14 Not until halfway through the festival did Jesus go up to the temple courts and begin to teach. 15 The Jews there were amazed and asked, “How did this man get such learning without having been taught?”
16 Jesus answered, “My teaching is not my own. It comes from the one who sent me. 17 Anyone who chooses to do the will of God will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own.18 Whoever speaks on their own does so to gain personal glory, but he who seeks the glory of the one who sent him is a man of truth; there is nothing false about him. 19 Has not Moses given you the law? Yet not one of you keeps the law. Why are you trying to kill me?”
20 “You are demon-possessed,” the crowd answered. “Who is trying to kill you?”
21 Jesus said to them, “I did one miracle, and you are all amazed. 22 Yet, because Moses gave you circumcision (though actually it did not come from Moses, but from the patriarchs), you circumcise a boy on the Sabbath. 23 Now if a boy can be circumcised on the Sabbath so that the law of Moses may not be broken, why are you angry with me for healing a man’s whole body on the Sabbath? 24 Stop judging by mere appearances, but instead judge correctly.”
(John 7:14-24 NIV)
From yesterday’s study, we see Jesus going to the Feast of the Tabernacles on His own, not traveling with His brothers. Halfway through the festival, Jesus breaks His anonymity and begins teaching publicly in the temple.courts.
The Jewish crowd is amazed at Jesus’ teaching. Jesus is teaching with hope and power and authority; He is not quoting the same old tired mantras from the renowned rabbis (Mark 1:22). Jesus sees the crowds’ faces and hears their whisperings. He stops and gives credit where credit is due – to His Father (v. 16).
In verses 17 – 18, Jesus uses this opportunity as a teachable moment. Jesus challenges the crowd to examine the motives of teachers, including Himself. Why do they do what they do? Are they merely trying to gain a following and increase their personal glory, or have they been sent from God on a mission and with a message?
If Jesus’ brothers were in the crowd, they would have gotten the answer to their assumption that Jesus was trying to build a following (vv. 3-5, from yesterday). Jesus was clearly not about amassing a fan club and making life all about Himself. Jesus was there to honor His Father and do His Father’s will.
In verses 19 – 20, Jesus accuses everyone in His hearing (especially the Jewish religious leaders) of breaking God’s Law, which is the very crime of which they were accusing Jesus. Jesus knows the hearts of the Jewish religious leaders and verbalizes what they were thinking – they were threatened by Jesus and wanted to kill Him. The crowd laughs at the idea and calls Jesus delusional, not knowing that Jesus’ statement is true.
Remember what happened in John chapter 5? The incident at the Bethesda pool sets the stage for understanding verses 21-24. Jesus healed the lame man on the Sabbath. The Jewish religious leaders were still having a fit over that incident. Jesus is claiming that He did not break the Law on the Sabbath, because what He did by healing the man was a demonstration of God’s grace and mercy, and was not “work”. Jesus is again reminding them of what they knew was true – that God’s grace and mercy do not take a day off – they are in effect 24 x 7, which includes the Sabbath.
Verses 21 – 23 may seem a little out of place or disjointed, but in fact, are relevant to the point Jesus is trying to make. Jesus reminds the Jewish religious leaders that they willingly break the Sabbath to keep Moses’ law of performing circumcisions on the Sabbath if that day happened to be the 8th day of the child’s life, but yet, they lose their minds when Jesus heals a man on the Sabbath.
What was Jesus’ point? The Jewish religious leaders are willing to wound someone (via circumcision) on the Sabbath to keep Moses’ law, but not help someone on the Sabbath, which shows God’s character and love. Jesus tells them to judge by God’s Law, not their traditions. In other words, Jesus is telling these folks to look at the “why” before looking at the “what.”
I am again reminded to look at the “why” before looking at the “what” in my life as well as the lives of others. The “why” reveals the heart, which is always Jesus’ focus. Sometimes I do things for God’s glory; other times, I find myself doing things for my selfish interests. When the Lord reveals my sinful “why”, I must stop and confess my selfishness and pride to the Lord and reconsider my motives.
Why do you do what you do?