Many times when I read about Jesus’ walk on earth, I try to imagine how it might have been for the ordinary folk. Caught in the political strife of the day, they struggled to make sense of the Roman government and taxes, being hassled and mistreated as an outpost of a vast empire very impatient with the insubordinate nature of the one thing that distinguishes them from all other nations – their faith. Jesus challenges their faith in a big way, arguing with the church leaders, doing spectacular miracles and preaching a whole new approach.
Maybe some of them found in Him the answer to the deep longing in their hearts for something more, something real in contrast to the rituals and angry laws of the church leaders. They longed for the relationship of Moses, talking to God as a friend and gave up on the possibility that God would intervene again as in the days of Elijah or Nehemiah.
Do you long for something more? Have you been deeply disappointed by the church, church leaders, other Christians, people who pretend to serve God, maybe some who genuinely do and not even realize how hurt and frustrated you feel?
How could they know that this travelling preacher is sent from God? Was there anything then that could convince them and show them the truth? He did not tick the traditional boxes of training in the church, adhering to the strict stipulations of the extensive law-living of the Pharisees, walking importantly in the halls of church politics like the Sanhedrin and chief priests. In fact, He shunned all this and reached out to the very people who longed for change.
How did they know the truth? How could they respond properly to His teaching or to the gossip flying around about Him? They knew any response to Him would bring a clash with the establishment.
We are not very different today. Some churches, as power grabbing organizations, have in so many instances become restrictive and prescriptive. Cults and laws make people slaves of other people while liberty and love are cast aside, by church leaders with controlling and religious spirits tormenting congregations and followers. Those wolves in sheep’s clothing (Matthew 7:15) cruelly use unsuspecting souls for their own sexual and prideful sins to a sickening degree.
How did they know the truth? How do we know the truth? There is only one way, then and now.
However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth… (John 16:13)
God gave us a fail-safe way to know the truth. When He walked the earth, the Holy Spirit was active to draw people with a hungry heart to Him, just the same way the Holy Spirit guide us to the truth.
Here in John 7:15-36 they accuse Him for His lack of education. How could He dare quote Moses to them? What did He know about Moses in any case? They thought they could test Him with their academic requirements.
Jesus told them His authority is God. God is the source of all wisdom. (12:49; 14:10)
All great productions of the human mind and spirit are given by God. If we glory in being self-taught, if we claim that any discovery we have made is our own unaided work, we are, in the last analysis, glorifying only our own reputation and our own selves. The greatest of men think not of the power of their own mind or hand; they think always of the God who told them what they know and taught them what they can do. [William Barclay – Daily Study Bible]
Only the man who does the will of God can understand His teachings. It is not a theological truth. It is a universal truth. We learn by choosing and doing. If we want to understand everything before we start, we would never start.
In the debate between the leaders of the Jews and Jesus, He does not answer the accusations of the crowd. He recognizes their madness and persecution mania. He also does not answer the bystander interjections.
The Law says circumcision should take place on the eighth day – what if that is the Sabbath? If the leaders can “break” the law with circumcision, then why can’t He “break” the law with healing?
Jesus uses argument. He wants them to see deeper and not judge superficially with all their old “weapons” of the law. (Matthew 21:23-27)
The crowd is surprised to see Jesus go on preaching. They knew that the hostility of the church was not something to play around with. They realized His courage and therefore thought He might be the Messiah.
Where does He come from? Everybody knew He came from Nazareth. It was a popular belief that the Messiah would burst upon the scene and no one would know from where. They accepted that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem, but otherwise His growing up should be a mystery. Jesus did not fit in with their mysterious teachings and superstitions.
They sought God in the abnormal. They could not see Him in the ordinary. Christianity teaches God in the everyday. If He were only in the abnormal and mysterious we would miss Him in most of our day. He is in the detail of the day, the ordinary day – He is never absent.
Jesus answered by saying two things: They know where He comes from, but He also comes from God. They do not know God, but He did. It was a terrible insult to tell God’s people that they didn’t know God. Jesus made the claim to stand in a very unique relationship with God.
Now Jesus’ “transgression” was even greater. He was not just a human lawbreaker; He was a blasphemer. He was talking like no human had the right to speak.
Some of the crowd believed. They believed the wonders they saw and recognized His authority. That made the leaders mad. They sent soldiers to arrest Him. He said they would not find Him. Jesus was fully in control over the timing of His ministry and death. His death was marked on the calendar of heaven and would not take place a moment before the appointed time.
They looked with earthly eyes, when He talked about higher things like the resurrection and the ascension. They thought He might go to the Greeks and be part of the Diaspora. There were dispersed Jews all over the world.
Could there be a day when you would seek and NOT find? He promised to be found. He promised it to everyone who seeks with the deep desire of the heart. (Isaiah 55:6, Matthew 7:7)
At the grave the words: He is not here, was uttered by the angel. It was the only time in the entire history that those words could make sense. It was good news, for the human God has conquered death once and for all. God is everywhere and He is waiting for the call of your heart. Never believe the doubting thought that He is ignoring you or your prayer.
When Jesus ascended into heaven, they had to wait on the Holy Spirit for the power to take the mission forward. (Acts 1) The Holy Spirit divided to fill each of them, just like today.
By His Spirit, His very breath, He is in us and around us. He will lead us to the truth. That is how we know that we know.