Pastor David B. Curtis

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A Hierarchy of Commands

John 7:14-24

Delivered 02/12/17

We are continuing our study of the Fourth Gospel and are currently in the 7th chapter. Before we continue on in chapter 7 let's review what we have seen in the previous two chapters. Chapter 5 is one of the greatest chapters in the Word of God on the deity of Christ. In chapter 5 we saw Yeshua heal a lame man on the Sabbath, and when accused of making Himself equal with God launches into a diatribe proclaiming that He is in fact equal to Yahweh in every way. Chapter 6 is one of the greatest chapters in the Word of God on the Sovereignty of God in salvation. Yeshua over and over again tells unsaved men that unless Yahweh has given them to the Son, unless He draws them, they will never come to Him and never understand His words.

Last week we looked at the first 13 verses of chapter 7, which opens with the Jews seeking to kill Yeshua. The geographical location of the opening verses of chapter 7 is still Galilee. Yeshua has been in Galilee for a year ministering. The first thirteen verses of chapter 7 describe the discussion about, and the action of Yeshua's return to Jerusalem.

The events of chapter 7 take place in the context of the Feast of Booths or Tabernacles in Jerusalem. Because of the feast, Jerusalem is crowded. People from all over Judea and Galilee have come to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles. The crowds are buzzing with speculations about Yeshua, and the crowd is divided about His possible identity, with some saying He's a good man and others saying He is a deceiver.

But when it was now the midst of the feast Yeshua went up into the temple, and began to teach. John 7:14 NASB

"But when it was now the midst of the feast"—this is most likely the 3rd or 4th day of the festival. The festival lasted 7 days with a sacred assembly on the 8th day (Leviticus 23:39; Numbers 29:12, 35). Remember, Yeshua didn't go up to the Feast when everybody else did. He waited until the middle of the week because He knew the rulers wanted to kill Him:

So the Jews were seeking Him at the feast and were saying, "Where is He?" John 7:11 NASB

So Yeshua waits until the middle of the feast, and then He shows up and begins to teach publicly. Some think that because of the controversy about His miracle on the Sabbath recorded in 7:21-24, that He arrived at the feast on the Sabbath. That's possible, but we really can't be certain.

"Yeshua went up into the temple"—the impression we get is that of a sudden and surprising appearance of Yeshua in the Temple area. He didn't come at the beginning, but then suddenly showed up. Lazarus may have been trying to create that impression, maybe to remind his readers of:

"Behold, I am going to send My messenger, and he will clear the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple; and the messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight, behold, He is coming," says the LORD of hosts. Malachi 3:1 NASB

Some strands of Jewish messianic expectation believed that the Messiah would come suddenly and "out of the blue" so to speak. So Lazarus description of Yeshua's sudden appearance would raise the question of Yeshua's identity as Messiah.

The Greek word used here for Temple is hiero and indicates that this was the "outer court" of the Temple area. We tend to think of the Temple as a single building, but it was much more than that. The Jerusalem Temple's most sacred spot was the Holy of Holies, where only the high priest could enter. Next was the Sanctuary limited to the priests; then the Court of Israel where the laymen could gather. Following this was the Court of Women, limited to Jewish women; then the Court of the Gentiles. The Court of the Gentiles was a huge area, about three football fields long and about three football fields wide. It was meant to be a very sacred place—where Gentiles from any nation could come into this court and could pursue the God of the Hebrews and enter into some sort of an experience with God.

"Yeshua went up into the temple"—remember what we saw in chapter 2? The Tabernacle/Temple was a type. What is the anti-type? Yeshua is the anti-type. Yeshua replaces the Temple itself. Yeshua is the anti-type of the Temple. The Temple represented the presence of God among His children in the early days, so Yeshua came and pitched His tent or tabernacled among us. So here we have Yeshua ,the true Temple, the true presence of God, standing in the midst of the Jewish Temple.

"Yeshua went up into the temple, and began to teach"—this wasn't unusual. Rabbis would go to the Temple, and the Temple courtyard, which was a massive area. And they would find a location in courtyard and start school. So Yeshua found a place in the courtyard and He began to teach.

What do you think He was teaching? In the Jewish culture of Yeshua's day the function of a teacher was to teach the Law of Moses. In fact, in Yeshua's time there was no other curriculum taught. "Elementary" school consisted of teaching young boys to read and then memorize the Law. "Graduate" school training for rabbis consisted of learning (memorizing) the oral tradition that Jews believed to have been delivered to Moses and passed along orally through the centuries. This suggests that when Yeshua began teaching in the Temple He was giving interpretation of the Tanakh.

The Jews then were astonished, saying, "How has this man become learned, having never been educated?" John 7:15 NASB

"The Jews then were astonished"—I think Lazarus uses "Jews" here of the Jewish leaders. Notice their response to Yeshua's teaching, they were "astonished" this word is from the Greek word thaumazo, which was characteristically used when the object of perception was extremely unusual. For instance, it is the word used of the disciple after Yeshua had calmed the storm:

He said to them, "Why are you afraid, you men of little faith?" Then He got up and rebuked the winds and the sea, and it became perfectly calm. The men were amazed, and said, "What kind of a man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?" Matthew 8:26-27 NASB

The word, "amazed," here is also thaumazo. They saw the power of God right before their very eyes, and they were amazed. We also see this same word used in:

Now as they observed the confidence of Peter and John, and understood that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were marveling, and began to recognize them as having been with Yeshua. Acts 4:13 NASB

The wisdom of Peter caused the Sanhedrin to "marvel." The Sanhedrin were impressed. They were used to men cringing before them, not speaking out boldly. And they were not used to having Scripture quoted at them. And these Jewish rulers were at a loss to understand this. How could these uneducated, common men have such poise and confidence? The conclusion they came to is most remarkable. Their own explanation was that these men had been with Yeshua.

So the Jewish leaders were astonished at Yeshua's teaching, and at the teaching of His disciples. These Jews, who want to kill Yeshua, are here unwittingly praising Him. They marvel how Yeshua, who has not been educated by them, has such a keen understanding of the Scriptures.

The use of the phrase "this man" has a connotation of disrespect:

Then the slave-girl who kept the door said to Peter, "You are not also one of this man's disciples, are you?" He said, "I am not." John 18:17 NASB

So they marvel that "this man" who has no education can teach as He does. The term "become learned" is from the Greek grammata, which literally means: "know letters." Grammata refers to simple writings, and usually it refers to Scriptural writings. It used this way in chapter 5:

"For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me, for he wrote about Me. "But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?" John 5:46-47 NASB

Moses writings were the Scripture. So when they ask, How does this man know letters? They are asking, How does He know the Scriptures when He has not sat at the feet of the rabbis.

In modern language this would be, "How is He able to teach and understand the truth of God so well when He doesn't have a degree from one of our accredited institutions?

The Jews had the idea that teaching could come from only two sources; it can either come from their schools, and so they would ask, "What rabbi has He studied under?" Or it comes from oneself. But there was another alternative, His teaching came from God.

So Yeshua answered them and said, "My teaching is not Mine, but His who sent Me. John 7:16 NASB

"My teaching is not Mine, but His who sent Mesince rabbis often sent a student with power of attorney Yeshua's reply makes perfect sense in a Jewish context. In order to give authority to what they said, they would quote other respected rabbis. This validated what they said, so that people wouldn't think they invented it. And it kept them in the tradition.

That's not what Yeshua did. He didn't quote any other rabbis. He quoted Yahweh, His Father. What He is saying is, "I have not made up my teaching. It is the teaching of my Father." This was a claim He made over and over and over.

Therefore Yeshua answered and was saying to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner. John 5:19 NASB

In other words, everything comes from the Father:

"I can do nothing on My own initiative. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is just, because I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. John 5:30 NASB

Yeshua claims that everything He does comes from the Father.

There have been many teachers and charlatans down through the centuries who have argued that what they are saying is precisely what God has said, and that therefore everyone should obey them. So what gave Yeshua the right to say what He did? What did Nicodemus say?:

this man came to Yeshua by night and said to Him, "Rabbi, we know that You have come from God as a teacher; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him." John 3:2 NASB

The miracles He did gave proof to His claims. They had seen Him give a lame man the ability to walk. But notice what Yeshua says about how men will know that He is from God and teaching what His Father wants Him to:

"If anyone is willing to do His will, he will know of the teaching, whether it is of God or whether I speak from Myself. John 7:17 NASB

What is Yeshua saying here? How will a man know if Yeshua's teaching if from God or Himself? He says, "If anyone is willing to do His will"—"If" This is a third class conditional sentence, which means: "potential or possible action." The KJV says:

If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself. John 7:17 KJV

This almost sounds as if a man goes out and does his will, then after having done his will, he will come to know of the doctrine. And many see that as what he is saying. John MacArthur writes:

"What draws people to the Gospel, what draws people to Christ is a desire to do the will of God... you come to know the truth when God reveals the truth to you and He reveals it to you only when you seek to do His will." So you have to seek God and then He reveals His will to you. He goes on to say, "You turn, and then it becomes known to you. Repentance comes first. God does not grant light on His truth unless a man is anxious to walk according to that light." [Online message at www.gty.org, 43-41, "Embracing the Claim Christ's" of John 7:14-24]

The Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard wrote, "It is difficult for us to believe because it is difficult for us to obey." To this a commentator adds, "If you're willing to obey, God will show you that Jesus is God's true and righteous one. He is worthy of all your trust!"

So they seem to be saying, "If a man goes out and does his will, then after having done his will he will come to know of the doctrine." Now that is not what our Lord is saying. He's not saying that one must do some ethical work, and having done some ethical work God will then introduce him into the knowledge of the truth. No, that's not what He means at all. I like the way the ESV puts it, "If anyone's will is to do God's will." The stress is on the person's will. If your will is to do God's will, then you will know that Yeshua's teaching is from Yahweh. Who wills to do God's will? If you have been paying attention to our study of this Gospel at all, you will know that it is impossible for anyone to will to do God's will apart from a previous work of the Holy Spirit. God must make man willing by a sovereign act of grace.

Professor C. K. Barrett, in a very incisive comment has said, "A free human decision about the claims of Jesus is impossible." Why is this true? Because Yeshua said, "No man can come to me," One must be drawn by the Father. One must be given by the Father. How is it possible then for anyone to will to do His will? Well the only way it is possible for anyone to will to do His will is if first God has worked in His will to will to do is will.

The only condition for understanding the claims of Yeshua is faith. "Doing the will of God" does not mean ethical obedience. We have already seen in our study of this book that the work of God is to believe on Him who has sent. That's what our Lord means when He says here if any man wills to do His will. He's talking about the work of faith, which is something produced in men by the work of God.

Now let me just add here that I think that a believer can learn more about Yahweh when they live in obedience. I think sin hinders our understanding. But this is not true for a lost person. They are dead, blind and in darkness and cannot accept the things of the Spirit:

"He who speaks from himself seeks his own glory; but He who is seeking the glory of the One who sent Him, He is true, and there is no unrighteousness in Him. John 7:18 NASB

Yeshua makes a pointed attack on the Jewish rabbis who saw their ministry as an opportunity to build their own fame. Here Yeshua returns to the theme of John 5:41-44. Speaking to the Jewish leaders, Yeshua said:

"How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and you do not seek the glory that is from the one and only God? John 5:44 NASB

The truth of their loving to receive glory from one another is found in:

"They love the place of honor at banquets and the chief seats in the synagogues, and respectful greetings in the market places, and being called Rabbi by men. Matthew 23:6-7 NASB

Paul taught that a true Jew, circumcised in the heart, is one whose "praise is not from men, but from God" (Rom. 2:29). But they wanted the praise of men.

I think that the second "glory" in 5:44 verse refers to Christ, the glory of Yahweh.

By shifting from the first references to Himself to third person, Yeshua makes a pointed attack on the Jewish rabbis, who saw their ministry as an opportunity to build their own fame. In contrast, Yeshua pursued the glory of the Father who sent Him.

"He is true"—the only other times in this Gospel where a person is said to be true, it is referring to God:

"He who has received His testimony has set his seal to this, that God is true. John 3:33 NASB

Yeshua wants us to see that He alone shares this quality with God.

The person who advances the ideas of another, ends up glorifying the other person rather than himself or herself. Yeshua claimed to do the latter, and to desire "the glory of the One who sent Him." Whereas His opponents sought their own glory.

"Did not Moses give you the Law, and yet none of you carries out the Law? Why do you seek to kill Me?" John 7:19 NASB

The grammatical construction here expects a "yes" answer. Moses gave you the Law, but you don't live by it. The law of Moses says, "You shall not murder" (Ex. 20:13), but since their attempts to execute Him are the attempts to execute an innocent man, it is nothing less than attempted murder, an effort to break this law. He is speaking to the Jewish leaders at this point:

"Why do you seek to kill Me?"—when did the Jewish authorities begin to discuss killing Yeshua? They began to speak of killing Yeshua in John chapter 5 at the feast when He healed a man on the Sabbath and then said that God was His Father making Himself equal with God. Then He went on to teach that He was equal to the Father in every way.
The crowd answered, "You have a demon! Who seeks to kill You?" John 7:20 NASB

"You have a demon!who said this? The crowd. Many of this crowd would be pilgrims who have come to Jerusalem from some distant place. They were not aware of the Jewish leaders plot to kill Yeshua. So they thought He was crazy to think that someone was trying to kill Him. The Jews of Yeshua's day commonly thought of mental illness, in this case paranoia, as being demon-induced. These people were not charging Yeshua with getting His power from Satan. They were simply saying He was out of His mind. We might say, "You're possessed. You're crazy."

Yeshua answered them, "I did one deed, and you all marvel. John 7:21 NASB

The word "marvel" here is again thaumazo, which was characteristically used when the object of perception was extremely unusual. What did Yeshua do that caused them to marvel? He has been accused of breaking the Law of Moses by working on the Sabbath. Because He healed a lame man on the Sabbath, a man who was paralyzed for 38 years. They weren't marveling because He healed a man, but because He did it on the Sabbath.

For this reason the Jews were persecuting Yeshua, because He was doing these things on the Sabbath. But He answered them, "My Father is working until now, and I Myself am working." John 5:16-17 NASB

Yeshua defends His actions by pointing out that He is merely imitating His Father by working on the Sabbath. The rabbis regarded God as working on the Sabbath by simply maintaining the universe, otherwise, all nature and life would cease to exist. But they did not accuse Yahweh of violating the Sabbath. Yeshua, too, viewed God as constantly at work, "My Father is working until now." Yeshua claimed to be doing Himself what God was doing, "I Myself am working." He described His work as co-ordinate with the Father's, not dependent on it. God did not suspend His activities on the Sabbath, and neither did Yeshua. This was a virtual claim to deity:

"For this reason Moses has given you circumcision (not because it is from Moses, but from the fathers), and on the Sabbath you circumcise a man. John 7:22 NASB

Circumcision is a sign of the Abrahamic Covenant (Genesis 17:10-14) and was later continued into the Mosaic (Sinai) Covenant (Leviticus 12:3). Circumcision was believed to be the "healing" of the newborn by bringing him out of the "world" and into the sacred Covenant. According to tradition the command to circumcise newborn boys on the eighth day overrides the duty to observe the Sabbath rest to refrain from work when it falls on the same day. Yeshua's argument is that if it is lawful to "heal" part of the body how can it be unlawful to heal the whole body when the need arises on the Sabbath? He is using a typical first century rabbinical argument.

In Yeshua's day there were seven schools of Pharisees. These seven schools of Pharisees all took the Bible literally, but they ranged from the most progressive school, which was the school of Hillel, to the most conservative, very traditional school of Shammai. There were five other schools whose views fell in between these two. These rabbinic schools were always arguing about how to interpret the Torah or determining what is the proper yoke.

The Rabbis with semikhah had their own way of coming up with new teaching. And that method of interpretation was called their "yoke." The yoke of Torah is the way you take the burden of keeping Torah on your shoulder. You do it according to their method. Every Rabbi had a different yoke. Torah teachers would teach the accepted interpretations, or yoke, of their community. [For more on Rabbis with semikhah see the message on "Jesus The Rabbi" from Mark 9:5]

If you wanted to know what a Rabbi with semikhah's yoke, was you would simply ask him, "What is the greatest commandment?" The greatest commandment will tell you what his yoke is. What was Yeshua's yoke?:

"Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?" 37 And He said to him, "'YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.' 38 "This is the great and foremost commandment. 39 "The second is like it, 'YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.' 40 "On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets." Matthew 22:36-40 NASB

The Jews said that the commandments contradict each other by God's design, so they had to know which was greater. For example:

'Therefore you are to observe the sabbath, for it is holy to you. Everyone who profanes it shall surely be put to death; for whoever does any work on it, that person shall be cut off from among his people. 15 'For six days work may be done, but on the seventh day there is a sabbath of complete rest, holy to the LORD; whoever does any work on the sabbath day shall surely be put to death. Exodus 31:14-15 NASB

That's clear enough, isn't it? You are not to work on the Sabbath. The Torah also taught:

Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, "Speak to the sons of Israel, saying: 'When a woman gives birth and bears a male child, then she shall be unclean for seven days, as in the days of her menstruation she shall be unclean. 'On the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised. Leviticus 12:1-3 NASB

They were to circumcise a male child on the eighth day. That's clear enough also. But what do they do if the eighth day falls on the Sabbath? How do they keep one command without breaking the other? This is why they were always asking: Which is the greatest commandment? The greater one they must keep.

With 613 individual statutes of the Torah from which to choose, all the schools of the Pharisees agreed on the greatest commandment— love God! When asked, "What is the greatest commandment?" Shammai's school would answer, "You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might." Hillel's answer would be the same, and so was Yeshua's answer. Where did this answer come from?:

"Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one! 5 "And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. Deuteronomy 6:4-5 NASB

What did the Jews call this passage? The Shema— which literally means "Hear!" based on the verbal imperative at the start of the verse. A careful investigation of early sources suggests that Deuteronomy 6:4 must have been the first portion from the Torah that Yeshua committed to memory. According to the Babylonian Talmud (Sukkah 42a), Jewish boys were taught this biblical passage as soon as they could speak. So all the Rabbinic schools of Yeshua's day agreed on the greatest commandment.

When asked, What is the second commandment? Shammai's school would answer: "Keep the Sabbath." They put the Sabbath law above all others because they said the Sabbath was about God. When asked, What is the second commandment? Hillel's school would answer, "Love your neighbor." Yeshua's answer was also, "Love your neighbor." Love your neighbor came seventh in Shammai's school.

The debate in Yeshua's day was how to interpret the Torah by deciding the greater and lesser commandments. We see this idea of greater and lesser commands in Yeshua's words:

"Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and so teaches others, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:19 NASB

The Jews of Yeshua's day allowed for a male child to be circumcised on the Sabbath. Why do they do it on the Sabbath? Because it had to be done on the eighth day. And so when the eighth day happened to be a Sabbath, they did it on the eighth day. So in a sense, they violated their tradition about work on the Sabbath, because they had a prescription that they needed to follow. So if necessary, the Sabbath could be set aside for something more important, something better, another level of obedience:

"If a man receives circumcision on the Sabbath so that the Law of Moses will not be broken, are you angry with Me because I made an entire man well on the Sabbath? John 7:23 NASB

"If" This is a First class conditional sentence, which is assumed to be true from the writer's perspective. Yeshua's argument is an excellent example of the Jewish method of arguing from a lesser matter to a greater matter (called an a fortiori argument). The essence of Yeshua's argument was that they were willing to put aside their Sabbatical rules so that a baby could be circumcised (cf. Shab 132a; Sabh. 18:3; 19:1-6), but were not willing to put aside their Sabbatical rules that a man might be made whole.

Hall Harris writes, "The Rabbis counted 248 parts to a man's body. In the Talmud, b. Yoma 85b states: 'If circumcision, which attaches to one only of the 248 members of the human body, suspends the Sabbath, how much more shall the saving of the whole body suspend the Sabbath?' So absolutely binding did rabbinic Judaism regard the command of Lev 12:3 to circumcise on the eighth day, that Mishnah Shabbath 18.3; 19.1, 2; and Nedarim 3.11 all hold that the command to circumcise overrides the command to observe the Sabbath."

So Yeshua is basically saying, "I'm not breaking the Law, I'm not doing anything different that you do on a regular basis." Yeshua concludes His defense by saying:

"Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment." John 7:24 NASB

Yeshua concluded by warning His hearers against judging "according to appearance" or superficially. Their superficial "judgment" about what was legitimate activity for the

Sabbath, had resulted in superficial judgment about Yeshua's work and person.

They were judging Yeshua because He healed a man and told him to carry his mat on the Sabbath, which was a violation of their legalistic additions to the Sabbath commandment. But at the same time, they were rejecting the true and righteous One and seeking to kill Him!

By judging by appearance they saw Yeshua as just a man. That's because Yeshua was indistinguishable from any other Galilean man. He most likely had a Galilean accent and His deity was completely invisible. What was visible was His humanity. So instead of believing His words, which were Spirit and life, they judged Him as simply a man.

This is a great verse for all of us to take heed to. How often do we judge by appearance? When we judge, our judgment is to be righteous not superficial. Our judgment are to be based on the truth of Scripture, not our feelings or prejudice.

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