25 Some of the people of Jerusalem therefore said, “Is not this the man whom they seek to kill? 26 And here he is, speaking openly, and they say nothing to him! Can it be that the authorities really know that this is the Christ? 27 But we know where this man comes from, and when the Christ appears, no one will know where he comes from.” 28 So Jesus proclaimed, as he taught in the temple, “You know me, and you know where I come from. But I have not come of my own accord. He who sent me is true, and him you do not know. 29 I know him, for I come from him, and he sent me.” 30 So they were seeking to arrest him, but no one laid a hand on him, because his hour had not yet come. 31 Yet many of the people believed in him. They said, “When the Christ appears, will he do more signs than this man has done?”– John 7:25-31 ESV
The confusion and consternation over Jesus continues. This itinerant Rabbi from Galilee was walking enigma. Because of His reputation for performing miraculous signs and wonders, He attracted large crowds wherever He went. But no one was quite sure who He was or what to make of Him. There had been ongoing debates regarding His identity, with some speculating that He was the prophet Moses had spoken about. Others questioned whether He might be the Messiah. And while many considered Him to be a good man, there were others who had concluded that He was a deceiver who was not to be trusted. And then there were the religious leaders who viewed Him as a deadly threat to the social fabric of the nation and so, they had implemented plans to have Him put to death.
The high priest and the other members of the Sanhedrin had intended for their plot against Jesus to remain a secret, but the news of their clandestine plan had leaked out. Yet, not everyone was aware of the growing conspiracy against Jesus. In fact, when He had announced that there was a plot to murder Him, the crowd had rejected His accusation, writing off His paranoia to demon possession.
The crowd replied, “You’re demon possessed! Who’s trying to kill you?”– John 7:20 NLT
Yet, for those who were aware of the Sanhedrin’s sinister plan to have Jesus killed, they couldn’t understand why these powerful men had taken no action. It was not as if they lacked the opportunity. Jesus had spent the day teaching in the temple courtyard and the Jewish religious leaders had done nothing to silence Him. He had even reiterated His blasphemous claim of having been been sent by God.
“My message is not my own; it comes from God who sent me. Anyone who wants to do the will of God will know whether my teaching is from God or is merely my own.” – John 7:16-17 NLT
Confused by the inaction of the religious leaders, some in the crowd began to speculate whether they had changed their minds.
“Could our leaders possibly believe that he is the Messiah?” – John 7:26 NLT
But they quickly discounted this idea because, in their minds, Jesus did not fit the criteria for being the Messiah. According to their understanding, the Messiah would simply show up on the scene, unannounced and with no indication as to His point of origin.
“When the Messiah comes, he will simply appear; no one will know where he comes from.” – John 7:27 NLT
This belief was common among the Jews but was ill-founded and in contradiction to the Scriptures. The prophet, Micah, had clearly indicated that the Messiah would hail from Bethlehem (Micah 5:2). In fact, just a few verses later, John records a debate that took place among the people concerning the birthplace of the Messiah. Some were arguing that Jesus could not be the Messiah because He was from the city of Nazareth in Galilee. Yet, the Scriptures had indicated that the Messiah would hail from Bethlehem, the birthplace of King David.
“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.” – John 7:42 NLT
They were unaware of Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem and simply assumed that He had been born in the same place where He had been raised: Nazareth in Galilee. As a result, they ruled out the possibility that He might be the Messiah.
But while the people were busy debating the birthplace of the Messiah, Jesus took the opportunity to reveal that they had a much greater problem. He accused them of not knowing God.
“Yes, you know me, and you know where I come from. But I’m not here on my own. The one who sent me is true, and you don’t know him. But I know him because I come from him, and he sent me to you.” – John 7:28-29 NLT
This bold statement by Jesus was meant to have an impact. He was standing in the temple courtyard, surrounded by faithful Jews, and accusing them of lacking knowledge of Yahweh, their God. They thought they knew who Jesus was and where He came from, but they were sorely mistaken. And it was all because they had a less-than-vibrant relationship with their Heavenly Father. Because they were ignorant of God, they were unable to recognize the Son of God.
Jesus knew that the people were the byproduct of their religious leaders. These men had failed to instill in the people a love for God and His Word. As a result, the common Jew suffered from a lack of biblical knowledge that made intimacy with God virtually impossible. That is why Jesus had been so harsh in His assessment of the Pharisees and teachers of religious law.
“You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you, for he wrote, ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship is a farce, for they teach man-made ideas as commands from God.’” – Matthew 15:7-9 NLT
This had been a long-standing problem among the people of God, as is evidenced by Jesus quoting the words of His own Father, recorded by the prophet Isaiah hundreds of years earlier. Over the centuries, the people of Israel had made a habit of going through the motions when it came to their relationship with Yahweh. They put a lot of effort into keeping His laws but their hearts weren’t in it. Their obedience was motivated by fear rather than love.
And in time, they failed to recognize that the Scriptures, the sacrificial system, and the Mosaic law had all been meant to develop their knowledge of and love for God. But Jesus revealed that they had missed the point altogether and, as a result, had missed out on knowing Him.
“…the Father who sent Me has Himself testified about Me. You have never heard His voice nor seen His form, nor does His word abide in you, because you do not believe the One He sent.
You pore over the Scriptures because you presume that by them you possess eternal life. These are the very words that testify about Me, yet you refuse to come to Me to have life.” – John 5:37-40 BSB
The failure of the people to recognize Jesus as their Messiah was due to their lack of a vibrant relationship with God. They revered His written Word. They placed a high priority on trying to keep His commandments. They viewed the temple as a sign of God’s abiding presence but lived as if God was nowhere to be found. So, when the Messiah showed up, they had a difficult time seeing the resemblance between the Father and the Son.
One of the things that John has stressed throughout his gospel is the role Jesus played in manifesting or revealing His Heavenly Father. John the Baptist had testified, “No one has ever seen God. But the unique One, who is himself God, is near to the Father’s heart. He has revealed God to us” (John 1:18 NLT).
Later on in his gospel, John records the words that Jesus spoke the crowds who followed Him:
“…when you see me, you are seeing the one who sent me.” – John 12:45 NLT
And Jesus would announce to Phillip, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father!” (John 14:9 NLT). The apostle Paul explained how this could be true when he wrote, “Christ is the visible image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15 NLT). Jesus came to make God known and knowable. That is why He later declared, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me. If you had really known me, you would know who my Father is. From now on, you do know him and have seen him!” (John 14:6-7 NLT).
The people were in a bind. They didn’t know God, so they lacked an understanding of the written word of God. And because they failed to comprehend God’s word, they were unable to recognize the Living Word when He showed up. It was their inability to recognize Jesus as the Messiah that prevented them from seeing the Father in all His glory. That is prompted Jesus to declare, “Since you don’t know who I am, you don’t know who my Father is. If you knew me, you would also know my Father” (John 8:19 NLT).
The results of this conversation were somewhat predictable. The religious leaders were incensed and increased their efforts to kill Jesus. And the people continued to debate the identity of Jesus, with some reaching the conclusion that He must be the Messiah because of the miracles He performed.
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?” – John 7:31 NLT
It wasn’t the testimony of God as revealed in the Scriptures that convinced them. It was the supernatural nature of Jesus’ miracles that led them to believe. But this would prove to be an inadequate basis for believing faith. In time, the miracles would stop. The outward signs of power that so appealed to them would be replaced by an outward display of weakness, as Jesus hung on the cross as a common criminal. His crucifixion would be the deal-breaker for his former followers. They never expected their Messiah to die. So, with His death, Jesus had proven His claims to be nothing but a lie. Or so they thought.
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.