“Gotcha” is an American slang term that literally means, “I’ve got you”. It has been used in a number of ways. Many of us have used that word in the past, with a specific purpose and meaning in mind. It can mean “I understand what you are saying”, or “I’ll do what you’ve asked”. The word is sometimes used in the sense of capturing or apprehending someone, taking someone by surprise, embarrassing or disgracing someone, or exposing a person’s mistakes. That’s quite a range of meanings and uses for the word, and that’s not all of them. Why would I be using such a word to describe an event in the life and ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ? Does that sound strange to you? As we study this passage of Scripture, I’ll let you decide for yourself whether or not this title is appropriate.
As we begin our study of John 7:19-22, let’s imagine the scene at that moment in Jesus’ life. It’s the week-long Feast of Booths [or Tabernacles]. Jesus arrived unnoticed, went into the temple and began to teach. A crowd of people has formed around Jesus to listen to Him teach. The Jewish religious authorities have arrived, have made their way to the front of the crowd, and are standing in front of Him, making accusations about Him; and Jesus is once again defending His authority. Meanwhile, the crowd is standing there, watching and listening.
I. THE ACCUSATION (verse 19a)
In verse 19, there is a change of direction. Jesus takes the offensive position against them and assumes the control of the conversation. “Turnabout is fair play”, as the saying goes. It’s time for Him to examine their words and their actions, and offer His conclusions. It’s time to bring them back to reality. He begins His attack by saying, “Did not Moses give you the law”? They are thinking in their minds, “Of course he did!” They prided themselves on this, and believed that every violation of the law was deserving of death. While they are gloating about their self-righteousness and their exalted position in the eyes of God, Jesus goes on to say “yet not one of you carries out the law.” Those are stinging words to His questioners! These leaders revere Moses and obey his every word – at least they try to give the impression that they do so! Jesus is telling them, “You’re not carrying out the Law that God gave to Moses. You’re carrying out your own version of it. Those aren’t the Sabbath laws that God gave to Moses. You’ve changed them and added to them to the point where they have become a despicable burden to the people. It’s no surprise that you reject My teaching because you have rejected Moses’ teaching” (John 5:46-47).
At this point in Jesus’ discussion, it’s important to know the words that Moses wrote in Deuteronomy 31:10-13. Here are those words:
Then Moses commanded them saying, “At the end of every seven years, at the
time of the year of the remission of debts, at the Feast of Booths, when all Israel
comes to appear before the Lord your God at the place which He will choose,
you shall read this law in front of all Israel in their hearing. Assemble the people,
the men and the women and children and the alien who is in your town, in order that
they may hear and learn and fear the Lord your God, and be careful to observe
all the words of this law.” [bold print added to emphasize key words]
We aren’t told whether or not this is the seventh year but, if not, Jesus may be alluding to that command to remind the Jewish leaders that, when the people hear the words of the Law being spoken, they will notice many of the differences between the Law of Moses and the teachings they have received from these rabbis.
II. THE QUESTION (verse 19b)
As further proof of their disobedience to the law of Moses, Jesus asks them a question: “Why do you seek to kill Me?” He is saying, “Where does Moses say specifically that I should be killed for healing a person on the Sabbath day over a year ago? What offenses deserve the death penalty in the law of Moses? If My healing-miracle is not one of those offenses, then one of the commandments in the law of Moses says, ‘You shall not kill’. So you’re the ones who are breaking the law of Moses by seeking to kill Me.”
III. THE CROWD’S RESPONSE (verse 20)
I can imagine that the leaders of the Jews were standing there dumbfounded. Jesus’ reasoning was too solid. They weren’t prepared for this, and didn’t know what to say. The crowd, most of whom were from outlying areas and weren’t familiar with Jesus or with the things He was saying, come to the defense of their leaders. In verse 20 we read, The multitude answered, “You have a demon! Who seeks to kill You?” They weren’t telling Jesus that He was demon possessed. During that period of time, many Jews believed that all unusual or uncalled for behavior was prompted by the devil. In this day and age, we might use the words “you’re out of your mind”, “you’re crazy”, or “you’re paranoid”. They misunderstood because they didn’t know the history behind Jesus’ words.
IV. THE QUESTION ANSWERED (verse 21)
I’m sure the leaders were relieved that the crowd directed the attention of Jesus away from them, but it didn’t last for long. Rather than become distracted by the crowd and direct His conversation toward them in defense of His sanity, Jesus ignores their remark and continues His conversation with the leaders of the Jews, answering His own question. In verse 21, He says, “I did one deed and you all marvel.” The religious authorities were amazed when they learned that Jesus healed, in an instant, a man who had been lame for 38 years, just by saying the words. It was a miracle that only God could perform. Yet they wanted to kill Jesus because He performed that miracle on the Sabbath Day.
V. THE APPLICATION TO CIRCUMCISION (verses 22-23)
In verse 22, we find that the Lord Jesus isn’t finished with His argument. He is still building His case against them. This time He applies their Sabbath laws to the rite of circumcision when He says, “On this account Moses has given you circumcision (not because it is from Moses, but from the fathers), and on the Sabbath you circumcise a man.” First, He corrects their misunderstanding about circumcision. Moses was not the originator of circumcision. Before God told Moses to put the command of circumcision into written form in Leviticus 12:3, it had been practiced by “the fathers” (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob) over 700 years earlier. In Genesis 17:10-12, God said to Abraham,“This is the covenant which you shall keep, between Me and you and your descendants after you; every male among you shall be circumcised. . . . every male among you who is eight days old.” (MORE TO FOLLOW SOON)
Welcome to another work-in-progress. As you can see, we’re making headway and things are beginning to take shape. Framing is almost completed and we’re beginning to install some windows and doors. The drywall is in place but nothing is “nailed to the walls” yet. Paragraphs may be moved around, illustrations added, spelling and punctuation corrected. That’s the way it is in the construction business! I hope you will grab your tools and work alongside me. There’s always a need for more workers in the study of God’s Word. Please check out other completed sermons on this site while you’re in the neighborhood. There are over 130 of them. The Lord be with you!