GROWING LIKE JESUS — HANDLE THE SCANDAL
by Pastor Mike Fortune
February 16, 2008
Introduction: BlueFish Video Who Are You Turning On?
Growing Christ followers handle the scandal...
- Not by argument
- Or by force
- But by faith
“25At that point some of the people of Jerusalem began to ask, "Isn't this the man they are trying to kill? 26Here he is, speaking publicly, and they are not saying a word to him. Have the authorities really concluded that he is the Christ? 27But we know where this man is from; when the Christ comes, no one will know where he is from." 28Then Jesus, still teaching in the temple courts, cried out, "Yes, you know me, and you know where I am from. I am not here on my own, but he who sent me is true. You do not know him, 29but I know him because I am from him and he sent me." 30At this they tried to seize him, but no one laid a hand on him, because his time had not yet come. 31Still, many in the crowd put their faith in him. They said, "When the Christ comes, will he do more miraculous signs than this man?" 32The Pharisees heard the crowd whispering such things about him. Then the chief priests and the Pharisees sent temple guards to arrest him. 33Jesus said, "I am with you for only a short time, and then I go to the one who sent me. 34You will look for me, but you will not find me; and where I am, you cannot come." 35The Jews said to one another, "Where does this man intend to go that we cannot find him? Will he go where our people live scattered among the Greeks, and teach the Greeks? 36What did he mean when he said, 'You will look for me, but you will not find me,' and 'Where I am, you cannot come'?" 37On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. 38Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him." 39By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified. 40On hearing his words, some of the people said, "Surely this man is the Prophet." 41Others said, "He is the Christ." Still others asked, "How can the Christ come from Galilee? 42Does not the Scripture say that the Christ will come from David's family and from Bethlehem, the town where David lived?" 43Thus the people were divided because of Jesus. 44Some wanted to seize him, but no one laid a hand on him.”
Today’s passage re-introduces Jesus as the Water of Life. But instead of only offering eternal life to Samaritans like the woman at the well in chapter 4, which was scandalous enough as it is, on the last and greatest day of the feast Jesus stands up in the middle of an elaborate ceremony reminding the people how their ancestors drank water from a rock in the wilderness and proclaims that HE is that water of life. And that He is now offering it to everyone in Jerusalem. Even to the people trying to kill Him! Verses 25-26 say, “25At that point some of the people of Jerusalem began to ask, ‘Isn't this the man they are trying to kill? 26Here he is, speaking publicly, and they are not saying a word to him. Have the authorities really concluded that he is the Christ?’”
In actual fact, the ruling class of Pharisees, Sadducees, and doctors of the law, had not concluded that Jesus was the Christ. In fact, it was quite the opposite. Nicodemus, who came to Jesus in the middle of the night in John 3 and was learning to discern this truth about Jesus, was the only one so far even considering the possibility. Which we’ll see next time. But for the most part, the rest of them had rejected Jesus. Not only because He made Sabbath a day of miracles for people far from God. Like that rejected paralytic He healed by the pool of Bethesda. But also because Jesus’ arrival was not a surprise. They knew where Jesus came from.
Verse 27 says, “27But we know where this man is from; when the Christ comes, no one will know where he is from.” This, you see, was a popular misunderstanding. That at first seems to be inconsistent with verse 42. In that verse, others in the crowd point out that Messiah would come from David’s family and from Bethlehem where David lived. But the words in verse 27 and the reason the ruling class can’t handle the scandal of Jesus being the Water of Life is because they already know where Jesus comes from. So they think His arrival isn’t the surprise Malachi told them to expect. “‘1See, I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,’ says the LORD Almighty.”
But Jesus had been helping and healing people for 3 years now. Both in the foothills of Galilee and in Jerusalem. His ministry had attracted large crowds of disciples. Only to see them disappear one by one. He has twelve left. And on the night He will be betrayed, all of them will leave him too. Not just Judas. But as John notes a couple of times in our passage today, that time had not yet come. It was close. Six months away in fact. But not there yet.
The Feast of Tabernacles [Leviticus 23:33-43; Numbers 29:12-38] took place approximately six months before the Passover when Jesus was crucified. So the time of year is late September early October. Harvest time. Near the end of the summer drought. The feast itself was 8 days long so halfway through the feast, on the fourth or fifth day, Jesus goes up to Jerusalem and begins teaching in the synagogue. And this is what He says in verses 28-29. “28Then Jesus, still teaching in the temple courts, cried out, ‘Yes, you know me, and you know where I am from. I am not here on my own, but he who sent me is true. You do not know him, 29but I know him because I am from him and he sent me.’”
Jesus could have continued arguing with them. He could have said the reasons they’re rejecting Him is because they themselves are law breakers. They accused him of breaking the fourth commandment to heal on the Sabbath but they themselves were breaking the sixth by trying to kill him! They said Jesus was not the fulfillment of Malachi 3 because his arrival in Jerusalem at the temple wasn’t surprising enough! Though everything He said once He gets there boggles their minds!
All of which leads us to point number one this week: To handle the scandal, growing followers of Jesus don’t argue with people. What’s the point? They’re already convinced in their own minds. Let them stay that way for now. Here in verses 28-29, Jesus does not deny the facts concerning His earthly existence. But notice, He also doesn’t lead them into a rational conversation highlighting their self contradictions either. Which He definitely could have done! For example, He could have clarified for them, as the Gospel of Matthew does in Matthew 2:6 to 23, how the Messiah would come from both Nazareth in Galilee and Bethlehem. He could have elaborated on how the surprise Malachi was talking about involved them not knowing the Heavenly Father instead of the Son. How the heavenly origins of the Messiah had little to do with earthly geography.
But apparently, some battles aren’t worth fighting. Isn’t that true? Why? Because some people just like to argue! They have no interest in dialogue. Only monologue. With them doing the talking. Slammed doors say the same thing a little less subtly. That’s why I removed Joshua’s. If you’re not interested in a dialogue, I’m not either. But doors are a privilege for people who know how to close them. Same thing with mattresses. Those are for sleeping not jumping. I didn’t always think so. But I do now. And we don’t argue about either one of those anymore. It’s not worth it. So consequences occur. No explanation needed.
I remember early in ministry being so excited by the call. It came from a pastor. Of another church. He and his wife desperately wanted me to cover over and talk with them. Immediately. Said they had been reading some things about our church and wanted to have a dialogue about them. So I took off to meet them praying on the way. After I arrived and we sat down to talk, he immediately began asking me all kinds of questions. Random things about doctrine from all over the place. Felt sort of like trying to dodge the bullets of a firing squad. Not at all what I had in mind. I actually went back there a couple more times to “study” with him and his wife, but each time it was the same. Him, already convinced in his own mind, me, to be honest, already convinced in mine. And later that night, I heard God whisper to me: Is that how you make others feel sometimes? Did I really care about the people inviting me into their lives? Or was I more concerned about making my case? As quickly as I could? Sharing my conclusions. Firing my Biblical bullets. Convincing people that I and my church was right. Not really understanding or obviously even caring where the others were coming from.
It’s true. Some people just like to argue. But often, those people are us. We haven’t grown up yet. We’re still slamming doors and jumping on the bed. We are those people Jesus refuses to argue with! That puts a whole new spin on point number one doesn’t it! Will we ever learn to love and be loved? Will we ever learn to rest in His grace and trust the transforming power of the Holy Spirit to do His job? Saying such a thing is scandalous. Living it even more so. No wonder they tried to seize Jesus afterward. Look at verses 30-31.
“30At this they tried to seize him, but no one laid a hand on him, because his time had not yet come. 31Still, many in the crowd put their faith in him.” To handle the scandal, followers of Jesus don’t argue with people. Because arguments, even correct theological arguments, don’t win people. Love does. Which is point number one. And they don’t use physical force either. Which is point number two. “At this,” verse 30 states, “They tried to seize Him but no one laid a hand on Him.” Same thing in verse 44. Skip down there with me. “Some wanted to seize him, but no one laid a hand on him.” Why? Because His time had not yet come.
This is a clue to the cross. And a phrase John uses repeatedly to point his readers toward it like a neon sign. Where the ultimate scandal would be handled. Where Jesus would die for our sins. Where all those who believe by faith that Jesus is the Christ would be saved. But long before that, verse 31 says “Many in the crowd put their faith in Him.” Others, according to John 7:41, did not. Unlike the soldiers in the crowd that would crucify Jesus in 6 months but conclude in Matthew 27:54, “Surely, this man is the Son of God”, these others in the crowd at the Feast of Tabernacles said in verse 40, “Surely, this man is the prophet.” Not the Messiah. Just the prophet.
But that’s what Jesus does. He divides people. Believing in Him is scandalous. You’re either for Him or against Him. There is no other option. Now or on the last day. When according to Daniel 12:2, one who is like God will stand up to deliver everyone whose name is found written in the book of life. Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake. Some to everlasting life. Others to shame and everlasting contempt.”
John 7:37 says it this way: “37On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. 38Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him."
Most folks think He said this during the highpoint of the Feast of Tabernacles. On the 7 th and last day of the Feast of Tabernacles. Which was the rain dance. In this ceremony, the priest led a great procession out of the temple and down the hill to the Gihon Spring, chanting the words of Isaiah 12:3. “With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.” After obtaining a pitcher of water, the priests returned to the temple, which was entered by a flight of fifteen steps. On each of the steps, the priest recited one of the fifteen pilgrimage pslams found in pslam 120-134.
There were a pair of sinks in the floor of the temple floor. Below the floor, the pipes leading from each joined and led all the way down to the Kidron Valley. While the water drawn from the Gihon Spring was poured into one of the sinks, a pitcher of wine was poured into the other. The water and the wine mixed together where the pipes joined and flowed down to the Kidron River. On a rainy day the water and wine would flow all the way to the Dead Sea. Recalling the Old Testament promises of God’s future kingdom restoring the fertility of the Judean Desert and making the waters of the Dead Sea fresh. Zechariah 14:8 says, “8On that day living water will flow out from Jerusalem, half to the eastern sea and half to the western sea, in summer and in winter.” Isaiah 44:3-4 adds, “3 For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants. 4They will spring up like grass in a meadow, like poplar trees by flowing streams.”
The cool thing is in that temple ceremony, the pitchers are filled for only a short time. Those who come to Jesus have flowing water of life available to them at all times! Because the Holy Spirit is the living water that Jesus offers and Jesus is the source of the Holy Spirit to those who believe Him! In this way, Jesus is replacing the temple. It is no longer the source of living water to refresh the land as Ezekiel 47:1-12 said. Jesus is!
By standing up and announcing what He did when He did, Jesus was clearly saying that future is now. But apparently, they didn’t get it. Which is why John added verse 39. “39By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.”
John apparently felt he needed to that add that editorial comment to clarify for his 2 nd century readers what Jesus was talking about. And perhaps, those originally listening to Jesus may not have understood either. Though they should have. Because they heard similar invitations to seek God during the Exodus that the Feast of Tabernacles was supposed to help them remember. Deuteronomy 4:29 said, “29 But if from there you seek the LORD your God, you will find him if you look for him with all your heart and with all your soul.”
Whosoever believes in Him as eternal life. That’s what He told Nicodemus at night. Whosoever believes in Him has eternal life. That’s what he told the woman by the well in the middle of the day. Whosoever believes in Him has eternal life. That’s what he interrupted the most significant ceremony on the last and greatest day of the feast to announce.
Which sounds and is crazy I know. But that’s why it’s a scandal! It sounds too good to be true. It’s not what they expected. It came to them as a surprise. And to those still convinced we have something to contribute or do to be saved or sanctified, it is still just as scandalous! You know if you’re that kind of person if the story of the thief on the cross bugs you! If his salvation still makes you mad, you don’t get grace and are broadcasting to others that you cannot handle the scandal. But even then, He’s not gonna argue with you about it. Or force you to believe it. He wants us to handle the scandal. Not by argument. Point number one. Or by force. Point number two. But by faith. Which is point number three.
In verse 33, Jesus said, “I am with you for only a short time, and then I go to the one who sent me. 34You will look for me, but you will not find me; and where I am, you cannot come." 35The Jews said to one another, "Where does this man intend to go that we cannot find him? Will he go where our people live scattered among the Greeks, and teach the Greeks? 36What did he mean when he said, 'You will look for me, but you will not find me,' and 'Where I am, you cannot come'?”
He meant that in 6 months He was gonna die on the cross. That His blood and water from his side would run down Calvary and into the land. He meant that by His death on the cross, the whole world see His glory. His time had not yet come. But it was rapidly approaching. And when it came, Jesus said the scandal itself would draw all people unto Himself. Joel 3:18 predicted that day would come. “18 In that day the mountains will drip new wine, and the hills will flow with milk; all the ravines of Judah will run with water. A fountain will flow out of the LORD's house and will water the valley of acacias.”
Not by argument. Or by force. But by faith. For the future is now. Sixty some years later, when John is writing his Gospel near the end of His life, he can look back and see how after rejecting Jesus, that Jesus was right. He did go hide among the Greeks. And the Gentiles. And His Gospel and that invitation will eventually go around the whole world! And then, the end will come. Time won’t last forever. The prophet Hosea knew that. In chapter five verse six, he said there will come a time when, “They go with their flocks and herds to seek the LORD, they will not find him; he has withdrawn himself from them.” Which is why another prophet, Isaiah, encouraged them to seek the Lord now! Chapter 55:6 says, “6 Seek the LORD while he may be found; call on him while he is near.” Jesus Himself told that to John while John was in vision on the island of Patmos. Revelation 22:17: “Behold I am coming soon! The Spirit and the bride say Come! And let him who hears say Come! Whoever is thirsty let him come! And whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life.”
The question is: Will we accept the invitation? How will you handle the scandal? My prayer is that you’ll do so, not by argument or by force, but by faith.