Have you ever tried to conceal your identify in a public place where there were people who knew you? Were you successful? It’s not always easy to do so, is it? The challenge is much greater if you’re a well-known person. The Lord Jesus Christ was a man who was in the public eye. He had become well-known in Galilee, Samaria and Israel, and was attracting a lot of attention because of the miracles He was performing. He was also under close scrutiny because of the claims He made about Himself. As far as the Jewish leaders were concerned, Jesus was now “public enemy #1”, and He was on their “hit-list”.
Once you’re in the public eye, how do you get out of it? In John 7:10-13, we are going to be considering the tactics the Lord Jesus may have used in order to attend the Feast of Tabernacles incognito (unrecognized), as well as His reasons for doing so.
I. THE PROPER TIME (verse 10)
Verse 10 begins with the words, “But when His brothers had gone up to the feast, then He Himself also went up”. In verse 9, Jesus told His brothers, “Go up to the feast yourselves. I do not go up to this feast because My time has not yet fully come.” So He stayed in Galilee and His brothers went to the feast without Him. Did Jesus lie to His brothers when He said He wasn’t going to the feast? Did He change His mind? The answer to both those questions is “no”. Jesus was on His Father’s timetable and, after His brothers left, His Father revealed to Him that it was now the time for Him to go to the feast, so He departed from Galilee and was on His way to Jerusalem. He didn’t tell His brothers that He wasn’t going to the feast. He told them that He wasn’t going at that point in time.
II. THE CHOSEN METHOD (verse 10)
The rest of verse 10 describes the manner in which Jesus attended the feast: “not publicly, but as it were, in secret.” By this time in His ministry, Jesus had become a familiar face. How could He keep people from noticing Him – especially His brothers and the twelve disciples? Was He wearing a disguise? I don’t think so. There were thousands of Jews attending this feast, and some of them lived outside the nation of Israel and had traveled several days in order to fulfill the commands of the Law concerning feasts. These Jews had never met Jesus, and many of them may not have even known anything about Him. Jesus could have spent His time with those Jews, who probably had their own area where they set up their tents and enjoyed one another’s company. He may also have worn a covering over His head, such as a hood, keeping Himself within earshot of what was being said but not close enough to be recognized.
By staying incognito, Jesus is preventing the Jewish leaders from taking His life whenever they pleased. The Father had set a time (an “hour”) when this was going to happen, and Jesus is taking the responsibility to protect His own life until the proper time. You might say that, at this point in time, Jesus is in “self-preservation mode” once again.
III. BEHIND ENEMY LINES (verse 11)
Verse 11 tells us that Jesus was able to get close enough to the leaders of the Jews that He could hear their voices and see the expressions on their faces without being detected by them. This is what Jesus sees and hears: “The Jews therefore were seeking Him at the feast, and were saying, ‘Where is He’.” He watched as they looked around at all the people at the feast. The looks on their faces as they did so, were evidence of their anger and frustration. Some of them may have looked right at Jesus but didn’t recognize Him. They were seeking Him alright! They were seeking to kill Him! You can almost hear the tone of their voices as they kept blurting out the words, “Where is He?” The “search party” hadn’t given up their search yet; but so far, things weren’t working out according to their plans. Don’t you hate it when things don’t go your way!
IV. HIS STRATEGY BECOMES UNFURLED (verses 12-13)
Does this scene bring to mind any memories from the Old Testament? Can you think of a time when a similar strategy was used, and do you recall the reasons for that strategy and the impact it made on the people of Israel? Let’s take a look at the book of Joshua, chapter two, and verses one, eight, and nine:
Then Joshua the son of Nun sent two men as spies secretly from Shittim saying,
“Go view the land, especially Jericho.” So the men went and came into the house of
a harlot whose name was Rahab, and lodged there. . . . Now before they lay down,
she came up to them on the roof, and said to the men, “I know that the Lord has
given you the land, and that the terror of you has fallen on us, and that all the
inhabitants of the land have melted away before you.”
“Melted away” – those words cause me to imagine a stick of butter that’s been taken out of the refrigerator, placed on a dish, and set in the sunshine on a warm day. Before long, the strength and consistency of that butter will be completely gone and you will have to pour it on your toast! The people of that land were scared to death! In verse 24, when those two spies returned to Joshua, they repeated the good news, saying, “Surely the Lord has given all the land into our hands, and all the inhabitants of the land, moreover, have melted away before us.” After hearing those words, Joshua and all the sons of Israel were up early the next morning, ready and eager to cross the Jordan River and take on the enemy.
With those Old Testament scripture passages in mind, we learn, in verses 12 and 13 of John 7, the main reason why Jesus was attending the feast incognito. Having been in the military for a few years, a word came to mind that I haven’t used or heard since those days in the armed forces. The Lord Jesus was “reconnoitering” at the feast. How’s that for a word? Jesus was doing reconnaissance. The following is part of the U.S. Army’s definition of that word.
“Reconnaissance is a mission to obtain information by visual observation or other detection methods, about the activities and resources of an enemy or potential enemy.” This definition fits the description of Jesus’ activities – wouldn’t you agree? In verses 12 and 13, there is a quiet, public-opinion poll going on, and Jesus is nearby incognito, watching and listening to what’s being said. Let’s catch up with Him again and see if we can find out what kinds of information He’s been gathering. Verse 12 begins with the words: “And there was much grumbling among the multitudes concerning Him.” They’re mumbling and grumbling again! Why the muffled voices and low voice tones? We’re going to find out. Jesus moves a little closer to these “discussion groups” in order to hear what they are saying. Verse 12 continues, “Some were saying, ‘He is a good man’.” That’s good news to Jesus’ ears! There are people in these crowds that have a positive attitude toward Him! Those words must have encouraged His spirit and brought a smile to His face. Even though they called Him a “man”, at least He was a “good man” in their opinion. Does it make you wonder which Jews the apostle John was referring to? I think those Jews were the ones from Galilee and the outlying areas. The good news is now followed by the bad news: “others were saying, ‘No, on the contrary, He leads the multitude astray.” These Jews are the ones living in Jerusalem and its neighboring towns in the district of Judea. They have heard the Jewish leaders use those words in their conversations and are believing them and repeating their words of warning and instruction.
These two opposing views about Jesus’ character have a lesson for us to learn. Jesus is either “good” or He’s a “liar”. It’s one or the other; there are no compromises. A person can’t be good and a liar at the same time. The same is true of our own conception of Jesus Christ: He’s either the Son of God or He is a deceiver, a lair. There are no intermediate conceptions. Which of these have you chosen to believe? Do you have a firm basis for your personal choice?
Since Jesus has been prophesying, performing miracles, and calling God His Father, to call Him a deceiver would be equivalent to calling Jesus a false prophet or a false Messiah. In Deuteronomy 13, Moses wrote that a false prophet was to be stoned to death. Very soon the Jews are going to attempt to do just that.
In verse 13 we find that Jesus is not the only one who is being secretive. John writes, “Yet no one was speaking openly of Him for fear of the Jews.” The people in the crowds are also trying to be secretive in their conversations with one another. The Greek word translated “openly” can also be translated “boldly”. The leaders must have made it clear that no one was to talk about Jesus at the feast. They may have boldly announced this prohibition in loud, angry voices to let the people know that they meant business and would punish those who disobeyed. They weren’t afraid to speak boldly and loudly against Jesus. Their goal was to instill fear in the people, and it looks like they succeeded. Many leaders over the years have used that approach with success. During his years as premier of the Soviet Union, Nikita Khrushchev denounced many of the policies and atrocities of Joseph Stalin. Once, as he censured Stalin in a public meeting, Khrushchev was interrupted by a shout from a heckler in the audience. “You were one of Stalin’s colleagues. Why didn’t you stop him?” “Who said that?” roared Khrushchev. An agonizing silence followed as nobody in the room dared to move a muscle. Then Khrushchev replied quietly, “Now you know why.” Khrushchev used that response to demonstrate what it was like to be around Stalin. You didn’t question or criticize Joseph Stalin unless you no longer wanted to remain alive! He was a man to be feared! In the 1930’s, he had changed his birth-name to Stalin, which means “man of steel”, and he lived up to his name!
This passage of Scripture we are studying, John 7:10-13, is a lesson in contrasts. The first contrast is between the words spoken by various people in the crowd concerning Jesus. Some said He was a “good man”, others said that He was a“deceiver of the people”. If there was ever anyone who lived on this planet who was not a liar or a deceiver, it was the Lord Jesus Christ. If there was ever anyone who was truly good in every sense of the term, it was He. Yet He was being accused and denounced by some of the most deceitful and evil-minded people of that day – the leaders of the Jews. No wonder Jesus called them hypocrites (ones wearing a mask)!
The second contrast is between the reasons for silence at the feast on the part of Jesus and on the part of the members of the crowd. The religious authorities didn’t even want Jesus’ name spoken aloud. They wanted the people to act as if Jesus didn’t exist. I think the people feared being excluded from the synagogue and exposed to ridicule if they were caught mentioning His name, especially in a positive manner. It was a fear for their reputations and social status, at the very least. Fear of what others may think, say, or do is a powerful deterrent from speaking one’s mind honestly.
The Lord Jesus, on the other hand, was not motivated by fear, but by obedience to His heavenly Father. He was being silent because He was gathering information concerning the people’s attitude toward Him at the feast. He learns that there are many in the crowd who admire Him and think well of Him. In the next passage of Scripture we will examine how Jesus puts that information to good use. He learned what He wanted to learn while incognito, and is ready to openly do what the Father wants Him to do next.
Does fear have any effect on your life? Are there times when you are afraid to speak or act because of what others may think, say, or do in response? Are you afraid to become a follower of Jesus Christ because of what you might lose, what you might have to give up, or what family and friends might do as a result? Those are concerns that many people face as they consider placing their faith in Jesus Christ. Don’t let fear get in the way of making the most important, and the most wonderful decision of your life. God will give you the strength and peace of mind and heart to make that decision if you ask Him and rely upon Him. God’s words to the nation of Israel in Isaiah 41:10 are meant for you today because He hasn’t changed: “Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen and help you; I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.”
If you are a fellow-Christian, then, like me, you’ve had moments when you’ve been afraid to be a witness for the Lord. Pray and ask God to fill you with a deep, unconditional love for that person. God will enable you to overcome that fear with love. The apostle John says in I John 4:18, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.” In the next passage of Scripture, it’s going to be love that motivates the Lord Jesus to come out of hiding and once again expose the people to truth in spite of threats to His own life. May we manifest the love of Christ as we live for Him and seek to introduce others to Him.
CONSTRUCTION SITE: COMPLETED
Thank you for visiting this site – John 7:10-13. There are over 130 completed sermons on this blog site if you would like to walk around the block. There are so many of them that it’s going to take several walks to see them all, even if you are a “marathon walker”! My prayer is that the Word of God will draw you closer to the Living Word – the Lord Jesus Christ, and transform you more-and-more into His likeness as you seek to know Him and follow Him. Please come back again.