TEACHING WITHOUT A DEGREE – John 7:14-16

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INTRODUCTION:

Do you have any “post-nominal letters”?  These aren’t letters that you write to one another or receive from one another in the mail.  The words “post-nominal” mean “after a name”.  The Wikipedia online encyclopedia gives the following definition:  Post-nominal letters are letters placed after a person’s name to indicate that that individual holds a position, academic degree, accreditation, or honor, or is a member of a religious institute or fraternity.  Some examples of post-nominal letters used in the field of education are:  BA [Bachelor of Arts], MS [Master of Science], and PhD [Doctor of Philosophy].  There are also “pre-nominal letters” (“before a name”) which are used mainly for a religious title or military rank.

What does this information have to do with the passage of Scripture we are now studying – John 7:14-16?  There were no scholastic degrees given in New Testament times!  True, but there were requirements to be met, especially for teachers of the Law of Moses in Judaism.  Learning those requirements is important for our understanding of these three verses of Scripture in John, Chapter 7.  Let’s take a good look at this passage of Scripture and you will soon see what I mean.

I.  THE SETTING:

In the previous passage of Scripture, John 7:10-13, we learned that Jesus went to the feast secretly in order to find out what people were saying about Him.  For several days He moved about and overheard many muffled conversations about Him.  Jesus learned what He wanted to learn.  There were many among the crowds of people who thought well of Him.  They were impressed with His character, and attracted by His personality and genuine concern for people.   It was now time for Him to come out of hiding.

II.  JESUS’ APPEARANCE IN THE TEMPLE (John 7:14)

Verse 14 says, “But when it was now the midst of the feast Jesus went up into the temple and began to teach.”  It was the middle of the feast – the fourth day, and many Bible scholars believe that it was also the Sabbath day; so the crowd would be larger than at any other time during the feast.  Many of these worshipers would also be assembled in or near the temple.  Jesus enters the temple unrecognized.  By this time the people were no longer looking for Him and didn’t expect Him to be there.  Then the news starts spreading quickly around the temple area and throughout the city of Jerusalem.  Jesus was in the court of the temple and was boldly teaching God’s Word.  People were flocking to the temple to listen to Him.  The words, “began to teach” are in the imperfect tense in the Greek, indicating that Jesus was teaching formally and continuously.  By so doing, He was winning the hearts of the people by His teaching before the Jewish leaders could put a stop to it.  His listeners were awed by His teaching. This may have been the first time that Jesus taught in the temple.  Before His arrest, Jesus said, in Matthew 26:55, “Every day I used to sit in the temple teaching and you did not seize Me.”

II.  AMAZEMENT AND CONFUSION (verse 15)

In verse 15, the apostle John focuses our attention upon the Jewish leaders.  They have arrived at the scene and are standing together at a distance, watching and listening.  What they see is a man dressed in a peasant’s robe, a lowly carpenter from Nazareth, of all places.  But they hear Him teaching the Scriptures from memory, with skill, with ease, and with authority.  The Lord Jesus was expounding the Old Testament Scriptures clearly and convincingly.  John tells us the words that are coming out of their mouths in their amazement:  “How has this man become learned, having never been educated?” 

This was not the first time the leaders of the Jews stared and listened in wide-eyed amazement.  Twenty years earlier a group of elders in that same temple had similar looks on their faces and responded in the same manner, as a twelve-year-old boy sat in their midst.  Luke 2:46-47 describes that scene:

“And it came about that after three days they found Him [Jesus] in the
temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them,
and asking them questions.  And all who heard Him were amazed at
His understanding and His answers.”

A few of those teachers may still have been alive and standing among the leaders in John 7:15.  We aren’t given that information.  But if there were any of those teachers in this audience, apparently they didn’t put those two events together and realize that they were looking at the same Person.  In both those instances, they were standing in awe of the One whom they chose to reject as their Messiah.

Without realizing it, they have just paid Jesus a compliment when they said, “How can this man be learned”.  They weren’t saying that Jesus was illiterate, but were wondering about the source of this knowledge and wisdom.  As they listened to Jesus, they had to admit that He was an excellent teacher because His knowledge of the Scriptures, and His ability to interpret the Scriptures, excelled their own!  Jesus had all the qualifications of a rabbi; He just didn’t obtain those credentials in the usual way.  What was the usual way?

At that point in human history the proper way, and the only way to become a teacher of the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings was to go to rabbinical school.   At home and in the synagogue, Hebrew children learned the Torah (the first five books of the Old Testament Scriptures).  They read it, wrote it, and memorized large portions of it.  By the age of 12 the young men were ready to pursue their careers (usually the family business or trade).  The best students continued their studies in secondary school, called “beth midrash”, which was usually in the synagogue, where they studied the Prophets and the Writings.  They also learned the interpretations of the Law.  The very best of these students could seek to become the disciples of a rabbi so that they might become rabbis themselves after the training.  The goal was to become like their teacher.  These disciples did not teach their own interpretations of Scripture.  They taught their rabbi’s interpretations.  New Testament scholar, William Barclay, described the practice with these words:  “No rabbi ever made a statement on his own authority.  He always began:  ‘There is a teaching that . . . “.  He then went on to cite quotations and authorities for every statement he made.”

That’s the background to their question as they watch and listen to Jesus teach the Scriptures.  It doesn’t make sense to them that Jesus can interpret the Scriptures on His own authority without the benefit of having all their years of study and training.  The perception that their teachings were “secondhand”, and His were “firsthand” must have enraged them.

III.  JESUS’ SOURCE OF AUTHORITY (verse 16)

The Lord Jesus overheard their conversation, or knew what they were saying to one another, because He proceeds to answer their question concerning the source of His authority.  I would have expected Jesus to say something like the following:  “I don’t need any authority other than Myself because I’m God.  I don’t need a teacher because I’m self-taught.”  However, that’s not His reply to them.  Rather than place the focus of attention on Himself, Jesus focuses the attention upon His teachings and His Teacher.  Verse 16 says, “Jesus therefore answered them, and said, ‘My teaching is not Mine, but His who sent Me.’ “  I was taught, “Whenever you see a therefore, find out what it’s there for”.  The apostle John uses that word to indicate that Jesus is going to be correcting their words and their thinking.  He didn’t want them to come to the conclusion that He came up with those teachings on His own.  Rather, He is telling them that He has a Teacher, and those teachings come from Him.  The One who sent Him, the One He’s been telling them about, is His Teacher.  In a similar manner to their method of teaching, Jesus teaches only what the Father Who sent Him has imparted to Him.  So He’s saying, “My teachings are not original.  God has sent Me, taught Me, and commissioned Me to say what I have been saying.”  You might say that the Father who sent Him is the Author of His words and holds the copyright to them, whereas Jesus is the publisher – the One who proclaims them.

It’s not only His teachings that are under the authority of His Father.  His miracles, His schedule, His whole life is under the authority of His heavenly Father.  This realization has given me a new perspective on the Roman centurion’s words to Jesus in Matthew 8:5-9.  Here is that conversation:

And when He had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to Him
entreating Him and saying, “Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home,
suffering great pain.  And He said to him, “I will come and heal him.”
But the centurion answered and said, “Lord, I am not worthy for You to
come under my roof, but just say the word and my servant will be healed.
For I, too, am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say
to this one ‘Go!’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come!’ and he comes, and I say
to my slave, ‘Do this!’ and he does it.”  Now when Jesus heard this, He marveled.

I used to think that the centurion was saying that he was a man “with authority” but that’s not what the Scripture says.  He describes himself as being “under authority”.  He knows that Jesus has described Himself as being under the authority of His heavenly Father, and he’s telling Jesus that he is under authority also.  He was able to give orders and have them obeyed.  His soldiers obeyed his orders because they knew where his authority came from.  It was delegated to him by the tribunes, who received their authority from the two consuls, who were appointed by the emperor himself. Being “under authority” gave him authority (delegated authority).  By disobeying him, they were disobeying the emperor, and there would be serious consequences after it was reported.  Do you see how this applies to Jesus?  He was also under authority, the authority of His heavenly Father, and there is no higher authority!  His training and His teaching were superior to theirs, and they knew it.  Yet Jesus was humble, and this surprised them.  Humility was not a typical characteristic of the rabbis of His day.  Jesus said of the scribes and Pharisees in Matthew 23:6-7:  “They love the place of honor at banquets, and the chief seats in the synagogues, and respectful greetings in the market places, and being called by men, Rabbi.”  The title “Rabbi” comes from a Hebrew word which means “great”, “great one”, “master”.  Jesus allowed people to call Him by that title because He alone fit the description.  He goes on to say to His disciples in verse 8, “But do not be called Rabbi, for One is your Teacher, and you are all brothers.”

CONCLUSION:

The study of these three verses of Scripture, John 7:14-16, has been a lesson in pride and humility.  Have you ever said something, out of jealousy or envy, that you wish you hadn’t said, or done something that you wish you hadn’t done?  Former president Ronald Reagan shared the following experience from his own life:

Ronald Reagan, recalling an occasion when he was governor of California
and made a speech in Mexico City:  “After I had finished speaking, I sat down
to rather unenthusiastic applause, and I was a little embarrassed.  The speaker
who followed me spoke in Spanish — which I didn’t understand — and he was 
being applauded about every paragraph.  To hide my embarrassment, I started
clapping before everyone else and longer than everyone else until our ambassador
leaned over and said, “I wouldn’t do that if I were you.  He’s interpreting your speech.”
(quoted by Gerald Gardner in “All the Presidents’ Men”)

How embarrassing!  The ambassador saved him from even further embarrassment!  Like that ambassador, Jesus is doing these Jews a favor.  He answered their question before they could say it out loud to the crowd and then wish they had never said it.  He stopped the course of their jealous thinking and mumbling before it got out of hand, thus saving them from embarrassment.

Mr. Reagan would have been quick to admit that his actions were motivated by envy and jealousy, which are both manifestations of pride.  He felt he deserved a better response from the crowd because of the position of authority he held as governor of California, and because of the content of his speech.  How do you and I handle authority?  Some of us may have credentials before our names or after our names.  We’ve worked hard to earn those credentials and they give us a degree of authority.

Are you and I under authority?  Do we live life the way we please or are we subject to authority?  If you were pulled over by a police officer for speeding, and you said, “You can’t do that to me; I’m under my own authority!”  Whose authority is going to prevail in that situation?  That police officer’s authority was delegated by the city, which received that authority from the state.  I’d want to show some respect and obedience to that authority!  Only Monopoly games have get-out-of-jail-free cards!

Our credentials, no matter how many of them we may possess, do not give us the authority to enter the kingdom of heaven.  That’s not something we can merit, nor is it something we have a right to possess.  No human credentials can give us that authority or earn us that right.  It’s God’s heaven and we have to enter it God’s way.  The only acceptable entrance requirements include humbly acknowledging our own sinfulness (Rom. 3:23), repenting of our sins, believing in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior (Mk. 1:15) who paid the price that our sins deserved (I Pet. 2:24), and placing ourselves under His authority by following Him and obeying Him (Eph. 2:8-10).  Are you ready and willing to place yourself under His authority?

If you are a Christian, having already made that commitment, can you honestly and humbly say that God’s Word, the Bible, is the final authority in your life?  Do you believe and teach nothing that is contrary to the Word of God?  Is the authority that the Lord Jesus Christ possesses in your life, and the love you have for Him, evidenced by the place that God’s Word holds in your life, and your wholeheartedness in loving and serving Him and others?

May you experience the fullness of following Him as His beloved children.

CONSTRUCTION SITE:  COMPLETED

Thank you for visiting and reading this sermon on John 7:14-16.  I hope this passage of Scripture has been an encouragement to you today.

 

 

LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON – John 5:19-20

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I’ve heard that saying used many times.  Have you?  “Like father, like son.”  Most of the time the person saying it was pointing out a character trait or fault that a son demonstrated, indicating that he must have inherited it from his father.  A similar saying is, “You’re just like your father!” In my own case, it was my mother who was usually the one saying it to me.  I almost always took it as a compliment because I wanted to be like my dad.  He was a character at times, playing pranks on my mother!  And, of course, I was always ready to be of service to him if he could use my help!

I’ve also heard the phrase “Like mother, like daughter”, and it was usually said as a compliment.  Those sayings, or something equivalent to them, go back many centuries in history.  My favorite one is “A chip off the old block”.  I guess it’s all part of the “family resemblance” that sets us apart from other families.  Like it or not, know it or not, family members have a tendency to “rub off” on one another, and people who have been around us for a while notice those resemblances, and they are often much more than just “skin-deep”,

In John 5:17, the Lord Jesus made the statement:  “My Father is working until now, and I am working.”  The Jews correctly assumed that Jesus was claiming to be God.  Throughout the rest of the chapter (verses 19-47), the Lord Jesus goes into much greater detail to explain and add further proof of His deity.  Jesus claims equality with God in seven areas and we are going to look at two of them in this study.

I.  EQUAL IN WORKING (verse 19)

In the midst of their angry words and threats, the Lord Jesus begins His explanation of His relationship to God the Father by swearing an oath to them.  “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, those things the Son also does in like manner.”  By using the Greek and Hebrew words “amein, amein” (or amen, amen), Jesus is saying that what He is about to tell them is first-hand information.  He is claiming that He knows these things directly, by personal experience, and therefore they are true.

The Bible is full of examples of God’s power and might.  Those examples are often called miracles.   Dynamis is the Greek word for power, might, or strength.  The word is found 118 times in the New Testament, usually in conjunction with the performance of miracles by Jesus.  How many times do you think the word “dynamis” is found in the Gospel of John?  If you guessed “zero”, you would be correct.  In the whole Gospel of John, all 21 chapters,  there is not even one mention of that word.  Instead, we find the repeated use of the Greek word “dynatai” which means “powerless”.  That is a new insight for me personally.  I did not know that previously.

Do you ever feel powerless to please God, powerless to serve God?  If not, you should, because you are!  As human beings, we are all powerless to do God’s will and God’s work by our own enabling.  To disagree with that statement would be to consider oneself as being better and greater than the Lord Jesus Christ.  He was a perfect, sinless Man, but He was still a man.  In His case He had both a human and a divine nature.  In the literal Greek text, Jesus is saying, “Cannot the Son do for Himself anything except what He sees the Father doing.”   The word “cannot” is the Greek word “dynatai” (powerless).  In other words, Jesus is watching as the Father does the miracle through Him.  By saying those words to his accusers, He is telling them that they are actually blaming the Father for doing those miracles on the Sabbath day.  Jesus is just doing the will of the Father by the power of the Father.  This information is going beyond the capability of our human understanding to comprehend completely.  The following true illustration will give us another person’s perspective.

Daniel Webster, the 19th century statesman, once dined in Boston with some influential people.  Soon the conversation turned to Christianity.  Webster, a convinced Christian, confessed his belief in Jesus Christ and His atoning work.  A Unitarian minister asked, “Mr. Webster, can you comprehend how Jesus Christ could be both God and man?”

“No sir, I cannot understand it:, replied Webster, “and I would be ashamed to acknowledge Christ as my Savior if I could understand it.  He could be no greater than myself.”

In my Bible, verse 19 ends with the words “in like manner”.  In verse 17, when Jesus said “My Father is working until now, and I am working”, the Jews thought that Jesus was saying that He was working independently of the Father, when actually the reverse was true.  Jesus was equal to the Father in nature as God, but dependent upon the Father in His human nature as a man.  Jesus’ equality with God was also demonstrated by His working together with the Father in perfect harmony.  This is one of the great mysteries of the Bible – how Jesus Christ can be fully God and fully man, and be able to function in both capacities without compromising either of them.  Are you still with me?  That was a difficult sentence to formulate!  I hope it helps you realize the need for Jesus’ total dependence upon the Father in order to do the works of God.

In Psalm 40:7-8, king David says, “Behold, I come; In the scroll of the book it is written of me; I delight to do Thy will, O my God; Thy Law is within my heart.”  I believe that David is speaking prophetically in those verses because the author of Hebrews twice quotes those words almost exactly when referring to Jesus.  Hebrews 10:7 says, “Behold, I have come (In the scroll of the book it is written of me) to do Thy will, O God.”  Then again, in verse 9, “Behold, I have come to do Thy will.”  And Jesus did just that.  In His prayer to the Father in John 17, Jesus said in verse 4, “I glorified Thee on earth, having accomplished the work which Thou hast given Me to do.”
May that be our goal in life:  to accomplish the work that God has given each of us to do.

II.  EQUAL IN KNOWING (verse 20)

Verse 20 reads:  “For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself is doing, and even greater works than these will He show Him, that you may marvel.”  Jesus points out that His knowledge of the Father is by-far superior to theirs.  It is a knowledge that only the Son of God could have.  God had concealed many things from Jesus’ accusers.  There are mysteries in the Bible that we don’t understand – things beyond our human comprehension.  We are also given a limited knowledge of God’s working throughout history and the details of our future.  But Jesus is saying that God the Father has withheld nothing from Him.  Then Jesus continues by saying “greater works than these will He show Him, that you may marvel.”  We’ll see what He means in the next verse of Scripture.  A person’s knowledge gives him authority and earns him respect if that knowledge is used properly.  I think that Jesus is communicating to them that, because He has the knowledge that belongs only to God, He should be acknowledged as God and worshipped as God as a result.

As we look at the Father’s motive for giving this knowledge to Jesus, you might agree with me that the first part of verse 20 may be an even stronger evidence that Jesus Christ is God.  The verse begins with the words “For the Father loves the Son”.  The Greek word for “loves” is “phileo”.  It speaks of family-love, or love for an intimate friend.  It is this special, Fatherly love that motivated God the Father to reveal all things to His Son.  The more scholarly Jews, versed in the writings of the Law and the Prophets, should have realized the similarity of Jesus’ words to the prophecy written down by Isaiah in Isaiah 42:1.  It reads: “Behold, My Servant, whom I uphold; My chosen one in whom My soul delights.  I have put my spirit upon Him; He will bring forth justice to the nations.”  It’s a prophesy concerning the Messiah.

What does the Father say about His Son in the New Testament?  At Jesus’ baptism, the Father spoke aloud from the heavens introducing the world to His Son by saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.” (Mt. 3:17; Mk. 1:11; Lk. 3:22).  The Father speaks one more time from the cloud on the mount of transfiguration, saying to Peter, James, and John, This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased; listen to Him!” (Mt. 17:5; Mk. 9:7; Lk. 9:35 ).  The Lord Jesus was the Father’s delight and source of Fatherly admiration and pleasure.  This has been true from all eternity.  What a testimony to the deity of Christ, coming from His own Father!

Tying all those verses and their meanings together, I like the beautiful summary-statement that John Piper makes.  “He is well-pleased with His Son.  His soul delights in the Son.  When He looks at His Son, He enjoys and admires and cherishes and prizes and relishes what He sees.”

Let’s see if we can gain a perspective on the Son’s helplessness as a Man to do the works of God, having to rely totally on the Father’s enabling for everything that He did; and the Loving heavenly Father working together with His Son to accomplish their work together.  Have you ever wondered what that must have been like for Jesus to have been totally dependent upon His Father during His entire life on this earth?  I’ve been looking for some basis of comparison here in the United States of America, and I think I may have found it.   We live in the first generation that has electronic media at their fingertips 24/7.   According to the Pew Research Center, 90% of Americans own a phone.  67% of cell-phone owners find themselves checking their phone for messages, alerts, or calls – even when they don’t notice their phones ringing or vibrating.   Studies have talked about all the things we choose to use our cell phones and smart phones to do for us:  such as scheduling meetings, finding places to eat, things to do, checking scores of sporting events, surfing the web, talking, texting, gaming, social media, and the list goes on.  Adding up all the ways these phones are being used, based on surveys, one internet trends report said that the average person checks their phone 150 times a day. Add to this the personal use of desktop computers, laptops, notebooks, blue-tooths, etc.

My purpose is not to be judgmental but to cause us to see how dependent many of us are upon our phones and computers.  We’ve made choices in our use of them, and now many of us are so dependent on them that we don’t see how we can live without them.

When we look at what Jesus says about His total dependence on the Father, we realize that His words have been verified by the choices He has made throughout His own life.  How did the Lord Jesus spent His time on this earth?  We find in the Scriptures that Jesus spent much time in prayer and the study of the Scriptures.  He also spent a lot of time teaching the apostles, witnessing to the lost, and serving the needs of people.  He did all those things because that’s what the Father wanted Him to do and empowered him to do; and that’s what brought Him joy and personal satisfaction.

I hope that you believe that Jesus Christ is God.  If so, I hope that you’ve responded by committing yourself to Him as your God, your Lord and Ruler, letting Him take charge of your life from moment-to-moment until you see Him face-to-face.

As Christians, we are dependents, and we will never outgrow that dependency during our lifetimes on this earth.  We are part of His family and He has claimed us as his children.  By His enabling, let’s do the will of Him who adopted us, lovingly depending upon Him to do what He wants to accomplish in our lives because of His great love for us.

May our lives and the use of our time reflect the priorities of Christ, and may our motives reflect the love of Christ.

CONSTRUCTION SITE COMPLETED

I’ll see you at the next construction site.  The Lord Jesus has much more to tell us about His deity.