A PATH TO FRUSTRATION — John 7:31-36

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INTRODUCTION:

Two men were in a railroad station at midnight.  [Keep that time in mind].  The men were discussing the difference between irritation, aggravation, and frustration.  They couldn’t agree.  One of them finally said, “I’ll show you the difference.”  He went to the phone booth, circled a number in the phone book and called it.  After ringing and ringing, it was finally answered.  “Is Ned there?”  “NO!  There’s no Ned here,” and the phone was slammed down.  “That’s irritation,” he said to his friend.  After 20 minutes he called again.  The phone rang and rang.  Finally someone answered and the man asked again, “Is Ned there?”  The answer came back, “There is no Ned here!  I told you before!”  SLAM.  “That’s aggravation”, he said to his partner.  Another 20 minutes went by, and the man said, “Now I’ll show you frustration,” and he made another call.  Finally the phone was answered, “I told you before, there’s no Ned here!!!”  “But this is Ned — any messages for me?”

If I was the man who was receiving those phone calls, I’d unplug or turn off my phone for the rest of the night, and then I would probably have a hard time getting back to sleep again.  How about you?

You may have heard that story before, but I think it describes the situation in the passage of Scripture we are now studying:  John 7:31-36.  The leaders of the Jews are already irritated and aggravated by the words and actions of the Lord Jesus, and they are soon going to become frustrated as well.  Let’s see what happens next.

I.  RESPONSE FROM THE CROWD (verse 31)

Verse 31 begins with the words, “But many of the multitude believed in Him;”.  Who would the “many” consist of?  It wasn’t the people of Jerusalem.  They had already expressed their feelings about Him, and they ignored the evidence and sided with the Pharisees and the rulers who were against Him.  The apostle John must be referring to the pilgrims — the Jews who lived outside the nation of Israel and who had traveled a great distance to attend the feast.  What would cause them to believe in Jesus when they hardly knew Him?  This festival may have been their first opportunity to come in contact with Him.  The rest of verse 31 gives the answer:  “and they were saying, ‘When the Christ shall come, He will not perform more signs than those which this man has, will He’?”  They are saying that they believed because of the miracles He performed.  But Jesus didn’t perform any miracles during the feast, did He?  No, John doesn’t record any miracles during the feast.  But don’t forget that many of these pilgrims have been in town for several weeks, living in their own “tent city” on the outskirts of Jerusalem.  They composed most of the crowd that followed Jesus, watched Him heal the lame and the sick (John 6:1-2), and ate the loaves and fish that fed 5000 people (John 6:9-11).  They are saying to each other — “after all the miracles we’ve seen, how can He not be the Messiah?”  Jesus’ miracles may not seem like the best and strongest basis for one’s faith, but miracle-faith is good enough.  Remember when John the Baptist had his doubts about whether Jesus was the Messiah?  He sent messengers to Jesus to find out if He was the One.  In Matthew 11:4-6, Jesus said to them, “Go and report to John what you hear and see; the blind receive sight, the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have the Gospel preached to them.”  He chose to describe His miracles to them as part of the proof that He was indeed the Messiah.  By saying those words, the Lord Jesus was also fulfilling prophecy.

The Jews knew the Messianic texts in the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings.  They were eagerly awaiting their Messiah.  One of those texts is Isaiah 35:4-6, which says,
“Say to those with anxious heart, ‘Take courage, fear not.  Behold, your God will come with vengeance; The recompense of God will come, but He will save you.’  Then the eyes of the blind will be opened, and the ears of the deaf will be unstopped.  Then the lame will leap like a deer,  And the tongue of the dumb will shout for joy.”  This prophecy had been fulfilled before their eyes, and many realized it’s fulfillment.  Rather than conform to the leaders and the Jews living in Jerusalem, and believe what they were told to believe, many of the Jews living outside of the nation of Israel decided to believe what they saw and heard, and the words of the prophet Isaiah.

II.  A TIME OF DISCUSSION (verse 32)

There’s muttering or murmuring going on again, similar to what happened among the Jerusalem Jews in verse 12, but this time it’s different.  Verse 32 reads, “The Pharisees heard the multitude muttering these things about Him; and the chief priests and the Pharisees sent officers to seize Him.”  These Jews weren’t speaking against Jesus, but were agreeing with one another concerning Jesus’ qualifications.  They were supporting one another’s conclusions based upon the evidence.  Verse 31 has already told us that many of these Jews believed in Jesus, and the number was growing as they discussed Him among themselves.

The Pharisees knew that these Jews were becoming convinced of the claims of Jesus so they made haste to send for the officers.  They wanted to remove Jesus from the scene and disperse the people.  In their frustration, they didn’t know what else to do, so they decided to join forces with the chief priests because they are the ones in the positions of power.

III.  A WORD OF WARNING (verses 33-34)

When the officers of the Sanhedrin, the ruling body of the Jews, arrive on the scene, the Lord Jesus has some words of warning for them and for the crowd around Him.  In verse 33, Jesus says, “For a little while longer I am with you, then I go to Him who sent me.”  Notice that Jesus has now changed the topic of His conversation from where He came from to where He is going.  He’s continuing the conversation where He left off in verses 28-29, where He told them that He was sent on a mission.  Now He’s telling them that His mission will be accomplished soon and He’ll be going back to the One who sent Him.  The completion of His mission is only about six months away.  His mission is not impossible, but it is unfathomable — too amazing and wonderful for mankind to completely comprehend.

What Jesus says to them next, requires some explanation so that it is not misunderstood.  Jesus continues by saying, in verse 34, “You shall seek Me, and shall not find Me; and where I am, you cannot come.”  He is not rebuking nor condemning them by the use of those words.  If you combine verses 33 and 34, you will find that Jesus is giving them a deadline and urging them to respond to Him by acknowledging Him as their Messiah and following Him before He returns to His Heavenly Father.  I’m reminded of some of the end-of-summer sales that appear in the newspapers and in the mail in September and October.  They say something like this:  “Now is your last chance to take advantage of these end-of-summer deals.  Soon this merchandise will be taken off the shelves to make way for winter fashions, and you won’t see these items again until next summer.”  These stores are doing their customers a favor by letting them know this information and giving them one last chance to purchase the things they like.

The Lord Jesus is also doing His listeners a favor.  His motivation is that of loving concern for them.  Psalm 55 is one of the Messianic psalms, so everyone within the sound of Jesus’ voice is familiar with it.  Verse 6 of Psalm 55 says, “Seek the Lord while He may be found; call upon Him while He is near.”  That was their first warning, so you might say that Jesus is giving them a second warning.  At that moment in history, Jesus had been found by them, and He was standing in their presence.  How much nearer can you get?

With that information in mind, let’s take another look at verse 34. But first, let’s look at Matthew 23:37-39 because I think it’s the key to unlocking our understanding of John 7:34.  Jesus laments [expresses His sorrow] over Jerusalem, saying, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her!  How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling.  Behold, your house is being left to you desolate!  For I say to you, from now on you shall not see Me until you say, ‘BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD!’ ” Jesus is telling them, “When you say those words, you’ll be saying them to Me upon My return, because I am the Messiah.  He and I are the same Person.”  With those words, and the previous information in mind, let’s examine Jesus’ words in verse 34.

Jesus is speaking about the future when He says, “You will seek Me and not find Me”.  He’s saying, “After I go back to the One who sent Me, you are going to continue to  seek after the Messiah and you are not going to find your Messiah because He and I are the same Person.  He finishes His conversation by saying, “and where I am you cannot come”.  Since they have rejected their Messiah, they can’t go where He is going.  I believe that Jesus deliberately chose those words in order to cause anger, confusion and frustration to fill their minds because of their unbelief.

Jennice Vilhauer wrote an article in Psychology Today magazine and shared some observations about anger and frustration.  She said, “The majority of the anger and frustration we experience in life occurs when we encounter someone who is not playing by our rules. . . . When things aren’t going our way, we can start to feel that we are losing our sense of control.”  That’s a good description of what is happening in this encounter between Jesus and the leaders of the Jews.  In verses 35 and 36 we’ll see what happens next.

IV.  THEIR RESPONSE (verses 35-36)

Verse 35 reveals the following reaction on the part of the Jews:  “Then the Jews said among themselves, ‘Where does this man intend to go that we shall not find Him?  He is not intending to go to the Dispersion among the Greeks and teach the Greeks, is He?’ ”  Why didn’t they ask Jesus those questions?  He would have given them clear and honest answers.   How can they call themselves “teachers” and yet not be “learners”?  You might think that they were too proud to ask, and there is certainly truth in that thought.  But the real reason is their stubborn refusal to believe that Jesus is who He claims to be, in spite of everything they have seen and heard.  As they talked among one another, the best excuse they could come up with was that Jesus was going to go on a missionary journey to all the countries where the Jews had been scattered throughout the Roman empire, where the Greek language was spoken, and that He was never coming back.  It’s such a poor excuse in their own minds that they ask themselves the question again in verse 36 to see if they can come with a better one!  The Jews are completely frustrated as their conversation ends.  Jesus says nothing because their questions weren’t directed toward Him.  In fact, He may not have even heard their words clearly.  I presume that they didn’t even want Jesus to hear what they were saying.

The question is still in their minds and on their lips:  “How could He go somewhere they could not go.”  It didn’t fit within their own personal rule books of the way things should happen, and how they themselves should be treated.  The conversation abruptly ends there, and the next verse begins on the following day and in a different situation.  The leaders are left with some time to cool down their emotions, collect their thoughts, and get a restless night’s sleep before the next confrontation.

CONCLUSION:

These Jews seem to have forgotten, or ignored the words of the prophet Isaiah, who said, “Seek the Lord while He may be found” (Isaiah 55:6).  In contrast to His words to the Jews, Jesus later says to His disciples, “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also”  (John 14:3).  Jesus will make that possible through His own death and resurrection, and available to all who believe in Him and follow Him.

John 7:31-36 has been another study in contrasts.  On the one hand we have the pilgrim Jews, many of whom have believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, refusing to conform to the Jewish leaders and the Jerusalem Jews, and now their lives are filled with joy because they have found their Messiah.  On the other hand we have the local Jews who are unwilling to believe, and are struggling to find more excuses.  Augustine of Hippo, one of the early-church fathers, made this statement:  “You have made us for Yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in You.”

The Lord Jesus is asking each of us today, “Are you with Me?”  If you’ve chosen to believe in Him and follow Him, you’ll be with Him forever.  The joy will never end, and you have the privilege of sharing that good news with others  If you’re not with Him, is it worth the frustration and all the excuses?  Don’t put it off until you “cannot come” — forever.  That is the ultimate in frustration!

CONSTRUCTION SITE:  COMPLETED

While you’re here, you’re welcome to visit other sermons on this blog site.  I’ll be starting another construction site next door as soon as I put together an introduction. 

THE WORD BECAME FLESH – John 1:14

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I.  HE BECAME FLESH

John chapter 1, verse 14, is one of the most amazing and awe-inspiring verses in the Bible.  It reveals a mystery that we can’t comprehend with our finite minds.  The apostle John has been saying that the “Logos”, the “Word”, used by the Greeks to describe the force that created the universe and holds it together, is actually the Creator-God.  Now he is saying, in verse 14, that this Creator-God “became flesh”.  The verb is in the aorist tense, signifying an action that took place at a point in time.  By “becoming flesh” the Word became something that He previously was not. He not only assumed a human body, but took on the whole nature of man:  body, soul, and spirit.  He took on our limitations.  Romans 8:3 says that He took on “the likeness of sinful flesh”, but “He knew no sin” (II Corinthians 5:21).  Martin Luther said of Jesus, “He sunk Himself into human flesh”.  That’s a long way to sink!

In his book entitled “Miracles”, British author C.S. Lewis uses several illustrations to try to depict the incarnation of Jesus Christ.  His illustration of the diver is somewhat similar to the previous statement made by Martin Luther.

“Or one may think of a diver, first reducing himself to nakedness, then glancing in mid-air, then gone with a splash, vanished, rushing downward through green and warm water into  black and cold water, down through increasing pressure into the death-like region of ooze and slime and old decay; then up again, back to color and light, his lungs almost bursting, till suddenly he breaks the surface again, holding in his hand the dripping precious thing that he went down to recover.  He and it are both coloured now that they have come up into the light; down below, where it lay colourless in the dark, he lost his colour too.”

As we consider the incarnation, let’s be reminded that Jesus Christ was not a created being.  He is the Creator, but He chose to become part of His creation at a specific place and time in human history.  His essence, divine nature, and oneness with the Father and the Holy Spirit did not change.  We cannot understand how this can be, but we can accept it by faith.

One of the early church fathers, Augustine of Hippo, expressed his amazement.  He said that in his pre-Christian days he had read and studied the great pagan philosophers and had read many things, but he had never read that the word became flesh.  To the Greeks that was impossible and ridiculous.

II.  HE DWELT AMONG US

Here in verse 14, John describes Christ’s incarnation in three words, in contrast to the 2500 words used by the Gospel writer Luke.  He “dwelt among us”.  The Greek word translated “dwell” is “eskenosen”, which means “to pitch a tent”.  He “tabernacled among us” is another way to put it.  The tabernacle in the Old Testament was made of plain white linen.  The glory of the tabernacle was hidden inside.  There was no beauty in its outward appearance.  So too, the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ was a hidden glory.  When He came to pitch his tent among us, He did not lay aside His deity, but He did veil His glory.

The tabernacle in the Old Testament was only a temporary dwelling place.  It was used while the people of Israel were journeying in the wilderness and until the temple of Solomon was built (Exodus 24:8; 40:34-35; I Kings 8:10-12).  It’s interesting to note that the people of Israel used the tabernacle in the wilderness for a little less than 35 years, the approximate lifetime of the Lord Jesus on this earth.

III.  WE BEHELD HIS GLORY

Years ago an old pioneer journeyed westward across the Great Plains of North America until he came to an abrupt halt at the edge of the Grand Canyon.  He gawked at the sight before him – a vast chasm 1 mile deep, 18 miles across, and stretching out of sight.  He gasped, “Something must have happened here!” (Our Daily Bread, 12/22/02)

Something even more amazing happened when the Creator-God came to His earth in the Person of Jesus Christ.  The Scriptures declare it and changed lives continue to provide evidence for His birth, life, death, and resurrection.

John says, “we beheld His glory”.  This may bring to your minds the Shekinah glory that filled the tabernacle in the wilderness.  When the pillar of cloud that guided them by day would begin to settle down, there the sons of Israel would camp.  Once the tabernacle was set up, the cloud would settle over the tabernacle (Numbers 9).  Exodus chapter 40 describes the glory of the Lord.  “Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. . . . For throughout all their journeys, the cloud of the Lord was on the tabernacle by day, and there was fire in it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel.”

The apostle John knew this information since childhood, having grown up in a Jewish home.  But John and the other disciples had the privilege of witnessing this glory in the Person of Jesus Christ for about three years.  “The Word” was not an abstract concept but a real Person.  John begins his first epistle with these words:  “What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have beheld and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of Life.”

John, Peter, and James were with Jesus when He was transfigured before them.  His garments became dazzling white, and Moses and Elijah appeared alongside Him and were talking to Him (Mt. 17; Mk. 9).  What a spectacle that must have been!  But John is writing here about the inner glory that he saw in the Lord Jesus.

John was the “beloved disciple”, the one who knew Jesus so intimately.  He describes Jesus as One who was “full of grace and truth”.  This is a Hebrew expression for the fullness of the revelation of God.  “Grace” reveals God as love; “truth” reveals God as light.

The words “grace and truth” would probably bring to the minds of his Jewish readers two passages of Scripture from the book of Exodus.  One of them is in Exodus 33, and the other in chapter 34.  God tells Moses once again to make two stone tablets and meet with Him again on Mount Sinai.  Moses makes this request of God in Exodus 33:18:  “I pray Thee, show me Thy glory!”  In responding to Moses, God first describes Himself to Moses.  Then He  responds to Moses’ request and describes Himself more fully.  I think you will gain a greater understanding of the meaning of grace as a result of reflecting upon God’s description of Himself.  This is what God says in Exodus 33:19 and in 34:6:  “I Myself will make all My goodness pass before you, and will proclaim the name of the Lord before you, and I will be gracious, and will show compassion on whom I will show compassion. , , , Then the Lord passed in front of him and proclaimed, ‘The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth.’ “

I believe that the Lord Jesus demonstrated those qualities of God in His character and His actions while He was here on this earth.  I also believe that the apostle John is purposely using the words “full of grace and truth” to connect his description of Christ in his Gospel with God’s description of Himself in the Old Testament Scriptures.  The best Person to give an accurate description of God is God Himself, and He has been gracious enough to do so through various means.

In the next passage of Scripture, verses 15-18, John will be elaborating on the words of verse 14 more fully.  In the meantime, I’ve been reading and re-reading a poem written by Marv and Marbeth Rosenthal entitled:  “Mary Had The Little Lamb”.  It briefly describes the Person, life and ministry of Jesus Christ from beginning to end.  If you’ve never read this poem before, I encourage you to read it several times.  If you are familiar with the poem, please read it again.  Here it is:

Mary had the little Lamb, who lived before His birth
Self-existent Son of God, from heaven He came to earth.
Micah 5:2

Mary had the little Lamb; see Him in yonder stall–
Virgin-born Son of God, to save man from the Fall.
Isaiah 7:14

Mary had the little Lamb, obedient Son of God;
Everywhere the Father led, His feet were sure to trod.
John 6;38

Mary had the little Lamb, crucified on the tree,
The rejected Son of God, He died to set men free.
I Peter 1:18-19

Mary had the little Lamb — men placed Him in the grave,
Thinking they were done with Him; to death He was no slave!
Matthew 28:6

Mary had the little Lamb, ascended now is He,
All work on earth is ended, our Advocate is be.
Hebrews 4:14-16

Mary had the little Lamb — mystery to behold!
From the Lamb of Calvary, a Lion will unfold.
Revelation 5:5,6

When the Day Star comes again, of this be very sure,
It won’t be Lamb-like silence, but with the Lion’s roar.
Psalm 2:12
Revelation 19:11-16

May you experience the meaning of the grace and truth that are in Christ Jesus; and may you experience the joy and peace that come as a result of knowing Him personally, depending upon Him completely, and giving Him all the glory.