GOTCHA! – John 7:19-24

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INTRODUCTION:

“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 a conversation, and we had 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, exposing a person’s mistakes, or proving that the person is wrong.  That’s quite a range of meanings and uses for the word, and that’s not all of them.  Why would I be using the word “gotcha” to describe an event in the life and ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ?  Does that choice seem strange to you?  As we study this passage of Scripture, I’ll let you decide for yourself whether or not this title is appropriate.

TRANSITION:

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.  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 of Moses 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 Jesus’ words because they didn’t know the history behind them.

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.”  Therefore, in obedience to that law, every man-child (male baby) is circumcised on the eighth day, no “if’s”, “and’s”, or “but’s” about it.  There are no exceptions to the rule.  It’s the law, and this ceremonial law even takes precedence over the Sabbath laws.  That was the teaching of the Jewish religious authorities of that day.  However, there were exceptions to that rule.  In the Talmud (the collection of the teachings of the rabbis), it states that, should the baby suffer from an illness, the circumcision is postponed seven days for the sake of the well-being of the infant.  Therefore, the baby’s health is more important than this rite of purification, and this is one of several exceptions in the Talmud.

With that information in mind, Jesus presents His next argument in verse 23, saying, “If a man receives circumcision on the Sabbath that the Law of Moses may not be broken, are you angry with Me because I made an entire man well on the Sabbath.”  Jesus is saying, “You make exceptions to circumcision on the Sabbath because the health of the child is more important than the strict observance of the Law, so why are you upset because I healed this man completely on the Sabbath?”  He’s telling them that they are contradicting themselves because they say one thing but do another.

There is another argument that isn’t spoken by Jesus, but it’s implied, and all the rabbi’s standing around Him know what that argument is.  As they add this final argument to the ones already stated by Jesus, they realize that they have lost their case and there is nothing to refute.  Are you wondering what that final argument is?  It has to do with one of the teachings of their most famous rabbi, Hillel the Great.  Hillel’s first great law of interpretation was, “The Major may be inferred from the Minor”.  What does that mean?  In this case, circumcision, which was considered to be the ceremonial law of the purification of newborn males) overrides the Sabbath, and health overrides circumcision.  So the Sabbath and circumcision are ‘Minor’ when compared with health.  Thus Jesus’ case against them might be put into these words:  “I did what’s considered ‘Major’ according to your laws and the teachings of your most famous rabbi, when I healed that man completely on the Sabbath, so why are you majoring in the ‘Minors’?”

What excellent arguments!  Case dismissed!  As I review Jesus’ arguments, a word comes back to mind.  The word is GOTCHA!  Does that word seem appropriate to you also?

VI.  THE LESSON TO BE LEARNED (verse 24)

While those teachers of the Law are standing there, looking at Jesus in wide-eyed amazement, experiencing the shame and agony of defeat, the Lord Jesus uses that moment to teach them a lesson in verse 24.  Here are Jesus’ words of instruction to these rulers of the Jews.  He says to them, “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.”  He’s telling them to repent of the way they have mistreated Him and do what’s right in the sight of God.  How easy and how tempting it is to make judgments about the actions and motives of others before all the facts are known, or in spite of the facts that are known.

A newspaper correspondent attended an auction where he saw, among other items, a pair of excellent crutches.  A poor, crippled boy was the first to bid on them.  A well-dressed elderly man was also interested in them and kept offering more money for them.  Some of the people frowned in disapproval, and one lady said, “Shame on you; let the boy have them!”  Whenever the boy called out a higher price, the man would always top it.  At last, the boy held up a five-dollar bill, all that he had, and made a final bid.  When more was offered, the young fellow turned away in tears.  The crowd muttered angrily.  Then, to everyone’s surprise, the gentleman presented the crutches to the boy, saying, “These are much too small for me, so I won’t have any use for them.  When I saw that you were crippled, my heart went out to you.  So I decided to buy the crutches and give them to you.”  The crowd began to applaud for they realized they had completely misjudged the man and the situation.  They looked at outward appearances only, and came to their own conclusions, when they should have given the situation time to allow the true motives to be revealed.  That same principle is reflected in our attitude toward God’s Word, the Bible.  Are we committed to what God’s Word actually says, or to what we want it to say?

One of the things that can cause us to make wrong judgments is peer pressure.  Em Griffin in his book, “The Mindchangers”, describes an experiment done by Solomon Asch with groups of 12 people.  They were brought into a room where four lines of unequal length were displayed.  They had to decide which two were the same length and publicly vote for their choice.  Person after person after person (11 in all) voted for the wrong line – because they had been told to do so ahead of time.  The one individual who was in the dark couldn’t imagine how in the world all these seemingly normal people could all choose the wrong line.  When it was his turn to vote, he had to decide, “Do I go with what I know my senses are telling me, or do I go with the crowd?”  One-third of those tested caved in to group pressure and changed their vote to agree with their peers.  Are you feeling the pull of peer pressure in your life?  Don’t let peer pressure keep you from repenting of your sin and following Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior.  He will give you a new life, a changed life manifested by a love for Him and desire to obey Him and depend upon Him for strength, guidance, and victory.

Fellow-believers, a decision needs to be made in our hearts to do what is right in God’s sight even when everyone around us, where we live or work or go to school, wants to go the wrong way.  Ask God for the desire and the strength to make the right choice and do the right thing, even if it means standing alone.  In actuality, we won’t be alone.  The Lord will be with us, and there are many Christians over the past 20 centuries who have chosen to live righteously.  Some of their testimonies are written down for us in the Scriptures and in the history books.  I’ll close by giving you one of those examples.  In the third century, Athanasius, the bishop of Alexandria, strongly opposed the teachings of Arius, who declared that Christ was not the eternal Son of God, but a subordinate being.  After being exiled five times for his beliefs, he was summoned before emperor Theodosius who demanded that he cease his opposition to Arius.  The emperor reproved him and asked, “Do you not realize that all the world is against you?”  Athanasius quickly answered, “Then I am against all the world.”

May we have that kind of tenacity in our obedience to the truths of God’s Word.

CONSTRUCTION SITE:  COMPLETED

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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.