We are continuing our study of the seventh chapter of John, which is a turning point in this Gospel. In the first four chapters we see very little opposition to Yeshua's teaching, in fact He is gaining in popularity. In chapter 5 the Jewish leaders seek to kill Him because they feel He has blasphemed. Chapter 6 opens with Yeshua's popularity at its height, large crowds are following Him and wanting to make Him their king. But by the end of the chapter the crowds have forsaken Him because they couldn't handle His teaching. And chapter 7 opens with the Jews seeking to kill Him. From here on to the end of the His public ministry we see a steadily deepening hostility.
The setting of chapter 7 is the Feast of Tabernacles, which means it is now six months until the Spring Passover when Yeshua will be crucified. So we're really coming into the last leg of His journey on earth, His ministry leading up to the cross.
Feast of Tabernacles was an eight-day festival intended to celebrate the ingathering of the grape and olive harvest, but it had additional elements deliberately tagged on to remind the Israelites of certain truths about their nation's past. It was a time in which they remembered their deliverance from Egypt. All the men were expected to live in booths they had made from sticks and branches. Even if you lived in Jerusalem itself, you were expected to erect such a dwelling on the roof of your house and sleep in it during the days of the festival. This was done to remind them of the 40 years when the Israelites had wandered around in the wilderness, staying in tents, before they entered their ancestral homeland of Palestine.
And at this feast, like all the other major feasts, the city of Jerusalem was crawling with tens of thousands of people, if not hundreds of thousands. There was the population of Jerusalem itself, and then there were all the other folks from all around the land of Israel. People had come from Galilee, and they had come from Perea, as well as all parts of Judea, then you had to add all of the Jews who came from the rest of the world who came back from being dispersed throughout the Gentile realm. All of them were pretty much gathered in the Herodian Temple to take part in this feast.
As we come to our text for this morning, which is verses 25 thru 36, the subject changes abruptly to Yeshua's identity. The discussion of the Law and of the healing at the pool on the Sabbath disappear. The issue of Yeshua's identity was one of the most controversial issues in the earliest Jewish-Christian relations. The people were clearly confused about Yeshua's identity:
So some of the people of Jerusalem were saying, "Is this not the man whom they are seeking to kill? John 7:25 NASB
The opening question here in the Greek is in the grammatical form that expects a "yes" answer. Yes, this is the man they are seeking to kill.
Earlier in this text Yeshua asks, "Why do you seek to kill me? To which:
The crowd answered, "You have a demon! Who seeks to kill You?" John 7:20 NASB
So how can they say, "Who seeks to kill you." Verse 20, and then in verse 25 say, "Is this not the man whom they're seeking to kill?" Well the answer lies in the fact that there are four separate groups in this chapter who interact with Yeshua. We talked about these four groups in the opening message of this chapter. The groups are, "His brothers," which refers to Yeshua's half brothers; "the Jews," which usually refers to the Jewish religious leaders, whom Lazarus also identifies as the Pharisees and chief priests, who were Sadducees (7:32); "the crowd," which refers to the pilgrims who were their to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles. They were not aware that the Jewish leaders were seeking to kill Yeshua; and "the people of Jerusalem," who were local folks who knew the Sanhedrin and their plans to kill Yeshua.
So in verse 20 it's the "crowd" who asks the question, "Who seeks to kill You?" And here it is "the people of Jerusalem" that ask the question, "Is this not the man whom they're seeking to kill?" Notice what Acts 2 tells us about the "crowd" who came to these feasts:
Now there were Jews living in Jerusalem, devout men from every nation under heaven. Acts 2:5 NASB
"Parthians and Medes and Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya around Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Acts 2:9-10 NASB
So the "crowd" are visitors, and 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. But "the people of Jerusalem" are those who live in Jerusalem. They know the attitude of the leaders. They know they want to kill Yeshua because of what happened a year earlier when He healed the lame man at the pool of Bethesda:
For this reason therefore the Jews were seeking all the more to kill Him, because He not only was breaking the Sabbath, but also was calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God. John 5:18 NASB
After these things Yeshua was walking in Galilee, for He was unwilling to walk in Judea because the Jews were seeking to kill Him. John 7:1 NASB
The Jews realize that Yeshua is making Himself God's equal, and such a claim was regarded as blasphemy. Blasphemy according to the Law was punishable by death by stoning (Leviticus 24:15-16, 23).
So "the people of Jerusalem" are confused. The next verse tells us why:
"Look, He is speaking publicly, and they are saying nothing to Him. The rulers do not really know that this is the Christ, do they? John 7:26 NASB
"Look, He is speaking publicly, and they are saying nothing to Him"—the people are confused because Yeshua is standing there in the Temple teaching publicly and the leaders aren't doing anything about it. They're wondering why they don't seize Him and execute Him? It's their Temple. They're in charge. They're confused by the silence of the authorities. If you want to kill Him, why are you letting Him teach? Why are they not arresting Him?
"The rulers do not really know that this is the Christ, do they?"—notice how Lazarus distinguishes the general populace from the "rulers," otherwise known in the this Gospel as "the Jews."
The thought that comes into their mind is, "Surely, the rulers do not think that this is the Messiah, do they?" Is this why Yeshua is able to teach publicly, without anyone opposing Him? The construction of the Greek requires a negative answer, "No, they don't think that."
"However, we know where this man is from; but whenever the Christ may come, no one knows where He is from." John 7:27 NASB
"We know where this man is from"—"He can't be the Messiah because we know His history. We know where He's from. This is the son of a carpenter, a man named Joseph and a girl named Mary. They're from a town called Nazareth, and can anything good come out of Nazareth? No, this can't be the Messiah."
They always fell back to the fact that He can't be the Messiah because they knew where He came from. Back in chapter 6:
They were saying, "Is not this Yeshua, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does He now say, 'I have come down out of heaven'?" John 6:42 NASB
Yeshua told them in verse 24 not to judge according to appearance, but to judge with righteous judgment. But Lazarus is showing us the general confusion that resulted from people judging Yeshua superficially by appearance. They thought they knew all about Him.
"But whenever the Christ may come, no one knows where He is from"— there were several traditions regarding the birth of the Messiah in the first century. One was that the Messiah would come from the line of King David and would be born in the city of David, in Bethlehem of Judea, as was prophesied by the prophet Micah in Micah 5:2. The scribes called by Herod at the coming of the Magi in Matthew 2 knew that Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem. This is the biblical view, but it wasn't the universal view.
Another tradition was that the Messiah would grow up in obscurity unknown to the world until He reached adulthood and then His identity would be revealed suddenly through the signs He worked. This was a Rabbinical Messianic tradition based on Malachi 3:1 that the Messiah would appear suddenly in the Temple. This idea also found support in 1 Enoch 48:6 and IV Ezras 13:51-52.
Their thinking was something like this syllogism: Major premise: no one will know where the real Messiah comes from. Minor premise: we know where Yeshua comes from. Conclusion: therefore Yeshua cannot be the real Messiah.
The problem is that both of the premises were false. In the first place, it is not true according to the Scriptures that no one knows where the Messiah comes from. As a matter of fact, the Bible says very plainly that the Messiah shall be born in Bethlehem.
So the idea that He should come suddenly, wholly unexpectedly, is not a Biblical Doctrine, although it was a Rabbinic Doctrine. In Mishnah Sanhedrin 97a Rabbi Zera taught: "Three come unawares: Messiah, a found article, and a scorpion."
So their thoughts were wrong about where Messiah would come from. The Scriptures clearly told them that He would be born in Bethlehem.
Yeshua knows what they are thinking, and so He answers their objection:
Then Yeshua cried out in the temple, teaching and saying, "You both know Me and know where I am from; and I have not come of Myself, but He who sent Me is true, whom you do not know. John 7:28 NASB
The Greek here for "cried out" is the verb kraz, which has the idea of yelling at the top of His voice. It is used four times by Lazarus to introduce an important public pronouncement: cf. 1:15; 7:37; 12:44.
"You both know Me and know where I am from"—did they? They should have. John the Baptist revealed His identity as a divine Messiah and Yeshua has told them repeatedly of His divine origins, but they didn't get it. So they really didn't know Him or where He was from so what does He mean? Well, the words could be read as a question: "You know Me, and you know where I am from?" Which would be a challenge to their pretensions. And then it is possible to take them ironically. I think Yeshua's words here are best taken as irony. We know this from what Yeshua later says:
So they were saying to Him, "Where is Your Father?" Yeshua answered, "You know neither Me nor My Father; if you knew Me, you would know My Father also." John 8:19 NASB
So He is saying to them, You may know that I'm from Galilee. You may know that I lived in the town of Nazareth. You may know My public deeds. You may have heard My words, but you have no idea who I am. You have no idea where I came from.
"He who sent Me is true"-is true is from the Greek althinos, which means: "real." Yeshua is not saying that God, the One who sent Him, is "faithful", but that He is "real." This is a standard way of referring to God in the Fourth Gospel.
"Whom you do not know"—this is the supreme indictment of Israel. They prided themselves on being the people of God who knew God, and He says, "You don't know God." They are in His Temple, at His Feast to worship Him and Yeshua says, You don't know Him! Look at what Paul said about Israel:
For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh, who are Israelites, to whom belongs the adoption as sons, and the glory and the covenants and the giving of the Law and the temple service and the promises, Romans 9:3-4 NASB
They were the most religious, the most privileged, the most well-taught people in the world, the people with the very oracles of God, the Jewish Scriptures and they didn't know God. Remember what Yeshua said in chapter 5:
so that all will honor the Son even as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him. John 5:23 NASB
He said, "If you don't honor Me, you don't honor the Father. You don't know Me. You don't know God." How could He say that these Jews, who were the people of God, didn't know God? In chapter 17 Yeshua describes the essence of eternal life as knowing God:
"This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Yeshua the Christ whom You have sent. John 17:3 NASB
They didn't know God and didn't have eternal life. To know Him is to have eternal life.
"I know Him, because I am from Him, and He sent Me." John 7:29 NASB
This is another clear indication from our Lord that He is claiming to be equal with God, to be God. This is a claim to preexistence by the Son of God. Paul again teaches the same thing in Colossians, chapter 1 where he says in his great Christology:
For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. Colossians 1:16-17 NASB
Yeshua existed forever with the Father in glory before He came to this earth. In John 17:5, He prays:
"Now, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was. John 17:5 NASB
As one of the commentators has said, "He who is from God was originally with God. And being with God He has come from God and now He is with us."
"He sent Me"—He was not simply born into this world like any other human; He was sent to earth by the Father. This statement was considered blasphemy by the Jewish leaders and confirmed their need to have Yeshua killed.
So they were seeking to seize Him; and no man laid his hand on Him, because His hour had not yet come. John 7:30 NASB
"So they were seeking to seize Him"—"to seize" is from the Greek piazo, which means: "arrest." This is an imperfect tense verb which implies, they started seeking to arrest Him, or they tried again and again to arrest Him
"And no man laid his hand on Him"—if they wanted to arrest Him why didn't they? From a human viewpoint, they knew Yeshua had supernatural power. Remember in chapter 2 when He was able to clear the Temple? Which may be explained as we look at the incident in the Garden of Gethsemane when the soldiers came to arrest Him. And He went out to meet them and said, "Whom do you seek?":
They answered Him, "Yeshua the Nazarene." He said to them, "I am He." And Judas also, who was betraying Him, was standing with them. So when He said to them, "I am He," they drew back and fell to the ground. John 18:5-6 NASB
In the original text it is simply, "I am." That's the name of the covenant keeping God, "I am who I am." And when He said, "I am," just the words caused the soldiers to go back and fall on the ground. What happened in the Temple was a miracle! Yeshua was like Samson under the power of the Holy Spirit. He cleared thousands out of the Temple court.
That may be why, from a human perspective, but the divine explanation is the only one the Bible gives us. The reason no man laid hands on Him to arrest Him was because, "His hour had not yet come"—hour here is from the Greek hora, and is a reference to the special period in Yeshua's life when He is to leave this world and return to the Father. This is accomplished through His suffering, death, resurrection and ascension.
Bottom line God sovereignly prevented Yeshua's premature arrest. They couldn't arrest Him because they were under divine control. Redemptive history is planned by God and executed by God sovereignly, and everything happens according to His purpose and plan and timing.
So they wanted to arrest and kill Yeshua. Do you agree with that? But they couldn't because God wouldn't let them. God violated their free will and would not let them do as they wanted to do. Can God do that? Can He override man's will? If it is beyond your paradigm to say that God controls men's will consider this, Abraham moved south to Gerar, in the kingdom of Abimelech. Abimelech became enamored with Sarah's beauty and took her for his own. Did he lie with her? No, why not?:
Then God said to him in the dream, "Yes, I know that in the integrity of your heart you have done this, and I also kept you from sinning against Me; therefore I did not let you touch her. Genesis 20:6 NASB
Abimelech could not have chosen to have sex with Sarah, his will was not free.
Notice what Yahweh told the Israelites:
"Three times a year all your males are to appear before the Lord GOD, the God of Israel. "For I will drive out nations before you and enlarge your borders, and no man shall covet your land when you go up three times a year to appear before the LORD your God. Exodus 34:23-24 NASB
How does God know that no one will covet their land? He knows because He controls their wills. God's sovereign will is exhaustive, He determines the kings personal plans:
The king's heart is like channels of water in the hand of the LORD; He turns it wherever He wishes. Proverbs 21:1 NASB
Does He just control kings hearts? Of course not. God determines the numbers that come up when the dice are thrown:
The lot is cast into the lap, But its every decision is from the LORD. Proverbs 16:33 NASB
God rules over all the affairs of men:
"It is He who changes the times and the epochs; He removes kings and establishes kings; He gives wisdom to wise men And knowledge to men of understanding. Daniel 2:21 NASB
No one can act outside of God's sovereign will or against it. Centuries ago, Augustine said, "Nothing, therefore, happens unless the Omnipotent wills it to happen: He either permits it to happen, or He brings it about Himself." God calls ALL the shots, He rules over all. Why is that? Because He is God. The sovereignty of God is asserted, either expressly or implicitly, on almost every page of the Bible.
The Christian who has a mature understanding and trust in God's sovereign plan is spiritually prepared for anything. He doesn't understand why he had to endure some difficulty, but he will know that his experience was part of the sovereign plan of an all-wise and loving God. All of our "Why is this happening to me?" questions must ultimately have the same answer—our loving God, in His sovereign wisdom, willed it so. His plan is perfect.
Speaking of his "hour" Augustine writes: "He did not therefore mean an hour when He would be forced to die, but one when He would allow Himself to be put to death. For He was waiting for the time in which He should die, even as He waited for the time in which He should be born."
But many of the crowd believed in Him; and they were saying, "When the Christ comes, He will not perform more signs than those which this man has, will He?" John 7:31 NASB
"But many of the crowd believed in Him"—what do you think that means? What happens to those who believe in Him? They receive eternal life. So here we see that many of the crowd trusted Christ and received eternal life.
Commenting on this verse my favorite Lordship writer John MacArthur asks, "What kind of belief is this? Maybe the kind of believing of the disciples in chapter six who followed Him and followed Him and followed Him, and then eventually abandon Him, a kind of temporary faith. Nothing here to indicate that this was some permanent, genuine, saving faith, although in some cases, that's possible."
The authoritative inspired holy Word of God says, "They believed in Him," but MacArthur questions that. Really John? And let me say that nowhere in chapter 6 does it say that the disciples believed. They were following Him because He fed them. Notice the only use of believed in chapter 6:
"We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God."John 6:69 NASB
When John asks, "What kind of belief is this? The text said they believe in Him. And faith in Christ saves.
John Piper, another Lordship writer says, "They were really impressed with His miracles. Maybe their faith was real; maybe it wasn't (like His brothers' in verse 5).
What does that mean? His brothers didn't have faith:
For not even His brothers were believing in Him. John 7:5 NASB
Notice what Lazarus later says of those who, "believed in Him":
But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Yeshua was not yet glorified. John 7:39 NASB
Those who "believed in Him" as many in the crowd did were to receive the Spirit.
"When the Christ comes, He will not perform more signs than those which this man has, will He?"—the answer implied by the Greek construction is, "No, He will not do greater signs than these." The implication is clear. Yeshua must be the Messiah.
Back in 7:13 there were those in the crowd who said "He is a good man," while others said "He is leading the people astray." Now some are saying "He must be the promised Messiah."
The Pharisees heard the crowd muttering these things about Him, and the chief priests and the Pharisees sent officers to seize Him. John 7:32 NASB
Some find the link between Pharisees and chief priests, who were almost all Sadducees, historically problematic. But we must understand the old adage, the enemy of my enemy is my friend.
When the common people turned to Yeshua, they turned away from the Pharisees and their teachings. So the rulers ordered the Temple police "officers" to "seize" Yeshua. Probably the arrest warrant came from the Sanhedrin. The Temple police "officers" were Levites responsible to the Sanhedrin.
The Temple guards were a kind of Temple police force, drawn from the Levites, with primary responsibility for maintaining order in the Temple area. But since the Sanhedrin governed the internal affairs of the country, that Rome allowed them to, the Temple police could be used at the pleasure of that high court.
Therefore Yeshua said, "For a little while longer I am with you, then I go to Him who sent Me. John 7:33 NASB
Yeshua is speaking of His sacrificial death, burial, resurrection, and ascension into heaven. He has but a short time before the cross, the means by which He returns to the one who sent Him. The Jews have no clue what He means.
"You will seek Me, and will not find Me; and where I am, you cannot come." John 7:34 NASB
"You will seek Me, and will not find Me"—when will they seek Him? Perhaps He is referring to the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. Forty years later, the Romans came and sacked the city. Hundreds of thousands of Jews were massacred. I wonder if the ones who were still alive remembered that He said that day, and sought Him and couldn't find Him.
"Where I am, you cannot come"—I came down from heaven. " I'm going back to heaven." They could "not come" where He was going because of their present, unsaved condition. You will never go to heaven. Heaven is for those who believe in the Lord Yeshua the Christ and no one else. Heaven is not for everybody. Yeshua was not a Universalist. Universalism is the teaching that God, through the atonement of Yeshua, will ultimately bring reconciliation between Himself and all people throughout history. This reconciliation will occur regardless of whether they have trusted in, or rejected Yeshua as Savior during their lifetime.
Rob Bell, ignited a theological controversy over Universalism with his book, Love Wins, which came out in March of 2011. Bell at the time was leading the 10,000 member Mars Hill Bible Church near Grand Rapids, Mich. The gist of Bell's book is: Every sinner will turn to God and realize he has already been reconciled to God, in this life or in the next. In the end, love wins.
Bell argues that God wants everyone to be saved, and God gets what God wants. He tells us that "God's love will eventually melt even the hardest hearts" (p108).The Universalist believe that God loves everybody, therefore, Christ died for everybody; therefore, all will be saved. I think that Universalism is the logical out come of Arminianism. If God loves everyone, then it only makes sense that He will save everyone.
Notice what Paul wrote:
Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Yeshua. Romans 8:1 NASB
"Condemnation" here refers to spiritual death. All are condemned in Adam, but those who are in Christ have "no condemnation." If Paul was a Universalist he would have said, "There is therefore now no condemnation to anyone! But he didn't, he said that only those in Christ are not condemned.
I see Universalism as an attack on the Gospel. Over and over the Bible calls upon man to "believe on the Lord Yeshua the Christ" for salvation. But Universalism says, "You don't need to believe in Jesus, all will be saved." The Philippian jailor asked, "What must I do to be saved?" And the answer of the apostles was, "Believe on the Lord Yeshua the Christ." But the Universalist would answer the jailor, "You don't have to do anything, all men will be saved."
The Jews then said to one another, "Where does this man intend to go that we will not find Him? He is not intending to go to the Dispersion among the Greeks, and teach the Greeks, is He? John 7:35 NASB
The Greek grammatical construction expects a "no" answer. This is another use of irony. The "Dispersion" was the term that described the Jews who had scattered from Palestine and were living elsewhere in the world. This seemed too far-fetched to them to be a messianic activity. But it has always been God's will to call back the Gentiles that He had forsaken (cf. Gen. 3:15; 12:3; Isa. 2:2-4). Remember that I said that during the Feast of Tabernacles, seventy bulls were offered for the nations of the world. The Jews were obligated to pray for and bring light to the Gentiles.
The crowd speculates about Yeshua traveling to the Jews living outside the Holy Land to spread His message. Why didn't Yeshua carry His message to the Jews outside the Holy Land and to the Gentile lands?
But He answered and said, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." Matthew 15:24 NASB
It was to Israel that the Messiah was promised. It is the Messiah's mission to proclaim and establish the Kingdom of Heaven on earth, and to empower the covenant children of God to carry that message to the ends of the earth. Three times a year orthodox Jews from the Diaspora [Gentile world] returned to Jerusalem to keep the pilgrim feasts, and therefore, nine times during Yeshua's three year ministry these Jews had the opportunity to hear the message of New Covenant salvation and to carry that message back to their communities.
Yeshua will send forth His New Covenant Church, baptized by the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, to spread the Gospel of Salvation to the ends of the earth. Once again, the Christian reader cannot miss the irony! The most unthinkable and far-fetched interpretation the Jews could give to Yeshua's words are in fact true.
"What is this statement that He said, 'You will seek Me, and will not find Me; and where I am, you cannot come'?" John 7:36 NASB
These Jews did not understand "where" Yeshua was going, any more than they understood where He had come from. And apart from a sovereign act of God giving them life, they never would understand.
Yeshua makes His identity clear, He is God! But no matter what He says and does, they just don't get it, if they are not called.