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’?”
DA Carson wrote in his book A Call to Spiritual Reformation: Priorities From Paul and His Prayers, the following words of wisdom concerning John 7:
“If God had perceived that our greatest need was economic, he would have sent an economist. If he had perceived that our greatest need was entertainment, he would have sent us a comedian or an artist. If God had perceived that our greatest need was political stability, he would have sent us a politician. If he had perceived that our greatest need was health, he would have sent us a doctor. But he perceived that our greatest need involved our sin, our alienation from him, our profound rebellion, our death; and he sent us a Savior” (109)
The Pharisees heard that people were whispering such things like, “Have the authorities really concluded that he is the Christ?” So, in an effort to stave off such ridiculous ideas, such trivial scuttlebutt, they sent in the troops to do what others had been unable to do: arrest him (recall in verse 30 others tried to lay hands on him but he escaped them). I don’t suppose that the Pharisees’ guards would have any better success than any others had; still they try.
But the Pharisees also heard people saying things like, “When the Christ comes, will he do more miraculous signs than this man?” So, in their attempt to forestall such frivolous conversations the Pharisees did what they did best: They sent someone else to deal with Jesus. Oh, they wouldn’t dare go and try to arrest him themselves (remember later that Jesus’ trials were conducted at night, in secrecy). These Pharisees had no intentions whatsoever of letter people even have the hint of a hint that Jesus might actually be who he claimed to be. But it was not yet his time.
For me, it is Jesus’ response that is most intriguing. “I am only with you a short time, and then I go to the One who sent me.” It’s a response to those who were coming to arrest him. I wonder if he is saying something like, “Look, leave me be and I’ll be gone soon enough. I’m not planning on being here long enough for you to be making all this fuss. Let it be, let me be, and then I’ll be out of your way and you will have me to contend with no longer.” He could have been saying something like that. Then he adds a second phrase, “You will look for me, but you will not find me; and where I am, you cannot come.” Where I Am?? What did he mean by that: Where I am?
But they glossed over all that too. They were more concerned about where he was going than about where he was. They knew where he was from, supposedly, but they did not know where he was going. They could go to where he was from, but they would not find him when he left. This conversation leaves one gasping for air. At some level Jesus was saying this: There will come a day when I will be gone, not as easily accessible as I am right now when you want to arrest me. On that day you will look for me, you will want me, you will need me, but I will not be found. He makes it clear: You will look for me. I have a suspicion that they will be looking for him for reasons other than to arrest him. I have a suspicion that there will be a little more fear of God in their eyes then than there was that day when they wanted to arrest him.
There is, to be sure, a time limit. We don’t happen to be privy to it. God has not, in his wisdom, decided that this is information that we happen to require while accomplishing his work. But there is a time limit. We don’t know when the thief will come in the night or when the Bridegroom will return. We don’t know when the archangel will sound the last trumpet and the Son of Man will descend with the clouds. We are sort of in the dark on this one. Jesus said there is a time limit: “I am only with you a short time, and then I go to the one who sent me. You will look for me, but you will not find me; and where I am you cannot come.”
Later Jesus will say: “Then Jesus told them, “You are going to have the light just a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you. Those who walk in the dark do not know where they are going. 36 Put your trust in the light while you have the light, so that you may become children of light.” When he had finished speaking, Jesus left and hid himself from them” (John 12:35-36). Clearly, there is a time limit. And yet still people refuse to come to Jesus to have life. It’s not a joke. It’s not a risk worth taking. If we don’t seek him while we can there will come a time when seeking will not be an option. Are you seeking him? What are you waiting for?
Their response demonstrates their ignorance and hubris: “What does he mean when he said, ‘You will look for me and not find me,’ and ‘Where I am, you cannot come’?” Translation: We can find anyone we want—you can go as far as the Greeks and we’ll find you. You can’t escape us, you mere human (“Where does this man intend to go that we cannot find him?”). Who do you think you are? Are you magic? Are you a traveler? At least they were concerned about what his words meant—although, John provides us with no answer to their questions. They did not perceive that there might come a day when they would be cut-off from access to Jesus. Oh, humans are so flush with confidence! Scarcely a day goes by, nary a minute ticks away when some human, some place, does not boast of their ability to conquer any obstacle. Jesus was saying, if I read correctly, here’s one obstacle you cannot conquer because the only way to conquer it is through me and you reject me! Of course those who reject Jesus will not find him: Truthfully speaking, they won’t want to.
Be Blessed and a Blessing!
Soli Deo Gloria!