In our last several messages from the seventh chapter of John, we have noted that it happened at the Feast of Tabernacles about six months before the crucifixion. His brothers wanted Him to go and make a public show of his super powers to wow the crowd which came from all over Israel and the rest of the Roman Empire. Jesus had suffered from a sharp decline in the popularity polls. The Jews in Jerusalem wanted to kill Him, and most of the disciples, so called, had left Him from Galilee. Here was an assembly of Jews and God-fearing Gentiles from all over the world.
Jesus refused to take the advice of His brothers as He only took instruction from the Heavenly Father. His fame made it to the feast, and Jesus was the talk of the town. All sorts of things, good and bad, were being said about Him. Finally, He comes to the feast. As a keeper of the Law, He had to come. But He did not come on his brother’s terms. He came in secret. When He finally revealed Himself to the crowd at the Temple, He did not come as a wonder worker but as a teacher. It was His teaching, not His works which really amazed the crowds. They simply did not know what to make of Him.
Exposition of the Text
Starting in verse 25, we pick up the chatter of the crowd which had assembled in Jerusalem. Some of them were the local natives of Jerusalem who knew that the Jews had wanted to arrest and kill Jesus. They also knew the works he had done, unnamed ones in chapter 2 and the healing of the paralytic on the Sabbath in chapter 5. They simply could not believe that the Temple police had not come and arrested Him. Did the authorities actually believe that Jesus was the Messiah and were afraid to arrest Him?
This group from Jerusalem started reasoning with themselves. They concluded that Jesus could not possibly be the Messiah. They had been taught that the Messiah would make a sudden appearance at the Temple according to their understanding of the prophet Malachi. They thought they knew all about Him. They must have made a formal inquiry to the person of Jesus just like they had with John; they thought they knew He was the son of Joseph and Mary of Nazareth. The other gospels say that some called him “the son of Mary” which indicates they thought He was illegitimate. His own brothers came with Mary at one point to take him away as a madman. Nathaniel had shown astonishment about the Messiah coming from Nazareth. In their eyes, whoever Jesus was, He was not the Messiah.
John in this gospel has already clued us in that Jesus knows the secrets of every heart. Jesus knew what all the conflicting voices in the crows were saying. In verse 28, He interrupts His teaching and dries out to the crowd with a loud voice to the crowd so that everyone could hear. There is more here I think than just speaking loud to be heard as “loud voice (Ba-Qol Gadol in Hebrew) is used for the voice of God. Jesus asks them a question which in English means “Do you really know me and where I came from?” What Jesus then tells the crowd is that if anyone knows the truth about Jesus, they will know that He ultimately came from a place far more remote to them than Nazareth. They would also know that God not Joseph was Jesus’ Father. The power and authority of His teaching and miracles would be proof that the Father has sent Him to speak the Father’s words, do the Father’s will, and perform His works.
These words enraged those from Jerusalem. If Jesus was not the Christ of God, which is what those from Jerusalem had just concluded, then the words of Jesus were the uttermost blasphemy against God rather than the uttermost truth. They wanted to immediately arrest Him; however, John tells us that no one dared to raise their hand to take Him. Perhaps this was due to the fact that there were those in the crowd who thought Jesus was the Christ and the authorities were afraid of a riot. Or maybe there was a ring of truth in the statement they had previously made. Perhaps the authorities were afraid that Jesus was truly who He said He was.
The text tells us the reason that He was not arrested was because this was not the time or the feast that the Father had appointed for Jesus to be arrested and put to death. This use of “hour” is used as a marker of time. The time is more than chronological time although it does not deny chronological time. But it also points the reader to the cross, the suffering and death of Jesus. All of Jesus ministry from His incarnation to Calvary was pointed to this event. In Luke, after Peter’s confession at Caesarea Philippi, Jesus set His face steadfastly towards Jerusalem and His upcoming death at the next Passover. This was confirmed at the Transfiguration where Moses and Elijah appear to Peter, James, and John, and speak of the Exodus He was about to accomplish in Jerusalem. The unified witness of the Gospels reveal that all of Jesus’ life and ministry was directed to Calvary.
Verse 31 shows that while many rejected Jesus and wanted Him arrested and put away, there were others who believed in Him and were confessing their belief to others in the crowd. Many of them, especially those who came from outside Israel had never heard from or about Jesus before the feast. And when they returned, they would help prepare the way for the Apostles who would later go into all the world to proclaim Christ. This does not mean that all of them actually believed. These had not personally witnessed the miracles of Christ. They had just heard His teaching. And it says they were convinced by the signs which should raise a red flag for us.
The Pharisees heard what this part of the crowd was saying and were further enraged, to the point they sought help from the High Priest, a Sadducee. Normally, these groups hated each other and had even fought wars against each other. But Jesus unites all people into two distinct crowds. Those who believe on Jesus are united in Him. Everyone else unites in heated opposition against Jesus. Pilate and Herod become friends. The Zealots of the political right, the Pharisees of the religious right, the Herodians of the political left, the Sadducees of the religious left, the Romans, and everyone else who rejects Christ is united in trying to destroy Christ. We know from the second Psalm that the Lord of Heaven shall laugh them to scorn who rise up against His Christ. Here they sent the Temple police to arrest Him, but they could not.
Jesus rebuffs the attempts of those to arrest Him by speaking what must have seemed as riddles to them. They simply could not comprehend what He was saying. Many thought that He was saying that He would soon depart and teach and heal the Jews who had come from outside Israel, perhaps even the Gentiles. After all, they could see that most who believed in Jesus had come from there. The Jews from Jerusalem had thought they had seen the light about Jesus. He was an imposter who needed to be put away. The Galilean Jews had walked away when it became apparent Jesus was not going to be the Messiah they expected and desired. So they reasoned that He must have been talking about leaving Israel into the Diaspora of the Jews who loved outside Israel.
Again they were dead wrong in their assessment of what Jesus was saying. Jesus has used parables earlier to separate those who were His from those who were not. Here He speaks riddles. Only those who God had revealed the meaning of Jesus’ words to understood the secret. And for many of these, they would not understand what He was saying until after Jesus’ death and resurrection. We now know that Jesus was not speaking about going to the Gentile world but about His trip to the cross, the resurrection on the third day, and His ascension into heaven at the Father’s right hand. All the rest would wonder just what Jesus had said. Jesus was playing hide and go seek with them.
We need to learn from this that God is sovereign over all the universe. He knows all, He sees all, and He controls all things. For those who know Jesus as Lord and Savior, these are words of greatest comfort. We can rest in the fact that even if the worst thing we can imagine happens to us that it just does not happen. Rather God uses these events for our Eternal good. We often do not see or understand the plan of God but we trust that these things work out for good to those who love God and are the called according to His purpose as Paul tells us in Romans 8. Nothing catches God by surprise, and nothing can separate us from Him.
To those who are outside, these words are as infuriating today as back then. They want to crucify the mention of Jesus and have Him removed from the history books and from the minds of all. If they cannot seize and physically kill Jesus, they nevertheless try to kill all mention of him as an unutterable blasphemer against the supremacy of human will and endeavor. They undertake with all their heart to persecute anyone who would remind them that this is not their world, it is the Lord’s world and we are His servants. And the same irony which is mentioned in this text, as much as they try to eradicate God from their hearts, deep down in their hearts they know that Jesus is indeed the Christ of God and they are terrified. They will try to kill him again and again with their philosophies, drown him in beer, and distract themselves in work not to face the truth. But they cannot escape the truth. In their very act of suppressing the truth, they have to address it in order to deny it.
We know from the Gospel of John that in spite of this “God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son that whosover believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” We know the purpose of Jesus was not to condemn the world but to save it. Sometimes the most violent opponents of Jesus are converted like Paul was. Rather than delving into mysteries of God’s will such as election and predestination, we instead need to be obedient in going out into all the world and proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Gospel, the whole Gospel, and nothing but the Gospel. It is true that these things are riddles to the unbeliever. But when the light of God shines in their heart, the Holy Spirit will awaken them from death and grant them repentance. Then they will see and know the truth. And the truth will set them free. Then they for the first time will be able to see the light which outshines the sun.