The Giver of the Spirit - John 7:1-52

This is a sermon by Malcolm Peters from the evening service on 21st October 2007.

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Well this week, we’ve had a split.  The technical term is Schisma, or schism. 

Before last week, most people had never heard of the Dublin-based novelist Ann Enright.  But last week, Ann Enright won this year’s Booker prize.    She was a rank outsider and the award has split the literary world.  Some think it’s brilliant.  And some think it’s complete rubbish.   And so we’ve had a schism in the literary world.  A breadth of reactions to the same objective words. 

And that’s what’s going on in Jn chapter 7 which we read earlier.   Sharp differences of opinion about the words of a nobody from a northern backwater.    But in this case, we’re not just talking about vicious comments in the press.  No, the confusion and fear caused by this schism, like Jean Charles De Menezes, led to an innocent man being wrongly condemned to death. 

So what’s all the fuss about?   What’s caused such a schism in 1st century Jerusalem? 

Well Jn chapter 7 gives us the answers to 3 specific questions:  

1.      What does Jesus say or imply about himself (v15-24 & 37-39   [+6-8])

2.      What do people make of that (25-31 + 40-44   +3-5 & 11-13]]

3.      What’s the result of people’s conclusion about Jesus [v32-36 & 45-52]

So please turn back with me to Jn chapter 7 on p 1071 and look with me at v1:

V1:   “After this..”

After what?   Well if you’ve been with us since September, then you’ll know that in our evening services we’ve been looking through John’s Gospel under the title:  Christianity is Christ.   So back in chapter 1, we saw that Jesus was the eternal Word.  A word that became flesh and was v persuasive.   In chapter 2, we saw that Jesus was a miracle worker:  turning water into wine in an instant.    In chapter 3, Jesus claimed to be able to give life, eternal life that is: life beyond the grave.    And in chapter s 4, 5 & 6, we’ve seen Jesus making increasingly astonishing claims:  he’s the one who can provide living water that will well up to eternal life.  He’s the one who can provide complete healing of body and soul.  And last week in chapter 6:35 that Jesus declared this: 

6:35:  "I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty. 36But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe.”

And so as we saw from v52 and 60, the people were divided.  They were arguing about this hard teaching.    Some, like His 12 disciples backed him.  Others turned their backs on him.   

But as we see from 7:1, others are so incensed by J’s teaching that they do an Al’Qu-eda;  when Benazir Bhutto, was on her way back to Karachi, her opponents were plotting her murder.  And we all saw the horrific results on the news, didn’t we?

And it’s the same with Jesus.  He’s already upset the religious and political establishment back in Jerusalem.  Which is why in 7:1

7:1 Jesus went around in Galilee, purposely staying away from Judea because the Jews there were waiting to take his life.

And what we’ve got in the rest of chapter 7 is an account of the Annual Jewish fest of Tabernacles, as you can see in v2.    The fest of tabernacles was a sort of 8 day Harvest festival in Jerusalem, where Jews from all over the world would converge on Jerusalem.    And like all good Bible teaching, there was a focus on looking back at God’s faithful provision in the past;  a focus on thanksgiving for blessings in the present;  and a focus on the promised blessings of the future:  promises like the pouring out of the Holy Spirit.   

And to supplement the Bible teaching, there were various liturgical actions involving water and light;  liturgical actions which reminded the people of the cloud that guided God’s OT people through the desert on the way to the Promised Land and the water he gave them on the way.  Light and water.  Symbols which Jesus picks up and applies to himself. 

But Jesus needs to be careful.    The suicide bombers are waiting for him.  As he says in v6, his time hasn’t come.  God’s perfect time hadn’t arrived.  And so he needs to avoid being arrested to soon. 

And so we see in v10, that he goes to the feast in secret.    And it’s only half way through the feast, in v14, that Jesus goes public and starts teaching. 

1.                  What does Jesus imply or say about himself (v15-24 & 37-39   [+6-8])

So what did Jesus teach?  What does Jesus say or imply about himself in these verses.    Well lots of things, but there are 3 main claims:  Jesus is the

a.       The Prophet like Moses who was to come

b.      He’s the promised Messiah or Christ

c.       And He’s actually the Lord God himself, God the Son. 

So let’s look at those in turn:

a.                   The Prophet Like Moses  

First then:  Jesus is the prophet like Moses.  Look with me at v40: 

 40On hearing his words, some of the people said, "Surely this man is the Prophet."

In the OT, a prophet’s main role was to not so much to foretell the future, but to point people back to God’s word and apply it in the present.  And because God’s people were constantly going astray, as we the church do today, a large part of the prophet’s job was to expose the sin and lawbreaking of God’s people and warn them of the coming judgement unless they repented.    And that’s exactly what we see Jesus doing in these verses.  Look with me at v7:

7The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify that what it does is evil.

And Jesus is doing the same thing in v15-19.  Look at the conclusion in v19:

19Has not Moses given you the law? Yet not one of you keeps the law. Why are you trying to kill me?"

And in v21-24 it’s the same:  let’s look at the conclusion again in v23:

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."

So Jesus teaches people the Bible and exposes their sin.  Jesus is a prophet.  But so what?  There were lots of prophets in the OT.  And even Muslims accept that Jesus was a prophet.  But the point of v40 is that people were wondering if Jesus was The prophet;  The prophet like Moses that God has promised to send.  A prophet who was especially close to God and who would perform awesome deeds in the sight of God’s people. 

And that’s the point in v16:  J’s teaching comes directly from the Father.  Jesus teaches and, just like Moses, he’s performed mighty deeds;  deeds like the healing of the paralytic which he’s referring to in v21.  And just like Moses, Jesus is claiming an intimate relationship with the Father.  In v18, he’s the one sent directly from the Father.   Jesus is the prophet like Moses who was to come.   

B  The Christ 

But some people in v41 thought Jesus was more than just The Prophet.  Maybe he’s the Christ – God’s promised King.  Why did they think that?  Because the mighty deeds Jesus had been performing went well beyond those of Moses, the Prophet.     J healed the sick;  calmed storms;  raised the dead and claimed authority over the temple and its teaching.  Jesus claimed to be the source of eternal life.    Jesus was claiming an authority far greater than any Prophet, even Moses.  He had a kingly authority;  a king like David.  And the way Jesus exercised His authority, was in line with what the OT’s said about the Messiah.  And so others said in v41:  He is the Christ, the Messiah, the King in David’s line. 

C  Yahweh The Son

But there’s more.  Yes I’m the Prophet, says Jesus.  Yes I’m the long promised Christ or King in David’s line.  But I’m so much more.    Back in chapter 1, we were told that, in the beginning, the Word had existed for all eternity;  and this eternal Word was at the same time God himself, but also a separate person from God the father.  And then, at a point in time, God the Word took on human flesh.  God the Word became a Man.   And all through John’s Gospel, Jesus has been spelling out the nature of his relationship with the Father.  A relationship that was far more intimate than even Moses or King David had ever been.  

Turn back with me to 5:17:

17Jesus said to them, "My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working." 18For this reason the Jews tried all the harder to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.

Notice the reason they want to kill him:  it’s not ignorance.  No  it’s because they understand the point Jesus is making.  He’s making himself equal with God the Father.  J is equally God along with God the Father.  Because Jesus is God the Son.  The Son, as we’ll see who’s the giver of the Spirit.   And J's relationship with the F is so intimate, that they remain a unity of one God;  One God in 3 Persons:  F, Son and HS.  And that intimacy of their relationship means they have a single message and purpose.    A single action plan for Jesus to die on the cross as a sacrifice for His people’s sins.  As Jesus puts in back in chapter 7 v 16:

16  "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.

In v33 it’s even clearer:

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."

Notice in v34 the subtle reference to God’s name:  I am.  I am was the special name God had revealed to Moses in the OT.  When the Israelites ask you who sent you:  tell them I am sent you.  And all through John’s Gospel, Jesus has been applying that name to himself:  I am the bread of life Jesus said back in chapter 6 .  And in chapter 13, he will go on to say this: 

13: 19"I am telling you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe that I am”

J claimed to have a relationship with God the F that went beyond that of even The prophet or The Messiah.  Jesus provocatively applies God’s very name to himself.  Jesus wasn’t simply the prophet and the Messiah.  No, Jesus is God himself visiting his people.  God with a human face. 

What does Jesus say or imply about himself:  I’m the prophet like Moses who was to come.  I’m the Messiah, the Christ, the promised King in David’s Line.  And I’m God himself;  God the Son, working in perfect harmony with God the Father. 

Some of you might know that we’ve been having a bit of press coverage up at SF’s and we had more press in this morning.  But this really is a story worthy of the front page of the Jerusalem Daily Mail or the Judean Post isn’t it?   Shock Horror:  “God himself becomes a man and tells us all about it.”  

2.                  What do people make of that (25-31 + 40-44   +3-5 & 11-13]]

So how do you respond to that then?   It’s not every day that some pitches up and makes such outlandish claims is it?  Well in chapter 7, we see 4 main reactions to J’s claims:

a.  sarcastic rejection by family (v3-5): 

First in v3-5, we have a sarcastic rejection by J’s immediate family.  A sarcastic rejection by J’s family.    V5 tells us that his brothers didn’t believe him.  And so back in v3, they’re just taking the mick.  Yeah, you go up to Jerusalem, make a fool of yourselves and get killed.  And we’ll all have a laugh about it on the way home. 

And it’s always been the same throughout Christian history.  The Christian faith has been ridiculed right from the start.  In the early church, Christians were ridiculed as worshipping a man with a donkey’s head;  when I was at school, there were jokes about Jesus on a rubber cross, then we had the Life of Brian and JC Superstar and all that.  And what’s true for Jesus, is true for His disciples then and now.  In v7, Jesus was hated by the world because he exposed their sin and evil.  And if you stand up for truth and light, especially at time of year when lots of people want to celebrate a festival of evil, you’re likely to be hated and ridiculed.  It might have a polite veneer, but if you expose people’s sin and evil, then, beneath the veneer, you’re going to be hated. 

But notice whose taking the mick.  It was J’s brothers.  People who knew Jesus and has seen His miracles, and yet people who’d still missed the point.  And the point for us is that it’s perfectly possible to grow up in a Christian household and be surrounded by Jesus all your life and still miss the point.  Indeed, some of those who are most opposed to the Christian faith are those who used to be in the family so to speak, but have now turned their backs on Jesus.  And the message for Christians in all of this is:  don’t be thrown when this happens:  it’s quite normal.  Keep trusting in Jesus and asking for his sustaining help to get you through the latest round of ridicule and rejection.

b.  Confused speculation (v12 + 25-27 + 40-44     +46

Sarcastic rejection then.  But next we see confused speculation . Confused speculation.  In v11 some think Jesus is a good man, others think he’s a dodgy charlatan.  In v25-27 & 41-43, there’s a big debate about whether Jesus is the Messiah.  But they’re confused about some of J’s claims;  why?  Because they’re ignorant about the facts.  Yes Jesus grew up in Galilee, but they didn’t realise in v43, that Jesus was actually born in Bethlehem, just as the OT said the Christ would be.

And maybe that’s you.  You’ve watched the vicar of Dibley or you’ve heard something about Christianity from somewhere else and you’re confused.  You can’t seem to square what you think you know about Christianity with these claims Jesus is making here in John’s Gospel.  And if that’s you, if you’re a bit confused by all this, then you need to find out more.  And the best way to find our more, is to keep coming back to church on Sundays and to join a small group of some kind where you can ask questions and dig deeper.  And if you want to talk about any of that, then pl have a word with me after the service.    The confused speculators then.

c  Sort of faith:  v31  [+40&41??]  +50-51

But some people, like those in v31, responded by putting their faith in Jesus.      v31 is a question where the expected answer is no.  No when the Messiah comes, he won’t do any more signs than these.  Conclusion therefore:  Jesus is the long-promised Messiah.  And so they put their trust in Jesus.  And as Lee explained for us last week, putting your faith in Jesus means more than simple intellectual assent.  It means basing your whole life around Jesus.    

And again, if you’ve been thinking these things through for a while and you’ve reached a conclusion tonight:  yes Jesus is the Christ:  yes He’s God the Son.   Then you need to do something about it.  If this is true then it’s not just an interesting fact like there won’t be a General Election now;  it’s not even an emotive fact like England lost the World cup ad we wos robbed of that try!   Jesus being God is a truth with eternal consequences, so if you know it’s true and you haven’t done anything about it, then again come and speak to me afterwards and find out how to start basing your life around Jesus. 

 Murderous hostility (v1, 11, 15, 20?, 30, 32, 44   47-49 & 52

Some responded in faith then.  But, as we’ve already seen, others were simply hardened in their murderous hostility to Jesus.   They’d already decided to kill Jesus in v1.    And they tried every opportunity to arrest Him, like in v30 and v32.  But Jesus is in complete control of the timing of Good Friday.  Because He’s God remember.  And so premature attempts to arrest him don’t succeed.  His time hasn’t arrived yet.   

Now it’s unlikely we’ve got any succeed bombers in church this evening, although in parts of the world there still is a murderous hostility to the Christian faith.  But the passage gives us some interesting insights into the method of those who are totally opposed to Jesus.  And as we’ll see, these methods are remarkable similar to the totalitarian tactics of the Burmese Junta we've seen in recent weeks. 

i Contempt (v11)

First in v11:  we see they treat Jesus and his followers with complete contempt:  they don’t even refer to him by name:  he's simply ‘That man’.  A bit like how Bill Clinton referred to Monica Lewinsky as simply ‘that woman’.      Avoid the issue:  treat them with contempt..

Ii Shut down dissent/ debate v13)

Next in v13 we see that the murderous authorities have shut down debate.    It’s not just that anyone who concluded that Jesus was the Christ would be thrown out of the Synagogue.  They didn’t even want people discussing whether Jesus was the Christ or not.  It’s a classic Orwellian tactic:  control the conclusions by limiting the parameters of the debate.  The evidence is against them, so they simply abolish the debate.  

And that’s exactly what's happened to Christianity in our nation.  It’s still OK to be a Christian, as long as you don’t talk about it in public.  As long as you don’t let it affect your work;  your work as a doctor, or MP or teacher or whatever. 

In the recent debate about abortion, the scientists involved had to declare if they were Christians:  because the assumption seems to be that scientists who are Christians would be biased and unbalanced.  Outrageous isn’t it?    

As Christians, we need to defend free speech on all fronts not just the right to preach the Gospel itself.  Because totalitarian tendencies will always tend to shut down debates that can’t be won on facts alone. 

Iii  Accuse opponents of demon possession or mental illness

And next in v20 we see another totalitarian tactic:  if you don’t succeed in shutting down the debate, then you accuse your opponents of being demon-possessed;  those Christians:  they’re raving mad.  And in communist counties like N Korea, , you’d literally be thrown into an asylum. Despite all evidence to the contrary, the people in v20 were pretending that no one was trying to kill Jesus and that you’re mad for even suggesting it. 

Iv   Snobbery

But if all else fails, then the authorities revert to snobbery:    Intellectual snobbery in v15;  religious snobbery or pulling rank in v47 & 48;  class snobbery in v48;  & finally postcode snobbery in v52.    Not an engagement with the facts, but an affected dismissal of J's claims because I’m better than you and I know better than you.  So we can forget these lowlife Christians and their worthless ideas about Jesus being God.  As v49 puts it: 

49No! But this mob that knows nothing of the law—there is a curse on them."

4 responses then to J’s claims:  sarcastic rejection;  confused speculation;  believing and trusting in J;  or murderous hostility.    And for those implacably opposed to Jesus, we’ve examined their totalitarian tactics:  contempt;  shut down the argument;   write Christians off as mad or simply play the snob card. 

3.                  What’s the result of people’s conclusion about Jesus [v32-36 & 45-52]

So finally, what’s the result of people’s conclusions about Jesus.  What’s the result of people’s conclusions about Jesus. 

Well we know from the bigger picture that those who were murderously hostile to Jesus got their way.  Jesus was arrested and sentenced to death by a kangaroo court.    An innocent man condemned to death just like Jean Charles De Menezes.  But look at v33 again:

 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."

As always, Jesus is in complete control.  Going to the cross was all part of God’s plan.  And after the crucifixion, we know that Jesus was raised to life and then ascended to the Glory of God the father, just as he said would happen.  And after the ascension, in Acts 2, the Holy Spirit was poured out on God’s people just as Jesus promised in v37-39.    And the gift of the HS comes as a package with forgiveness of sins and eternal life. 

And so the question is, are you one of God’s people?  One of those who’ve put their faith in Jesus like those in v31.   Because it’s only in this sense, only when we actively drink what Jesus is offering, only when we put our trust in Jesus and base our whole lives on Him, only then will we actually receive the gift of the HS.  So let me ask you;  is that you, or are you still in v34:

34You will look for me, but you will not find me; and where I am, you cannot come."

If we get to the end of our lives and we’ve haven’t drunk deeply from Jesus, if we haven't put our trust in Him, then we won’t be able to join him in the heavenly new creation.  Why?  Because are sins won’t be forgiven and we’ll still be facing God’s just judgement for all the sin Jesus has exposed in our law-breaking lives.  As Jesus put it himself back in chapter 3:

“whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son.[g]

So let me ask you as we close:  have you put your trust in Jesus.  And if you have, are you prepared for the schism;  are you prepared for the wide range of responses you’ll get to the message of Jesus.  Responses ranging from others joining you in true faith, through confusion, sarcasm, to outright hostility.  Because forewarned is forearmed.  The more we’re prepared, the less we’ll be thrown when Jesus is thrown back in our face.  Let’s pray.


Closing Prayer

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for sending Jesus to show us what you’re really like.  Help us to accept who Jesus is:  the Prophet who was to come, the Messiah and your One and only Divine Son.  And as we believe and trust in Jesus, grant us the gift of the HS.  And for those of us who’ve have already received that gift, help us to stick closely to Jesus and not to be thrown by the confusion and opposition of those around us who still haven’t understand the greatest news of all time:  the good news that God himself became took on human flesh to tell us all about himself and bring us back to heaven to live with him for ever.  Amen. 

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