Misplaced Judgment

11 The Jews were looking for him at the feast, and saying, “Where is he?” 12 And there was much muttering about him among the people. While some said, “He is a good man,” others said, “No, he is leading the people astray.” 13 Yet for fear of the Jews no one spoke openly of him.

14 About the middle of the feast Jesus went up into the temple and began teaching. 15 The Jews therefore marveled, saying, “How is it that this man has learning, when he has never studied?” 16 So Jesus answered them, “My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me. 17 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. 18 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. 19 Has not Moses given you the law? Yet none of you keeps the law. Why do you seek to kill me?” 20 The crowd answered, “You have a demon! Who is seeking to kill you?” 21 Jesus answered them, “I did one work, and you all marvel at it. 22 Moses gave you circumcision (not that it is from Moses, but from the fathers), and you circumcise a man on the Sabbath. 23 If on the Sabbath a man receives circumcision, so that the law of Moses may not be broken, are you angry with me because on the Sabbath I made a man’s whole body well? 24 Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.” John 7:11-24 ESV

Jesus had delayed His journey to Jerusalem, refusing to travel alongside His half-brothers because they were only interested in seeing Him make a grand entrance into the city. They had tried to goad Him into putting on a display of His miracle-working power in Jerusalem and so that He might garner an even greater following.

“You can’t become famous if you hide like this! If you can do such wonderful things, show yourself to the world!” – John 7:4 NLT

But Jesus was only interested in being faithful, not famous. He was committed to doing the will of His Father and all that He said and did was in keeping with that will. Jesus was not out to make a name for Himself. Rather than seeking glory for Himself, He sought to bring glory to His Heavenly Father by doing His will.

“For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.” – John 6:38 ESV

And Jesus knew that His Father’s will included not only His incarnation but His crucifixion. He had taken on human flesh so that He might give His life as a ransom for humanity. His miracles were not intended to make Him famous but to prove His identity as the Son of God. That is why He had no interest in the applause and accolades of men.

“I do not accept glory from men.” – John 5:41 BSB

He wasn’t out to build His own reputation or bolster His image among the people. Jesus knew that obedience to His Father’s will would bring Him far greater glory than this world had to offer.

“And though I have no wish to glorify myself, God is going to glorify me. He is the true judge.” – John 8:50 NLT

If I want glory for myself, it doesn’t count. But it is my Father who will glorify me.” – John 8:54 NLT

But Jesus knew that His glorification would not happen until He had faithfully completed His God-ordained assignment. He was well aware that His days were numbered and that the growing animosity of the religious leaders would ultimately result in His death. That is why He said, “the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28 NLT).

None of this was known to the Jewish religious leaders. They had no idea who Jesus was and so they were completely oblivious to the redemptive nature of His ministry. Yet, they had been waiting and watching for His arrival. Why? So they could put Him to death.

…the Jewish leaders tried all the harder to find a way to kill him. For he not only broke the Sabbath, he called God his Father, thereby making himself equal with God. – John 5:18 NLT

John reveals that the rumors concerning Jesus were all over the map. Some were willing to admit that He was a “good man,” while others labeled Him as “a fraud who deceives the people” (John 7:12 NLT). And anyone who might have held a high opinion of Jesus knew it was best to keep it to themselves or they could face the wrath of the Sanhedrin.

You would think that Jesus would have kept a low profile, remaining hidden from view and avoiding any unnecessary notoriety. But John states that Jesus made His way to the temple where He began to teach. Jesus was not fearful or timid. He didn’t let the hatred of the Jewish religious leaders prevent Him from speaking on behalf of His Heavenly Father. And as these men listened to Jesus speak, they were surprised and shocked by the depth of His understanding.

“How does he know so much when he hasn’t been trained?” – John 7:15 NLT

They perceived Jesus to be an uneducated rural Rabbi from Galilee. He had not trained with the prominent and well-respected teachers of the law such as Gamaliel. And yet, here He was speaking with a degree of wisdom and insight that was difficult to comprehend. What these men failed to understand was that Jesus was the Son of God and, as a result, all He said came directly from the lips of God Himself. Jesus would later state: “I don’t speak on my own authority. The Father who sent me has commanded me what to say and how to say it” (John 12:49 NLT).

And Jesus, knowing that the religious leaders were puzzled by His eloquence and depth of understanding, told them, “My message is not my own; it comes from God who sent me” (John 7:16 NLT). This statement would have added fuel to the fire, further inciting the Sanhedrin’s hatred for Him. Every time He claimed to have been sent by God, their desire to see Him eliminated increased exponentially.

But Jesus was far from done. Turning His attention to these prideful, arrogant men, Jesus boldly proclaimed, “Anyone who wants to do the will of God will know whether my teaching is from God or is merely my own” (John 7:17 NLT). These men prided themselves in doing God’s will. They considered themselves to be the consummate keepers of God’s law and therefore, icons of righteousness. But Jesus knew their hearts. He was fully aware that these men were glory-seeking self-promoters whose only interest was their own reputations.

Jesus was making a not-so-subtle comparison between Himself and these men when He stated, “Those who speak for themselves want glory only for themselves, but a person who seeks to honor the one who sent him speaks truth, not lies” (John 7:18 NLT). In the very next chapter, John records Jesus’ stinging indictment against these men, where He declares them to be the children of Satan.

“For you are the children of your father the devil, and you love to do the evil things he does. He was a murderer from the beginning. He has always hated the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, it is consistent with his character; for he is a liar and the father of lies.” – John 8:44 NLT

Their desire for self-glorification was evidence of their relationship with Satan. From the very beginning, Satan’s plan has been to entice humanity to worship themselves rather than submit themselves to the worship of God. All the way back in the garden, He had convinced Eve to disobey God and eat of the fruit of the forbidden tree, telling her, “God knows that your eyes will be opened as soon as you eat it, and you will be like God, knowing both good and evil” (Genesis 3:5 NLT). Her desire to be like God led her to glorify herself rather than God. And the rest, as they say, is history.

And Jesus reveals that these men were following in the footsteps of Eve, choosing to glorify themselves rather than God. Jesus would later expose these well-respected leaders for their hypocrisy and deception.

“Everything they do is for show. On their arms they wear extra wide prayer boxes with Scripture verses inside, and they wear robes with extra long tassels. And they love to sit at the head table at banquets and in the seats of honor in the synagogues. They love to receive respectful greetings as they walk in the marketplaces, and to be called ‘Rabbi.’” – Matthew 23:5-7 NLT

And Jesus would admit that they while they were “the official interpreters of the law of Moses,” they were lousy at living up to its standards. This is why He warned the people, “So practice and obey whatever they tell you, but don’t follow their example” (Matthew 23:2-3 NLT).

John even records Jesus blasting these men for their refusal to obey the very law they prided themselves in keeping.

“Moses gave you the law, but none of you obeys it! In fact, you are trying to kill me.” – John 7:19 NLT

The crowds were confused by Jesus’ words because they had no idea that the Sanhedrin was planning His death. So, they simply thought Jesus had lost His mind or was possessed of a demon. But ignoring their comments, Jesus went to the heart of the matter: His supposed violation of the law. His healing of the paralyzed man had taken place on the Sabbath and had led the religious leaders to label Him as a law-breaker. But Jesus turns the tables on them, revealing the well-known fact that the Jews always circumcised male infants on the eighth day, even if that day fell on the Sabbath. So, if they were free to “break” one of God’s laws in order to keep another, why were they upset with Jesus?

He logically concludes, “For if the correct time for circumcising your son falls on the Sabbath, you go ahead and do it so as not to break the law of Moses. So why should you be angry with me for healing a man on the Sabbath?” (John 7:23 NLT).

They didn’t understand what Jesus was doing because they didn’t understand who Jesus was. Their perception was clouded by ignorance and jealousy. Because they refused to accept Jesus as the Son of God, they could not understand that He was doing the will of God, which gave Him the authority to supersede the law of God. But their judgment of Jesus was misplaced because their understanding of Jesus was mistaken.

 English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

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