Wednesday, September 23, 2015
"Judge Rightly" Sermon: John 7:1-24
September 20, 2015 Second Reformed Church
Is it possible to obey the law to honor your parents while disobeying them?
Is it possible to obey the law not to kill while killing?
Is it possible to obey the law not to work on the Sabbath while working on the Sabbath?
Jesus explained to the crowd – and to the Jews in particular – that things are not always what they seem.
Our text this morning takes place about six months after Jesus taught on the Bread of Life. And we may remember that Jesus said that He is God in the flesh, that the Law cannot save, and that God choses whom to save and change and unite with Christ spiritually.
As we turn to our text:
We see, first this morning, the Gospel exposes our sin and unbelief.
“After this Jesus went about in Galilee. He would not go about in Judea, because the Jews were seeking to kill him. 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 seek 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 spent the next part of His ministry in Galilee, because the Jews were seeking to kill Him in Judea (where Jerusalem was located), and it was not time for Him to suffer and die.
It was time for the Fest of Booths – the Feast of Tabernacles – when Jews gather together to remember and give thanks for their preservation by God during the forty years in the wilderness after God delivered them from Egypt. It was also a time to celebrate the harvest – it is a thanksgiving feast time – and it lasts a week.
Jesus was with His family at this time – and His brothers came to Him to ask if He was going to accompany them to the feast.
In the Gospel penned by Matthew, we learn of Jesus’ extended family: “Is this not the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary? Are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? Are not all his sisters with us?” (Matthew 13:55-56a, ESV).
Mary and Joseph had a number of sons and daughters after Jesus was born.
And we see that Jesus’ brothers did not ask Him whether He was joining them for the feast just to see if He wanted to sit in the front seat on the way to Jerusalem. No, His brothers did not believe in Him – they did not – yet – believe that He is God the Savior – (though they would believe after the Resurrection).
What did they say to Him?
“Jesus, are You coming with us to the Feast of Booths? You know, Your disciples in Jerusalem would like to see You do some of Your famous works. After all, if You are the Savior, You wouldn’t want to do Your works in secret, would You? You would want to do Your works before the whole world so everyone would believe in You. If You are the Savior, why don’t You show Yourself and Your works to the world?”
Jesus’ brothers taunted Him: “If You want us to believe You are the Savior – get out there. Put on a big show. Announce Yourself clearly in Jerusalem and take Your place. Put on the fireworks. All this sneaking around and cryptic parables is not helping anyone to believe in You.”
We know that Jesus had told His family Who He is, because we are told that they did not believe Him. Jesus’ brothers and sisters – whom He grew up with, did not believe that He is God the Savior – (at that time). They didn’t come right out and say, “Jesus, we do not believe You are God the Savior.” No, they said, “Jesus, if You were God the Savior, wouldn’t You act in this way and do this?”
And we see that – maybe you believed later in life and spoke similarly – when presented with the Gospel – our sin and unbelief is plain – until God changes us and causes us to believe: “Really? That’s your story? It doesn’t make sense that God would do that in that way at that time – wouldn’t God have made a way that everyone would be saved? Wouldn’t God just take everyone because He is love?”
And we – all we before we believed – questioned God and what He has done to secure salvation for His people – and we say, “No, that can’t be right.” And the reason we do so is we either don’t understand the depth of the evil of sin, or we don’t understand the heights of the holiness of God, or both.
We tell God we’re not so bad – when we have sinned against the Greatest Bing in the Universe – greater than the President – greater than you and me. We tell God to come down off His high horse and realize we’re all human – and “to err is human” – but Shakespeare said that, not God – God said, “Be holy for I am holy.”
If someone shines a bright light at us, we close our eyes and lift our hands over our face and turn away. We do the same thing as unbelievers when confronted with the Gospel because our sin and unbelief is exposed.
Yet, when God changes our hearts and causes us to believe, we repent of our sin and see the awfulness of it, and then we gaze at the Glory of God, mediated by Jesus, and we are in awe of His holiness, even with the small amount that we are able to see with our human eyes.
“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’m not going up to this feast, for my time has not fully come.’ After saying this, he remained in Galilee.”
Jesus explained to them that He was not going to the Feast because His time had not yet fully come – He was working according to God’s timetable, and it was not time for Him to go up to Jerusalem, because He testified against the world that its deeds are evil. Unbelievers see Jesus and hear His Gospel and they hate Him because they know that He is the Truth and they hate it – they want to remain in their darkness and sin.
But Jesus told His brothers to go ahead – it was right for them to go and to give thanks at the Feast – for God is always worthy of thanks for His bountiful gifts. They were not being hunted – they were not a threat to the other unbelievers in Jerusalem.
“But after his brothers had gone up to the feast, then he also went up, not publically, but in private. The Jews were looking for him at the feast, and saying, ‘Where is he?’ And there was much muttering about him among the people. While some said, ‘He is a good man,’ others said, ‘No, he is leading the people astray.’ Yet, for fear of the Jews, no one spoke openly about him.
“About the middle of the feast Jesus went up into the temple and began teaching. The Jews therefore marveled, saying, ‘How is it that this man has learning, when he never studied?’”
About half-way through the Feast, the time was right for Jesus to go to Jerusalem, so He went up – but He went privately, in secret, so He would not be stopped and carried away before the time was right for Him to suffer and die.
As He made His way to Jerusalem, people at the Feast were looking for Him – they expected He would be there – and they were divided in their opinions over Him: some said He was a good man, but some said that He was leading the people astray.
Then Jesus appeared: He sat down in the Temple and He began to teach, and as they listened to Him, they began to question: “Where did He learn to teach? – He was never educated. He never went to college or seminary – He’s just speaking His own opinions. He has no scholastic pedigree that we should listen to Him.”
“The Savior would be educated. This Man is a nobody. He’s spouting His own opinions. Don’t listen to Him.”
The Gospel exposed their sin and unbelief.
Second, if we know the Word of God, we will recognize the Word of God.
“So Jesus answered them, ‘My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me. 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. 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 is no falsehood. Has not Moses given you the law? Yet none of you keeps the law. Why do you seek to kill me?’ The crowd answered, ‘You have a demon! Who is seeking to kill you?’”
Jesus countered their claims that He was just speaking His own opinion, because He was uneducated, and He told them that He was not speaking His own teaching, but the teaching of the One Who sent Him – God.
And, He told them that if their will was to do God’s Will, they would know that His teaching was God’s teaching.
If He was just speaking His opinion, He would be seeking His Own glory, but if He is teaching the teaching of the One Who sent Him, then He is true – He is being an authentic representative of the One Who sent Him and His teaching.
In other words, Jesus said, “I am not speaking my own words, but the Word of God. If you desired to do God’s will, you would know that I am speaking the Word of God. Since I am not seeking My glory, but the glory of God, what I am teaching is true.”
Does that make sense?
Jesus answered their accusation of His being uneducated and just giving His Own opinion by saying that He was speaking the Word of God and seeking the glory of God, and if they were seeking to obey God, they would recognize what God said.
But, Jesus explained, Moses gave them the Law of God, and they do not obey it, so that is why they do not recognize that Jesus is speaking the Word of God.
It is said that when tellers are trained in a bank, they spend time acquainting themselves with what real money looks and feels like, so when a counterfeit piece comes along, they will know it instantly. They don’t spend time studying the counterfeits, but study the real thing, so they will know a false piece of currency when it comes past them.
Jesus was saying the same thing: if we know the Word of God, we will recognize it when it is preached and taught and read and when we read it, and we will know false teaching and error as well. If we know the Word of God, when heresies and strange teachings come into the church, we can deny them as error and contrary to the Word of God. In this way, we glorify God and protect ourselves from false teaching – if we know the Word of God.
Jesus told the Jews that the reason they didn’t recognize Him and His Word was they did not know and believe the Word of God.
That is one reason we need to be very familiar with the Word of God – why we need to read it and study it and hear it read and preached – so when someone tells us something that goes against the Word of God, we can say, “No, that doesn’t match up with what I know from God’s Word.”
Then Jesus asked them, “Why do you seek to kill me?”
“If you knew the Word of God and believed the Word of God, you would believe Me. But, as it is, you do not know the Word of God, and you do not believe Me, and you are even seeking to kill Me.”
Now, most of the crowd was not seeking to kill Jesus, but there were some who were, and they would know that Jesus was pointing to them in these words – that is why they accused Him of being out of His mind.
If we know the Word of God, we will recognize the Word of God.
Third, the worship of God is not violated by the works of God.
“Jesus answered them, ‘I did one work, and you all marvel at it.’”
Jesus is referring back to chapter five of the Gospel of John where we read that on the Sabbath – when God had ordained that no work be done – He healed a man who had been lying lame by the pool for thirty-eight years. The Jews flew into a rage upon seeing the lame man healed and carrying his bed away, demanding of him, “Who told you to carry your bed on the Sabbath.” They were completely blind to the fact that Jesus had just healed the man, and they focused on what they understood to be a breaking of the Sabbath law.
And then Jesus turned the tables on them:
“‘Moses gave you circumcision (not that it is 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?’”
“According to the Law,” Jesus argued, “a boy must be circumcised on the eighth day of his life. Some boys were born such that the eighth day is the Sabbath. You perform the work of circumcision on the Sabbath and do not consider it breaking the Law. But I healed a man’s whole body (and his soul, as well) on the Sabbath, and you hold me guilty of breaking the Law.”
Do we understand? If it does not break the Law to have a priest do the work of circumcision on the Sabbath, why does it break the Law for Jesus to heal a man on the Sabbath – in his body and soul – who had suffered for thirty-eight years?
So Jesus said:
“’Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgement.’”
God similarly stated:
“For the LORD sees not as a man sees: a man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart” (I Samuel 16:7b, ESV).
Jesus does not deny that the Law states that no one is to work on the Sabbath – one day in seven – but there are exceptions: of mercy and necessity. God gave humanity the Sabbath law that we would not have to strive to provide for ourselves every day, but would have one day in seven when we can rest from our common pursuits and spend the day in rest in the worship of God.
But, if a building is on fire on the Sabbath, firemen do right to work to put out the fire. If someone is shot on the Sabbath, medical professionals do right to try to heal that person. If we are to join together in worship of our God, pastors do right to do the work of leading us in worship and preaching and teaching.
And if someone is starving on the Sabbath, we do right in working to provide food for that person. And if someone has been suffering with an ailment for thirty-eight years, Jesus did right in working to heal that man.
If we do the Will of God, we do some sort of work.
If we do the Will of God, we do what is right.
If we do the Will of God, we do not break the Law.
It is right to do the Will of God on the Sabbath. We do not violate the worship of God – we do not break the Sabbath Law – when we do the Will of God – the Works of God.
And so we are left with the Law, which is a gift to us – the Sabbath day. And we are not to work – to do those things we normally do to earn a living – on the seventh day – except as mercy and necessity call for it – in accordance with the Will of God.
Be careful, this is not an excuse to get around God’s Law, but a call to judge rightly. To examine ourselves and what we are doing and see if we are acting according to the Will and to the Glory of God. If we are, then we will not sin.
We must consider the motivations behind an act – motivations count as well. If I preach on Sunday in order to have people praise me, I have sinned. If I preach on Sunday so we would join together in hearing God’s Word and in the worship of God, I have done what is right, and I have not broken the Sabbath law.
And so it is a good thing to be in God’s Word, so our sin would be exposed and we would repent of it, so we would learn what God’s Will is, so we would learn what is the Truth of God’s Word and be able to see and deny falsehood, and so we would learn to judge rightly, understanding the Law of God, not as a prison to restrain us, but a blessing for us to know how to act according to God’s Will and to His Glory.
Let us pray:
Almighty God, we thank You for the Moral Law that You have given us in Your Word. We ask that the Holy Spirit would draw us to Your Word and help us to know it. We ask that You would give us Your Wisdom that we would judge rightly, not seeking to accuse each other of sin, but to live in a way that is pleasing to You and loving to our neighbors. For it is in Jesus’ Name we pray, Amen.