Story 114: Choosing Sides

John 7:1-36

stained glass

Jesus and His disciples made their way in secret to Jerusalem. The Jews at the Feast were all looking out for Him, awaiting His arrival. The people debated whether He was sent by God or was a deceiver bent on leading the people far from the Lord. They couldn’t talk about it openly because they were afraid of their religious leaders. These leaders had already decided that Jesus was a false teacher, and they were making plans to silence Him. Did they understand that they were separating the people from their own Messiah? Did they care?

The people knew that their leadership would be enraged to hear them debating about the man they had so decisively denounced. They would consider it abject rebellion, and it would not go unpunished. But the crowds could not get past the wonderful healings and the powerful teaching of Christ, and so they murmured on.

In the midst of all the rumors and plotting, just as the Feast was getting to it’s high point, when the greatest amount of people would be there, Jesus made His way up to the Temple. Try to imagine the scene. The vast building stood like shimmering gold over the temple courts. Thousands upon thousands of people would be coming in and out, carrying sacks of grain with their families, to offer to God in thanksgiving. They would be milling around, talking in groups, and listening to the strands of music played by the Temple musicians.

Imagine the sound of the crowd as word spread that Jesus had come. Some of the people had probably been healed by Him, many more had heard His teaching. Others probably flocked to see what would happen to the radical young preacher.

The Lord began teaching and preaching. Consider His boldness in light of His powerful opposition! How enraged His enemies must have been at His nerve! Yet this Temple was His own Father’s house, and He had a much greater right to be there than they did, whether they knew it or not!

As the multitudes listened to Jesus, they were astonished at the excellence of His teaching. They questioned how He could know so much because He had never received formal training like the Pharisees and scribes.

Jesus told them, “‘My teaching is not My own. It comes from Him who sent Me. 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.’”

This is something that is important to understand. It is the kind of thing we often think we know too quickly, but to understand it truly, we must ponder and consider the deeper meanings. Jesus did not teach from His own ideas as a human walking the earth. Jesus taught as the perfect messenger from God on High. He spoke the exact Words that God the Father desired the world to hear from His royal Throne in Heaven at the exact time He wanted them said. The Holy Spirit was working through the perfect obedience of Jesus and giving Him power and strength to fully express God’s will.

The Jewish people in the crowds and their religious leaders were showing who had their true allegiance by how they responded to Jesus. Those whose hearts were truly desiring the will of God would know in the depths of their hearts that out of all the opinions that were going around Israel, Jesus was the One who presented God’s side of the story.

Jesus went on:

“‘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. Has not Moses given you the Law? Yet none of you keeps the Law. Why are you trying to kill me?’”

Gulp. Wow. Talk about bold truth! In the middle of the Temple courts, Jesus proclaimed the heart of the problem for the religious leaders. They were seeking honor only for themselves. They spoke of keeping the Law of Moses, but it was all for selfish motives. Jesus had just met with Moses himself on the Mount of Transfiguration., and He was the One who had the right to explain it to the nation. Everyone else should have bowed their knees to Him and repented of the difference between His Word and their own. Instead, they were plotting to kill Him, and He called them out for it in front of everyone.

The people in the crowd started to yell out, “‘You have a demon! Who seeks to kill you?’”

Jesus said:

“‘I did one miracle, and you are all astonished. Yet because Moses gave you circumcision (though actually it did not come from Moses but the patriarchs), you circumcise a child on the Sabbath. 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? Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment.’”

The crowd heard the Lord and began to think through everything else they had heard and said about Jesus and the coming Messiah. This was the man that everyone knew the religious leaders wanted dead. But now He was here, right on the steps of the Temple, and the religious leaders did nothing. If He was leading the people astray, why didn’t they act? Many had also been taught that nobody would know where the Messiah came from. Yet everyone knew that Jesus was from Nazareth.

Jesus knew that this was the chatter and cried out in the courts of the Temple, “‘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, but I know Him because I am from Him and He sent Me.’”

Can you hear the anguish in His voice…the people’s own Messiah was calling out to them, crying out for their faith and belief in His very own Temple, and many refused. Instead, they tried to seize Him! He had just claimed to come from God Himself, and that was a step too far for their doubt and unbelief. None of them could get their hands on Him to harm Him, because it wasn’t God’s timing for His sacrifice yet. They would have no power over Him until God the Father gave it to them.

Many others heard Jesus cry out and put their faith in Him. They said to each other, “‘When the Christ comes, will He do more miraculous signs than this Man?’” They knew of the incredible outpouring of wonders that flowed through Jesus, and they knew that it was ridiculous to keep demanding more and more. The signs God had already worked through Christ were enough evidence of His power.

The Pharisees were carefully watching the scene and listening to the whispers of the crowd. They did not like what they heard, so they sent the guards of the Temple to go arrest the Lord. Jesus began to declare, “‘I am with you for only a short time, and then I go to the One who sent Me. You will look for Me, but you will not find Me, and where I am You cannot come.’”

Jesus had turned the conversation away from His miracles and the truth that He was sent from God and toward the fact that He was going to die. Yet He said it in a way that was hard to understand. He gave clues that led to an even greater mystery. The crowd began to ask, “‘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? What did he mean…?’”

Jesus did not always give people the answers they wanted to hear. He gave them a taste of the truth to get them asking more questions. He was provoking them with opportunities to think and consider what was clear about God’s work. Would the crowds choose to turn to Jesus…or would they side with the Pharisees that were planning His death?

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