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?”
In yesterday’s meditation, we learned that Jesus’ teaching does not come from himself but the Father. People thus reject Jesus’ teaching at their own peril: In rejecting His teaching they are rejecting the authority behind the teaching (The Father), the subject of the revelation (God’s Will), and the intentions behind the prophecy (transformation by God’s intent). Now what he is saying here is this: “I am not here on my own, but he who sent me is true.”
But notice what the people’s response is to this newest revelation: More objections. They object to Jesus’ teaching because they are convinced that he is not educated enough or, at least, that he was not educated by the ‘right’ people or the ‘right sort’ of people. Now they object to him again: “But we know where this man is from; when the Christ comes, no one will know where he is from.” Objection after objection. They keep looking for reasons to not follow Jesus and searching for excuses not to believe in him. Furthermore, their response to him is always the same: violence, persecution, attempts at murder. They really do not like Jesus and search for any reason they can to lay him to waste. This time it is no different: At this they tried to seize him.
So here then it was not their ignorance that prevented them from knowing and loving Jesus. It was, in fact, their knowledge. In verses 14-15, they objected because they did not know where Jesus got his teaching form. Here they object because they do know where he is from. Jesus cannot win either way. But I think there is something more to it than that. I think these people were just, much like many in today’s world, searching and searching for reasons to reject Jesus. But if I hear Jesus’ answer correctly, then I am hearing him say to these people who objected: No, in fact, you don’t know me at all. As Jesus will later say in the Gospel: “If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well.” He also says, “Anyone who has seen me has see the Father” (John 14:7-9).
I suppose that if people want to find reasons to object to Jesus they will find them easily enough. There is an entire discipline of Biblical studies dedicated to the task of refuting such objections (it’s called apologetics). Murray thus says that, in spite of the fact that we live in a different time and age and culture than when this book was first written, ‘…the revelation of God in Christ is directed to our age no less than to people in the first century of our era…And the challenge of Jesus’ claim to be the bearer of the revelation of God and the instrument of his redemption demands of every one of us an answer that we can give before the judgment seat of God, for that is what in the end will be required of us’ (Word Biblical Commentary, vol. 36, John, GR Beasley-Murray, 123).
So, the particular objections John wrote about may or may not be particularly relevant to us in this present culture. We are not Jews who would fret about something such as where Jesus was from or where he got his teaching (ie., his education). Indeed, the questions were even deeper than that in John’s context. Just examine all the different things people were saying about him in the chapter (v 1-5, 12-15, 25-27, 31, 35-36, 40-52). They objected to nearly every conceivable aspect of his life: Education, pedigree, race (he was from Galilee), etc, and at every objection they were ready to arrest him or kill him or persecute him. Still, in our culture we face a not entirely different set of objections that all trace their main point back to the same root: People still do not want to believe that Jesus is the Way, the exclusive Way, to the Father. “For even his own brothers did not believe in him.” What about him did they not want to believe in? Well, read chapter 6 again and see!
This is the problem we face today. It’s not so much that people even object to Jesus necessarily. Many religions have grasped him and melted him into their pantheon of religious instruction. But Jesus is no mere teacher of wonderful, blissful things (as I pointed out yesterday). As long as Jesus is a good teacher, a humanitarian, an animal lover, an anti-global warming poster child, or some other such non-sense, Jesus is ‘just alright with me’ is the mantra for many folks—even Christians! But when cross-carrying Christians, rightfully and under obligation and mandate and because of love, preach that Jesus is exclusively the Messiah, God, the Crucified and Resurrected Sovereign Lord, well, then those who have lauded his teaching, moral character, and social activism turn back and no longer follow him. It is not strange to me at all that chapter 7 follows chapter 6 in this sense: Jesus made, in chapter 6, some of his most divisive, contumacious, and public claims to exclusivity yet in John’s Gospel, and many turned back, following him no longer. Now we see in chapter 7 their objections articulated, their hatred escalated, and their violence accelerated.
This is no different from our own world. And, to be sure, people cannot have it both ways. You cannot have Jesus the good, moral, upstanding citizen teacher and reject his exclusive claims to Supremacy and Sovereignty. This will not do. David Wells rightly notes, “The only way in which we can be God-centered, then, is to be Christ-centered, for God is salvifically know known nowhere else. It is popularly argued to the contrary that to be Christ-centered is to be other than God-centered because it excludes all religious options other than Christianity and hence excludes much of what God is doing in the world today. Whatever the attractions of this argument, it is simply unscriptural. It makes the reality of God diffuse, assails the uniqueness of his revelation in Christ, dispenses with Christ’s saving death, and upends the premise of the entire biblical narrative, which is that God alone has reality, while the gods and goddesses of the pagans are nonentities. The New Testament unequivocally sounds the note of Christ’s uniqueness, the clarion call of historical particularity, which vitiates every other religious claim” (God in the Wasteland, 132).
So, if God is doing anything in this world, he is doing it through Christ. Apart from Christ, God does nothing. He holds all things together in Christ. He saves through Christ. So, if people have rejected Jesus on this ground or that ground they have rejected God’s appointed heir, God’s appointed Messiah, God’s chosen Servant. Apart from Christ there is no one sent from God. Jesus came from God and that very fact teaches us a great deal about the manner in which we should respond to Jesus.
I hope this 32nd Day of 90 is blessed for you!
Soli Deo Gloria!