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. 

YES, YOUR HONOR! – John 5:21-23

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In most states in the United States of America the words “Your Honor” are used when addressing the judge in a courtroom.  This has been the practice for many centuries.  Several other countries use those same words as well; other countries use titles such as:  “My Lord”, “My Lady”, “Your Lordship”, “Your Ladyship”, “Judge”, and many other titles of respect and authority.   In Israel, a judge is a shofet, and is addressed with the words “Sir” or “Madam”.  As a general rule, these judges from around the world also wear distinctive robes.  Many of these robes are black, but there are also some very colorful ones.  In some countries the judges also wear wigs.  These robes and wigs are used in order to distinguish them from others in the courtroom, and serve as marks of authority and honor.  Because of their knowledge and experience in the practice of Law, they are worthy of respect and recognition.

In the previous message on John 5:19-20, the Lord Jesus gave two evidences of His deity.  He said that He was equal to the Father in “working” and in “knowing”.  He also shared the relationship of love that He had with the Father; a relationship that only a Son could have.  But the comparisons with the Father, and evidences of His deity aren’t over yet.  In verses 21-23, Jesus claims equality with the Father in resurrecting, in judging, and in honor.  Let’s take a look at each of those claims.

I.  EQUAL IN RESURRECTING (verse 21)

The Lord Jesus has already told them that He is doing the works of the Father, or I should say, that the Father is doing the works through Him.  Now, here in verse 21, to coin a popular phrase, it’s as if Jesus is saying to His accusers, “You ain’t seen nothing yet!”  The following are Jesus’ words to them in verse 21.  “For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom He wishes.”  That statement must have stirred up some angry words from His listeners.  According to the Gospel record, Jesus had not yet raised anyone from the dead.  The Lord Jesus was able to say those words truthfully because He was involved with the Father during the two resurrections in the Old Testament:  the son of the widow of Zarephath through the prophet Elijah in I Kings 17:22, and the Shunamite’s son through the prophet Elisha in II Kings 4:32-35.

Commentator Warren Wiersbe offers this helpful information concerning the Jewish beliefs at that time.

For Jesus to claim to have power to raise the dead was a blasphemous thing in the eyes of the Jewish Leaders; they gave that power to God alone.  They said that Jehovah held the three great keysthe key to open the heavens and give rain (Deuteronomy 28:12); the key to open the womb and give conception (Genesis 30:22); and the key to open the grave
and raise the dead (Ezekiel 37:13).

In the minds of these Jews, what Jesus had just said was blasphemy, claiming to be God.  Later in His life and ministry, Jesus would prove His words to be true by raising the widow’s son in the city of Nain (Luke 7:14-15), Jairus’ daughter (Mark 5:38-42), and Lazarus (John 11:43-44) from the dead.  And most significantly, Jesus would raise Himself from the dead (Matthew 28:6; Mark 16:6-7; Luke 24:7-8; John 20:3-8).  “Even so” – just like the Father raised people from the dead, Jesus did so in like manner, and there were too many eye-witnesses, together with the person who was restored to life, to disprove those events and the resurrecting power of Jesus.   Therefore He must be equal with the Father because only God can give life and restore life.

II.  EQUAL IN JUDGING (John 5:22)

As further proof of His deity, the Lord Jesus says is verse 22, “For not even the Father judges anyone, but He has given all judgment to His Son”  We find the justice of God declared many times in the Old Testament.  For example, in Genesis 18:25, Abraham makes the following statement about God’s justice in his plea to spare the people of Sodom  “Far be it from Thee to do such a thing, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous and the wicked are treated alike.  Far be it from Thee!  Shall not the judge of all the earth do justly?” That’s a good argument!

As Moses sings his song, recounting the things that God has done for the people of Israel, he includes these words about God and His justice in Deuteronomy 32:4, “The Rock!  His work is perfect, for all his ways are just;a God of faithfulness and without injustice, righteous and upright is He.”

I imagine that most of us have come to realize that the justice systems on this earth are not perfect.  Let me give you a personal example I was travelling home from a meeting many years ago and drove my car through several small towns along the way.  Two days later I received a letter from one of those towns.  When I opened the letter I saw a photo of myself driving my car.  Below it was a sizeable ticket and the address where this excessive-speed violation occurred. This was my first and only (so far) photo-radar ticket  I didn’t remember any excessive speeding so I went back to that address the next day and saw no speed limit sign.  Upon closer observation, I noticed a white sign post but the top of it was completely covered by low-hanging branches of a nearby tree.  As I looked under its branches at the reduced speed on the sign and stood back to take another look, a store-owner came out of his store and asked if he could be of assistance.  When I shared my story, he pointed to the top of a pole across the street to show me the camera that took the photo, then he stood back with me and told me that there was no way a person coming down the street could see that sign.  He suggested that I might want to take my case to court, which I did.  After explaining the situation to the judge, there was a short pause and then the judge said “Reduce the amount to (a small reduction)”, hit the desk with the gavel, and said “Next case!”  I paid the remainder.  This was not the justice I was hoping to receive.  Two weeks later, I was driving through that town again and was pleased to see that those low-hanging branches had been removed from the tree, and the sign was now completely visible.. It may have been done at my expense, but at least it was done!

Going back to Jesus’ words stating that the Father had given all judgment into His hands, let’s see if there are any Old Testament Scriptures that attribute the role of judging mankind to the coming Messiah.  If the Jews at that time were spending time reading and studying specific passages of Scripture, it’s very possible that they were reading or studying the prophecies concerning their Messiah.  They were looking forward to His coming and wanted to be ready to recognize Him and worship Him when He arrived on Earth.

The prophet Isaiah speaks about the Messiah’s coming reign.  “And He will judge between the nations, and will render decisions for many peoples.  And they will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks.  Nations will not lift up sword against nation. and never again will they learn war.”   (Isaiah 2:4)  The Jewish people are looking forward to a perfect Judge who will make perfect judgments, and there won’t be the Roman occupation and government anymore.

Isaiah 11 is another Messianic prophecy.  “And He will delight in the fear of the Lord, and He will not judge by what His eyes see, nor make a decision by what His ears hear; but with righteousness He will judge the poor, and decide with fairness for the afflicted of the earth . . . ”  (Isaiah 11:3-4).  The Lord Jesus is the perfect Judge because, as God, He is holy, righteous, all-knowing and just; and as man He is understanding and sympathetic, having experienced poverty and the unfairness and affliction of others while on this earth.  No wonder the Father “has given all judgment to the Son.”

The prophet Micah also affirms Isaiah’s prophecy in Micah 4:3.  The Jewish leaders have those prophecies in their minds yet they fail to recognize and acknowledge the Judge of the whole earth who is standing before them and making that claim.  Even John the Baptist acknowledged that Jesus was going to bring judgment when he used the following analogy:  And His winnowing fork is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean the threshing floor; and he will gather His wheat into His barn, but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” (John 3:12).

III.  EQUAL IN HONOR (John 5:23)

There doesn’t appear to have been any positive response to those claims, so the Lord Jesus makes another claim:  that of being equal in honor with the Father.  That’s a claim that the Lord Jesus should not have needed to make, since it should have been the logical conclusion they should have drawn, and the response they should have given to His previous claims of deity.  He says, “in order that all may honor the Son, even as they honor the Father.  He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him.”  The Lord Jesus begins by drawing the application.  He’s telling them that, based on the claims of deity He has already made, they should have responded by showing Him the same “honor” (praise, worship, devotion, obedience) that is due to the Father.  That’s the only valid and proper response that can be given to His claims and the evidence that supports them.

His explanation is followed by a very powerful and convicting statement and conclusion.  “He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him.”  The Lord Jesus is saying that it is false and useless to claim to love and worship God if you do not have the same love and worship for Him, because they are two Persons in the same Triune God.  Whoever does not honor and worship the Son does not honor and worship God at all.

CONCLUSION:

I hope that you are taking the claims of Jesus Christ and the evidences supporting those claims seriously.  Your quality of life on this earth and your eternal destiny depend upon it.  The Lord Jesus Christ is worthy of the highest honor:  the honor, praise, worship and obedience that are deserved by God alone. If you are still seeking, and questioning, and pondering, the next passage of Scripture that we will be studying will go much deeper into role of Jesus as Judge of heaven and earth.  I hope to see you there.  May you find Jesus to be the Honorable One who fulfills His words, keeps His promises, and changes lives.

CONSTRUCTION SITE COMPLETED.