Controversy

John 10:30-42, “Jesus, the Most Controversial Person in History”

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I would like to talk to you about the most controversial person in the history of the world. Who is he? Who does he say he is? I think you know who that is. What did he say about himself? What did people say about him then? And what do people say about him today? More importantly, what do you say about him?

Let’s begin with our text:

John 10:30-42 ESV I and the Father are one.” 31 The Jews picked up stones again to stone him. 32 Jesus answered them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you going to stone me?” 33 The Jews answered him, “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you but for blasphemy, because you, being a man, make yourself God.” 34 Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I said, you are gods’? 35 If he called them gods to whom the word of God came– and Scripture cannot be broken– 36 do you say of him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’? 37 If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; 38 but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.” 39 Again they sought to arrest him, but he escaped from their hands. 40 He went away again across the Jordan to the place where John had been baptizing at first, and there he remained. 41 And many came to him. And they said, “John did no sign, but everything that John said about this man was true.” 42 And many believed in him there.

1. The Most Controversial Person in History

Jesus is clearly the most controversial person in history. Both history and mankind are divided over Jesus Christ. Typically, we date historical events based on whether they occurred BC “before Christ” or A.D. “anno domini” (“in the year of our Lord”) or “after Christ”.

But Christ divides not only history. He also divides men. And he said that he would do so.

Matthew 10:34-37 NLT “Don’t imagine that I came to bring peace to the earth! I came not to bring peace, but a sword. 35 ‘I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. 36 Your enemies will be right in your own household!’ 37 “If you love your father or mother more than you love me, you are not worthy of being mine; or if you love your son or daughter more than me, you are not worthy of being mine.

This is exactly what frequently happens when someone becomes a disciple of Jesus Christ. His own family members oppose him. Right now in Iraq and Syria, Christians are being crucified and beheaded by Muslims who consider them to be infidels. Jesus demanded absolute allegiance and loyalty to himself. You cannot be neutral about Jesus. You cannot say that he was simply a good man or a good teacher. That will never do. He did not leave us with that option. He claims to be God. You either worship and serve him, or you deny him.

Here in John 10, he makes three inflammatory statements… statements that provoke the Jews to take up stones to stone him to death because what Jesus said was blasphemy. Unless, of course… unless he was telling the truth.

What does he say?

  • John 10:30 ESV “…I and the Father are one.”
  • John 10:36 ESV ‘I am the Son of God’
  • John 10:38 ESV “…the Father is in me and I am in the Father.”

When Jesus asked why they were going to stone him, the Jews responded,

John 10:33 ESV “…because you, being a man, make yourself God.”

This controversy over the identity was not limited to the Gospels and the earthly life of Christ. Sometimes we think that the gospel of Jesus Christ was first preached in a vacuum, in a world where there were no competing religions or beliefs. Sometime we have the idea that people were simply waiting for Christians to come with the gospel. But that was not the case.

The gospel was preached in the context of much opposition. There were many different religious beliefs. People believe in many gods and lords. There were so-called mystery religions. There were Roman and Greek divinities, some of them mentioned in the pages of the New Testament such as Artemis, Zeus, and Hermes. The city of Athens was filled with idols, even an altar to “the unknown god” (Acts 17:16, 23). Acts 19 tells us that the new believers in Christ Jesus had practiced magic arts before coming to Christ, and that they brought their books to be burned in the sight of everyone. Those books were worth about 600 million vatu ($6,000,000 USD).

Not only were there many different religions in the world. Some people tried to change the message of the gospel to make it conform to their ideas of what was better. Time and again we read warnings in the New Testament about people who would deny the truth about Christ.

  • The Apostle Paul warns us about people who would say “twisted things, to draw away the disciples after themselves” (Acts 20:30).
  • The Apostle Peter warns us about false teachers who “cleverly teach destructive heresies and even deny the Master who bought them” (2 Peter 2:1, NLT). He further warns us about those who are ignorant and unstable and who twist the Scriptures to their own destruction (2 Peter 3:16).
  • The Apostle John warns us about many deceivers in the world who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh (2 John 7). He tells us that “everyone who does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God” (2 John 9).
  • Jesus himself warns us many times in the Gospels about false teachers and false prophets.

Our problem is that we do not take these warnings seriously. We somehow think that all the false teachers live in other parts of the world, that here in Vanuatu we are immune to them. The truth is, they are all around us. They preach another Jesus, a Jesus who is not the same Jesus that we find in the pages of the Bible. They preach a different gospel, a gospel different from the gospel that we find in the Bible. They may be on television. They may be walking the streets of our villages. The Scriptures warn us to be careful, to be vigilant, and to study the Word of God so that we are not deceived.

Thankfully, there are true churches here where the Word of God is preached and taught and lived by. These are churches that have only one authoritative book: the Bible, the Word of God. There are many good translations that are used by many different churches and denominations. Some faithful versions are

  • King James Version
  • New King James Version
  • English Standard Version
  • New International Version

In French there are also faithful versions:

  • La Colombe,
  • La Nouvelle édition de Genève
  • La version de Darby

The Bislama Bible is also a good paraphrase of the Bible.

But there are other false churches that promote and hand out false Bibles that are not faithful to the biblical text. Some churches add other books to the Bible and claim that they are just as inspired as the Bible or more inspired than the Bible.

If you belong to one of these false churches, I would encourage you to get a true Bible and study it for yourself. Prayerfully consider what Jesus says about himself.

So you see, to this day, people are divided over Jesus Christ. The question is crucially important. As the Apostle John says,

2 John 1:9 ESV Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son.

Jesus is still today the most controversial person in the history of the world. Who is this Jesus?

1.1. Jesus’ Oneness with the Father

We see the controversy in John 10 when Jesus says, “I and the Father are one.” What does this mean? Is Jesus simply saying that he is united with God in a mission? Does this mean that Jesus and the Father are the same person? What does this “oneness” mean?

The French language has two genders: masculine and feminine. For example, a tree is masculine: un arbre. But a door is feminine: une porte. But in the Greek, there are three genders: masculine, feminine, and neuter. When Jesus said that he and the Father are one, he could have use the masculine form (heis), but that would have meant that he and the Father were one person. He did not use that form; he used the neuter form of the word “one” (hen) to show that the Father and the Son are two persons.

If the Father and the Son were one person, there would be no distinction between them. John could not say as he did in 1:1b and 1:2, “the Word was with God.” John could not refer to Jesus praying to his Father, or being sent by the Father, or obeying the Father, or returning to the Father. He could not say as he does in his First Epistle, “and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ” (1 John 1:3). He could not say as he does in 2 John 9, “Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son.”

When Jesus says, “I and the Father are one,” he is not saying that there is no difference between the Father and the Son.

This saying, “I and the Father are one,” does not stand by itself. Jesus makes this declaration in a book that openly declares that the Word was God (1:1), and that the Word is the only true God who is at the Father’s right hand (1:18). That is very strong language pointing to the deity of Jesus Christ. It is in this book that the climactic confession is “My Lord and my God!” (20:28). Jesus himself takes the sacred name of God on his own lips and states that he himself exists before Abraham.

The context is all-important for understanding what Jesus meant. The Jews had asked him to tell them plainly if he was the Christ. Jesus responds that he has both told them and shown them through the works that he does in his Father’s name, but they do not believe because they are not his sheep. His sheep hear his voice. He knows his sheep. They follow him. And he gives them eternal life.

Jesus is not merely some great prophet; he gives eternal life to his sheep. No one but God can give eternal life. But Jesus explains further by comparing what he does with what the Father does:

  • “…No one will snatch them out of my hand…” (v. 28).
  • …No one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand” (v. 29).

In 5:19, we saw that whatever the Father does, the Son does likewise. In the previous verse (5:18), we are told why the Son does whatever he sees the Father doing: Jesus is equal with God.

Now, Jesus protects his sheep just like the Father protects his sheep: “No one will snatch them out of my hand. No one can snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”

1.2. Worthy to be Stoned

The immediate context tells us that the Jews knew exactly what Jesus meant:

John 10:31 ESV The Jews picked up stones again to stone him.

“Again.” This was not the first time. The Jewish authorities had wanted to kill him in chapter 5. Jesus had called God his own Father: “My Father is working until now, and I am working” (5:17). In other words, “I have the right and the power to do whatever God my Father does.” Then John explains, “This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because… he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God” (5:18).

Once again, they want to stone him for making himself equal with God, this time by saying, “I and the Father are one.”

To claim to be equal with God is blasphemous. Unless, of course, it is God who is saying that He is God!

John 10:32 ESV Jesus answered them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you going to stone me?”

Jesus is asking them to consider his life and his works. He had already challenged them, “Which one of you convicts me of sin?” (8:46). Now he challenges them, “I have shown you many good works that could only come from the Father. I changed the water into wine (2:9). I healed the nobleman’s son (4:51). I healed the man who had been lame for 38 years (5:5). I fed the five thousand with five loaves and two fish (6:10-12). I healed the man who have been born blind (9:7). For which of these works that only God could do are you going to stone me?”

1.3. First Degree Irony

John 10:33 ESV The Jews answered him, “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you but for blasphemy, because you, being a man, make yourself God.”

Notice those words “you, being a man, make yourself God.” This is delicious irony. The Jews do not fully understand what they are saying. On one level it is absolutely true. They understand that Jesus is talking like God: “I and the Father are one.”

In John 8:53, they had asked, “Who do you make yourself out to be?” Now they answer their own question: “You, being a man, make yourself God!”

Yes, in declaring that he was one with the Father, Jesus was once again claiming equality with God. But the reader of John’s Gospel knows that the full truth is the very opposite of what the Jews were saying: Jesus was not merely a man who was making himself God; Jesus was God who made himself man! That is precisely what we read in the first verses of this Gospel:

John 1:1 ESV In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

John 1:14 ESV And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

More than 40 times in this Gospel, Jesus says that the Father sent him into the world. He is not merely a man who makes himself God; Jesus is God who made himself man that we might be believe on him and have eternal life.

2. You are gods!

Now we come to some verses that are greatly twisted by cultists and other false teachers:

John 10:34-36 ESV Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I said, you are gods’? 35 If he called them gods to whom the word of God came– and Scripture cannot be broken– 36 do you say of him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’?

There is a so-called church here in Vanuatu that says that we can become gods. It teaches that God became God by evolution. He was first just an ordinary man like you and me, but by obeying certain teachings, he evolved and became a god. They have a saying from one of their false prophets: “As we are, God once was. As God is, we can become.” According to the teaching of this church, you can become a god, have your own planet, and have your own worshippers. So this false church does not believe in only one true God. It believes in many gods. It is not monotheistic; it is polytheistic. It teaches that there are many gods and that you can become a god, too. That seems incredible, but it is not too surprising that some people are attracted to the idea. After all, that was the first lie of Satan, “God knows that when you eat of the fruit of this forbidden tree, you will be like God” (Genesis 3:5).

So here is a passage that is twisted to teach that there are many gods.

Jesus is quoting from Psalm 82:6,

Psalm 82:6 ESV I said, “You are gods, sons of the Most High, all of you;

The very next verse says,

Psalm 82:7 ESV nevertheless, like men you shall die, and fall like any prince.”

The psalm is addressed to humans, to human judges who have judged unjustly:

Psalm 82:1-8 ESV A Psalm of Asaph. God has taken his place in the divine council; in the midst of the gods he holds judgment: 2 “How long will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked? Selah 3 Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute. 4 Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.” 5 They have neither knowledge nor understanding, they walk about in darkness; all the foundations of the earth are shaken. 6 I said, “You are gods, sons of the Most High, all of you; 7 nevertheless, like men you shall die, and fall like any prince.” 8 Arise, O God, judge the earth; for you shall inherit all the nations!

These men are unjust judges, ruling over others as if they have absolute right, as if they are gods. God himself mocks these so-called gods and reminds them, “Nevertheless, you will die like men, and fall like any prince” (v. 7).

God had said to Moses,

Exodus 7:1 ESV And the LORD said to Moses, “See, I have made you like God to Pharaoh, and your brother Aaron shall be your prophet.

Yet, Moses was still a man, not a god. One pastor said,

Don’t fail to notice Jesus’ purpose for choosing that verse. It would have been a very familiar one to the Scribes and Pharisees. They would have understood that that verse was a condemnation of wicked rulers, and Jesus is simply echoing the irony of the original Psalm.

Walter Martin wrote an excellent comment on this, he said, “Jesus mocks the people as if to say, ‘You all think you’re gods yourselves. What’s one more god among you?'” Oh, the irony. You’re going to stone me for claiming to be God, you’re all claiming the same thing, what’s one more god? The sarcasm. (MacArthur)

2.1. The “Little Gods” Doctrine

Unfortunately, much of this “little gods” teaching has hit the church. Earl Paulk writes, “Adam and Eve were placed in the world as the seed and expression of God. Just as dogs have puppies and cats have kittens, so God has little gods.” I have heard that very teaching from a visiting false prophet who spoke in one of our churches. I also heard Kenneth Copeland say, “You don’t have a god in you. You are one!” Kenneth Hagin is gravely mistaken in asserting that the Christian “is as much an incarnation [of God] as is Jesus of Nazareth.” And Kenneth Copeland is in grave error when he insists, “Jesus is no longer the only begotten Son of God.”

This false teaching is now available to us on our televisions. Do not be deceived. The Scriptures are clear:

ESV Deuteronomy 4:35 To you it was shown, that you might know that the LORD is God; there is no other besides him.

ESV Deuteronomy 4:39 know therefore today, and lay it to your heart, that the LORD is God in heaven above and on the earth beneath; there is no other.

ESV Deuteronomy 32:39 “‘See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god beside me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand.

ESV Isaiah 43:10 “You are my witnesses,” declares the LORD, “and my servant whom I have chosen, that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor shall there be any after me.

ESV Isaiah 43:11 I, I am the LORD, and besides me there is no savior.

ESV Isaiah 44:6 Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts: “I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no god.

ESV Isaiah 44:7 Who is like me? Let him proclaim it. Let him declare and set it before me, since I appointed an ancient people. Let them declare what is to come, and what will happen.

ESV Isaiah 44:8 Fear not, nor be afraid; have I not told you from of old and declared it? And you are my witnesses! Is there a God besides me? There is no Rock; I know not any.”

ESV Isaiah 45:5 I am the LORD, and there is no other, besides me there is no God; I equip you, though you do not know me,

ESV Isaiah 45:6 that people may know, from the rising of the sun and from the west, that there is none besides me; I am the LORD, and there is no other.

ESV Isaiah 45:18 For thus says the LORD, who created the heavens (he is God!), who formed the earth and made it (he established it; he did not create it empty, he formed it to be inhabited!): “I am the LORD, and there is no other.

ESV Isaiah 45:21 Declare and present your case; let them take counsel together! Who told this long ago? Who declared it of old? Was it not I, the LORD? And there is no other god besides me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is none besides me.

ESV Isaiah 45:22 “Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other.

ESV Isaiah 46:9 remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me,

There is no god like the “one true God” (John 17:3). And yet, Jesus claims to be one with the Father. He explains in verse 36:

John 10:36 ESV do you say of him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’?

Jesus is saying, if God can mock human judges and call them gods, then how can you say that I am blaspheming when I say that I am the Son of God since the Father consecrated me and sent me into world?

2.2. Jesus the Creator

Let’s consider one more passage from Isaiah and see how it relates to what the New Testament says about Jesus Christ.

Isaiah 44:24 ESV Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer, who formed you from the womb: “I am the LORD, who made all things, who alone stretched out the heavens, who spread out the earth by myself,

In this verse, the LORD — Yahweh — says that he created the entire universe all by himself, “I am the LORD. I made all things. I alone stretched out the heavens. I spread out the earth by myself.” Twice in that verse he says that he did it alone, by himself.

Yet, when we come to the New Testament, we read that God created everything through Christ:

ESV John 1:3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.

ESV Hebrews 1:2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.

God says this to His Son in Hebrews 1:10,

ESV Hebrews 1:10 And, “You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning, and the heavens are the work of your hands;

ESV Colossians 1:16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities– all things were created through him and for him.

So in Isaiah, God says that he created the universe alone, all by himself. But in the New Testament, he says that he did it through Christ. What does that mean? That means that Jesus Christ is God. Yahweh is the name of the God who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

3. The Works that Jesus Does, Prove that He is God

Jesus does the works of God, like creating the universe, giving eternal life, raising the dead. He challenges the Pharisees:

John 10:37-38 ESV If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; 38 but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.”

Jesus once again claimed equality with God: “believe the works that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.” But they would not believe, though many others would. Again they tried to arrest him, but he escaped from their hands.

This chapter concludes with Jesus removed from Jerusalem across the Jordan where John the Baptist had been baptizing. ***Many came to him. Many believed John’s testimony. Many believed in Christ there.

Your Decision

What will you do with Christ? The Pharisees said that Jesus blasphemed by making himself God. What do you believe? Do you believe they were mistaken? Do you believe that they had misunderstood Jesus? Do you then agree with the Pharisees that Jesus is not God?

“These things were written that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you might have life in his name” (20:31).

John 10:41-42 ESV And many came to him. And they said, “John did no sign, but everything that John said about this man was true.” 42 And many believed in him there.

Put your trust in Christ. He is God in the flesh. He is your only hope.

See also “Gospel of John”:

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John 07:01-39, “History’s Most Controversial Person”

Cristo Redentor (Christ Redeemer)

Cristo Redentor (Christ Redeemer) (Photo credit: bossa07)

1.CONTROVERSY

1.1.Who was the most controversial person in history? 

Many names may come to mind. Some might suggest such men as Germany’s Adolf Hitler, Josef Stalin of the Soviet Union, Uganda’s Idi Amin, Pol Pot of Cambodia, Saddam Hussein of Iraq, or Slobodan Milosevic of ex-Yugoslavia. The list could go on. While these names are well-known, history has pronounced its verdict on them. Few people today would consider them models of leadership. Few would want to be under the dictatorship of these men. Few people are divided over whether these men were good or evil. Most people agree about the kind of men that they were. So there is little or no controversy about the legacy that they have left. History and the court of human opinion have rendered a unanimous verdict about the character of these men. They are not really controversial.

Men of controversy are men who divide human opinion by what they do or what they say. They are men who stir up strong sentiments and debate. Men of controversy divide all others into two groups: those who are for them, and those who are against them; those who agree with them, and those who disagree with them. History has many such men, men who polarized nations and peoples and even the whole world. Men who left little or no middle ground. We might consider such men as Charles Darwin whose theory of evolution continues to divide people today. Does chance really explain the origin of all things from nothing, the origin of life, the extreme intelligence that is evident in the DNA structure of even the simplest of life forms? Does chance account for the order that is present at all levels of the universe. Some say, “Yes. It all just happened by itself.” Others believe that life, order, intelligence, and values all point to a divine Creator.

Martin Luther was certainly a controversial figure. He nailed 95 theses to the church door in Wittenberg, Germany, and unintentionally brought about the Protestant Reformation when he simply wanted to purify the Roman Catholic Church. He is the point of divide between Roman Catholics and all branches of Protestantism. But he was only controversial because another before him was controversial.

We could consider others such as Karl Marx, Mahatma Gandhi, or Mohammed. But who was the most controversial person in history?

1.2.The Testimony of Historians

When we turn to the historians, we find that there is one figure, one person, who rivets the attention. One person who calls for a response from all people everywhere.

British Historian H. G. Wells: “I am an historian, I am not a believer, but I must confess as a historian that this penniless preacher from Nazareth is irrevocably the very center of history. Jesus Christ is easily the most dominant figure in all history.”

Yale University professor and historian Kenneth Scott Latourette said, “As the centuries pass, the evidence is accumulating that, measured by His effect on history, Jesus is the most influential life ever lived on this planet.”

Wells said that Jesus is “the most dominant figure of all history.” Latourette said that he is “the most influential life ever lived on this planet.” Dominant and influential, and yet, by far the most controversial. To this day, Jesus Christ is controversial. He stands as the dividing line of history. We date our calendars by his birth. Jesus divides humanity into two groups: believers and unbelievers. Those who are for him and those who are against him. Jesus leaves no middle ground:

Matthew 12:30 ESV Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.

There is no other name that divides people more than the name of Jesus Christ. People may want to think of themselves as spiritual or interested in spiritual things. They may politely talk about God and about spiritual matters. But people often get uncomfortable when the name of Jesus is mentioned. In fact, in certain public contexts, prayer is welcomed as long as the name of Jesus is not mentioned. In my country, pastors are invited to pray at the opening of congressional meetings or the inaugurations of presidents, but they are told not to mention Jesus. Mentioning the name of Jesus is seen to be intolerant, so prayers in the name of Jesus are not tolerated.

Jesus himself was often embroiled in controversy. Ah yes, he was so controversial that his life ended on the cross. He invited controversy by his very teaching. Controversy becomes apparent in John 5 when Jesus heals the lame man on the Sabbath. What’s wrong with that? Well, the Jewish authorities considered it to be work, and Jesus knew it. Work was one thing that you were not to do on the Sabbath according to the Law. That was bad enough. But then Jesus claimed that he had the right to do miraculous works on the Sabbath because he was equal with God. That is what John explains to us in John 5:18, “He called God his own Father, making himself equal with God.

Someone has said that Buddha never claimed to be God. Moses never claimed to be Yahweh (Jehovah). Mohammed never claimed to be Allah. Yet Jesus Christ claimed to be the true and living God. Buddha simply said, “I am a teacher in search of the truth.” Jesus said, “I am the Truth.” Confucius said, “I never claimed to be holy.” Jesus said, “Who convicts me of sin?” Mohammed said, “Unless God throws his cloak of mercy over me, I have no hope.” Jesus said, “Unless you believe in me, you will die in your sins.”

In chapter 6, he claims to be the source of life: “I am the bread of life that came down from heaven.”

John 6:53 ESV “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.”

John 6:57 ESV “As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me.”

John 7 opens with the words that the Jewish authorities were seeking to kill him. But soon it was time for the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles. It was one of the three great Jewish festivals that took place every year. This Feast of Tabernacles was the most popular and important festival of the year. It was a commemoration of the 40 years in the wilderness when God had provided for them. It was a time of celebration and feasting. Would Jesus go up for the festival? Everyone was wondering.

2.DIVISION

2.1.Division in the Family

But there was division everywhere. Even among Jesus’ brothers.

John 7:3-4 ESV So his brothers said to him, “Leave here and go to Judea, that your disciples also may see 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.” 

Did they believe in him? Were they really wanting more people to see the signs that Jesus was doing? Did they really want Jesus to win more disciples? No. Unfortunately, they were not sincere. John, as he does so often in this Gospel, tells us what we are understand:

John 7:5 ESV For not even his brothers believed in him.

There was division in his own family. “Even his brothers did not believe in him,” John tells us. Just as Jesus had said in Luke 12:51-53:

Luke 12:51-53 ESV Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. 52  For from now on in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three. 53  They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”

Jesus, the most controversial figure of all time, was even controversial in his own family. His mother, Mary, of course, believed in him. She knew that she was still a virgin when she gave birth to Jesus. She knew what the angel had said to her. In John 2, she had told the servants to do what ever Jesus told them. They had filled the six huge water pots with water, and Jesus had changed the water into wine, the first of his signs pointing to who he is and manifesting his glory. Mary believed in her son, Jesus, but his brothers did not believe.

His brothers, “who had lived in the same house with him for nearly 30 years, did not know who he was”. Jesus’ humanity was so real and genuine — yes, the Word became flesh — his humanity was so real and his deity was so hidden before he began his earthly ministry, that his brothers “lived and ate and slept in the same rooms as the eternal Son of God and did not know it.”

You may be the only person in your family to know the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior. Perhaps you are alone in your love, devotion, and obedience to Christ. It may be that your own family opposes you and wants you to turn back from following Jesus. Know this: Even Jesus’ own brothers did not believe in him at first. But that would change. We read in 1 Corinthians 15 that after his resurrection, the Lord appeared to James. In Acts 1, the brothers of Jesus were in the upper room with the other disciples, waiting for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. The brothers of Jesus had become disciples. You may be alone in your faith and devotion to Jesus Christ, but stay faithful. Remain true to the Lord. Give the Lord time to work in your life and in the lives of your loved ones. As they see Christ in your life, they too may be drawn to the Savior.

2.2.Danger in Jerusalem 

Jerusalem was a dangerous place for Jesus. There he had cleansed the temple. He had healed the lame man at the pool of Bethesda on the Sabbath. He had made himself equal with God by claiming that God was his own Father. And the Jewish authorities were looking for him. Jesus was gaining too many disciples and the Jewish authorities wanted to put a stop to Jesus. They wanted to get rid of him. They wanted to kill him. Several times in John 7 and 8, we read that the Jewish religious authorities are out to kill Jesus.

Jesus himself explains to his unbelieving brothers why Jewish authorities were out to get him:

John 7:7 NLT The world can’t hate you, but it does hate me because I accuse it of doing evil.

So Jesus “wanted to stay out of Judea, where the Jewish leaders were plotting his death” (John 7:1 NLT).

John 7:10 NLT ¶ But after his brothers left for the festival, Jesus also went, though secretly, staying out of public view.

Jesus was present in Jerusalem, though out of sight. With so much hatred toward Jesus, he would not show himself openly until the right time had come. He would do things on his own timetable. He would determine his own schedule.

There was not only danger in Jerusalem, there was also…

2.3.Division in Jerusalem

As Jesus had stirred up a lot of controversy, some people were for him while others were against him.

John 7:11-13 NLT The Jewish leaders tried to find him at the festival and kept asking if anyone had seen him. 12  There was a lot of grumbling about him among the crowds. Some argued, “He’s a good man,” but others said, “He’s nothing but a fraud who deceives the people.” 13  But no one had the courage to speak favorably about him in public, for they were afraid of getting in trouble with the Jewish leaders.

Good man or con man — what is he? People were whispering. They were divided. You cannot be neutral about Jesus. He does not leave you that option.

Once again, we can quote C. S. Lewis, former professor of literature at Oxford University:

A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic – on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg – or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God; or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.

The air was thick with tension. Intimidation was the name of the game. The Jewish authorities were trying to scare people. They were jealous. They did not like the fact that Jesus was gaining influence with the people. They were losing influence themselves and they felt it.

Many were in favor of Jesus. They believed that he was a good man, but they were afraid to “speak favorably about him in public.” “Jesus talk” could get you into trouble with the Jewish leaders.

Today, in certain areas, in certain towns, in certain families, talking about Jesus can get in trouble. There are many countries in the world today where talking about Jesus can get you killed. Every year thousands of Christians are persecuted, tortured, and killed for their testimony in countries like North Korea, Nigeria, and islamic countries such as Iran. But even in some democratic countries, authorities are trying to intimidate Christians to abandon their beliefs and values and to accept anti-Christian agendas. Persecution is not new. Paul tells Timothy,

2 Timothy 3:12-13 ESV Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, 13  while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.

There is and there will be division over Jesus. Some believe in him while others believe that he leads people astray. Opposition to Christ is becoming increasingly hostile in many parts of the world. People are saying and writing things today about Jesus and about Christians that are shocking. But we must not be intimidated. We must not be afraid to speak the truth in love.

3.CONTROVERSY OVER JESUS’ TEACHING (7:14-24)

3.1.Teaching in the Temple

Speaking the truth is exactly what Jesus did. “You must go to the feast,” his brothers had said. “Go work some miracles so that your disciples can see what you are doing.” “If you can do such wonderful things, show yourself to the world.”

Suddenly he comes to the temple. He is not working miracles, signs, and wonders. He is teaching.

The unbelieving brothers want him to go up publicly, but Jesus went up privately. They wanted him to work miracles, but when Jesus finally went public, he went public with teaching, not miracles. And his teaching is not to bring glory to himself, but to bring glory to God.

3.2.Teaching that Astonishes

John 7:15 NLT The people were surprised when they heard him. “How does he know so much when he hasn’t been trained?” they asked.

Jesus had not been trained as the scribes and Pharisees, yet his ability to teach was astonishing. We read elsewhere that unlike the scribes and Pharisees, Jesus taught as one having authority.

We remember that at the age of 12, the boy Jesus astonished the elders by asking questions in the temple, his Father’s house. Now as a man, he continues to astonish people with his teaching. “How did he get such learning?” they ask.

It would be easy for us to say that he was God and knew all things. And yet, we must take seriously the divine and human natures of Christ. In his human nature, he did not know all things. “The human Jesus had to grow in his knowledge and understanding of the things of God.” In his human nature, he tells us that he did not know the day of his return (Mark 13:32).

At the same time, we see many instances when Jesus demonstrates supernatural knowledge. He knew Nathanael before he ever met him (John 1:47-49). He knew the Samaritan woman’s sordid past (4:17-18). He knew all men and did not need anyone to testify to him about man what was in him (2:24-25). Where did he get such learning? “It came from the communication of the divine nature to the human nature.”

John 7:16 NIVO Jesus answered, “My teaching is not my own. It comes from him who sent me.

This debate between Jesus and the Jewish authorities was about credentials. The Jewish leaders asked, “Where did You get Your degree?” Jesus replied: “I brought it with Me from heaven. I don’t teach anything on My own, but My doctrine comes from the Father. If you want the truth, if you want knowledge, if you care about theology, you should believe every word that I tell you because the only words I give you are from Him. If you want to do the will of God, you should hear My voice and listen to Me.”

John 7:17 ESV 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.

What does he mean? Jesus means that seeing the truth is a matter of the disposition of the heart.

  • When our minds are made up,
  • when we know what we want to do,
  • when we have our own agenda,
  • we have made our plan,
  • when we ready to do our own thing,

— it is impossible to hear from God. No, Jesus says, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself…” (Matthew 16:24).

Here, Jesus says that if our heart’s desire is to do God’s will and not our own will, we will know whether Jesus’ teaching comes from God or is merely his own.

John 7:18 ESV 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 there is no falsehood.

What is our motivation? To be known? To make a name for ourselves? To impress people with our knowledge and our degrees? The one who speaks of his own authority, who tells you about his accomplishments, and his degrees, and his experience — that man is seeking his own glory. “We preach not ourselves,” Paul said, “but Jesus Christ our Lord” (2 Corinthians 4:5). “He must increase, and I must decrease,” said John the Baptist (John 3:30).

Jesus was seeking only to glorify the Father. He faithfully taught what he had heard from the Father. His teaching was true because Jesus himself was true, and “there is nothing false about him” (John 7:18 NIVO).

3.3.Misuse of the Word of God

Secret agendas distort our understanding of God’s Word. How often we refuse to see what is so clearly written! How often do we twist Scripture simply to approve what we want to do, or to prove a point? How often do we use an argument — not because it is true, but because it supports what we want to do or what we want to see happen?

Two things will prevent us from knowing the truth:

  1. Seeking our own glory instead of God’s, and
  2. having our own agenda’s instead of desiring above all things to do God’s will.

Part of the controversy between Jesus and the Jewish authorities had to do with their interpretation and additions to the Law. They said that no work could be done on the Sabbath. But Jesus had healed a lame man on the Sabbath and told him to take up his mat and walk.

“That’s against the Law!” they cried. “Let’s put this man to death!” The same Law that said that they were to honor the Sabbath day and keep it holy, also said that, “You shall not kill.” Yet, the Jewish authorities wanted to kill Jesus.

The Law also had required that an infant boy be circumcised the eighth day, even when that day was the Sabbath. So why should they be angry that Jesus made a man completely well on the Sabbath? They may have been teachers of the Law, but they had failed to understand the spirit of the Law.

John 7:24 NIVO Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment.”

4.CONTROVERSY OVER JESUS’ ORIGIN (7:25-52)

There was controversy not only over Jesus’ teaching, but also over his origin. Where did he come from? Of course, the real question was whether Jesus was the Christ, the one that had been promised through the ages, and the issue of his origin was an important factor in determining whether he was the Christ.

John 7:25-27 NIVO ¶ At that point some of the people of Jerusalem began to ask, “Isn’t this the man they are trying to kill? 26  Here he is, speaking publicly, and they are not saying a word to him. Have the authorities really concluded that he is the Christ? 27  But we know where this man is from; when the Christ comes, no one will know where he is from.”

There was confusion among the crowd:

John 7:26-27 NLT But here he is, speaking in public, and they say nothing to him. Could our leaders possibly believe that he is the Messiah? 27  But how could he be? For we know where this man comes from. When the Messiah comes, he will simply appear; no one will know where he comes from.”

Really? No one would know? Well, in fact, they did not know. They thought that Jesus was from Galilee, but they did not know that he was born in Bethlehem. Even this shows the controversy over Jesus’ origin. While some thought that no one would know where the Messiah came from, others knew that the Scriptures told precisely where he would come from. A few verses later, when Jesus gives his great invitation,

John 7:40-43 NLT ¶ …some of them declared, “Surely this man is the Prophet we’ve been expecting.” 41  Others said, “He is the Messiah.” Still others said, “But he can’t be! Will the Messiah come from Galilee? 42  For the Scriptures clearly state that the Messiah will be born of the royal line of David, in Bethlehem, the village where King David was born.” 43  So the crowd was divided about him.

The Messiah would come from Bethlehem, the town where Jesus was born.

In verse 50, the Pharisees are ready to judge him, but Nicodemus, “the leader who had met with Jesus earlier, spoke up. “Is it legal to convict a man before he is given a hearing?” he asked. “Are you from Galilee, too?” they replied. “Search the Scriptures and see for yourself — no prophet ever comes from Galilee!”

The people thought that they knew everything about Jesus. They thought that they knew where he was from.

“Oh, sure, you know me. And you think you know where I come from. But I am not here on my own. There is One who sent me, and he is true, but you don’t know Him. But I know him because I come from him, and he sent me to you” (7:28-29, my paraphrase).

They knew what he meant. He was referring to having been sent by God. So the Jewish authorities wanted to arrest him, “but no one laid a hand on him, because his time had not yet come” (John 7:30, NLT).

Controversy: The authorities wanted to arrest him, but the next verse tells us,

John 7:31 NLT Many among the crowds at the Temple believed in him. “After all,” they said, “would you expect the Messiah to do more miraculous signs than this man has done?”

Once again, the chief priests and Pharisees try to stop Jesus. They sent officers to arrest him (7:32), but the officers came back empty-handed (7:45). “Why didn’t you bring him in?” “No one ever spoke like this man!” (7:46).

5.CONTROVERSY OVER HIS INVITATION

It was the last day of the feast, the great day. It was the day of the greatest celebration. It was the day when water from the Pool of Siloam was poured out on the altar as a memorial of the water that flowed from the rock in the wilderness at Horeb.

John 7:37-39 ESV ¶ On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. 38  Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.'” 39  Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.

5.1.Come to Me and Drink

These are not the claims of simply a religious leader. In fact, Jesus never claimed to be a religious leader. Jesus is unlike any of the world’s great religious leaders. Ravi Zacharias grew up in a Hindu culture. He has studied world religions and has observed a fundamental distinction between Jesus Christ and the founders of other major religions:

“In all of these, there emerges an instruction, a way of living. It is not Zoroaster to whom you turn; it is Zoroaster to whom you listen. It is not Buddha who delivers you; it is his Noble Truths that instruct you. It is not Mohammad who transforms you; it is the beauty of the Koran that woos you. By contrast, Jesus did not only teach or expound His message. He was identical with His message.”5

The truth of Zacharias’ point is underscored by the number of times in the Gospels that Jesus’ teaching message was simply “Come to me” or “Follow me” or “Obey me.” Also, Jesus made it clear that his primary mission was to forgive sins, something only God could do.

Fundamentally, our Lord’s message was Himself. He did not come merely to preach a Gospel; He himself is that Gospel. He did not come merely to give bread; He said, “I am the bread.” He did not come merely to shed light; He said, “I am the light.” He did not come merely to show the door; He said, “I am the door.” He did not come merely to name a shepherd; He said, “I am the shepherd.” He did not come merely to point the way; He said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” –J.Sidlow Baxter

He did not come to tell the thirsty where they could go to quench their thirst. He said, “Come to me.” “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink.”

Illustration

On Friday I was in the check-out at the grocery store. I looked ahead and saw a pastor friend checking out. Sandwiched between us was a man with several bottles of alcohol. It was an opportunity not to be missed. I greeted my pastor-friend and put my arm on the other man’s shoulder and said to my friend, “Wanum tinktink blong yu? Man ia, hem i nidim whiskey o hem i nidim Jisas?” Of course my pastor-friend responded that the man needed Jesus. We told the man that he had been waylaid by a couple of pastors, and my friend gave the man a good hug.

The man was thirsty for something, but nothing but Jesus will satisfy his thirst. “If anyone thirst,” Jesus said, “let him come to me and drink.”

John 7:38 NAU “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.'”

John explains,

When he said “living water,” he was speaking of the Spirit, who would be given to everyone believing in him (Joh 7:39 NLT).

See also “Gospel of John”: