Loving God's Glory in Christ Is True Living
Passage: John 7:14–24
Sermon on John 7:14-24 by Bret Rogers, Pastor
Delivered on Sunday, October 13, 2013
Jesus Doesn't Cater to Our Worldly Motives
Jesus goes public in Jerusalem in our passage today. Verse 14 says that about midway through the Feast of Booths Jesus goes up into the temple and begins teaching. Now, at first glance that seems to contradict what we saw last week in his interaction with the disciples. Read verses 2-8 with me: “Now the Jews’ Feast of Booths was at hand. So his brothers said to him, “Leave here and go to Judea, that your disciples also may see the works you are doing. For no one works in secret if he seeks to be known openly. If you do these things, show yourself to the world.” For not even his brothers believed in him. Jesus said to them, “My time has not yet come, but your time is always here. The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify about it that its works are evil. You go up to the feast. I am not going up to this feast, for my time has not yet fully come.” The disciples wanted Jesus to go up to the Feast publicly to perform miracles. They wanted him to make his presence known, not because they truly believed Jesus was the Messiah, but because they loved the praise of man. The worldly motive of self-promotion filled their hearts, so that what they really wanted was to ride Jesus’ coattails into Jerusalem for their own praise instead of his. So, Jesus told them he wasn’t going up like that. Jesus doesn’t cater to our worldly motives; he exposes them as evil.
Jesus Is Driven by His Father's Mission
And that doesn’t change once we get to verse 14. Just because he finally goes up to the Feast and then goes public in the temple, doesn’t mean the desire for human praise has got the best of Jesus. He already told us in 5:41, “I don’t receive glory from people [meaning, “I’m not driven by the applause of man; I’m satisfied with the glory that comes from God.”].” Also, notice that Jesus doesn’t go up to the Feast on his brothers’ terms, namely, “in public.” Verse 10 tells us he went up in private. And then once he decides to go public, he still refuses to cater to his brothers’ prodding for him to perform miracles. Verse 14 tells us Jesus went up to teach not to perform miracles. So, Jesus isn’t operating on the world’s agenda “to show off his stuff.” He goes on his Father’s agenda in humility to teach; and this never goes over very well with the Jews.
There’s already been a couple more times when Jesus teaches the Jews in the temple. And both times they haven’t liked it—even further confirmation that “he came to his own, and his own people did not receive him” (1:11). In 2:13-22, Jesus cleansed the temple, told the people what he meant, and the Jews demand he prove his authority—which Jesus then proves by telling them that he’s got the power to raise up a far superior temple when he walks out of the tomb. And then in 5:14, shortly after Jesus heals the invalid man on the Sabbath, the Jewish authorities cause a fuss and want to kill him. But Jesus goes on teaching the words of God in the face of their opposition. And now he’s back in the temple teaching the Jews, with all kinds of tension in the air.
Unbelief Rooted in Worldly Motives to Rob God of His Glory
And what does he find in the Jews except more unbelief that’s rooted in worldly motives to rob God of his glory. When verse 15 says that the Jews marveled, we shouldn’t read into their marveling any more amazement than we saw in Jesus’ brothers (vv. 2-5). It becomes very clear that their marveling is not a marveling at the eternal Son of God made flesh. They’re not beholding the precious Treasure of heaven, seeing in Jesus the glory of our great God and Savior. Their marveling is at best superficial and full of unbelief. They’re just like Nicodemus marveling that some teacher just told him—a ruler of the Jews—that he must be born again to enter the kingdom of God (3:7). They’re just like the disciples marveling that their Master dares to sit down and teach a Samaritan woman—and an adulterous Samaritan woman at that (4:27). They’re just like the Jews back in 5:28 marveling that Jesus would have the audacity to compare himself to the Son of Man executing judgment on the earth.
Their marveling isn’t filled with faith—it’s not favorable toward Jesus. They’re not even coming to him for answers; they’re still muttering among themselves about him: “How is it that this man has learning, when he has never studied?” They don’t say, “How is it that you have such learning, Jesus? I’d really like to know.” They’re disturbed because this guy somehow got learning outside of their socially acceptable and recognized authorities. Verse 24 even tells us that they were judging Jesus merely by appearances, but not with right judgment: “I don’t remember seeing this guy in class, yet how is it that he has learning.” They don’t know what to do with Jesus. Jesus isn’t meeting their established criteria for who’s worthy to listen to.
And Jesus looks right through their surface-level, worldly amazement straight into their hearts and address the matter head on. Why is it that the Jews don’t believe him? It’s because they love the recognition they get with their supposed law-keeping. That’s why they cannot believe (cf. 5:44). That’s what’s hindering their faith. They’re not devoted to God’s glory in Christ they are devoted to their own glory in what they think is law-keeping. So Jesus addresses the issue in three parts:
- he centers their attention on God’s glory;
- he exposes their failure to keep God’s law; and then
- he reveals himself as God’s law-fulfiller.
That’s a map for where we’re going. Jesus doesn’t teach to fascinate us with words; he teaches to produce faith.
1. Jesus centers the people on God’s glory.
So, number one, Jesus centers the people on God’s glory. He doesn’t cater to their amazement and boast in his astute knowledge; he directs everybody’s attention back to the One who sent him. Verse 16, “My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me.” Jesus didn’t come from heaven to make much of himself; he came from heaven to make much of his Father—if he comes, it’s always the Father who sent him; if he judges, it’s always the Father who gives it to him; if he’s working, it’s always the Father doing it through him; if he’s speaking, it’s always the Father supplying the words. Jesus is constantly directing people back to his Father. He wants us to understand his mission to glorify his Father in all he does. Jesus’ aim is to bring his Father glory in all that he does. And so without hesitation, he directs everybody’s attention back to his Father, the One who sent him.
But how are the Jews supposed to discern that Jesus is trustworthy in this—that he really came from God; that his teaching is actually right; that his words really represent those of Yahweh himself; that his mission comes from God? He tells them in verses 17-18. “If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority.” So, if your will is in line with God’s will, then you will know the truth—whether my teaching is from God or whether I’m an imposter. This is really penetrating. Jesus is saying that knowing the truth about him involves more than head knowledge, more than a surface-level acceptance of his words, more than an intellectual adherence to what he says. In order to know the truth about Jesus, we must have a changed will, so that our willing and choosing and wanting and desiring aligns itself with God’s will. Jesus cuts right to the heart of the matter—our need for inward transformation (3:1-8); a spiritual heart-transplant so to speak (Ezek 36:26); not just lip-service, but a renewed heart that obeys God’s will (Isa 29:13). If your will—the very causal core of your being—aligns itself with God’s will, then you’ll be able to judge whether Jesus’ teaching is from God or whether he’s speaking by his own authority.
And the reason you’ll be able to make that judgment call is that there’s nothing more appealing or more lovely or more exciting to a will in line with God’s will than the glory of God itself. Verse 18, “The one who speaks on his own authority seeks his own glory; but the one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and in him there is no falsehood.” When your will is in line with God’s will, you see that Jesus is the true One, because he—and he alone—came to seek the glory of his Father who sent him. Jesus came from heaven to make much of God—even if that meant humbling himself unto death on a cross in the place of sinners to reveal the glory of God’s love for sinners. Jesus wants the Jews—and he wants us—to see this about him. He is the one who seeks God’s glory perfectly and reflects God’s glory in all that he does on earth.
Unlike Adam in the Garden, Jesus didn’t exchange God’s glory for the words of a fork-tongued liar. Unlike Israel, Jesus didn’t exchange God’s glory for a bunch of worthless idols crafted by human hands. Unlike all of us, Jesus never exchanged God’s glory for the lies of our flesh that tell us “we deserve the praise; we deserve the recognition; we deserve the comfort; we deserve the money; we deserve the power.” Jesus sought after and lived for God’s glory in everything—even when that meant helping countless sinners to enjoy his Father’s glory by dying for their sins to rescue them from slavery to idolatry. It’s because of his pursuit of God’s glory that Jesus saves us. It’s because he’s devoted to upholding his Father’s glorious justice and displaying his Father’s glorious love that he comes for us; and the Jews are missing it.
The Jews don’t understand this about Jesus, because their wills are not in line with God’s will. Is yours? Is your will in line with God’s will; or do you only pay lip service on Sunday mornings? Do you affirm Christ’s sacrificial death, but refuse to take up your own cross daily in the service of God’s glory? Do you affirm Jesus gave himself up for his bride, the church, but do not give up your preferences to serve the well-being of your wife? Do you say that God has shown you great generosity in the cross, but are rather passive in showing love to your neighbors? Being Christian is more than formal adherence to a creed; it’s a matter of the heart, of a transformed will that seeks God’s glory in everything. Otherwise, why would we affirm the faith? Could it be that the affirmation is for reasons other than glorifying God, and instead serving self? If that’s the way you live, you will ultimately miss Jesus and miss his mission just like these Jews.
The Jews don’t understand this about Jesus, because their wills are not in line with God’s will. The glory of God is not their goal; and their religious leaders aren’t teaching them any better. They think their wills are in line with God’s will—they know the Law—but that’s what makes Jesus’ words so cutting. Despite what they think of themselves, Jesus knows the truth. And that brings us to our second point. After Jesus centers the people on God’s glory, he now exposes their failure to keep God’s law.
2. Jesus exposes their failure to keep God's law.
Number two: Jesus exposes their failure to keep God’s law. Verse 19, “Has not Moses given you the law? Yet none of you keeps the law. Why do you seek to kill me?” You see what he’s doing? He’s highlighting the depth of their depravity. He’s just laid out the criteria for judging the true teacher from the false ones—namely, the one who seeks God’s glory is true; and the one who seeks his own glory is false. But then he exposes they wouldn’t make the right judgment because they don’t even will to do God’s will. God’s will was made clear to the Jews, in the Law of Moses: “you shall not murder…you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” And here they want to kill an innocent man, Jesus, who seeks God’s glory in everything. So, the Jews don’t seek God’s glory by doing God’s will; and that’s made evident by the murder for Jesus inside their hearts.
Of course, none of them have told Jesus they want to murder him. But that’s just the point: Jesus doesn’t need them to tell him what’s in their hearts. He knows what’s inside us and needs no one to tell him what’s inside us (2:25). He knows these Jews even better than they know themselves. They all have murder in their hearts. And even if they haven’t expressed it yet, they will. Not only will they not help Jesus once he’s betrayed (18:8, 15-27), but they’ll also help bring about his death by releasing a murderer over Jesus and shouting to Pilate, “Crucify him” (18:40; 19:15). And Jesus calls their bluff even months before they actually murder him.
Needless to say, the Jews don’t like Jesus’ assessment of them: “You have a demon! Who’s seeking to kill you?” (7:20). Now their pursuits to glorify themselves come into sharper focus. Instead of responding to Jesus with repentance; instead of agreeing with his assessment that they indeed do not keep the law; they accuse him of demon possession. This is what happens when everything you’re banking on to save you has nothing to do with Jesus and everything to do with your own efforts. As soon as someone exposes your failures, you get offensive. Jesus jerks their glory-rug right out from underneath them. Their whole lives are standing on their own law-keeping; and Jesus says they don’t keep it—right in front of everybody in the temple—and they hate him for it. Later Jesus exposes their slavery to sin; but the Jews respond with more self-justification and hatred: “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone…Now we know you have a demon” (8:33, 52).
How do you respond when this happens to you—when someone points out your sin in front of others? Is there anything in you that wants to lessen how bad the rebellion really is? “You said I sinned like this, but what my real intention was…You said I sinned like this, but it’s not like I murdered someone…it’s not like I did what that guy is doing…You said I sinned like this, but who doesn’t struggle with that.” Or, maybe you don’t lessen the rebellion, but you start rebuilding your self-image so that at least if people found out you’ve sinned, at least they’ll leave knowing that you’re actually better than that—“I mean, look at all the Bible verses I know.” Or, maybe you just give your buddy-now-turned-enemy the silent treatment while you hide your anger over the fact that he pointed out you’re a sinner in front of everyone else.
Our sinful nature hates having our glory-rug pulled out from under us; and to that degree we’re just as vulnerable to responding to Jesus as these Jews do here. Their desire to kill Jesus is simply the desire to preserve their glory above God’s, to preserve the approval of other law-keepers instead of the approval of God. The encouragement from the Bible is this brothers and sisters, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:8-9). We don’t fool Jesus when we seek the praise of others or when we bristle at our sins being exposed. Like these Jews, Jesus sees right through us down into the intentions of our hearts. The response is not, “You have a demon!” but “Have mercy on me, a sinner;” it’s not “Who’s seeking to kill you?” but “I’m a murderer every time I’ve been angry at somebody else or the circumstances for exposing me for the sinner I really am, have mercy on me.” And Jesus will have mercy on you if you come to him like that!
He came to obey where we failed to keep the law (2 Cor 5:21) and to suffer the penalty we deserved under the law (Gal 3:10-13) and to give us a righteousness not our own when we turn to him as the end of the law (Rom 10:4). God “made him who knew no sin to be sin that we might become the righteousness of God in him.” So are you a law-breaker this morning? Are you a glory-stealer from God? Have you not loved God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength? Then confess your sins to him; tell him of your self-righteousness and he will forgive you and cleanse you from all unrighteousness.
3. Jesus reveals himself as God's law-fulfiller.
Number three: Jesus reveals himself as God’s law-fulfiller. So, Jesus has centered the discussion on God’s glory. He’s exposed the Jews for what they really are—law-breakers, not law-keepers. And now he reveals himself as God’s law-fulfiller—not just in the sense of obeying every command perfectly—which he does—but in the sense of bringing the Law to its intended goal, especially as that’s seen in him fulfilling circumcision and the Sabbath. So, the distinction between the Jews and Jesus comes to a head right here: they live for their own glory through what they think is law-keeping, while Jesus lives for God’s glory through law-fulfilling.
[Jesus will say something about this later on in chapter 8, but we already get the sense of who’s really living the demonic lifestyle in these next few verses. It’s not Jesus even though they’ve made the accusation; it’s the Jews who desire to destroy the one who brings all of God’s purposes to pass.]
All Jesus needs to prove his point about their murderous hearts is one work that he did back in chapter 5, when he healed the invalid man of thirty-eight years on the Sabbath. That’s the work he’s referring to in verses 21-23. Let’s read them together: “I did one work, and you all marvel at it. Moses gave you circumcision (not that it’s from Moses, but from the fathers), and you circumcise a man on the Sabbath. If on the Sabbath a man receives circumcision, so that the law of Moses may not be broken, are you angry with me because on the Sabbath I made a man’s whole body well?” What’s Jesus getting at by drawing the comparison between them circumcising a man on the Sabbath and him healing a man on the Sabbath? He’s showing them that in their own desire to keep the law, they’ve totally missed the deepest intent of the Law, and therefore perverted it, abused it, and hated God’s will revealed in it.
The Law wasn’t meant to be an end in itself as they’d made it to be. The Law of Moses was always subordinate to God’s purposes first revealed to the fathers. That’s why he gives them the little note, “not that [circumcision] is from Moses, but from the fathers.” The Law wasn’t the ‘be all and in all’ for Israel. Sure, it marked them off as a people from the rest of the nations; it revealed God’s will for his geo-political nation called Israel—but it was always and ultimately a pointer to God’s redemption in the seed of Abraham, Jesus Christ. This is very much the same thing Jesus told them in 5:39, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me.” If you really believed Moses, then you would believe my words because he wrote of me. We see this in Gal 3 as well—the law was added because of transgressions, until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made, namely, Jesus Christ. Therefore, everything in the law—circumcision and Sabbath included—was to be read in light of God’s promise to send Jesus.
But that’s not how they’re reading the law. These Jews do all they can to obey Lev 12:3—“on the eighth day the flesh of [the male child’s] foreskin shall be circumcised”—and even if the eighth day of that child’s life fell on a Sabbath, they did everything to ensure that baby’s getting circumcised. But they prided themselves for keeping that circumcision law on the Sabbath while totally missing what circumcision and the Sabbath were both ultimately about—not our keeping circumcision as a badge of honor, but God sending his Messiah to bring the day of rest from sin and vain striving through the circumcision of our hearts. The Jews were so busy boasting in their own circumcisions that they miss the only circumcised male-child who could truly save them, Jesus Christ. The Jews were so worried about the law for their own glory that they miss the only Jew who fulfills the law truly for God’s glory. They’re totally content with their circumcised babies on the Sabbath, but could care less about our total healing from all sickness and sin and separation from God in a new heaven and new earth.
Jesus came to reverse the colossal effects of the Fall—to die for sinners, remove their curse, rise from the dead, gather a multitude from all nations, and ensure their final entrance into God’s peaceful presence in the new creation—and they miss him to “keep up their appearances.” They’re thrilled about fixing part of one member on a boy eight days old; and cannot see that Jesus has fixed every member on a man thirty-eight years old as a sign that our restful fellowship with God has arrived through him. You see, their desire to promote their own glory through what they think is law-keeping has led to a very surface-level understanding of God’s purposes that keeps them from making right judgments about Jesus. He hasn’t come to undermine God’s Law, but to fulfill God’s Law, so that law-breakers like us can be saved—but they miss him.
So the question then comes back on the Jews in verse 24 (and us): “Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.” What’s your judgment of Jesus? Are you judging him by appearances or are you judging with right judgment (7:24)? Do you see him as merely a good man or do you see him as a great Savior? Are you trusting a life-taker—like Satan or sin or idols or people controlled by them—or are you trusting a life-giver—like Jesus? Is your life determined by those who pursue their own glory, or is it determined by the One who pursues God’s glory in everything, even when it means his humiliation for your salvation?
The Holy Spirit through John tells us who the trustworthy one is: “these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (20:31). Without believing, you will not have life in his name. So, admit your own failure to keep God’s law. Admit that you are a sinner to the core. Admit that your will is often bent on serving yourself instead of God’s glory. And then trust in God’s law-fulfiller, Jesus Christ. He “became a servant to the circumcised to show God’s truthfulness, to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, and in order that the Gentiles [like most of us] might glorify God for his mercy” (Rom 15:8-9). He came to center your entire life on God’s glory in Christ.
That’s what ultimately transformed the lives of a few of these Jews. Not all of them remained in their unbelief. Many of them were saved; God even appointed a few of them to write some of our New Testament, John included. What changed them? They turned to Christ. 2 Cor 3:7-16, “Now if the ministry of death, carved in letters on stone, came with such glory that the Israelites could not gaze at Moses’ face because of its glory, which was being brought to an end, will not the ministry of the Spirit have even more glory? For if there was glory in the ministry of condemnation, the ministry of righteousness must far exceed it in glory. Indeed, in this case, what once had glory has come to have no glory at all, because of the glory that surpasses it. For if what was being brought to an end came with glory, much more will what is permanent have glory. Since we have such a hope, we are very bold, not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not gaze at the outcome of what was being brought to an end. But their minds were hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed.”
This is much like what John says in 1:14: “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth…and from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.” God’s grace revealed in the glory of Jesus changed them; not more perverted law-keeping. God’s grace revealed in the glory of Jesus opened their eyes; not their own efforts. And God’s grace revealed in the glory of Jesus is what will change us as well.
This is why I titled the message, “Loving God’s Glory in Christ Is True Living.” The Jews were loving their own glory in law-keeping and were cut off from eternal life because of it. But those who love God’s glory in Christ—who center their lives on Jesus’ glory and not their own—they will enjoy eternal life. They will be transformed as Paul says, from one degree of glory to another (2 Cor 3:18). So keep looking to Jesus’ glory this week. When you open your Bibles, ask God the Holy Spirit to shine in your heart to give you the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. Speak of Christ’s excellencies often to one another, so that a clear vision of Jesus’ glory may never be far from our minds. And pray often that God will only show us more of his glories in Christ as we press on to behold him by sight.
And if you’re not a Christian, if God’s glory in Jesus isn’t something you cherish, my exhortation is the same. Ask God to show you the glory of Jesus. Ask God to give you a new will, so that you can discern the truth about him. He will not turn down your request. He sent his Son to die to make your reconciliation with him possible. And his blood is too precious to overlook.
More in The Gospel According to John
May 24, 2015Eyewitness Testimony to the Greatness of Jesus
May 17, 2015Loving Jesus & Feeding His People at All Costs
May 10, 2015Believing the Apostle's Testimony When Not Seeing Jesus