I AM

The Gospel of John – I Am The Light of the World

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Seven times in the gospel of John, Jesus makes the powerful statement beginning with the phrase “I am.” These comments echo the words of God to Moses in Exodus 3:1414 God said to Moses, “I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’”. There, when Moses asks who he should say has sent him to Israel, God tells Moses to tell the people “I AM WHO AM…Say this to the people of Israel: ‘I AM has sent me to you.'” This phrase implies the simplest expression of God’s nature: He just is, He must be. When Jesus uses this phrasing, He is deliberately invoking that same essence.

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Dispute Over Jesus’ Testimony

12 When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

13 The Pharisees challenged him, “Here you are, appearing as your own witness; your testimony is not valid.”

14 Jesus answered, “Even if I testify on my own behalf, my testimony is valid, for I know where I came from and where I am going. But you have no idea where I come from or where I am going. 15 You judge by human standards; I pass judgment on no one. 16 But if I do judge, my decisions are true, because I am not alone. I stand with the Father, who sent me. 17 In your own Law it is written that the testimony of two witnesses is true. 18 I am one who testifies for myself; my other witness is the Father, who sent me.”

19 Then they asked him, “Where is your father?”

“You do not know me or my Father,” Jesus replied. “If you knew me, you would know my Father also.” 20 He spoke these words while teaching in the temple courts near the place where the offerings were put. Yet no one seized him, because his hour had not yet come.


Dispute Over Who Jesus Is

21 Once more Jesus said to them, “I am going away, and you will look for me, and you will die in your sin. Where I go, you cannot come.”

22 This made the Jews ask, “Will he kill himself? Is that why he says, ‘Where I go, you cannot come’?”

23 But he continued, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. 24 I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am he, you will indeed die in your sins.”

25 “Who are you?” they asked.

“Just what I have been telling you from the beginning,” Jesus replied. 26 “I have much to say in judgment of you. But he who sent me is trustworthy, and what I have heard from him I tell the world.”

27 They did not understand that he was telling them about his Father. 28 So Jesus said, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me. 29 The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him.” 30 Even as he spoke, many believed in him. John 8:12-30

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What happened?

This incident occurs during the Feast of Tabernacles in Jerusalem. Jesus uses the festival rituals as analogies for His role as the Messiah (John 7:37–3837 On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.”). Lamps would be lit using wicks made from priestly garments as part of this major festival,. In addition, light was a powerful metaphor in Hebrew thinking.

Psalm 84:11 – For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless; Malachi 4:2 – But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its rays. And you will go out and frolic like well-fed calves.

“Light,” for the Jewish person, was the ultimate ideal, a representation of salvation, knowledge, and goodness. For Jesus to claim to be the “light of the world” was no small thing. In fact, it is a claim to equality with God. Even further, the Greek of this passage indicates Jesus’ claim to be “the” light, not merely “a” light. In the text’s original Greek, Christ says “Egō eimi to phos tou kosmou,” which explicitly claims He is the single, solitary source of “light.”

Escalating conflict

This statement sparks a dialogue which continues to escalate, until the Pharisees are enraged enough to attempt to kill Jesus then and there.

Earlier in His ministry, Jesus was challenged by religious leaders for proof of His claims. There, Jesus agreed that it was necessary to have evidence—a person could not simply take someone’s word when they made bold claims. In that exchange, not long after healing a man crippled for decades, Jesus offered three separate lines of evidence supporting His ministry (John 5:30–47). In that context, and for those issues, Jesus agreed that other evidence was not only available, but necessary. This is the same basic argument being made here, this time by the Pharisees.

However, the information being discussed here is not the same kind of knowledge for which Jesus offered human evidence. Those were issues such as eyewitness to miracles and the content of the Scriptures. Here, as Jesus will respond in the next verse, only one person has ever actually seen the truths being claimed, so only that person can speak of them.

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Jesus is his own witness

Some time ago, Jesus had debated with local religious leaders over His teaching and healing ministry. At that time, Jesus appealed to three separate lines of evidence to support His claims (John 5:30–47). At that moment, the topic at hand was a topic which other people had seen and witnessed. Namely, the content of the Scriptures, the occurrence of Jesus’ miracles, and the claims of other people. In the prior verse, after Jesus claimed to be “the light of the world,” the Pharisees have challenged Him with that standard of proof. Their claim is that this remark is just like Jesus’ earlier claims, and so He cannot “bear witness” about Himself.

For these statements, Jesus and Jesus alone had the authority to testify.

Here, however, Jesus takes an approach to evidence which is drastically different, but compatible with His prior remarks. In earlier debates, Jesus was discussing issues which the Pharisees had an equal access to knowledge. They could just as easily read the Scriptures, see the miracles, and hear from other people as anyone else. In this case, however, Jesus is speaking directly of things which no person on earth has first-hand knowledge of.

Judge Appropriately

Photo by Sora Shimazaki on Pexels.com

Something that I have always believed is this – judge not, unless that judgement puts a person back on the right track to Jesus.

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Contrary to popular belief, Jesus did not give a blanket command that Christians ought not judge at all. Rather, Jesus’ remarks about judgment were in the context of judging appropriately (John 7:24). Here, Jesus points out that the Pharisees are using flawed, unspiritual judgment.

He, on the other hand, is not yet executing judgment, even though He has the right and the authority to do so! At this point in His ministry, Jesus role is not to bring judgment for sin (John 3:17 – “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.“)—this judgment comes later, on those who reject Him and His message (John 3:18 – “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.“; John 3:36 – “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them”).

Jesus gives this response to the Pharisees who challenge His claim to be “the light of the world” (John 8:12 – “When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”). While issues such as miracles and Scripture are subject to human testimony (John 5:36–41), Jesus speaks of heavenly matters. On those, only He has true knowledge, so only He can speak truthfully about them. Even so, Jesus can point to two separate “persons” to support His claim: Himself and God the Father (John 5:18). The Pharisees earlier claim that Jesus’ “I AM” statement cannot be accepted, then, is missing the mark. Jesus’ unflattering remarks about these religious leaders are part of an escalating pattern in this dialogue, which will end with the Pharisees in a murderous rage.

Jesus is God

A common claim of those who reject Jesus’ divine nature is that “He never claimed to be God.” Verses such as this show that to be false. When a person claims to do what only God can do, or to know what only God can know, that is the same as claiming to be God. Jesus’ enemies know this all too well, and it’s the reason He is accused of blasphemy by those who seek to have Him killed. Jesus claims to speak with divine authority—that His judgment is identical to that of God the Father, and that He was in fact sent by God the Father.

This makes Jesus’ judgment, and His moral authority, far superior to that of the religious leaders who are opposing Him. Even by human standards, they are using the wrong kind of discernment: they are judging “by the flesh.” Jesus is not only using “right judgment” (John 7:24), He has access to judgment based in the very will of God.

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Testimony of two and himself

It is interesting that Jesus uses the phrase “your law”. Most likely, He is referring to Deuteronomy. Generally, when Jesus refers to the Old Testament, He calls it “the law” or “the Law of Moses,” or “the Scriptures.” The words used here means that Jesus is speaking of some other, non-scriptural Rabbinic law. In this conversation, the Pharisees will question Jesus’ birth (John 8:41), His sanity (John 8:48), and even try to kill Him (John 8:59). Jesus has already criticised the judgment of these opposing religious leaders (John 8:15). Later, He will claim that they do not know God (John 8:19), that they are children of the Devil (John 8:44), and that they are liars (John 8:55).

Specifically, the Pharisees have challenged Jesus claim to be “the light of the world” (John 8:12). This is quite a grand suggestion, implying that Jesus is the sole source of both salvation and spiritual wisdom. Earlier in His ministry, Jesus noted that some claims should be supported with earthly evidence, which He provided to prove His claims (John 5:30–47). Now, however, Jesus is speaking of heavenly issues, which no other person has seen or experienced. To testify about Himself, then, is perfectly legitimate. Even more so, Jesus has the testimony of a second person: God the Father (John 8:18).

Jesus is defending an inherently spiritual claim. Earlier, Jesus said He was “the light of the world” (John 8:12). This is knowledge which no other person could have—so for Jesus to testify about Himself is legitimate.

Further, those who oppose Him are using improper judgment in order to dismiss Him. Not only is it valid for Jesus to testify about something He alone has seen, He also has the support of an additional witness: God the Father. In this case, Jesus is once again pointing to the miracles He has performed as evidence that God supports His ministry (John 20:30–31). This is a key part of the gospel of John’s proof that Jesus is not only Messiah, but God incarnate. Even by the Pharisees own law and logic, miracles as proof of God’s approval should be an acceptable argument (John 3:1–2).

Of course, logic and law are not the primary goal of the Pharisees in this moment. Rather than wrangle this point, they will attempt to shift the conversation, challenging Jesus’ references to God as His father.

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Where is your Father

Jesus defends His claim to be “the light of the world” (John 8:12), Jesus claimed to have equal judgment to God, whom He called His “Father.” This was part of Jesus’ argument that, as the only man who had actually seen the heavenly things He was speaking of, it was acceptable for Him to “testify” about Himself. The miracles He performed were proof—by the Pharisees own logic (John 3:1–2)—that His mission was approved by God. In response, the Pharisees have diverted the conversation to question what Jesus means when He speaks of His “father.”

This terminology would have been both confusing and controversial for the Pharisees. They did not think of God in terms of a Father-Son-Holy Spirit trinity, and certainly did not believe that Jesus was the Son of God. The question asked here might also be a subtle dig at Jesus. One of the insults these men will throw at Him later is an allusion to His birth, hinting that His lack of an earthly father was, in fact, because He was an illegitimate child.

Jesus continues to directly castigate these critics. Jewish people, especially those highly educated in the Law of Moses, prided themselves on “knowing” God. For Jesus to claim that they do not know God is a cutting remark. Beyond that, Jesus adds to His claims of divinity. Those who know Jesus Christ know God (John 1:14), and those who reject Jesus Christ are turning away from God (John 3:36).

His hour had not yet come

The conversation between Jesus and his critics—in this case, the Pharisees—continues to escalate. Jesus is directly condemning their judgment (John 8:15) and their spirituality (John 8:19). After claiming to be “the light of the world” (John 8:12), Jesus says that these men do not know Him, nor do they know His Father.

Despite suggestions that Jesus never claimed to be God, this is part of Jesus’ consistent pattern. In this conversation, He professes to have the judgment of God (John 8:16), to have knowledge only God can know (John 8:26), and to be the sole source of spiritual truth (John 8:31–32). That controversy is not lost on Jesus’ opponents, who often attempted to have Him arrested (John 7:32). In some cases, they even became angry enough to attempt to stone Him (John 5:18). Here, as in some other cases, the Bible gives no specific reason why they are not able to take Jesus into custody. Whether by natural or supernatural intervention, or simply out of fear of the crowd, Jesus’ enemies are not yet able to silence Him.

From God’s perspective, of course, the reason Jesus is not yet being taken captive is simple: this is not yet His time. That moment will come (John 17:1), but for now, God the Father has other plans for His Son.

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These men do not know Him, nor do they know His Father

The conversation between Jesus and his critics—in this case, the Pharisees—continues to escalate. Jesus is directly condemning their judgment (John 8:15) and their spirituality (John 8:19). After claiming to be “the light of the world” (John 8:12), Jesus says that these men do not know Him, nor do they know His Father.

Despite suggestions that Jesus never claimed to be God, this is part of Jesus’ consistent pattern. In this conversation, He professes to have the judgment of God (John 8:16), to have knowledge only God can know (John 8:26), and to be the sole source of spiritual truth (John 8:31–32). That controversy is not lost on Jesus’ opponents, who often attempted to have Him arrested (John 7:32). In some cases, they even became angry enough to attempt to stone Him (John 5:18). Here, as in some other cases, the Bible gives no specific reason why they are not able to take Jesus into custody. Whether by natural or supernatural intervention, or simply out of fear of the crowd, Jesus’ enemies are not yet able to silence Him.

From God’s perspective, of course, the reason Jesus is not yet being taken captive is simple: this is not yet His time. That moment will come (John 17:1), but for now, God the Father has other plans for His Son.

Jesus specifically condemns the Pharisees and their lack of faith. Sooner or later, their time to accept Christ would end, and even though they might seek Him, they’d be damned for their sins. Later, Jesus will re-emphasize this point, telling those who reject Him that they are destined to die for their spiritual stubbornness (John 8:24).

You are from below; I am from above

Jesus not only makes grand claims about Himself, He also directly attacks the spirituality of the Pharisees, His primary critics. This conversation will continue to escalate, with Jesus making His claims more outrageous, and His attacks more pointed. The Pharisees will counter with insults and accusations of insanity, before once again attempting to have Jesus stoned for blasphemy.

Jesus has recently referred to Himself as “the light of the world,” which implies that He is the one, single source of spiritual truth. Jesus has also claimed to have been sent by God the Father (John 8:16), as evidenced by miracles. For this reason, Jesus claims to be able to speak of things which others on earth have never seen. Here, He makes a similar remark. The men attacking Him are part of the “the world,” which carries a dual meaning in Scripture. “The world” can refer to the human, fallen, sinful mindset. It can also mean this physical realm. Both descriptions apply to the men Jesus is debating, but primarily, He means that this lowly place is where these men are from—where they were born. Jesus has His home in heaven, and is not bound by the sins and errors of His detractors (Hebrews 4:15).

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One way to Salvation

One way sign with copy-space.

Once again, Jesus professes to be the one and only option for salvation. Earlier, when claiming to be “the light of the world” (John 8:12), He made the same suggestion. Then, while debating with the Pharisees, Jesus directly said that those who reject Him “will die in [their] sins” (John 8:21). Since Jesus is sent by God the father (John 8:16), comes from heaven (John 8:23), and does the will of God (John 7:28–29), those who reject Him cannot be saved (John 3:36). To turn your back on Christ is to turn your back on God Himself (John 6:29).

This is the context of Jesus’ recent comments about going where He cannot be followed. First and foremost, this means returning to heaven after His crucifixion and resurrection (John 20:17). However, it also reflects the fact that these men are running out of time to accept their Savior. At some point, they’ll realize they need to seek Christ, but it will be too late (Luke 16:19–31).

Interestingly, Jesus once again uses the “I AM” phrasing here. In the gospel of John, there are seven highlighted moments where Jesus describes Himself using this specific expression. While this is not one of those, the meaning is the same. When God stated His identity in Exodus 3:14, He referred to Himself as “I AM,” using a Hebrew phrasing implying necessary existence and absolute truth. When Jesus states in this verse that one must believe “I am he,” it’s yet another instance where He does, in fact, tell others that He is God.

Walk away…eventually

It’s important to note that, at this point, Jesus does not offer additional proof or argument. This is a useful principle for modern Christians to keep in mind: at some point, those who ask for even more proof are not being honest. Those who refuse to accept what they’ve been given won’t benefit from being given even more (Matthew 7:6). As Jesus will point out in the next verse, there is much more which could be said, but hardened hearts like theirs would make such efforts a waste of time.

All of this, sadly, is lost on the men attacking Jesus. As the next verse indicates, they simply do not understand. At the same time, Scripture makes it clear that a person’s intent comes before their ability to understand. The evidence is there, and the truth is there, but those who do not want to understand cannot understand (John 7:17). Jesus is not going to waste additional time giving proofs or evidence to those who have no interest whatsoever in truth (Matthew 7:6).

The men debating with Jesus are not interpreting His words with an understanding that He is the Promised One. Nor do they understand that Jesus is, in fact, God incarnate. Knowing this clarifies both their resistance, and some of the questions and challenges they are posing. When Jesus speaks of His “Father,” their minds jump immediately to an earthly, biological father. For them, it is confusing to hear Jesus speak of God, and then use the term “father,” in this debate.

However, simple misunderstanding is not the root cause of their disagreement. This is not unintentional ignorance—this is purposeful, stubborn refusal to see the truth. As Jesus has said before, only those who want to do the will of God can truly understand His words (John 7:17). This means, simply, that a person’s intentions are more powerful than someone else’s evidence. The Pharisees do not want to know Jesus, and that is why they cannot understand His message.

Lifted up

Jesus predicts His own death, lays claim to being the fulfillment of prophecy, equates Himself both with Messiah and God, and professes that His words and actions are those of God Himself.

In Jesus’ day, crucifixion was considered to be so vile, so brutal, and so shameful that people rarely spoke of it directly. Instead, they would use various metaphors, such as being “lifted up.” This is particularly common reference for Jesus, who often speaks of how the Messiah—Jesus Himself—must be “lifted up” in order to accomplish His mission (John 3:14; John 12:32).

The term “Son of Man” was one Jewish listeners would have immediately recognized. In Daniel, the Messianic figure is described as “one like a son of man” (Daniel 7:13–14). When Jesus uses this phrase, His audience knows precisely what He is referring to. Many of them, also, know that Jesus was fond of using this expression in reference to Himself (Matthew 8:20; Mark 8:21; Luke 12:10; John 3:13–14).

In verse 24, Jesus had used the expression “I am he” in reference to His role as the One source of salvation (John 3:16–18). This echoes the famous words of God, who identified Himself to Moses by stating “I AM WHO I AM…Say this to the people of Israel: ‘I AM has sent me to you.'” Jesus echoes this same claim often. In the gospel of John, seven such statements are given special attention, including one earlier in this very conversation (John 8:12).

Jesus also makes another comment linking His words and His teachings, to those of God the Father. In the next verse, Jesus will continue to explain how He is eternally, continually in communion and agreement with His heavenly Father.

Sent by God

A major theme of Jesus’ teaching in this debate with the Pharisees is the fact that He has been sent by God. The miracles Jesus has done, in and of themselves, should tell these critics that He is operating with the blessing of God (John 5:36). Jesus has also been consistent in professing to have God’s judgment (John 8:16), power (John 5:19), and knowledge (John 7:16). He has overtly stated His role as the one and only source of spiritual truth (John 8:12). And yet, critics such as the Pharisees reject Jesus—they fail to grasp His message (John 7:17), not because they cannot know, but because they do not want to know.

Even when human friends abandon Him, Jesus will still be with God the Father (John 16:32). This ties directly into Jesus’ constant reminders that His mission is to do the will of God (John 6:38). This makes those who reject Him all the more rightly condemned; to reject Jesus Christ is to reject God Himself (John 3:36).

Believe but not truly believe

Many, if not most, of the people listening to Jesus in this particular moment will not maintain their support for Him in the coming days. Just as some expressed a shallow sort of “belief” after Jesus fed thousands (John 6:22–25), but then turned away when they did not like His teaching (John 6:66), the people Jesus speaks to know will, for the most part, turn their backs on Him as He continues to confront Pharisaical attitudes towards God.

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Release Your Regrets

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Recognise Your Regrets

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Loving Your Regrets

Advertisements Regrets. We all have them. It may be something you wish you hadn’t done, or a missed opportunity where you didn’t take action and wish that you had. It might be something that was done to you; you were the victim, yet you still feel regret. The Sorry Cycle Whether it’s something from lastContinue reading →

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Posted by Stephen Baragwanath in The Gospel of John, 1 comment

The Gospel of John – ”Right Judgement”

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A strong spiritual challenge issued by Jesus against the religious leaders of Jerusalem is the theme of the next section of John chapter 7. Jesus makes the point that obedience is a necessary aspect of learning. The resistance of the scribes and Pharisees is ultimately a matter of rebellion, not knowledge. In the same way, Jesus criticises their hypocritical attitude towards His miracles – constantly trying to trap Him or pass judgement on Him.

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Jesus Teaches at the Festival

14 Not until halfway through the festival did Jesus go up to the temple courts and begin to teach. 15 The Jews there were amazed and asked, “How did this man get such learning without having been taught?”

16 Jesus answered, “My teaching is not my own. It comes from the one who sent me. 17 Anyone who chooses to do the will of God will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own. 18 Whoever speaks on their own does so to gain personal glory, but he who seeks the glory of the one who sent him is a man of truth; there is nothing false about him. 19 Has not Moses given you the law? Yet not one of you keeps the law. Why are you trying to kill me?”

20 “You are demon-possessed,” the crowd answered. “Who is trying to kill you?”

21 Jesus said to them, “I did one miracle, and you are all amazed. 22 Yet, because Moses gave you circumcision (though actually it did not come from Moses, but from the patriarchs), you circumcise a boy on the Sabbath. 23 Now if a boy can be circumcised on the Sabbath so that the law of Moses may not be broken, why are you angry with me for healing a man’s whole body on the Sabbath? 24 Stop judging by mere appearances, but instead judge correctly.” John 7:14-24

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Jesus’ knowledge

The Festival lasts seven days. Jesus’ appearance in the temple is after at least three days of silence. There, He once again amazes those in attendance with His knowledge (Luke 2:41–52). Key to this amazement is their knowledge that Jesus has not studied in any of the rabbinic schools (John 7:15). This would be like a person who has never been to university discussing high-level physics with a group of professors. This surprise ties to the arrogance of the Pharisees. In their view, the education and knowledge they had received made them superior to others, and especially to someone like Jesus. Convincingly to themselves their knowledge means they are obedient to God.

Jesus will clarify that the exact opposite is true. In fact, a person’s willingness to obey comes before their ability to understand truth (John 7:17). Those who refuse to believe (John 5:39–40) will not come to the truth, no matter how much knowledge they have.

The Pharisees arrogance

In Jesus’ day, common people would hear, read, and discuss the scriptures in a synagogue. However, for most of those common people, this was an occasional practice. Only those dedicated to formal study, such as the Pharisees, had the time to deeply study the Word of God. This makes Jesus’ profound expertise something incredible to the religious leaders. If a modern factory labourer began debating high-level physics with a group of professors, it would produce a similar reaction. And yet, this is not the first time Jesus has surprised people at the temple with His knowledge (Luke 2:41–52).

This surprise on the part of Jerusalem’s spiritual leaders gives insight into their arrogance. Much of their rejection of Jesus’ message is based on this assumption: nobody knows better than they do. No matter what Jesus says, they will reject it since it does not agree with their own study. Unfortunately, this study is not sincere (John 5:39–40). Later in this response to these religious leaders, Jesus will point out that obedience comes before understanding, not as a result of it (John 7:17)!

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Divine authority which Jesus

In John 5:17, Jesus claimed to be equal to God in His works. In John 5:30, Jesus claimed to be equal to God in His judgment. Here, Jesus claims to be equal to God in His teaching. Jesus receives His grounding directly from God the Father rhater than a school of religious knowledge or self-teaching. This makes Jesus able to discuss the Word of God with such skill, despite having no formal training (John 7:15).

This represents an interesting and important distinction between Jesus’ ministry, and that of Christians today. Jesus here claims that His teachings, specifically, are those of God Himself. Scripture makes sense. This also provides context for Jesus’ later comment that only those who are willing to obey God can successfully determine whether or not these teachings are valid (John 7:17). Christian believers, on the other hand, can only appeal to the spiritual authority of the Bible, and not to our own teachings. While we have the Bible—the Word of God—we don’t have the same divine authority which Jesus possessed.

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True knowledge through obedience

The phrasing used here by Jesus is unmistakable; He literally says, “If any man is willing to do His (God’s) will, he shall know…” We have to obtain true knowledge through obedience to God. Satan tempts man with limited knowledge based on disobedience (Genesis 3:5). Jesus essentially turns His era’s assumed relationship between knowledge and morality backwards. Ancient philosophers believe that morality is something that is produced by knowledge. Under that assumption, moral behaviour and the ability to do “good” was based on whether or not a person understood moral and philosophical truths. Only those who could understand could obey, they thought. In other words, misunderstanding causes disobedience, per ancient philosophy.

According to Christ, disobedience causes misunderstanding. Rather than knowledge of the truth leading to obedience, Jesus claims that whether or not a person is willing to obey God is what affects their ability to learn the truth!

An echoe can be read elsewhere in Scripture, both by Jesus and others (John 18:37; Romans 1:18–20; Hebrews 11:6). In fact, Jesus laid the groundwork for this idea when preaching in Capernaum, after feeding the thousands (John 6:29). The fact that Jesus was noted to be sinless (Hebrews 4:15), even by many of His own critics (John 8:46), demonstrates how a person’s spiritual life says a great deal about their knowledge (or ignorance) of God’s Word.

Obedience must come before knowledge

Wisdom from God

Rather than being educated in some Rabbinic school, or generating knowledge on His own, Jesus credits His amazing wisdom to God (John 7:16). In context, this is what Jesus means by those speaking on “his own authority.” While Jesus is fully man, and fully God (Colossians 1:19), His earthly mission is to follow the will of God the Father. Since the message Jesus brings is that of God, God is to be given credit for it. Even further, Jesus claims that a person’s willingness to obey God is what determines his or her understanding—rather than the reverse, where understanding enables obedience.

Even Jesus’ critics were forced to take note of His honesty and moral perfection (John 8:46). This very fact made Jesus’ claims difficult to dismiss out-of-hand. This, again, is a common theme of Christianity. When we give critics of the faith no cause to criticise us (Titus 2:7–8; 1 Peter 3:15–16), or to seek revenge (Romans 12:17–19), we make the Gospel all but inarguable.

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self-righteous, self-confident, self-centered

Here, Jesus once again attacks the self-righteous, self-confident, self-centered religion of Jerusalem’s spiritual leaders. To the people of Israel, there was no more important figure than Moses, and no ideal higher than following the laws given to Israel by Moses. For Jesus to criticise their adherence to the law was an attack on their very sense of identity. This is a criticism Jesus has posed in the past (John 5:39–47), and will bring up again (John 8:39–44). This meshes with the point Jesus made in verses 17 and 18, that those who refuse to obey God will not understand the truth. Worse, their refusal to accept Jesus is, in effect, a rejection of the very Scriptures they claim to uphold.

Despite the crowd’s skepticism (John 7:20), Jesus is well aware that the religious leaders of Jerusalem have sought to kill Him as a blasphemer (John 5:18). He is well aware that their rejection of Him is not superficial—it is deadly serious (John 7:1). And, it proves the very prediction made by Jesus in the early verses of this chapter: convicting the world of sin earns the world’s hatred (John 7:7).

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Trying to silence Jesus

In the terminology of Jesus’ day, telling someone they “had a demon” was the equivalent of saying, “you’re crazy.” The crowd, at this particular feast, was composed of people local to Jerusalem, as well as those who had arrived from remote regions. Some of those people would not have been as familiar with Jesus’ clashes with Jerusalem’s religious leaders. For this reason, when Jesus claims that some are seeking His death (John 7:19), a portion of the crowd brushes the claim off as nonsense.

Even so, some in the crowd know that Jerusalem’s religious leaders desire exactly that: Jesus’ death (John 5:18; 7:1; 7:25). This was one reason why gossip about Jesus was mostly kept private until His appearance mid-way through the feast (John 7:13). In fact, those more aware of the clashes between Jesus and Jewish leadership will begin to question whether the Scribes and Pharisees can, or want, to silence Jesus at all (John 7:25–26).

Invalid criticism

Here, Jesus refers back to the prior year’s Feast, where He healed a man at the Pool of Bethesda (John 5:1–9). The reaction of local religious leaders to that sign was extremely hostile (John 5:10–17). Most of that hostility was focused on the fact that Jesus had healed the man on a Sabbath day, contradicting the Pharisees’ traditions. This controversy led Jesus to claim that the Pharisees had all the required knowledge of God, but refused to come to Jesus in the way God intended (John 5:37–40; 6:29). This was also a reason Jesus stayed away from Jerusalem—and the direct influence of her religious leaders—for quite some time (John 6:1; 7:1).

In the next verses, Jesus will point out that even the Pharisees believe in performing certain spiritually-based works on a Sabbath, such as circumcision. Jesus will develop this example to show how their criticisms are ultimately invalid.

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Working on the Sabbath

Circumcision was originally mandated under Abraham, but it was part of the law which Moses established for the people of Israel. Jesus’ use of Moses has more to do with the religious leaders’ pride than anything else. In their own eyes, they were the only ones knowledgeable enough about the law, given by Moses, to make spiritual judgments. They felt this knowledge made them spiritually obedient, though in reality, they were rejecting God (John 5:39–47). One year prior, Jesus had healed a man during the Feast of Booths, on a Sabbath day. This earned Him condemnation from the Pharisees, since this conflicted with their man-made traditions.

In verse 22 and 23, Jesus points out that in order to follow the law—those given by the vaunted Moses—these same men would approve of a circumcision ritual on a Sabbath day. The question asked by Jesus in the next verse is one the hypocritical religious leaders cannot answer: if it’s alright to perform a minor “work” such as circumcision, in order not to break the law of Moses, how can they criticize Jesus for healing a crippled man on the Sabbath?

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Judge Correctly

“Judge not” is one of the most over-used clichés in discussions of Christianity (Matthew 7:1). Unfortunately, it’s almost always stated out of context. This gives the impression that Jesus simply said, “Do not judge.” In fact, Jesus often made a point of telling others that they should judge, but only “with right judgment,” as stated here (Deuteronomy 1:16; Matthew 7:2–12). Jesus’ frequent teaching was that we should not be superficial in our assessment of other people. However, it is crucial that we separate what is good from what is evil (Ephesians 5:8–16).

This statement follows a direct challenge to the spiritual authority of Jerusalem’s religious leaders. Despite having no formal education, Jesus is confounding his critics. He has accused them of hard-headedness (John 5:39–40), disobedience (John 7:17), and even attempted violence (John 7:19). As a result, as seen in the next few verses, the people of Jerusalem will begin to wonder: is Jesus being allowed to preach because the authorities are powerless, or because they have come to believe Him (John 7:25–26)?

That crisis of confidence will spur the Jewish leaders towards drastic measures to silence Christ!

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Smite me, oh Mighty Smiter

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In The Garden

Advertisements “I come to the garden alone, while the dew is still on the roses…and the voice I hear falling on my ear the Son of God discloses…And he walks with meand he talks with me…and he tells me I am his own…and the joy we share as we carry there…no other has ever known……HeContinue reading →

Psalm 23 – The Great Shepherd

Advertisements The great Shepherd, The Lord  In Him I do not lack I rest in His presence in pastures green, and I am given the water of life Water refreshing my soul My guiding light on paths right Valleys are darkest – I fear nothing    For the great shepherd is nearest A rod and a staff,Continue reading →

Posted by Stephen Baragwanath in The Gospel of John, 2 comments

The Gospel of John – Trust God’s timing

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On one level, John 7:1-13 functions to set the stage for the rest of chapters 7 & 8. It also reveals to us some wrong views about Jesus that the Jewish people. Jesus’ own brothers, had about Him. But a careful look at these verses also reveals that Jesus is both Messiah and Lord. Which fits in with John’s purpose. We believe in Him as Christ, the Son of God, so that we may have eternal life in His name. All He did was according to God’s timing. So the main point is:

Believing in Jesus for salvation depends on having the right view about who He is.

The dominant focus is on those with wrong views about Jesus. Furthermore, Jesus did not follow His own will, but trusted in the will and timing of His Father.

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Jesus Goes to the Festival of Tabernacles

After this, Jesus went around in Galilee. He did not want to go about in Judea because the Jewish leaders there were looking for a way to kill him. But when the Jewish Festival of Tabernacles was near, Jesus’ brothers said to him, “Leave Galilee and go to Judea, so that your disciples there may see the works you do. No one who wants to become a public figure acts in secret. Since you are doing these things, show yourself to the world.” For even his own brothers did not believe in him.

Therefore Jesus told them, “My time is not yet here; for you any time will do. The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify that its works are evil. You go to the festival. I am not going up to this festival, because my time has not yet fully come.” After he had said this, he stayed in Galilee.

10 However, after his brothers had left for the festival, he went also, not publicly, but in secret. 11 Now at the festival the Jewish leaders were watching for Jesus and asking, “Where is he?”

12 Among the crowds there was widespread whispering about him. Some said, “He is a good man.”

Others replied, “No, he deceives the people.” 13 But no one would say anything publicly about him for fear of the leaders.

John 7:1-13

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God’s timeline

The events of the next few chapters of John occur around six months prior to Jesus’ eventual crucifixion.

Previous entries in this series we have established that John presents Jesus as a man always obedient to God’s timeline. Conflict with the religious leaders of Jerusalem was always inevitable. So Jesus spent much of His time in Galilee, away from their direct influence. This only delays the eventual outcome, of course. Jesus has already done enough to earn a death sentence in their eyes. Since they interpret His earlier actions in John 5:18 as a form of blasphemy. This desire to see Jesus killed will be greatly increased due to His actions during the Feast of Tabernacles.

Remember the term “the Jews” is a reference to the religious leaders of Jerusalem and their supporters. This is an important distinction when interpreting the reactions of the crowd to Jesus’ words. “The Jews,” as described here, are a separate group from “the people.”

Jewish men were commanded to attend several feasts in Jerusalem each year (Deuteronomy 16:16). Chapter 5, brought Jesus to the city, where He healed a man at the Pool of Bethesda (John 5:1–9). That celebration would have been the Feast of Tabernacles, the same event shown here in chapters 7.

The Feast of Tabernacles was a 7-day event (Leviticus 23:33–34) celebrating the journey of Israel through the wilderness. The festival reminded the people of how God had provided for Israel during their journey out of Egypt. This involved enormous lamps whose wicks were made of priestly robes and priests carrying water from the Pool of Siloam. These symbolised the pillar of fire and the provision of water from the rock respectively.

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Jesus’ brothers

Verses 3-5 present both a sad commentary, and produce controversy. The Greek term is adelphoi, which can be used to refer to countrymen—meaning fellow Jews—as well as biological siblings. However, this same phrasing is used in verses such as Matthew 12:46, and Mark 6:3. In the gospel of Mark, Jesus’ brothers are even named. Psalm 69:8 “mother’s sons,” rather than “father’s sons”. The same passage which came to mind when Jesus cleansed the temple in John 2:16 (Psalm 69:9). In short, the only reasonable interpretation is that these were Jesus’ actual, physical, half-brothers, and children of His mother, Mary.

The suggestion made here is that Jesus should go and put on a show in Jerusalem. The feeding of thousands, from chapter 6, attracted a great deal of attention.

Tradition suggests that one of these brothers, James, would become a believer and write the New Testament book of James. Another brother is believed to have written the book of Jude. At least some of this disrespect might have been due to familiarity. Jewish tradition suggested that the Messiah would be relatively unknown (John 7:27). So merely knowing Jesus was enough for some to dismiss Him as the Promised One. Simply knowing “about” Jesus, or being exposed to Him, is not enough to make a person a believer.

Simply knowing Jesus should be enough to convict any believer that Jesus is the Messiah!

Sarcasm

This verse continues the sarcastic, mocking tone of Jesus’ brothers. That is, these were other sons of His mother, Mary. When Jesus fed thousands, it attracted a significant level of attention (John 6:14). However, when Jesus explained the real meaning of His ministry, most of those followers turned away (John 6:66). Perhaps this is the motivation for His brothers’ mocking: “go make a scene if you want to be such a big deal!”

Jesus, on the other hand, is only interested in following God the Father’s timetable (John 7:6). Much of what Jesus does will attract controversy, but this is not the real purpose of His actions. In order to avoid needless scandal, and to make a more subtle entrance, Jesus will let His brothers go ahead of Him. So He can enter the festival alone, and quietly (John 7:9–10). Notably, Jesus will perform no miracles at this particular festival.

Of all the people in the world who should have accepted Jesus as Messiah, his immediate family are be at the top of the list. After all, nobody knew Him as well or saw His character as clearly. And yet, this same familiarity seems to produce the opposite effect – Familiarity breeds contempt! Jesus’ own brothers—other biological children of Mary—don’t yet accept His ministry or His mission. Part of this is cultural: Jewish tradition suggested that the Messiah would be relatively unknown prior to His emergence (John 7:27).

This is also proof of several ideas explored in the gospel of John. Later in this chapter, Jesus will point out that obedience must come before knowledge, otherwise people will not believe (John 7:17). A year earlier, after healing a man at the Pool of Bethesda, Jesus pointed out that the men rejecting Him were well-educated in the Scriptures, but refused to believe (John 5:39–40). Seeing miracles won’t convince those who aren’t looking for spiritual truth (Luke 16:31). Judas Iscariot is the prime example of someone who was presented with as much “proof” as could possibly be offered, yet still rejected Christ.

Obedience must come before knowledge

Not seeking attention

On a more positive note, tradition suggests that at least two of Jesus’ siblings became believers after His resurrection. These include both the author of the New Testament book of James, and the author of the book of Jude.

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Jesus’ response to His brothers’ mocking provides an important perspective. Their teasing assumed that Jesus was merely seeking attention, and so He should want to go out in public and put on a show. However, Christ’s intent was not to simply draw a crowd, but to explain the truth (John 6:25–29). For many people, that conflicts with their preferences, causing them to ignore the message (John 6:66).

In addition, Jesus has been keeping away from Jerusalem in order to delay the inevitable conflict with the Jewish religious leaders (John 7:1). His time to be publicly proclaimed as Messiah is yet in the future (John 12:12–15), as is His sacrificial death (John 19:18). Jesus’ brothers, on the other hand, are already fulfilling their purpose—their time had already come.

Jesus has greater concerns to keep in mind.

In parallel with this, Jesus’ brothers did not face the same spiritual hostility as He did. Jesus’ life and ministry were focused on exposing the sin of the world, pointing to a need for a savior (John 7:7). When, where, and how His brothers attended such festivals was unimportant. Christ, on the other hand, had to carefully consider how He presented Himself, and when.

Jesus’ brothers are teasing Him about His public ministry and the sudden departure of many of His disciples (John 6:66). In their minds, Jesus ought to go to the Feast of Tabernacles in Jerusalem and perform magic tricks in order to regrow His following. This shallow, teasing attitude is grounded in their lack of belief in Christ and His ministry (John 7:5). Not until after His resurrection will some of His siblings—at least two, James and Jude—become believers.

Jesus responded in the prior verse by referring to the timetable of God. In the future, Jesus will openly declare Himself the Messiah (John 12:12–15). He will recognie that His ultimate purpose is about to be fulfilled (John 17:1).

For now, however, He will act in order to follow God’s will, instead of chasing publicity.

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Jesus’ brothers have no such restrictions, for two reasons. First, they are already living in “their time.” They can move about the world without much consequence. Secondly, they do not face the spiritual resistance which Jesus encounters. Christ’s ministry confronts sin and hypocrisy. As shown over and over in Scripture, a common response to conviction is not repentance, but hatred and violence. Both in His earthly ministry and in the work of Christianity, the world often responds in the same way to the Gospel: with persecution, instead of submission.

Obligation to attend the festival

Jewish men were obligated to attend several feasts in Jerusalem each year (Deuteronomy 16:16). The biggest of these was the seven-day Feast of Tabernacles (Leviticus 23:34). During this time of year, Jerusalem would have been swarming with pilgrims, visitors, and travelers. Instead of travelling to the feast with His brothers, Jesus intends to arrive alone, in order to make a quieter entrance (John 7:10). Despite the teasing coming from His siblings (John 7:1–5), Jesus is not seeking publicity or popularity (John 6:25–29). On the contrary, He knows that His message will be opposed, since people hate to be reminded of their own sin (John 7:7; 15:24–25). Jesus is also sensitive to the will of God the Father and knows that His work on earth needs to follow God’s ultimate plan.

As shown in later verses, Jesus does attend the feast, though He does not begin to preach or teach until several days later (John 7:14). For this reason, some manuscripts add a Greek word for “yet” into Jesus’ statement to His brothers: “I am not [yet] going up…” This is true to the context, but not necessary, and also not found in the older copies of Scripture. Jesus’ meaning is clear both in context and in practice: “you go now, I am not.”

Notice, also, that Jesus performs no miracles during this particular festival.

In chapter 6, Jesus performed a dramatic feeding of thousands, followed by a public debate in the city of Capernaum. These kinds of high-profile events brought attention from the religious leaders of Jerusalem, who had already condemned Jesus as a blasphemer (John 5:18). To avoid direct conflict, Jesus has been keeping to the region of Galilee, rather than getting to close to Jerusalem (John 7:1). This area was close enough to Jerusalem for news to travel, but outside of the immediate control of the Scribes and Pharisees.

However, as a Jewish man, Jesus was obligated to enter Jerusalem for the Feast of Tabernacles (Deuteronomy 16:16). His unbelieving siblings have been teasing Him over the loss of disciples described in the last chapter (John 6:66). Somewhat sarcastically, they suggest that if Jesus wants to put on a show, He should go to the feast and do just that: draw a crowd. Instead, Jesus tells them to go on ahead without Him (John 7:8).

Christ’s intent here is to honor God’s timeline (John 7:6).

Make a quiet, private entrance. Then, several days into the festival, He will once again being publicly preaching (John 7:14). Jesus will not, however, perform miracles during this feast.

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Jesus’ brothers—other children of His mother Mary—do not believe in His ministry at this point (John 7:5). Instead, they have teased Jesus by suggesting He go to the festival to draw a crowd (John 7:3–4). Jesus responds by pointing out that He is working from a divine schedule, which they are not a part of (John 7:6). He also notes that their attendance won’t be met with as much resistance as His will (John 7:7–8). So, Jesus tells His brothers to go ahead without Him, while He remains in Galilee (John 7:9). Later, as shown in this verse, Jesus will make a quiet, private entrance. The Feast of Booths covers an entire week, so Jesus’ eventual preaching in the temple does not happen until several days later (John 7:14).

These few days of anonymity would have given Jesus a chance to see and hear, first-hand, the rumors swirling through Jerusalem. Verses 11-13 describe how the people are curious about Jesus and what He will do at the festival. However, that gossip is spread with some sense of fear. “The Jews,” as the phrase is most often used in the gospel of John, refers to the religious leaders of Jerusalem. These men have already marked Jesus as a blasphemer (John 5:18; John 7:1).

The Feast of Tabernacles was one of the grandest events on the Jewish calendar. For an entire week, the people of Israel participated in rituals and events commemorating their journey out of Egypt through the wilderness. As one of the required feasts for all Jewish men (Deuteronomy 16:16), those who were curious about Jesus expected to see Him arrive at some point in time. None would have been more interested than the religious leaders of Jerusalem, whom the gospel of John typically labels “the Jews.”

It seems the religious leaders are making the same mistake as Jesus’ brothers (John 7:4–5). They assume that what Jesus wants is publicity, popularity, and power. On the contrary, Jesus is committed to preaching the truth (John 6:26–27), even when it causes most people to turn away (John 6:66). For this reason, Jesus entered the festival alone, and in private, after His family had already arrived (John 7:8–10). He arrives to find the people debating His character and mission.

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Jesus’ feeding of the thousands, described in chapter 6, was only the most public of His actions thus far. The combination of His miracles, His teachings, and His conflict with the religious leaders of Jerusalem made Jesus a popular subject of gossip at the Feast of Tabernacles. Jesus complicated His public image by explaining that His ministry was ultimately spiritual, not material (John 6:26–29), which caused many people to abandon Him (John 6:66). Here, in the days before Jesus begins teaching in the temple (John 7:14), the people are quietly discussing His public ministry.

This crowd is described as “the people,” a term referring to the general crowds attending the Feast of Tabernacles. This would have included Jewish pilgrims as well as residents of Jerusalem. The term “the Jews” refers more specifically to the religious leaders of the city, and their followers, whose opinion of Jesus is quite clear (John 5:18; John 7:1). In fact, this anger is already so strong that the crowds in Jerusalem keep their discussions of Jesus private, out of fear.

Jesus’ earthly ministry was often the source of controversy and debate. Ultimately, this is grounded in mankind’s natural hatred of conviction. Showing someone the reality of his sin is a sure fire way to earn his anger (John 15:22–24). Likewise, people are attracted to flashy miracles and other signs (John 6:26), even though they aren’t really interested in spiritual truth (John 6:66). Jesus’ willingness to confront the religious leaders of Jerusalem (John 5:39–40) was a particular source of scandal. A full year prior to the events of this chapter, Jesus had healed a lame man at the Pool of Bethesda (John 5:1–9), enraging the Pharisees (John 5:10–12). His response to them earned Him their hatred, and their desire that He be killed (John 5:18).

That seems to be the mood driving the people to discuss Jesus furtively, rather than openly. The people are curious and split on their view of Jesus, but are afraid to express those ideas too publicly, for fear of Jerusalem’s religious leadership (John 7:1).

Ultimately, Jesus followed God’s timeline and so should we.


Late Mother’s Fight Against Cancer

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Learning from Christian Persecutions- Radical Faith!

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The soil of Your Heart – God’s Voice

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Posted by Stephen Baragwanath in The Gospel of John, 1 comment