LEARN BY DOING – John 7:17-18

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INTRODUCTION:

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.

CONCLUSION:

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!

 

THE FINAL THREE PROOFS OF DEITY – John 5:36-40

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INTRODUCTION:

Hans Christian Andersen wrote a fairy tale about a young woman who was tested to determine whether or not she was truly a princess.  You may be familiar with the story:  “The Princess and the Pea”.  Actually, the literal translation of the title of his story, from Danish to English, is “The Princess on the Pea”, and that title describes the story more clearly.  If you are unfamiliar with the story, or would like to refresh your memory, click the following link:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=waw0U9tKpW0.  You will watch a very short and concise summary of the story with sketches.  The “pressure test” proved positive and the prince married the princess.  Don’t you love happy endings?

As you can well imagine, it’s going to take much more than a “pea” to prove that Jesus Christ is the Messiah, the King of heaven and earth.  During this conversation with the leaders of the Jews, Jesus has already given them three “signs”, or witnesses of His deity, and He has three more to go.  “Like 3 peas in a pod”, these next three witnesses are very closely-related to one other  Let’s see what else He has to say about Himself in this passage of Scripture:  John 5:36-40.

I.  THE MIRACLES (verse 36)

The Lord Jesus has already shared with them His own witness concerning Himself, and also John the Baptist’s testimony about Him.  But the courtroom imagery isn’t over yet.  Jesus is still surrounded by His accusers for healing a person on the Sabbath, and they are still not convinced that He has the authority to do such things on the Lord’s day.

Jesus now presents His own works as proof that He is the promised Messiah, the Son of God.  In verse 36 we read, “But the witness which I have is greater than that of John; for the works which the Father has given Me to accomplish, the very works that I do, bear witness of Me, that the Father has sent Me.”  When we think of Jesus’ works, we naturally think of His miracles because they were examples of His divine power.  As Nicodemus said to Jesus in John 3:2, “No one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.”   We are told in John 10:41 that John the Baptist worked no miracles.  However, the Bible does record specific miracles performed by ordinary men, such as Moses, Elijah, and the apostles Peter and Paul.  Do those miracles also prove that they are also sent from God?  Yes, they do, but none of these men ever claimed to be the Son of God.  No true servant of God would ever make that claim; but Jesus did, and His mighty works are evidence that His claim is true.  One who is able to raise the dead by the words from His mouth must have all power, and the One who sent Him must be God.  His works are a “greater witness than that of John” – being stronger, and more decisive evidence. 

The word that is translated “works” in my Bible, is the Greek word “erga”.  This word encompasses more than just the miracles of Christ.  It includes His whole purpose for being sent by the Father – including His birth, life, teachings, death, and resurrection.  It refers to His whole ministry on this earth.  We see that perspective in the words that Jesus says in His prayer to the Father in John 17:4, “I have glorified Thee on earth, having accomplished the work which Thou hast given Me to do.”  The Lord Jesus was a Man on a mission.  What about you?  What is your mission in life?  Have you given it much thought? Have you ever put your mission in writing so that you can compare it to the way you live each day:  the way you use your time, spend your money, choose your friends?  You might find that to be a challenging and rewarding assignment.  The Lord Jesus is giving us an Example to follow.  His mission must have been very clearly delineated in order for Him to be able to confidently say that He had accomplished it.

II.  THE WITNESS OF THE FATHER (verses 37-38)

The next witness that Jesus brings to their attention (again) is God the Father.  He has called God His Father many times already, and their response has been anger and threats.  They don’t want to believe His words;  they don’t even want to hear them!  I’m amazed at Jesus’ patience and persistence, because He tells them again for the umpteenth time!  Here are His words in verse 37:  “And the Father who sent Me, He has borne witness of Me.  You have neither heard His voice at any time, nor seen Him.”  

Jesus is still surrounded by the leaders of the Jews.  That’s an intimidating situation for Him, but He will not back down from His claims, and He will not deny Himself nor withhold His witnesses!  He keeps telling them the truth whether they like it or not!  Let’s look at the first phrase in verse 37:  “And the Father who sent me”.  I believe that Jesus is saying, “I’ve already established the fact that the Father sent Me.  Let’s move on!  It’s no longer a theorem but a fact!”  You may be familiar with the abbreviation QED.  It comes from the Latin words, “Quod erat demonstrondum”, which mean, “what has been demonstrated”.  When my high-school math teacher wrote QED in large letters on the blackboard after solving a math problem, he was saying, “It’s been proven!  It’s obvious!  Let’s move on to the next problem!”

Moving on, I can sense, from Jesus’ words and the way He phrases them, that He is getting angry at the hardness of their hearts.  We’ll see that anger increase until it reaches a crescendo in verse 40.  This is no “gentle reproof” that He’s about to express to them.  It’s a scathing rebuke!  I think I even see some sarcasm and irony in His words also.  As we look at HIs words more closely, I think you’ll agree with me that “they had it comin’ to ’em!”

I can feel a biting sarcasm in the words “You have neither heard HIs voice at any time, nor seen Him.”  There was a voice from the Father at Jesus’ baptism: “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased” (Matthew 3:17).  Near the end of Jesus’ life, in John 12:28, Jesus asks the Father, “Glorify Thy name”, and a voice comes from heaven again saying, “I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again.”  In this case, most of the multitude that heard it said that “it had thundered”.  I wonder if they used that same excuse at His baptism.  It’s as if Jesus is implying, “Are you saying that My Father doesn’t speak loudly enough and doesn’t enunciate His words clearly enough for you to understand what He is saying, and that He is the One who said it?”  I doubt that anyone present at those two occasions could forget the words that the Father had said.  I also believe that those listeners told everyone they knew the words they had heard.  It’s not every day that God speaks from heaven in a loud voice for everyone to hear!

Jesus adds, “nor seen His form”.  Later, when Philip says, “show us the Father”, Jesus responds by saying, “He who sees Me, sees the Father”.  Could Jesus be saying here to his accusers, “You’re looking Me in the face, but you don’t see the Father; you don’t recognize the Father in Me?”  There are other interpretations of this verse of Scripture, and I don’t claim to be an authority.  I’ve come to this personal understanding based on Jesus’ rising anger and the increasing sharpness of His words to them.

In verse 38, Jesus is saying, “that’s not all” – “And you do not have His words abiding in you, for you do not believe Him whom He sent.”  God’s words were on their lips but not in their hearts.  When you think about the life and the words of Christ, who received the most scathing rebukes from Him?  Was it not the hypocrites?  And who were the greatest hypocrites of His time?  Were they not the Scribes and the Pharisees?

In any great forest you will find many huge trees.  They tower above other trees and appear to be the very picture of strength and maturity.  However, loggers will sometimes not even bother to cut down these huge trees.  At first one wonders, “Why leave them?  After all, a tree that big must contain twice or thrice the amount of lumber as a smaller tree.”

The reason is simple.  Huge trees are often rotten on the inside.  They are the hollow trees that children’s picture books show raccoons living in.  And they are the trees that are often blown over in a strong wind-storm because, while they appear to be the picture of strength, in fact their hollowness makes them weak.  This is the essence of hypocrisy – appearing strong on the outside, but being hollow and rotten on the inside.  Even so, the Scribes and Pharisees standing around Him didn’t have God’s Word abiding in them.  As I said earlier, it was on their lips but not in their hearts.  It wasn’t genuine.  They appeared righteous and scholarly on the outside, and people looked up to them because of this, but they were hollow, empty and rotten on the inside.

III.  THE WITNESS OF THE SCRIPTURES (verses 39-40)

Jesus’ anger is still rising as He says these words to His accusers, “You search the Scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life”.  A few versions of the Bible translate verse 39 as a command:  “Search the Scriptures”, but this does not fit the context.  He’s rebuking them and ridiculing them for the way they study the Scriptures, and for the conclusions they make.  The Lord Jesus uses the plural word, “Scriptures” to refer to the whole Old Testament, composed of the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings.  The Rabbis of that day studied the Old Testament Scriptures very meticulously, examining how many words were on a line and on a page; how many of each letter and of each word were on a line, a page, or the whole book.  They followed many of the techniques that the scribes used when copying the Scriptures.  Their purpose was to demonstrate to others how well they knew all the minute details of the Scriptures.  For many of the Rabbis, it was a way of exalting themselves and causing others to be amazed at their knowledge of the Scriptures, coming to the conclusion that they must be very close to God.

I read a story about an 18-year-old boy who was deeply interested in scientific subjects, especially astronomy.  So his father bought him a very expensive telescope.  Since the boy had also studied optics, he found the instrument to be very intriguing.  He took it apart, examined the lenses and made detailed calculations on the distance of its point of focus.  He became so absorbed in gaining a technical knowledge of the telescope itself that he never got around to looking at the stars.  He knew a lot about that fine instrument, but he missed seeing the wonders of the heavens.  He overlooked the purpose for which that telescope was made.

In a similar way, these Jewish leaders missed the purpose for which the Old Testament Scriptures had been given and written down.  The word translated “searched” is the Greek word “ereunao”.  It was sometimes used to refer to a lion or a dog tracking it’s prey by scent (smell).  Jesus was telling them that they had “lost the scent” but had chosen to continue on anyway, and they were going down the wrong trail!  They needed to retrace their steps, pick up the scent again, and follow that trail to where it really leads – to Him.  “It is they (the Scriptures) that bear witness to Me.” Jesus is saying that the Scriptures are not an end in themselves; they are a means to an end.  They are like a signpost pointing directly to Christ and telling us about Him.  Wouldn’t it be a shame to be so taken up with measuring, studying, and admiring the signpost, that we don’t notice or pay heed to the message that’s written on the signpost, nor do what it says?

A little girl bought a Bible to give to her father for his birthday.  When she opened it to write him a note, she wasn’t sure what to say.  “From Mary” seemed to lack feeling.  “From your little daughter” would not be right because he had told her she was getting to be a big girl.  Then she thought, “From one who loves you.”  But others loved him too.  She went to her father’s library and pulled one of his favorite books from the shelf.  On the flyleaf she read, “From the Author.”  That was it!

When the young girl’s father opened the gift and saw, in Mary’s handwriting, “From the Author,” he thought to himself, “I’m not acquainted with the Author of the Bible.”  That thought prompted him to begin studying God’s Word, which led to his conversion.  He came to know the Author.

As it was in Jesus’s time on earth, so it is today.  There are many people today who study the Bible for educational purposes only, rather than for relational purposes.  They know the Book but aren’t personally acquainted with it’s Author.

Now comes another rebuke to the Scribes and Pharisees in verse 40:  “Yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.”  I sense some irony in Jesus’ words.  He’s giving them an invitation.  In spite of all the things they have said and done, Jesus is giving them another opportunity to come to Him to receive life from the true Source of eternal life.  John Calvin said these words, “In order to come from spiritual death to spiritual life, it is necessary to come to Jesus.”  The Scriptures don’t give life; they point to the Giver of life.  Jesus is telling them that He is the only way to eternal life.

What is their response to His invitation?  They stubbornly, obstinately, and  intentionally refused to do so.  They would rather be “dead wrong” than change.  They preferred to stay in their own darkness and turn their backs to the light.  No wonder Jesus is so angry at them.  He offers them eternal life and receives a “slap in the face” in return.

I’m placing a clickable link to the movie, The Gospel of John, again because I think it captures the emotion of the moment and gives a good visual depiction of this confrontation.  If you click this link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BYrvOsc-rCU  and then move the time line at the bottom of the picture to the right until you get to 40:20 (40 minutes, 20 seconds), there you will see this passage of Scripture being enacted.  It has left a lasting impression on my mind.  I hope it will do so on your minds also.

CONCLUSION:

The Lord Jesus has given us five witnesses of His deity.  If you are not a Christian, it should be obvious to you that the solution has been given.  You have a choice to make.  You can accept and respond to Jesus Christ as the Son of God by repenting of your sins and turning your life over to His control.  The result will be a life-changing experience.  You will experience joy and peace such as you have never experienced before, and your desire will be to know Him more fully through the study of His Word, and to enjoy Him and serve Him for the rest of your life.  Whatever you give up will be considered of no significance compared to what you gain.  The only other choice is to refuse Him and face the consequences.  Putting it off is, in a sense, refusal because there is no good reason to do so, and it won’t be a good excuse if you should die in the next moment.  Please respond to what is obviously true, and don’t let personal pride, or the fear of what others may think, get in the way of the most important decision of your life.  The Lord Jesus wants you to come to Him.  Please don’t refuse His request.

Fellow-Christians, we are the sixth witness of the deity of Christ.  Our changed lives, our devotion to God, and our joy in the midst of the trials of life are a “miracle” to those around us.  Jesus tell us that “we are the light of the world”.  In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16).  LET IT SHINE, LET IT SHINE, LET IT SHINE!

CONSTRUCTION SITE:  COMPLETED

Thank you for visiting this completed site:  John 5:36-40.  You are welcome to take a walk around the block and visit the other finished projects.  It’s a nice day for physical and spiritual exercise.  Hope to see you in this neighborhood again soon!