Second Reformed Church

Monday, November 02, 2015

"Conspiracy" Sermon: John 7:25-36

[John 7:25-36]
October 11, 2015 Second Reformed Church
            Have you ever thought that a conspiracy was going on?
            Have you ever thought that the government, politicians, doctors, philosophers, teachers, religious leaders, your family – was concealing the truth about something and trying to get you to believe a lie?
            Have you ever thought that someone was not telling you – or us – the truth because it benefitted them to have us believe a lie?
            Have you ever seen those books with all the information that “they don’t want you to know”?
            In this morning’s text, the question of a conspiracy is raised – a conspiracy to keep people from knowing Who Jesus really is.
            But, let us get our bearings first:
            It was about six months before the crucifixion.  Jesus’ brothers expressed their unbelief in Jesus as God the Son and Savior as they taunted Him about going to the Feast of Booths – to the remembrance of God’s provision for Israel in the wilderness – the national day of thanksgiving.  And they told Jesus that if He was truly God the Son and Savior, He would go to the Feast and prove Himself to the people – and bolster His disciples’ belief with amazing signs.
            Jesus waited till the Feast was about half over – it was a week-long feast – and then He appeared in the Temple and began to teach:  He taught the people that if they knew the Word of God, they would recognize it when they saw it and heard it taught and preached.  And He made it clear that there were some who were seeking to kill Him.  And the reason they wanted to kill Him could be traced back to the fact that He healed a lame man on the Sabbath – He did what was good and right and merciful on the day of rest – which some called sin – though Jesus explained that doing the works of God on the Sabbath does not break God’s Law.
            We see, first, this morning, if we don’t believe that Jesus is God the Son and Savior, we don’t know God.
“Some of the people of Jerusalem therefore said, ‘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?’ 
The crowd that had been listening to Jesus started to put two and two together, and they wondered if there was a conspiracy afoot.
“Here is Jesus, the Rabbi that some of the Jews want to kill.  He is preaching out in the open in the Temple, and no one is making a move against Him – no one is trying to stop Him or take Him away.  Is it possible that the authorities know that Jesus is the Christ – the Messiah – the Savior, and, for some reason, are involved in a conspiracy to keep us from knowing and believing that Jesus is the Savior?”
“Jesus is drawing a crowd, speaking in public, where He could easily be arrested, but they are doing nothing.  Could this be a conspiracy to keep us from understand that Jesus is the Savior?  Do ‘they’ know that He is the Savior – and ‘they’ don’t want us to know?”
Still, there were second thoughts:
“’But we know where this man comes from, and when the Christ appears, no one will know where he comes from.’ 
There were two opinions about the Savior – with respect to where He would be from: some looked to the Scripture, like Micah 5:2, “But you, O Bethlehem, Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from old, from ancient days” (ESV).  We see this view expressed when the magi came to King Herod, and Herod called the chief priests and the scribes, and they quoted this verse to Herod to say that the Savior was prophesied to be born in Bethlehem.
This morning’s text expresses the other view:  that no one will know where the Savior came from.  This view is not based on any specific scripture, but possibly on other writings.  And the people who held to this said, “We know where Jesus is from – Nazareth – and, when the Savior comes, no one will know where He came from, so Jesus can’t be the Savior.”
So the people were saying, “The people who want to kill Jesus aren’t doing anything – and He could easily be taken.  Is there a conspiracy going on to keep us from knowing and believing that Jesus really is the Savior?  No – no, wait a minute – we know that Jesus is from Nazareth, and no one will know where the Savior came from.”
Jesus heard their discussion and responded with irony:
“So Jesus proclaimed, as he taught in the temple, ‘You know me, and you know where I come from.  But 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.’ 
Jesus said, “You know Me?  Really?  You know where I came from?  Really?  What you say and do betrays the fact that you don’t know Me and you don’t know where I came from.  Much less that I have not come here of My Own accord.  I was sent by Him Who is True – God – and you don’t know Him (because if you did, you would believe Me – you would know Me – you would receive My Gospel).  I know God, because I came from God, and God sent me.”
“You think you know Me – and you think you know where I am from – but you don’t.  You don’t believe in Me – you don’t believe I am God the Son and Savior.  I have come from God.  I have been sent by God.  And the fact that you do not know Me or receive Me proves that you do not know God.”
Now, everybody knows there is a God.  Some people believe in God as those who have been made right with God through Jesus.  Some people believe in God, but make Him into Someone other than Who He is – every other religion says there is a god or gods, but they are gods that they have made up – gods that they like and have shaped into what they would like a god to be – it is not the real God that they are worshipping.  And some people actually know the facts about the real God – the Character of the real God, but they hate Him, so they invent their own gods or just deny that God exists.
That’s why; if someone tells us that they believe in God, we need more information – who is this god that they profess belief in?  Is He the God Who sent His Son to come to earth in the person of Jesus to live and die and physically rise from the dead to save the people God has called to Himself?  Is He the One God Who exists in Three Persons – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit?  If he is not, he is not the real God.
Have you heard anyone say, “Yes, I believe in God, but I’m spiritual, not religious.”  You know what that means?  “Yes, I know there is a God, but I don’t care – I’m going to believe what I want and do what I want.”
We cannot be happy with someone saying they believe in God and leave it at that, because Jesus said that if we don’t believe that Jesus is God the Son and Savior, we do not know God.
We do not “all believe in the same God,” because we who believe that Jesus is God the Son and Savior believe in the True God, and everyone who does not believe that Jesus is God the Son and Savior, believes in something or someone else, but not the True God.
James warned, “You believe that God is one; you do well.  Even the demons believe – and shudder!” (James 2:19, ESV).  Knowing all the facts about Jesus and God and the Trinity are not enough:  without a heart belief in Jesus as God the Son and Savior, we do not know God and we are not saved.  We must believe that Jesus is God the Son and Savior to know God and to be saved by Him.
After Jesus answered the crowd in this way, their mood and their response changed, and we see, second, God is Sovereign over life and death.
“So they were seeking to arrest him, but no one laid a hand on him, because his hour had not yet come.” 
All of a sudden, those who wanted to kill Jesus went to arrest Him, but no one could touch Him.  Why?  Because it was not time for Jesus to be put to death.  God prevented them from taking Jesus, because it was not time for them to take Him.
Another time, we read:  “When they heard these things, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath.  And they rose up and drove [Jesus] out of town and brought him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they could throw him down the cliff.  But passing through their midst, he went away” (Luke 4:28-30, ESV).
Another time, Jesus spoke in the synagogue, and the people were enraged with what He said, so they grabbed Him and brought Him to the cliff at the edge of town to throw Him over and kill Him.  But God interceded, and Jesus walked away from them, unharmed, because it was not time for Him to die.
If God interceded in that way to save Jesus, may we not also believe that God will intercede on our behalf?  May we not also believe that God has set the time of our deaths, and God will not allow anything or anyone to end our lives before it is His time?
But we might say, “But Jesus is the Son of God Incarnate, and I am just a creature; I don’t know that God would care for me as much as He cares for His Son.”
Consider this:  God the Father so loved the world that He sent His Only Begotten Son to live and die and physically rise from the dead to make each one of us who believes right with God.  That’s how much God loves us – He sent His Son to earth to become one of us and to die at our hands, physically rising that we would be right with God His – and our – Father.
David wrote, “Cast your burdens on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved” (Psalm 55:22, ESV).
Peter wrote, “Cast[] all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you” (I Peter 5:7, ESV).
And after saying that God the Father cares for the sparrows, feed them, and not one of them can live or die without Him willing it, Jesus said, “Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows” (Matthew 10:31, ESV).
God, our Father, has our lives in His Hands; let us trust Him and pray to Him and thank Him for all that we go through each day under His Fatherly care.
There was a change in the crowd as well, as we read:
“Yet many of the people believed in him.  They said, ‘When the Christ appears, will he do more signs than this man has done?’
After hearing Jesus, many people in the crowd came to saving faith, reasoning that Jesus had done many signs pointing to His being God the Son and Savior, and they could not conceive of another claiming to be the Savior who would do more.
“The Pharisees heard the crowd muttering these things about him, and the chief priests and Pharisees sent officers to arrest him.”
The Pharisees and the chief priests, in particular, then charged at Jesus to arrest Him, but they were not allowed; God forbid them to take Jesus.  And Jesus explained to them:
“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.  Where I am you cannot come.’  The Jews said to one another, ‘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?  What does he mean by saying, “You will seek me and you will not find me,” and, “Where I am you cannot come”?’”
            We know that Jesus was with them about six more months.  Then God allowed Jesus to be taken and tried and put to death.  And then He physically rose from the dead and ascended back to the throne of the Son at the Right Hand of the Father.
            Jesus had several more months of work to do on earth before He submitted to death, and after His physically resurrection, He returned to Heaven, and those who persecuted Him could not follow Him there.  He was sitting, victorious and with all power and authority, sovereignly ruling over all from Heaven.
            They thought that Jesus might try to escape into the lands of the Diaspora – that He would go live in Turkey or Babylon or one of the other far countries, but Jesus was going further than they imagined, and He was warning them that they would only have Him for a short time more.
            We also have a limited time, now.  As we proclaim the Gospel to the whole Creation, we know that Jesus is going to return when the time is right – and the time is running short.
            God warned, “Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon” (Isaiah 55:6-7, ESV).
            “’Behold the days are coming’ declares the Lord God, ‘when I will send a famine on the land – not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord.  They shall wander from sea to sea, and from north to east, they shall run to and fro, to seek the word of the Lord, but they shall not find it’” (Amos 8:11-12, ESV).
            Just as Jesus told the Jews of His day that they would not have Him for long, and then they would be without Him and not be able to follow Him, so we understand that the Word of God is not always preached and our proclaiming of the Gospel may be the only time someone gets to hear the Gospel.
            To us, this is a warning that we may not have another chance to consider the Word of God – and specifically the Gospel message – if you have not believed, hear the Gospel and believe and repent now, because you may not have another chance.  You could die today; you may not hear the Gospel again as your travel through life.
            To us, this is an encouragement to take every opportunity to tell others the Gospel, because they might not have another chance to hear it before their death.  And we desire that no one die in unbelief.
            So the good news that gives us assurance and calls us to work diligently is that we don’t have much time.  Jesus is returning soon, and even if “soon” is another two thousand years away, people are dying every moment of every day who need to hear from us that Jesus and the work that He did on earth, is the only way to be right with God and escape His Wrath.
            Let us pray:
            Almighty God, we thank You for securing the salvation of all those who will ever believe through the work of Jesus Christ in His Gospel.  We ask that You fill us with the Holy Spirit – that we would not compromise the Gospel, but present the Word of the One God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and the Gospel of Jesus Christ – the Incarnate Son of God Who came to earth to live and die and physically rise that we who believe would be forgiven and made holy – and that we would speak now, and not let the chance to speak get away from us, in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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