A man in northern Italy was urging the owner of an orchard to accept the truths of the Bible. “You tell me it’s the Word of God”, said the owner, “but you can’t prove it.” As they stood admiring the fruit trees, the visitor said, “What fine-looking trees you have. Too bad they’re of such poor quality.” “Of poor quality!”, exclaimed the owner. “Obviously you haven’t tasted them. Pick one and try it.” The visitor accepted the invitation, picked a pear from the nearest tree and began to eat it. “Yes, you’re right”, he said, smacking his lips, “these pears are excellent!” Then he made his point. “Sir, you must do the same thing with God’s Word as I have done with your fruit. Taste and see that it holds the secret of the abundant life.”
I. THE CHALLENGE (vs. 17)
Here in John 7:17, the Lord Jesus is in the temple. It’s the Feast of Booths and He is challenging the people to put His teachings to the test. He has already told them, in verse 16 and many other times in John’s Gospel, that His teachings are not His own, but came from the One who sent Him. Now He says, “If any man is willing to do His will, He shall know of the teaching, whether it is of God, or whether I speak from Myself.”
Earlier in Jesus’ ministry, He said the following words in His sermon on the mount: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” (Matthew 5:6) The one who hungers and thirsts after God will recognize God’s messenger. In John 7:15, Jesus’ hearers had raised the question of His competence as a teacher. Here in verse 17, Jesus raises the question of their competence as hearers. It’s not as if the Lord Jesus is teaching them a new principle. We find this principle stated, in one form or another, in many places in the Old Testament Scriptures. Let me give you just a few of them. Psalm 111:10 says, “A good understanding have all who keep thy commandments.” Proverbs 1:7 states: “The fear of the Lord is he beginning of knowledge.” The word “fear” has the connotation of awe, worship, and obedience. The apostle Paul found that attitude among the Jews in Berea when He arrived there in Acts 17 and began to teach in the synagogue of the Jews. Acts 17:11 describes their response: “Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily, to see whether these things were so.” A willing submission to God was the foundation for understanding the Source and the truth of his teachings. The hymn writer, John Sammis, captures that thought with these words: “When we walk with the Lord in the light of His Word, what a glory He sheds on our way!” Oswald Chambers, in his book entitled “My Utmost For His Highest”, made this observation: “Intellectual darkness comes through ignorance. Spiritual darkness comes because of something I do not intend to obey.”
All the Rabbi’s who were standing there listening to Jesus teach, could relate to what Jesus said in verse 17 from many years of their own personal experience. What Jesus just said is a reflection on their own personal, life-stories. Each one of them, at some point in his life, wanted to become a rabbi. Each one completed his required schooling. Then he chose a particular rabbi that he wanted to be like, went to that rabbi, and asked him if he could be one of his talmidim (disciples). By making this request, he is telling the rabbi that he wants to be like him, and will gladly do everything the rabbi tells him to do without questioning it. After a period of questioning and testing, if the rabbi becomes convinced that this young man has the potential of becoming like him, the rabbi will approach him and say to him, “Follow me”. What he means by those words is: “Come with me as my disciple and submit to my authority and my teachings.”
After several years of submitting to his rabbi and learning only his teachings, this young man will also become a rabbi who will think, act, and teach just like his teacher. Therefore, his authority as a rabbi will not be his own, but the authority of the rabbi who discipled him.
Do you see the comparison? The authority of these rabbis is not their own either. They are emulating the rabbi who taught them, so their authority comes from their teacher, and these rabbis would be quick to admit it. Not only that, but their willingness to submit to their rabbi opened the door of opportunity to learn from him. The challenge that Jesus has just given the crowd in verse 17 runs parallel to the experiences of their religious leaders, and now these rabbis were training disciples of their own. I believe that the Lord Jesus is not only challenging the crowd to learn by doing as they put His words into practice, but He’s also reminding the leaders that this is the way it has always been done. Every one of those leaders is living proof of the validity of that principle. American statesman, Benjamin Franklin, once said: “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I remember, involve me and I learn.”
II. THE PROPER MOTIVATION (verse 18)
Now that Jesus has given them the challenge to do what He suggests, and has told them what will happen if they accept the challenge, He now focuses His attention on motives. Verse 18 begins with these words spoken by Jesus: “He who speaks from himself seeks his own glory.” The Lord Jesus is telling them about two different kinds of teachers and this is the first kind and the worst kind. The teacher who “speaks from himself” is one who speaks by his own authority. He teaches his own ideas and opinions that are not based upon, nor consistent with the Word of God. He does not represent God. On the contrary, he represents himself and “seeks his own glory”. To such a person, being a teacher is a popularity contest, and his reward is the recognition and praise of others. His motivation is pride, not humility; and self, not God and God’s Word. The attitude of these teachers was proof that their teachings were not from God.
Indira Gandhi, the former prime minister of India, once said, “My grandfather once told me that there are two kinds of people: those who do the work and those who take the credit. He told me to try to be in the first group; there is less competition there.” Based on what we’ve learned so far in this passage of Scripture, that was good advice to his granddaughter!
By contrast to the teachers of the Law, Jesus uses Himself as an example of the second kind of teacher. He says, “but He who is seeking the glory of the one who has sent Him, He is true, and there is no unrighteousness in Him.” For him, life is not a popularity contest. It’s a quest to know and obey the truth. Such a person is not an impostor. There is no falsehood nor deception in him. On the contrary, instead of deception there is transparency. This is the description of the perfect teacher, the kind of teacher you would want to follow and learn from. Jesus offered knowledge and a personal relationship in exchange for obedience.
A man named Adam Clarke was an assistant in a dry-goods store, selling silks and satins to a wealthy clientele. One day his employer suggested to him that he try stretching the silk as he measured it out; this would increase sales and profits and also increase Adam’s value to the company. Young Clarke straightened up from his work, faced his boss courageously, and said, “Sir, your silk may stretch, but my conscience won’t!” God honored Adam Clarke by taking him from the dry-goods store and equipping him to write a famous commentary on the books of the Bible. That commentary bears his name. God gave Adam wisdom and understanding of the Scriptures in return for his obedience, and his life’s work continues to draw others to a deeper understanding of his Lord and Savior.
Are you willing to do God’s will? Maybe you’ve shut the door to Him in the past, but now you’re ready to open that door again, find out more about Him, and give Him His rightful place in your life. If so, you may want to click the following link:
https://www.peacewithgod.net. Clicking the arrow in each section will give you further information and short testimonials.
If you are a Christian, here’s a question for you to think about: Would you be willing to live and work anonymously? In other words, would you be willing to live your life and do your work in such a way that God always gets the glory; that the focus of attention is on Him, and your joy comes from serving Him and pleasing Him? Would you be willing to be an ambassador of Jesus Christ in the same way that Jesus was an ambassador of His Father? That’s a tall order, isn’t it? It’s a major challenge; a tough assignment. It’s certainly not an overnight experience! Let’s ask our heavenly Father to provide us with the desire and the power to move one step closer to the image and example of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.
CONSTRUCTION SITE: COMPLETED
Welcome to this completed construction site: John 7:17-18! God wants us to be fellow-workers, and the study and application of His Word is part of His life-long building project in our lives. Let’s willingly and eagerly put our hands to the task!