October 20, 2013

Jesus, Sent for the World

Speaker: Bret Rogers Series: The Gospel According to John Passage: John 7:25–36

Sermon on John 7:25-36 by Bret Rogers, Pastor
Delivered on Sunday, October 20, 2013

Jesus Is the Buzz around the Temple

As we jump back into chapter 7 this morning, John still has us in the temple of Jerusalem with Jesus teaching right in the middle of one of the largest celebrations in Israel, the Feast of Booths. Crowds of people have come from out of town and gathered for this week-long Feast, and many of them are hanging around the temple where Jesus is now teaching quite openly. And the buzz among the people is, “Who in the world is this guy?” John gives us a few snapshots of what they’re saying. Verse 12, “…some said, ‘He is a good man,’ others said, ‘No, he is leading the people astray.’ Verse 15, “How is it that this man has learning, when he has never studied?” Verse 26, “Can it be that the authorities really know that this is the Christ?” Verse 31, “When the Christ appears, will he do more signs than this man has done?” Verse 40, “Some of the people said, “This really is the Prophet.” Others said, “This is the Christ.” But some said, “Is the Christ to come from Galilee? Has not the Scripture said that the Christ comes from the offspring of David, and comes from Bethlehem, the village where David was?” So there was a division among the people over him.”

The buzz around the temple is about Jesus and who he truly is. And it’s no accident that the Holy Spirit has led John to include us in the talk of the town, because that’s the question he wants us all to face as we read his account of Jesus: “Who do you think Jesus really is?” And the way you answer that question makes all the difference in the world to John, because whether or not Jesus is received for who he really is—as the Christ, the Son of God—makes all the difference for our lives and for our eternity. If we receive Jesus as the Christ, God will give us eternal fellowship with himself both now and after we die. But if we reject Jesus as the Christ, God’s fierce wrath abides on us and we will suffer eternal torment after we die. Knowing and receiving Jesus for who he really is makes all the difference in the world.

Misunderstandings in John's Gospel actually for Understanding

So, John includes us in what’s stirring about in Jerusalem with respect to Jesus, but not so that we remain ignorant about Jesus like the rest of the people. The way Jesus answers the people and the way John writes is so that we have a clear understanding of who Jesus really is. That’s actually one of the amazing features about the Gospel of John. John shows great integrity by preserving all the misunderstandings about Jesus during his earthly ministry, including his own misunderstandings along with the other disciples. He’s very humble to admit that they didn’t understand everything Jesus was saying and doing during his earthly ministry either. But, what he does on top of recording the misunderstandings is give us everything we need to understand whatever it was they misunderstood about Jesus. So, you’ll see John insert these little comments here and there or asides or parentheses teaching us to understand. Or, a question will be raised in the text only to be answered by Jesus’ own teaching or what John eventually, by the grace of God, came to understand. Sometimes he’ll even give us a heavenly perspective on the entire scene so that we don’t fall into the same earthly traps that the people are in.

The point is that once you’re finished reading John’s Gospel, he has provided all the understanding you need to know that Jesus is the Christ. You can read the Gospel of John as a Jew or a Muslim or a Hindu or an atheist or a secularist, and you will understand the claims that Jesus is making about himself or that John is making about Jesus. So, the only reason left for why a reader of John’s Gospel wouldn’t receive Jesus is that they don’t want to, not because they don’t understand Jesus. Reading John and rejecting Jesus is a moral problem. To use John’s words, “the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil” (3:19). John presents Jesus very clearly for us, and what rises to the surface about Jesus in our passage today is further confirmation that he really is the Christ, the One sent from God for the world. That’s the big idea: Jesus is sent for the world. Look at verse 26.

Jesus Is Sent for the World

Some of the people of Jerusalem say, “Is not this the man whom they seek to kill? And here he is, speaking openly, and they say nothing to him! Can it be that the authorities really know that this is the Christ?” These Jerusalem people want to know what the deal is. “Are the authorities playing games with us about this guy? Why are they just letting him run on like this with his teaching? Are they not saying anything to him, because they’ve now drawn a different conclusion?” Now, we know the answer to their question is, “Of course they haven’t changed their minds about Jesus.” We’ve been told now three times that they’re seeking to kill Jesus (5:18; 7:1, 19) and the one place in this Gospel where some of the authorities do believe in Jesus, John quickly tells us it’s not much faith at all because they love the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God (12:42-43).

Confusion and Unbelief Over Jesus

So even those who are somewhat leaning toward Jesus, would rather save face with their Pharisee buddies than admit they’ve begun to believe as well. So, of course they haven’t changed their minds about Jesus; but their slowness to act isn’t giving the locals an impression they like among the other hoards of people from outside of Jerusalem listening in. So they make it very clear that the crowds know where they stand as the citizens of Jerusalem. Verse 27, “But we know where this man comes from, and when the Christ appears, no one will know where he comes from.”

In other words, “We don’t believe Jesus can be the Christ, because we know his father and mother (6:42) and we know where he’s from, up there in Galilee (7:41); and that doesn’t line up with what we believe about the Christ. When the real Christ comes, things are going to be different; a bit more sudden and veiled than this man is making things out to be (cf. Matt 24:26). Now, it’s true that some of the Jews expected the Messiah to come from Bethlehem—we see that later in verse 42—but apparently not all of them had the same expectation. There was division among the people, verse 43 says, and we’re getting one piece of that division right here. In their book, no one will know where the Messiah comes from, but they are certain about where this man comes from; and he’s not the Christ.

What’s the lingering question in the air? The question is whether Jesus is the Christ or whether he’s just a poser lunatic in Jerusalem. And these Jews have just announced their judgment call based on what they know. They know where this man is from; but what’s so ironic is that their judgment about Jesus isn’t any better than the rest of the folks they’re trying to impress with their knowledge. Jesus rebuked the crowds of people for judging by appearances in verse 24; and these people are just as guilty. Their understanding of Jesus is totally inadequate; and Jesus calls them on it in verses 28-29.

Now you can read verse 28 as a statement or a question. Our English Bibles translate it different ways, but the meaning is the same regardless of how it’s translated. If Jesus’ words are a question, it comes across as, “You know me, and you know where I come from? O please, tell me more, because my origins are not what you think they are.” If Jesus’ words are a statement, it comes across as, “You know me, and you where I come from, alright, but your so-called knowledge is really limited.” In either case, Jesus is pointing out that they don’t really know as they ought to know. The way things appear is that Jesus is but another man from Galilee; but the way things really are is that Jesus is no one less than the Son of God sent from heaven.

“You know me,” Jesus says, “and you know where I come from?” So he agrees that to some degree they know where he’s from; but their knowledge is inadequate. What they need to consider is the much bigger picture: “I have not come of my own accord. He who sent me is true, and him you do not know. I know him, for I come from him, and he sent me.”

(1) Jesus is sent from God.

My Opa died on Sunday morning of September 22, four Sundays ago now. And in the weeks leading up to his death, he must have mentioned something from John 1:1-14 nearly every time I spoke with him. That passage seemed to be his constant meditation. But one conversation I had with him, I’ll never forget. We were Face-timing while he was in the hospital—face swollen because they had taken him off the machine; oxygen tubes still in his nose—and he brought up John 1:1, 14: “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God…And 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 then he said, “That’s the key, Bret; that’s the key to everything else Jesus did.” The Jews who just voiced their opinion about Jesus so confidently, didn’t have the key to understanding Jesus, namely, that he was with God for all eternity and came from God with a unique mission from his Father.

That’s the first thing I want you to make note of this morning: Jesus is sent from God. He didn’t come on his own initiative; God his Father sent him. And God sent him not as just another prophet would have been sent by God in Israel, like Jews and Muslims still believe. God sent him not as just another god among gods, who was at one time not God, like the Mormons and Jehovah Witnesses believe. Jesus was sent as the eternal Word, as the eternal Son who was forever in the bosom of his Father (1:18). The one who, like his Father, never had a beginning—he was sent from God. And to reject him was equivalent to rejecting the One who sent him.

The only true, real, genuine God that Jesus knows is the God who sent him to earth. If the Jews reject Jesus; they reject God. It’s really offensive to tell a people who think they know God that they really don’t know God, because they don’t believe he sent Jesus. If people do not accept Jesus’ mission from the Father, it does not matter how much they say they like Jesus or how much they say they know God or experience God or get spiritual things from the divine, they simply don’t know God—at least the real God; the God who is true. That’s really helpful for you to keep tucked away in your head as you engage people from day to day for the sake of the gospel. The greatest love you can show people is helping them understand that the real God is the One who sent Jesus. Don’t let the vague God-talk cloud the conversation; center the conversation on Jesus, and see how they respond. Ask them questions about Jesus. Even if other people claim to be Christians, discern whether and how their claims align with Jesus’ mission; if there’s no Jesus saturating their God-talk, there’s no true knowledge of God.

And the same goes for our own understanding of God. At the very core of everything we teach and say and love about God—from the Old Testament to the New; from the heights of our praise to the depths of our theology—at the core of it all should be that he sent Jesus. Our view of God’s absolute sovereignty, his unconditional election, his perfect justice, his extravagant love, his constant faithfulness, his covenant people—everything should center on the fact that he is a God who drew near to an awful humanity by sending Jesus. Holding in our minds that God sent Jesus guards us from casting the mission of Jesus in terms of a loving Son who protects people from a Father who can’t control his temper. That’s heresy; and some of us are tempted to believe that about God, because that’s the only kind of father we had or know. The Bible says that the Son came because of his Father, not despite his Father. Jesus came because of his Father’s love for helpless sinners who deservingly stand under his wrath. As the holy God, he has every right to condemn us for our sin; but what God’s holiness demanded against sinners, his love also provided for sinners. God the Father loved sinners from his own free and gracious will, and, therefore, sent his Son. It’s the Father’s love that constrains the Son to come and endure the mission and suffer in the place of sinners. Jesus is sent from God.

More Hostility and Unbelief Arise

But that’s the understanding the Jews lack; and thus Jesus tells them that they don’t know the true God at all. What’s their response? Verse 30, “So they were seeking to arrest him, but no one laid a hand on him, because his hour had not yet come. Yet many of the people believed in him. They said, ‘When the Christ appears, will he do more signs than this man has done?’ The Pharisees heard the crowd muttering these things about him, and the chief priests and Pharisees sent officers to arrest him.” We see two responses among the Jews, don’t we? More hostility and some belief—but even the belief still seems centered on Jesus’ signs and lacks any confidence that he truly is their Messiah.

We saw in chapter 6 nearly all of Jesus’ disciples forsake him except for twelve. And now he’s in the temple as the Messiah teaching his own people that the true God really did send him; and the only result is some fickle faith wondering if Jesus’ signs are sufficient or whether they should keep looking for someone else. It would seem like the mission of Jesus is simply failing—and you’ll have scholars who study the Bible for a living that really believe his mission failed—but here’s one of those places where John removes the misunderstanding. We don’t have to draw that conclusion because of what he says in verse 30: “no one laid a hand on him, because his hour had not yet come.” This is John’s way of reminding us throughout the story that things are right on track—Jesus’ hour had not yet come.

(2) Jesus is sent from God to die.

So the second thing I want you to note is that Jesus is sent from God to die. When John says that Jesus’ hour had not yet come, he’s referring to the hour of Jesus’ death that’s been ordained by his heavenly Father. John makes the same comment in 8:20 and then we see it a few times on the lips of Jesus as he’s going to the cross. Let me read one to you. 12:23-27, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” And then a little later he speaks to his Father and says, “Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour.”

I wonder who gave John his understanding about Jesus’ hour? Jesus did. And John wants us to understand as well that the Jewish authorities aren’t in control of whether Jesus lives or dies. God the Father is in control of that. Even the unbelief of the crowds and the hostility from the Pharisees falls within God’s predetermined plan to send Jesus to die. The Father sent Jesus for this very unique hour; and not a finger will touch Jesus unless his Father says so.

I was reading this week from Isa 53:10, “It was the will of the Lord to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.” Let me read you what I then read in my John Oswalt commentary on that verse: “How could these tragic miscarriages of justice have happened? [He’s referring to the slaying of the innocent Servant] Perhaps [Solomon] would have said, ‘It’s just a part of the meaninglessness of life under the sun.’ But Isaiah says, ‘Not at all! God wanted this to happen! It is no accident—it is his will!’ But in some ways that is the worst answer of all. God wanted to crush this man? God wanted to visit terrible pain on him? Surely not. The faithful God of the Bible would certainly not visit bad things on innocent people, would he? Yes, he would if some greater good would be served. Is it possible there is some greater good that all the terrible things the Servant has endured will procure? What could possibly be worth all that? It would certainly have to be something of monumental proportions. As it happens, what God wants to come out of the Servant’s suffering is of monumental proportions. He wants human beings to be able to offer this man on the altar of their sins so that he can be a ‘full and sufficient sacrifice’ for them, satisfying all the unpaid debts of their behavior, debts they could never hope to pay, but debts that if left unpaid would stand forever between them and a just God” (Oswalt, Isaiah, 400).

That’s why Jesus came: God sent his Son to die as a full and sufficient sacrifice for our sins, so that we might be reconciled to God. The opposition and indecisiveness of men doesn’t mean the mission is a failure, or that God doesn’t love his Son, or that God isn’t backing what Jesus is teaching. It’s all part of God’s plan in sending his Son to die for our sins. And get this as well: if the opposition against Jesus didn’t mean that God had forsaken him, or that God had stopped loving him, or that the mission was somehow failing, then the opposition that you will face for the sake of the gospel doesn’t mean that either. That’s not what it meant for our Master; and that’s not what it means for his disciples either. Now, we don’t share Jesus’ unique hour; only Jesus could bear the sins of the world on the cross. It’s his hour, and not anyone else’s. But we do share in the results of Jesus’ hour, namely, the preaching of the gospel in all the earth; and any hostility we suffer in that mission of love must be viewed through the lens of what God already achieved through Christ. So the jail cell will not be a place to question God’s love for you, but a place to remember God’s love for you in sending Jesus to die.

(3) Jesus is sent from God to rise from the dead.

Next point I want you to consider: Jesus is sent from God to rise from the dead. Look at verse 33, “Jesus then said, ‘I will be with you a little longer, and then I am going to him who sent me. You will seek me and you will not find me, [and] where I am you cannot come.” Jesus fleshes out his mission a bit more for us. We’ve already seen that he’s sent from God and that God gave him a mission to die for sinners. What we’ve got now is that Jesus plans to return to him who sent him. How’s that going to happen, if he was sent to die? He’s going to tell death it can’t hold him anymore, get up with a resurrection body, walk out of the grave with his Father’s stamp of approval, and ascend back to glory where he came from. He’ll be with these guys a little longer, and then he’ll die. But the cross isn’t the end of Jesus; the cross is his doorway back to glory—it’s the means through which he’ll return to the Father (cf. 12:28; 17:5). So, Jesus is sent from God also to rise from the dead.

That has one huge implication for these Jews, for us, and for the entire world; namely, we shouldn’t look for another Messiah if he’s sitting in heaven. Otherwise, we will look in vain and perish in our sins (cf. 8:21-24). That’s why Jesus says to them, “You will seek me and you will not find me, [and] where I am you cannot come” (7:34). Meaning, if you seek after your Messiah on earth after I’m already seated in heaven; you’re going to be looking for him in vain. You will not find me. And as a result, you won’t be able to come to me in glory. Look with me at 8:21-24 for a minute, because I think it’s made even clearer there. 8:21, “So [Jesus] said to them again [the first time was in chapter 7], ‘I am going away [to the Father], and you will seek me [that is, you will go on looking for the Messiah], and you will die in your sin. Where I am going, you cannot come.’ So the Jews said, ‘Will he kill himself, since he says, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come’?” [Jesus] said to them, ‘You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he [the true Messiah sent from God] you will die in your sins.

That’s what Jesus means in 7:34. If the Jews go on seeking a messiah besides Jesus who will be seated in the heavens, not only will they not find him, but horrifically worse: they will die in their sins and never have fellowship with God. These Jews, everybody in this room, and the entire world must receive Jesus as the Messiah, the Christ, or we will perish in our sins. He came to save us from our sins; but if we reject him and stiff-arm his mission, we will remain in our sins and cut off from glory. So by all means, receive him today if you have not already. Cry out to him from where you’re sitting right now and ask God to save you; and he will. You don’t have to take my word for it. John himself says that “God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him” (3:16-17).

And if you’ve already received him as Messiah, then how could you remain silent about him? Call your lost dad on the phone and tell him more about who Jesus really is. Write a letter to your hardened atheist cousin and invite him to start reading through the Gospel of John with you, to give it fair hearing. Or invite your neighbor who’s rather friendly toward you, but closes up when you start asking spiritual questions—invite him to read John’s Gospel and see if he won’t stop by to talk about it over coffee the next week. Send the people you meet an email about Jesus. I met a guy yesterday at the park, two young boys with him, recently divorced, looking for some help. I got his email address and wrote him an email last night offering what help I could in Christ—I hope I can meet with him again soon. However you do it, help the world see that they need not look to any other person or chemical or job fix to save them, but only to the risen Christ. After all, Jesus is sent from God to die and rise again for the world.

(4) Jesus is sent from God for the world.

Look at the irony behind the Jews’ misunderstanding in verses 35-36: “Where does this man intend to go that we will not find him? Does he intend to go to the Dispersion among the Greeks and teach the Greeks?” So they totally don’t get it, but look what they conclude: “does he intend to go to the Dispersion among the Greeks and teach the Greeks?” The irony is so thick right here, just like it is several other places in John’s Gospel when the Jews say something about the nations (e.g., 11:45-52; 12:19-20). The irony is that even though the Jews take a wild guess, they’ve spoken better than they knew. Jesus will not teach the Greeks, or Gentiles, while he’s on earth, but he will teach them in his resurrected state. How, you might ask? Well through us of course, his church. He’s not just chillin’ with his Father; he’s gathering all nations to himself through the church teaching them about the risen Christ.

So we might add at least one further point: Jesus is sent from God; Jesus is sent from God to die; Jesus is sent from God to rise from the dead; lastly, Jesus is sent from God for the world [for Gentiles too, not just the Jews]. He’s entrusted us with the task of telling the world who Jesus is and why he came. He’s the One sent from God, to die for sins and rise victorious for all who receive him as the Christ. If we’re not telling the world about him, could it be that we too have fallen prey to judging Jesus by appearances instead of with right judgment? I mean functionally of course; I know the majority of us wouldn’t deny Jesus as the Messiah with our mouths. But what kinds of judgments have our hearts been making of him when it comes to proclaiming his graces to others? Is he really the only One sent from God for the world? Is he really the only One who can reconcile us to God? Is he really the One God raised from the dead? Is he really as great a Savior as John says he is? Then let’s not withhold any part of Jesus from the people God has brought into our lives; and be faithful to make him known.

other sermons in this series