires to do the Father’s will would know that this is the Father’s doctrine. Jesus is telling the crowd, “When you see a teacher with right doctrine not trained in the school of men, know that he has been taught by God. Sound judgment flows from fear and reverence for God, and if your minds are well disposed to the fear of God, you will easily perceive if what he teaches is true or not. If you are entirely devoted to obedience to God, He will certainly give you discernment as your guide.” It brings to mind thoughts of the Bereans, who out of their noble character, tested the words of Paul, whose past they questioned or whom they knew little about, against the Scriptures and found them true. Obeying the clear teachings of God is the best way to discern the more obscure teachings. Don’t argue about whether or not it is right to pray for the dead if your are in the midst of an adulterous relationship. Obey first, then ask questions.

John does not likely include the full text of Jesus’ teaching from this day; rather, he probably gives us only the primary topics in summary form. Nevertheless, we can tell that Jesus is not teaching for His own glory, but for the glory of the Father; and this fact alone should convince the Jews that He is righteous (v18). However, since the people did not even believe the Father (for they were not even willing to follow the law of Moses, which the Father gave to them, as v19 declares), they would not believe in Jesus, but would instead try to kill Him. This murderous intent proves their resistance to the Father’s law. Something other than zealousness for the law of God – for they do not obey it – has excited the Jews to such great rage as to seek to put Him to death. Often times, we may observe the wicked fighting against God and sound doctrine by pretending to do so from pious motives.