After these things Jesus walked in Galilee: for he would not walk in Jewry, because the Jews sought to kill him. Now the Jews ’ feast of tabernacles was at hand. His brethren therefore said unto him, Depart hence, and go into Judaea, that thy disciples also may see the works that thou doest. For there is no man that doeth any thing in secret, and he himself seeketh to be known openly. If thou do these things, shew thyself to the world. For neither did his brethren believe in him. Then Jesus said unto them, My time is not yet come: but your time is alway ready. The world cannot hate you; but me it hateth, because I testify of it, that the works thereof are evil. Go ye up unto this feast: I go not up yet unto this feast; for my time is not yet full come. When he had said these words unto them, he abode still in Galilee. But when his brethren were gone up, then went he also up unto the feast, not openly, but as it were in secret. Then the Jews sought him at the feast, and said, Where is he? And there was much murmuring among the people concerning him: for some said, He is a good man: others said, Nay; but he deceiveth the people. Howbeit no man spake openly of him for fear of the Jews. Now about the midst of the feast Jesus went up into the temple, and taught. And the Jews marvelled, saying, How knoweth this man letters, having never learned? Jesus answered them, and said, My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me. If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.
Having concluded our studies of that wonderful sixth chapter, in which our Lord presents Himself as the Bread of God, we proceed now to follow Him as He resumes His course traveling about from place to place, ministering the Word to believers and unbelievers alike, according to their needs.
We read, “After these things Jesus walked in Galilee” (v. 1). He preached that sermon on the Bread of God in Capernaum in the northern section of Galilee, and from there He went about to other places in the same district and later went down to Judea. Because the Jews sought to kill Him, He did not at first go to Judea. It is in the south. His foes were more violent there than in Galilee where the people did not take things as seriously as did the bigoted legalists of Judea, who were filled with excessive pride and were utterly intolerant of opposition to their views. They were very sure of their own position, and with that came an abhorrence of anything like consideration for the opinions of others who did not agree with them. They had decided already that the Lord Jesus Christ was a false prophet. They declared He deserved to be silenced, and drastically dealt with as one who sought to turn the people away from the law of God, which they confused with their own traditions.
According to Deuteronomy, such an one was to be stoned to death. So we can understand their attitude toward the Lord Jesus Christ. They hated His teaching. They thought it was contrary to the law of Moses. In that they were mistaken, of course. “The law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ” (John 1:17 ). He came to fulfill, in a marvelous way, that very law that was given to show men that they needed a Savior, to emphasize the exceeding sinfulness of sin. Paul says, “The law [is] our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ” (Galatians 3:24). Now we have the full revelation of the grace of God as revealed in the gospel.
Our attention is next directed to the fact that one of the last of the great annual festivals in Judea was about to take place. We read, “Now the Jews’ feast of tabernacles was at hand. His brethren therefore said unto Him, Depart hence, and go into Judea” (John 7:2 ). Notice the significant expression, “the Jews’ feast of tabernacles.” In Leviticus 23 it is listed among the feasts of Jehovah. Why the change? Because they had missed the true meaning of it. They only observed it in a cold, legal way, so the Lord refuses to associate His name with it.
We can see the same thing today. The Lord has given us the ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Now, where they are observed according to the Word of God their significance is very real, but where people substitute baptism for regeneration, where they believe baptized children become members of the kingdom of God, or older people think that by baptism their sins are washed away, then this ordinance becomes an abhorrence in God’s sight. The same thing is true of the precious observance of the Lord’s Supper. When we come together to partake of the bread and the cup in remembrance of our blessed Savior who gave Himself for us, it is precious in the sight of God. He delights to find His people coming together in a reverent manner to remember the One who has redeemed them. But when they make of the Lord’s Supper simply a legal service and think that they are helping to fit themselves for heaven and to save their souls by observing it, then it becomes their feast and not the feast of the Lord. It becomes something that is human, of man, and not something that is of God.
Now this feast of tabernacles, as originally given, is most significant. We read in Leviticus 23:4 : “These are the feasts of the LORD.” The word feast does not exactly mean a festival in every instance, but a set time. In other words, they were the outstanding events in the Jews’ ecclesiastical year, and you will find that there were four of them in the beginning of the year and three in the fall, and the feast of tabernacles was the last of them all. The first one is the feast of the Passover, and in the fifth chapter of 1 Corinthians Christ, our Passover, is said to be sacrificed for us.
The Passover was observed first in Egypt when God visited the firstborn in judgment. There they divided the lamb into its parts and feasted upon it, but the blood was sprinkled outside on the door posts and lintels, and the people inside were safe from judgment. A wonderful picture of Christ-Christ the Passover Lamb-and as God said of old, “When I see the blood, I will pass over you” (Exodus 12:13), so it is today. When people put their trust in that precious blood, they are safe from judgment, and then they feed, in spirit, upon the blessed Savior who shed His precious blood for our redemption. That is the feast of the Passover. And you know it was at the time of the feast of the Passover that our Lord Jesus Christ died upon the cross. He, the Lamb of God, died on Passover day to put away our sins.
The second feast is that of unleavened bread. They began with Passover day and continued for another seven days, eating only unleavened bread. Again in 1 Corinthians 5:8 we read, “Let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.” Those people feeding upon that unleavened bread represent Christians feeding on Christ and living to the glory of God, putting out of their lives everything that is worldly, that is unholy, that is connected with the old life, and now walking in newness of life.
The third appointed festival was the feast of first fruits. It was celebrated on the first day of the week following the Passover when they took the first sheaf that was fully ripe. They brought it to God and presented it to Him. That represents our Lord Jesus Christ as the Risen One. This is made plain in 1 Corinthians 15:20 . We read, “But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.” The corn of wheat had to die, but dying, it brought forth much fruit. And so as the priest brought and presented that sheaf to the Lord, it represented our blessed crucified Savior rising from the dead on the morrow following the Jewish Sabbath. How perfectly the type fits the fulfillment, for it was on the first day of the week following the Passover Sabbath that Christ rose from the dead. “ [He] was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification” (Romans 4:25).
Then as we continue in the book of Leviticus, the people were to count fifty days until the morrow after the seventh Sabbath, when a new offering was to be brought to the Lord: two loaves of bread baked with leaven. Leaven was a type of sin, so there could be none of that in the bread that represented Christ. But on the fiftieth day, the feast of Pentecost following the Jewish Sabbath, which has now been set aside, we find the two wave loaves presented before God, which were made of leavened dough. They picture Jew and Gentile saved by grace, and they constituted a new meal offering. That pictures the beginning of the church dispensation. All of these feasts have to do with the ground of our salvation and have already been fulfilled.
Then in the fall of the year there were three other set feast types. First, the blowing of the trumpets, which speaks of the time when Israel will be brought back to God. Then came the great Day of Atonement, and we see it fulfilled, as pictured in Zechariah 12, when in the coming day Israel will “look upon [him] whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn” (v. 10). That will be the Jews’ true day of atonement, when they find out at last that the Lord Jesus Christ who died on Calvary’s cross was really the great sin offering who died to put away their sins. They will recognize Him and, trusting Him, will be able to say, “He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5).
Then the last appointed season of the seventh month was the feast of tabernacles, and for eight days the people were to dwell in booths as a reminder of that which took place in the wilderness. Typically, it pointed to the time when the restored nation will dwell in peace with nothing to make them afraid and with our Lord Jesus Christ reigning over them. For in Zechariah 14 we find that the true feast of tabernacles will be when Israel and the world shall be brought to enjoy the saving grace of God and shall live under the glorious reign of our Lord Jesus Christ.
But, alas, the Jews of Christ’s day did not realize that the King was among them already. Even the brothers of Jesus were unbelievers until after His resurrection. We have the names of some of them. We know that James, Jude, Simon, and Joses were brothers of Jesus. Whether they were full or half-brothers has been a debated question, but at any rate they belonged in the family in some sense and were related to the Lord Jesus Christ. Other Scripture passages show that there were sisters, too. His brothers on this occasion were going up to the feast of tabernacles. They say, “Are you going?” “Depart hence, and go into Judaea, that thy disciples also may see the works that thou doest” (John 7:3 ). There is a sneer in that. It seems they would “put Him on the spot.” “Why don’t You go to Judea? You are a good Jew. Why don’t You keep the feast of tabernacles with the rest instead of doing things secretly? If you think You are the Sent One, ‘if thou do these things, show thyself to the world’” (v. 4).
It must have been very hard to take that from His own brethren, to find that those who had grown up with Him did not believe in Him. “Neither did His brethren believe in him” (v. 5). Think of it! It is very difficult sometimes to convince people in your own household. Have not many of us found out that it is easier to approach people outside the members of the family? If you have faults, every fault is magnified. It becomes so manifest, and it is so much harder often to impress those of your own family with any spiritual blessing that God has given. Jesus Himself, the Holy One, endured that. He can understand the trouble we have in our own homes because of our Christian testimony.
The day came when these brothers believed in Him, but it was after His resurrection, after He rose from the dead. Then, eventually, they were convinced, and James and Jude became two of His outstanding disciples. And Simon, another brother, was for many years revered as a devoted servant of our Lord, as early Christian writers tell. There was a fourth brother, Joseph, or Joses, of whom we know nothing. We have their names listed in Matthew 13:55.
But now, instead of answering their sneer with a sneer, or reviling as they had reviled, He replies very kindly, “My time is not yet come” (John 7:6 ). “I am waiting for word from My Father.” You see, having come down and taken a servant’s place, He would never move until He had the Father’s word. “I came… not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me” (6:38). We make so many mistakes as we act according to our own will. The Lord Jesus Christ never did that. He always waited for word from the Father. “My time is not yet come: but your time is alway ready.” That is, the time of man after the flesh is always ready. “The world cannot hate you; but me it hateth, because I testify of it, that the works thereof are evil” (7:7). That is why men were displeased with the Lord Jesus Christ. If He had been willing to condone their sins and look kindly upon their evil doings, they could have tolerated Him, or even have become His enthusiastic adherents. But, no, He bare witness against the sin and corruption and iniquity of the world, and, therefore, they hated Him without a cause simply because of His holiness and purity, which was in contrast to their iniquity.
Now He says to them, “Go ye up unto this feast: I go not up yet unto this feast; for my time is not yet full come” (v. 8). And so His brethren went on without Him. “He abode still in Galilee” (v. 9). Later on, after they were gone up, He went up alone secretly by Himself. Without any flourish of trumpets, without any public announcement, He went up to Jerusalem. Evidently the Jews expected Him to be present, for we are told that “The Jews sought him at the feast, and said, Where is he?” (v. 11). Why did they expect Him to be there? Because He was always careful to observe the law, and the law said that every Israelite was to appear three times in the year before God at the place where He set His name. So the Lord Jesus Christ would keep to that, the Passover, the day of Pentecost, and the feast of tabernacles. So they had a right to expect Him.
There was much murmuring. Not finding Him they began to talk about Him. “Some said, He is a good man: others said, Nay; but he deceiveth the people” (v. 12). His name was dividing the nation then as it divides the world today. Some recognized in Jesus a sincere man. They thought He was a good man, and if He was a good man it followed He would speak truthfully. But there were others who said, “No, He is a deceiver.” Just so is the world divided today. Which side are you on? Are you among those who recognize His claims, or are you one of those who refuse Him?
Nobody spoke out openly, for they were afraid that some of the leaders might hear what was said, and it might lead to difficulty. But now about the midst of the feast, Jesus suddenly appeared in the temple. It was customary of old for teachers to go into the courts of the temple. Different rabbis would take up their stand by various pillars. At a set time of the day you might have seen various groups gathered about their favorite instructors. You might have come to one pillar and found a Sadducee teacher with a group surrounding him. At another a Pharisee would be holding forth. Jesus would take His place by one of these pillars, and the Jews who gathered around Him listened with amazement as He taught them.
What a grasp of things He had! With what authority He set forth His teaching! They exclaimed, “How knoweth this man letters, having never learned?” (v. 15). In other words, “Why, He has never been to college. He never sat at the feet of any of our great teachers. Where did He get all this? How did He learn these wonderful things?” One might have said, “Why, He is God.” Why did not He tell them that? But that was not the answer. He was not to draw on His divine knowledge, but He chose to learn from the Word of God and to receive from His Father from day to day. Think of it! The blessed Son of God-the Eternal Wisdom-the Wisdom that created the heavens and the universe, now become Man on earth and poring over His Bible, as you and I are commanded to do, turning from page to page in God’s Word, as Man, learning from day to day as a disciple. What an example to us!
And this was the thing that made His ministry so rich and so full, and if I am speaking to any today who would be a blessing to mankind, I emphasize, saturate yourself with this Book. Do not waste your time simply on the works of man with the thought that your understanding and vocabulary will be enlarged. Live in your Bible! The better you become acquainted with this Book, the more you will be able to present the true Word of God to mankind.
“How knoweth this man letters?” He learned at the feet of His Father, and we may learn in the same way. Jesus answered them, “My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me” (v. 16). Doctrine is “teaching.” “I am not giving you My own words,” He says, “but My Fathers.” “My teaching is not mine, but His that sent me.” If anybody says, “I wish I knew for sure whether these teachings are really true,” then He Himself tells us how we may find out in order that we may be absolutely certain. He says, “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself” (v. 17). It may be easier understood if we say, “If any man wills to do His will.” That is, if a man settles it in his heart that he wants to know God’s will, and if he comes to God in repentance and says, “I want to be delivered from my sins and I want to do the will of God”-if a man takes that attitude, you have the word of the Son of God for it that you will not be left in doubt as to what that will is. This is a test that any honest man may apply and find out for himself whether the teaching of Jesus is true or not.
People come to me and say, “I wish I could believe as you do, but the trouble with me is that I am not sure whether the Bible is the Word of God or not. I do not know whether these things are true or not. If I could believe them it would be all right.” My friend, here is Christ’s own word, telling you how you may know for certain whether these things are true. Do you desire above everything else to do the will of God? Are you more concerned about this than about making money, getting on in life? Then He says, If you put that first, you will know of the doctrine. If you seek deliverance from your sins and you want to be right with God and ask Him by His Spirit to open up the truth, He declares in this verse that He will do just that. How many times people have come to me with that, and I always send them to the gospel of John.
In John 20:30-31 we read, “And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: but these are written that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through His name.” If you really desire to do the will of God and you have any doubt as to that will, take this gospel of John and read it quietly and reverently. Do not take too many verses at one time. Take it line by line, and as you read, lift your heart to God and say, “O God, above everything else, I desire to know Your will. Since this book has been written to prove it, as I study, open Your truth up to me and let me know whether Jesus is really Your Son or not.” Many people have gone to God in that way and have found out God’s will for them, and their doubts have all been dissipated.
I used to have a cowboy friend out in Arizona. He had gotten far away from God, but a day came when God spoke in power to his soul. I have heard him tell how for years he did not believe the Bible and had ridiculed it and rejected its testimony. At last, when under deep conviction of sin, someone said, “Why don’t you go to God yourself and ask Him to make it clear and real to you?” So one night he got down by his cot and he prayed, “O God, if there is a God and if You do look down upon a poor sinner like me, and if You can hear my prayer, if Jesus Christ is Your Son, reveal it to me, and I promise I will serve you the rest of my days.” He began to search the Scriptures and often told us afterward, “I can’t express or explain it, but I know that something took place. Within three days I knew beyond the shadow of a doubt that the Lord Jesus Christ was the Son of God and my Savior.” He was a faithful servant of God for years, until taken home to heaven. He died in the faith he had confessed for so long.
Now if you say, “I can’t believe the Bible,” I can tell you why. It is because you are living in some sin that that Book condemns. If you cannot believe the Bible, it is because you are living in sin. If you will face that sin honestly before God, He will give you light enough to be saved.
He that speaketh of himself seeketh his own glory: but he that seeketh his glory that sent him, the same is true, and no unrighteousness is in him. Did not Moses give you the law, and yet none of you keepeth the law? Why go ye about to kill me? The people answered and said, Thou hast a devil: who goeth about to kill thee? Jesus answered and said unto them, I have done one work, and ye all marvel. Moses therefore gave unto you circumcision; (not because it is of Moses, but of the fathers;) and ye on the sabbath day circumcise a man. If a man on the sabbath day receive circumcision, that the law of Moses should not be broken; are ye angry at me, because I have made a man every whit whole on the sabbath day? Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment. Then said some of them of Jerusalem, Is not this he, whom they seek to kill? But, lo, he speaketh boldly, and they say nothing unto him. Do the rulers know indeed that this is the very Christ? Howbeit we know this man whence he is: but when Christ cometh, no man knoweth whence he is. Then cried Jesus in the temple as he taught, saying, Ye both know me, and ye know whence I am: and I am not come of myself, but he that sent me is true, whom ye know not. But I know him: for I am from him, and he hath sent me. Then they sought to take him: but no man laid hands on him, because his hour was not yet come. And many of the people believed on him, and said, When Christ cometh, will he do more miracles than these which this man hath done? The Pharisees heard that the people murmured such things concerning him; and the Pharisees and the chief priests sent officers to take him. Then said Jesus unto them, Yet a little while am I with you, and then I go unto him that sent me. Ye shall seek me, and shall not find me: and where I am, thither ye cannot come. Then said the Jews among themselves, Whither will he go, that we shall not find him? will he go unto the dispersed among the Gentiles, and teach the Gentiles? What manner of saying is this that he said, Ye shall seek me, and shall not find me: and where I am, thither ye cannot come?
It seems almost a pity that one is not able, because of the fullness of the narrative, to take up at one time a complete account such as that which we have in this seventh chapter, because it all relates to our Lord ’s meeting with the Jews in the temple court at Jerusalem. One incident follows another in rapid succession, but they are all connected.
In our last message we saw the Lord presenting Himself to the people and considered the beginning of His conversation with them. Now, in verse 18 we go right on with the same incident. The Lord Jesus Christ had said in verses 16-17, “My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me. If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.” Now He adds, “He that speaketh of himself seeketh his own glory: but he that seeketh his glory that sent him, the same is true, and no unrighteousness is in him” (v. 18). The Lord Jesus always claimed to be the Sent One of the Father and then He says, “If any man will do his will.” He means, of course, that if people are sincerely desirous of knowing and doing the Lord’s will and will come to Him seeking the light, they will find out whether He, Himself, is just a self-seeking egotist endeavoring to gather men for His own glory or whether He is, as He said, the One sent from God as the Savior and Redeemer. If He was only speaking of Himself, He was simply seeking His own glory.
We remember that passage in Proverbs 25:27 , “It is not good to eat much honey: so for men to search their own glory is not glory.” The illustration that is there used is rather interesting. Solomon used it frequently. Honey is that which is naturally pleasant and agreeable, and I suppose that there is nothing more pleasant than to have people speak well of us. There is something in us that makes us really enjoy having people say nice things about us. Well, according to Scripture, that’s honey. Don’t get too much of it. Too much will upset us and cause trouble. So he says, “It is not good to eat much honey,” and for many to attract attention to themselves is a dishonor. It is a shame for men to seek their own glory. You remember in Jeremiah 45:5 , God sends a special message to Baruch, “And seekest thou great things for thyself seek them not: for, behold, I will bring evil upon all flesh, saith the LORD: but thy life will I give unto thee for a prey in all places whither thou goest.”
That is the path of blessing. Our Lord Jesus Christ came not to do His own will but the will of Him that sent Him. His forerunner was a man of like character. He said, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30).
So our Lord Jesus here reminds us that if a man is constantly talking of his own work and his own ability and power, and that kind of thing, with the idea, of course, to get people occupied with himself, he is seeking his own glory. “But he that seeketh his glory that sent him, the same is true and no unrighteousness is in him.” And this is what the Lord Jesus came to do. Before He went away, as He prayed in that last night before He went out to Gethsemane, He said, “[Father,] I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do” (17:4). And in this He becomes our great example. The one thing that men ought to be occupied with above everything else is bringing glory to the One who has redeemed them. I like that question in the Shorter Catechism of the Westminster Confession, “What is the chief end of man?” The answer is, “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” You see, we make such a mistake when we put self first. We tell ourselves that if we don’t seek our own interests, no one else will, but the Word declares that is not true. “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33). In other words, Put God first and self last, and God will see that you are honored in His own time.
And so the Lord Jesus made this the object of His life-to seek to glorify the One who sent Him. But then He turns to His opponents who accuse Him of being false, and says, “Did not Moses give you the law, and yet none of you keepeth the law?” (John 7:19 a). It was the glory of Israel that God had given to them the law on Mount Sinai. No other nation had such a revelation of the mind and will of God as that which was given to them. “And yet,” Jesus says, “[not one] of you keepeth the law.” Not one man had been found, until Christ came, who walked in complete obedience to that law. Therefore the law could only condemn. It said, “Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them” (Galatians 3:10 ). And in the New Testament we read, “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all” (James 2:10 ). How that cuts out from under us any possibility of justifying ourselves before God by obedience to His law. No one but Christ has ever obeyed perfectly. And yet He went to Calvary’s cross and bore the curse of the broken law in order that we might be redeemed.
But these people in Israel were so occupied with their own special place and privileges that they gloried in that which could only condemn them. And the Lord Jesus put His finger at once upon a sore spot. He said, “Why go ye about to kill me?” (John 7:19 b). But, of course, the common people were not aware of all this, and the crowd answered and said, “Thou hast a demon. You are demon-possessed. Who goeth about to kill thee?” (v. 20, author’s paraphrase). Doesn’t it show how lowly He had become? He is the Creator of heaven and earth, and He stands calmly there among His own people and allows them to bring a charge like this against Him. Yet He answered them so quietly. They said, “Thou hast a [demon].” And Jesus said, “I have done one work, and ye all marvel” (v. 21).
To what was He referring? To the healing of the man at the Pool of Bethesda. They had never forgiven Him for healing that man on the Sabbath. The word had gone out that He was a lawbreaker, because He had found that poor soul, who had been thirty-eight years helpless, and He had made him whole on the Sabbath. They concluded that this was a violation of the law. Jesus showed them that there were certain things that had to be done on the Sabbath: circumcision of a child, for instance. Jesus declared, “Moses gave you this covenant.” On the Sabbath day they carried out this requirement. On the Sabbath day they put the sign of the covenant upon the body of a child. And if a man on the Sabbath day received circumcision, why were they annoyed with Him because He made a man every whit whole on the Sabbath? If God gave strength to a helpless cripple, a paralytic, and He chose to do it through Jesus on the Sabbath day, should they not rather rejoice that God was visiting His people and pouring out blessing upon mankind?
Then He adds, “Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment” (v. 24). How we need to take that to heart! How quick we are to judge without knowing all the facts! That is what they did. They heard He had come and made the man whole on the Sabbath. They jumped to the conclusion that He was controlled by Satan and breaking the law of God, and so they condemned Him as if He had sinned against the law. Yet all the time it was God’s own Son acting in grace toward needy souls!
Our blessed Lord said in another place, “Judge not, that ye be not judged” (Matthew 7:1 ). And then He added solemnly, “For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again” (v. 2). What did He really mean? There are times when Christians are called upon to judge. For instance, if evil breaks out among believers, Christians are called upon to judge the wicked person and put him away from their fellowship, and if they do not then God will hold the church responsible.
How is that to be harmonized with these words, “Judge not, that ye be not judged”? There our Lord was referring to motives. You and I are not competent to judge the underlying motives of the acts of others. Oh, how cruel we are at times! Perhaps I am prejudiced against someone and yet cannot find any fault in his outward life, but I am ready to attribute evil to anything he does. Perhaps a man gives a large contribution to the work of the Lord, and I say, “Oh, he is just doing that to make an impression.” It is concerning such things that the Lord Jesus says, “It is not for you to judge.” God reads the heart; you do not. “Judge not according to the appearance.” “Man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7 ). “Judge righteous judgment,” and righteous judgment, of course, is on the basis of that which is manifest and clear. This, you see, was not the case when they were judging Him for breaking the law.
But they were perplexed. “Then said some of them of Jerusalem, Is not this he, whom they seek to kill?” (John 7:25 ). They knew that the leaders were trying to apprehend Him and put Him to death, and yet His words and bearing were so wonderful that they could not understand why anybody should hate Him and want to kill Him. So they asked wonderingly, “‘Is not this he, whom they seek to kill?’ Then why is He so bold and without fear? Does He not know they are lurking on the outskirts of the crowd, and yet He speaks so boldly. Do the rulers know who He is? After all, can it be that our leaders know in their hearts that He is the promised Messiah?” You know, of course, that the Greek word Christ and the Hebrew word Messiah are one and the same, and both mean “the Anointed.” “Can it be that our rulers know that He is God’s Anointed-the One who was to come into the world for the deliverance of Israel?”
And yet they are puzzled. “After all, it can’t be, because we know this Man and where He comes from.” They knew He was born in Bethlehem. But they say, “When Christ cometh, no man knoweth whence he is” (v. 27). Why, the Word of God said, “But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting” (Micah 5:2).
Who is this strange mysterious personality? They say, “We can’t understand that, but this Man we know all about.” He was born in Bethlehem, He lived in Nazareth, and worked at the carpenter’s bench. But Jesus took them up on what they were saying. He could hear the very thoughts of their hearts and “cried… in the temple as he taught, saying, Ye both know me, and ye know whence I am: and I am not come of myself, but he that sent me is true, whom ye know not” (John 7:28 ). “You know that I was born at Bethlehem and lived in Nazareth, but you don’t know My Father. You don’t know the One who sent Me. If you did, then you would receive Me. But I know Him; I know who the Father is. I am from Him and He hath sent Me.” And in this He was declaring His Deity, because you remember it says that He came from God and went to God, and He prayed, “Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was” (17:5). He was One with the Father from all eternity. He was conscious of that as a Man down here on earth. He knew the Father in a sense that no one else did.
But, in their minds, this was tantamount to blasphemy. They endeavored to arrest Him, but no man laid hands on Him because His hour was not yet come. That should make clear to us that Jesus was not subject to man’s power. Jesus did not die on the cross because He was helpless in the hands of His enemies. Not until the appointed hour when He was to go out to die was it possible for anybody to injure Him or for anybody to put Him to death. “No man laid hands on him, because his hour was not yet come” (7:30). As a result of this we read that many of the people believed on Him. That does not necessarily mean that they trusted Him as Savior, but they believed in His sincerity that He was in all likelihood the true Messiah. They were waiting now to see how He would manifest Himself. For they said, “When Christ cometh, will he do more miracles than these which this man hath done?” (v. 31). How could they credit any other person as Messiah if He was not the One predicted by the prophets who was to come for the deliverance of Israel?
But the Pharisees, the most strict of the Jews who were looked upon as rigidly orthodox, who accepted all the great doctrines of the Bible and yet some way or other had refused to receive the Lord Jesus Christ, they heard that the people murmured concerning Him and these Pharisees and the chief priests sent officers to take Him. He met them and said to them, “Yet a little while am I with you, and then I go unto him that sent me” (v. 33), as much as to say, “You cannot take Me, the hour is not come. I am not ready to be delivered into your hands. I am still going on with My ministry among you.” “Yet a little while I am with you, and then I go (voluntarily of My own will) unto Him that sent Me.”
He knew that He was going by way of the cross, by way of the tomb. He had come into the world for that very purpose. But from the tomb He was to rise triumphant and to ascend into the presence of the Father. And to those to whom He had come and ministered, but who had set their hearts against Him, He said, “Ye shall seek me, and shall not find me: and where I am, thither ye cannot come” (v. 34). Solemn words, not only for them, but for people living today. For once more Jesus is presenting Himself to mankind through the preaching of the gospel and is asking men to open their hearts to receive Him, but they refuse to do it. For them the time will come when they shall seek Him but shall not find Him. He meant that when He should go back to the Father, if they persisted in refusing obedience to His message, they could never be with Him yonder.
Do you see how contrary that is to the conception that many have that no matter how folks live, everybody is going to heaven at last?
We would like to believe that there is something about death so purifying that the soul would be made clean from sin, but we dare not believe it with the testimony of the gospel to the contrary. No, no. Jesus says, “If you refuse to accept My testimony, ‘where I am, thither ye cannot come.’” Unless men receive Christ here on earth they will never be with Him in eternity. Have you trusted Him? Have you accepted Him as your own personal Savior? Or are you still debating and saying, “Maybe some day I will settle this question.” Be persuaded that your time is short. Your opportunity will soon be gone. Be sure you close with Him as He waits in grace, before He says to you, “Ye shall seek me, and shall not find me.”
The Jews did not understand that He spoke of His death. They said, “Whither will he go, that we shall not find him? will he go unto the dispersed among the Gentiles, and teach the Gentiles?” (v. 35). What did they mean by this? Well, you see, centuries had elapsed since Israel had been dispersed among the Gentiles. Year after year many came up to Jerusalem to keep the feasts, but their homes were among the Gentiles, and the Jews who lived in Palestine looked upon them with a measure of scorn. They asked, “Will He go out to these wanderers among the Gentiles and preach to them?” No, He did not mean that exactly, and yet there was a sense in which that would be true, for after His resurrection His gospel was to be carried not only to the dispersed of Israel but to the Gentiles everywhere.
But that was not exactly what He meant when He said, “Where I am, thither ye cannot come.” He was referring to His ascension into heaven. But they asked, “What manner of saying is this that he said, Ye shall seek me, and shall not find me: and where I am, thither ye cannot come?” (v. 36). And with this the present conversation broke up. The Lord Jesus apparently turned away and said no more to them, but left them to think it out and debate the question among themselves. Later on He appeared again among them on the last day, the great day of the feast, but this must be reserved for our next address.
Have we trusted Him? Have we opened our hearts to Him? Oh, if we have, let us seek to go on to serve Him better and let us seek, by grace, to become increasingly like Him by witnessing to a lost world.
In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.)
In these verses our Lord was directing the minds of His listeners on to a new dispensation. He came, as we know, under the law. He came in exact accordance with all Old Testament prophetic Scripture. He came to magnify the law and to make it honorable. But throughout His glorious ministry, while pointing out the failures of the people under the law, He spoke constantly of that grace and truth which He came to make known.
We have already considered His various interviews in the temple, and now we come to something that took place on the last day, the great day of the feast of tabernacles. It had been customary on the last day to have a special service called “the pouring out of the water.” On that day a company of white-robed priests went down to the Pool of Siloam. They filled their jars with water from the pool, and then walked back to the temple and poured out the water in the presence of the people. This was to call to their minds the marvelous provision that God had made for Israel during the days of their wandering in the wilderness.
When they came murmuring to Moses, he cried to God. And He said, “Thy rod, wherewith thou smotest the river, take in thy hand, and go. Behold, I will stand before thee there upon the rock in Horeb; and thou shalt smite the rock, and there shall come water out of it” (Exodus 17:5-6 ). Moses did so. As the rock was cleft the water gushed out, and the people had all they needed. On a later occasion, shortly before they entered into the land, when again they were in distress because of lack of water, God said, “Take the rod [Aaron’s rod], and gather thou the assembly together, thou, and Aaron thy brother, and speak ye unto the rock before their eyes; and it shall give forth his water” (Numbers 20:8 ). But Moses smote the rock twice. The water came out abundantly, but Moses had not followed God’s directions. He was a bit troubled and irritated, and he made a great blunder. Sometimes, you know, God’s servants do get troubled and upset.
Moses actually lost his temper on this occasion. As a result he spoiled God’s lovely type. The smiting of the rock in obedience to God in Exodus 17 was a beautiful type of the smiting of Christ with the rod of judgment. When Moses lifted the rod up over the Red Sea, the waters parted asunder and the people went through on dry ground, so it was perfectly proper that he should use the same rod on the rock. That rock was Christ. Christ had to be smitten in judgment on Calvary’s cross, and when the wrath of God that was our due fell upon Him and He bowed His head beneath that rod-when the Rock of Ages was cleft for us-the living water flowed forth for the refreshment of a famished world. But you know He was only smitten once in judgment. Having died for our sins, He is never to die again and will never have to know the smiting of the rod of judgment again. That question has been settled once for all.
God commanded Moses on the second occasion to take Aaron’s rod and go out and speak to the rock, and it should give forth its water. That is, he was to take the rod of priesthood, reminding us that our Savior is now ministering in the presence of God as our great High Priest. He does not need to be smitten again to sustain our life. But we read in Numbers 20, “Moses lifted up his hand, and with his rod he smote the rock twice” (v. 11), after he had said to the people, “Hear now, ye rebels; must we fetch you water out of this rock?” (v. 10). And so he spoiled the type of God’s lovely picture of the present work of His Son.
But-oh, the grace of God!-in spite of the failure of the servant the water gushed out. God still, in His infinite grace, meets people’s need far beyond their understanding. But read what happened to Moses. God said, “Now because you did not sanctify Me in the eyes of the people-you smote the rock and were angry-you will not go into the land but will die in the wilderness” (v. 12, author’s paraphrase). And oh, how Moses pleaded and prayed that he might go in, but the Lord at last said, “Speak to Me no more of these matters. You will not go in, but you can go up and see the land.” So Moses’ prayer, in that instance, could not be answered. Afterward, of course, fifteen hundred years afterward, God did allow him to enter the land. When the disciples were on the Mount of Transfiguration, they looked up and saw the Lord Jesus Christ, and with Him were Moses and Elias. God let him go in, but it was when he could be there as the companion of the Lord Jesus Christ.
But now going back to the memorial of the smiting of the rock. The priests, in the observance of the feast of tabernacles, brought the water from the Pool of Siloam (which means “Sent”), and they poured that water out before the Lord in the presence of the people. And on the last day Jesus stepped forward and cried, saying, “If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink” (John 7:37 ). And today He stands crying the same wonderful words: “If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink.”
Note the universality of the message. Is there any man who does not thirst and who does not know what it is to yearn and long for that which is eternal? And Jesus says, “If any man thirst”-not just select cases, and He does not even indicate the nature of the thirst. He might have said, as He did once, “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness” (Matthew 5:6 ). He might have said, “If any man thirst after goodness, after purity, after holiness, let him come unto me, and drink.” But He makes it far wider than that. He says, “If any man thirst.” That is for every one of us.
You may say, “Yes, I am thirsting for pleasure. I want to find more joy and delight in living.” Well, my dear friends, if any man thirst after real pleasure and lasting joy, Jesus says, “Let him come unto me, and drink.” It is written, “At Thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore” (Psalms 16:11 ). What Jesus said concerning the water of that well in Samaria is just as true of all that earth has to offer-”Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again” (John 4:13 ). You may try all of the different pleasures of earth, they will never quench your thirst. We grant that there is a measure of pleasure in sin, but you know Scripture says that “Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season” (Hebrews 11:24 ). That is all, they last only a little while. They are like some of these sweet drinks that you take in the summer, and every time you drink you become only the more thirsty. So it is with all that the world has to offer. But Jesus says to those who try the world but are thirsty still, “Come to Me and drink, and you will never thirst again.”
Someone says, “Well I am not concerned about pleasure, but I thirst for wealth-for the means to make things comfortable for my family and myself.” Yes, but the wealth of this world passes away. But if you want pleasure that will last forever and the wealth that will abide, come to Jesus and heed His gracious invitation, and you will be wealthy forevermore.
Perhaps you thirst for the good opinion of others-to be well thought of. Oh, dear friends, there is nothing like having the good opinion of God Himself, and you get that when you trust His blessed Son, when you receive the Lord Jesus Christ as your own Savior. Then God Himself guarantees that you shall participate with Him in glory-that shall last forever.
Jesus says of His own, “The glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one” (John 17:22 ). We often sing that “Glory” song, and one verse goes,
When by His grace I shall look on His face,
That will be glory, be glory for me!
Some object to that phrase and say they would rather sing, “That will be glory for Him.” Well, of course, that will be glory for Him, but on the other hand it will be glory for me to gaze on His blessed face and be with Him for all eternity. How perfectly satisfied we shall be in that day! Yes, “if any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink.”
And then He adds, “He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water” (7:38). To come unto Him and drink is to believe Him and the message He has given, to put your trust in Him. “He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.” Now where has the Scripture said this? Well, there may not be any exact verse of Scripture that says in so many words that he that believes on Jesus from within him shall flow rivers of living water, but I take it that the Lord is referring to the general tenor of Scripture. The living water flowing forth from the smitten rock-Scripture after Scripture indicates that truth. In Isaiah 41:17-18 is a glorious promise that really refers to the very same thing as that of which our Lord Jesus Christ speaks. Refreshment and blessing spiritually is for those who put their trust in this Savior that God has provided. “When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue faileth for thirst, I the LORD will hear them, I the God of Israel will not forsake them. I will open rivers in high places, and fountains in the midst of the valleys: I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water.”
Then in 43:19-20 of the same book, that of the prophet Isaiah, it is written, “Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert. The beast of the field shall honour me, the dragons and the owls: because I give waters in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert, to give drink to my people, my chosen.”
And then again in Isaiah 44:3 , “For I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground: I will pour my spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring.”
One other quotation from the same prophet, “And the LORD shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones: and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not” (58:11). The heart of the believer is pictured there. The very inward being of the believer is as a watered garden with streams flowing out for the blessing of others.
Jeremiah uses the same figure in 31:12, “Therefore they shall come and sing in the height of Zion, and shall flow together to the goodness of the LORD, for wheat, and for wine, and for oil, and for the young of the flock and of the herd: and their soul shall be as a watered garden; and they shall not sorrow any more at all.”
And then in that lovely book, the Canticles, the holy of holies of the Old Testament, we have the believer typified by the bride, and pictured as one whose heart is a garden from which the water flows forth: “A garden inclosed is my sister, my spouse; a spring shut up, a fountain sealed… A fountain of gardens, a well of living waters, and streams from Lebanon” (Song of Solomon 4:12; Son_4:15). It is living water flowing out from the garden for the blessing of others.
And one other Old Testament Scripture: “Drink waters out of thine own cistern, and running waters out of thine own well. Let thy fountains be dispersed abroad, and rivers of waters in the streets” (Proverbs 5:15-16).
And so in all of these passages, to which many more might be added, we have the thought of the Spirit of God dwelling within the child of God as living water and flowing out in blessing to others.
This refers to the work of the Spirit of God in this present age as well as in the glorious kingdom age. This is clearly indicated in verse 39 of our text, “But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Spirit was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.”
The Lord Jesus Christ was pointing on to a time when He was going back to the Father, after being smitten on the cross, when the Holy Spirit was to come in a new sense to take possession of and dwell within all believers, in order that they, by their testimony, might carry refreshment and joy to others. And, dear Christian, how concerned you and I ought to be as to whether we are allowing anything in our lives that is hindering the outflow of living waters. Just as a stream flowing out from a garden might become choked and hindered by stones and rubbish, so may unholy things in our lives choke and hinder the flow of blessing. I am afraid we Christians hinder the outflow by selfishness, by worldliness, by careless behavior, by unjudged sin, etc. All of these things hinder the outflow of the living water. If we have come to Christ, if we are living in the enjoyment of His love, and are not allowing anything to hinder our communion with Him, then indeed we shall be channels of blessing from and through whom the living water shall flow forth constantly.
Many of the people therefore, when they heard this saying, said, Of a truth this is the Prophet. Others said, This is the Christ. But some said, Shall Christ come out of Galilee? Hath not the scripture said, That Christ cometh of the seed of David, and out of the town of Bethlehem, where David was? So there was a division among the people because of him. And some of them would have taken him; but no man laid hands on him. Then came the officers to the chief priests and Pharisees; and they said unto them, Why have ye not brought him? The officers answered, Never man spake like this man. Then answered them the Pharisees, Are ye also deceived? Have any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed on him? But this people who knoweth not the law are cursed. Nicodemus saith unto them, (he that came to Jesus by night, being one of them,) Doth our law judge any man, before it hear him, and know what he doeth? They answered and said unto him, Art thou also of Galilee? Search, and look: for out of Galilee ariseth no prophet. And every man went unto his own house.
In the previous address we considered our Lord ’s wonderful declaration concerning the coming of the Holy Spirit when He cried on the last day of the feast of tabernacles, “If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink” (v. 37). And then He added, “He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water” (v. 38). The Evangelist explained the meaning of the living water when He said, “But this spake he of the Spirit which they that believe on him should receive” (v. 39). The people who heard our Lord Jesus speaking in this way of the living water naturally connected the Old Testament passages that told of the living water with the day of the Messiah, for they knew from the prophecies of Jeremiah and Isaiah that it was in His day when the gift of the living water would be given. So they at once jumped to the conclusion that our Lord was declaring His Messiahship, and indeed He was. Yet He knew that the time had not arrived when all this blessing should come to the nation of Israel, but the blessing that they refused was to go out to the Gentiles and was to be enjoyed by a remnant of Israel who would put their trust in Him.
Those who were listening to the Lord turned one to another and some said, “Of a truth this is the Prophet” (v. 40). What did they mean by “the Prophet”? They were thinking of the words of Moses in Deuteronomy 18. There, beginning with verse 15, we hear Moses speaking to the people of Israel as they were gathered about him on the plains of Moab before they entered the land of Canaan. He said, “The LORD thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken; according to all that thou desiredst of the LORD thy God in Horeb in the day of the assembly, saying, Let me not hear again the voice of the LORD my God, neither let me see this great fire any more, that I die not. And the LORD said unto me, They have well spoken that which they have spoken. I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him. And it shall come to pass, that whosoever will not hearken unto my words which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him” (vv. 15-19).
These words referred to our Lord Jesus Christ. In the book of the Acts when the apostle Peter was addressing the people, we read, “For Moses truly said unto the fathers, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you. And it shall come to pass, that every soul, which will not hear that prophet, shall be destroyed from among the people” (3:22-23). So these Jews who were listening to the teaching of our Lord Jesus by putting various things together that they had heard and thinking of the marvelous signs He had performed among them, said, “This must be the One for whom we have waited.” You see, He was to come from among themselves. God will “raise up unto you of your brethren.” They were terrified when God spoke in flaming fire in Mount Sinai and said, “Moses, you speak to us, but not God, lest we die” (Exodus 20:19 , author’s paraphrase). And God said, “Well, I will raise up a Prophet like unto Moses. He will be My messenger to them, but whosoever will not hear that Prophet I will require it of him,” or “he shall be destroyed.”
They were not quite sure, but they thought this must be He. And others said, “This is the Christ”-that is, “This is the Anointed One.” They knew from their Bibles that the day would come when God’s Anointed One should appear to them. That is why the Jews called Him the Messiah, for Messiah means the “Anointed One.” In Psalm 2 we read: “Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against his anointed, saying, Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us” (vv. 1-3). A little farther down in that same Psalm, in verse 6, it reads, “Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion.” “I have anointed My King upon My holy hill of Zion.” The Lord Jesus Christ is God’s Anointed. He is the One whom God Himself has anointed by the Spirit and sent into the world to be the Redeemer of lost mankind.
But some curled the lip and asked sarcastically, “Shall Christ come out of Galilee?” (John 7:41). These men of Judea despised the more ignorant and less religious folk of Galilee, and it was unthinkable to them that one who came from there could really be the Anointed One of God. Later on, in verse 52, we find them making a very false declaration about Galilee.
“Hath not the scripture said, That Christ cometh of the seed of David, and out of the town of Bethlehem, where David was?” (v. 42). Yes, the Scripture said that. The prophet Micah plainly declared it, and his prophecy was quoted at the birth of the Lord: “Thou Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, art not the least among the princes of Judah: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel” (Matthew 2:6 ). They knew that; it was in their Bibles. They knew Christ was to be born in Bethlehem. But they blundered now because they had never learned that He was born in Bethlehem, and that He did come from David through Mary, who was of the lineage of David. The birth of the Lord was a fulfillment, in all points, of prophecy. He was born of a virgin, He was born in Bethlehem, and He was born of David’s line, but they did not take the trouble to find out if these things were true or not.
When God gives His Word, ignorance of that Word does not excuse anyone. Many today are vastly ignorant of this Book, and perhaps imagine that in the day of judgment they can plead ignorance of it as an excuse for not understanding His will. But, remember, if you are ignorant of the Word of God, you are willfully ignorant. You have the Bible in your homes. If you do not study your Bibles, then you are responsible if you do not learn the mind of God. Jesus says, “Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life” (John 5:39). Oh, that there might come a great awakening of our responsibility to this! I am afraid there are thousands who rarely open their Bibles from one weekend to the other. They depend upon an occasional message from the pulpit or in the Sunday school, and, God knows, very often they get very little there. But there is no excuse, for you have the Bible, and you can read for yourselves. I am sure of this, if there would come a real sense of responsibility as to this and Christians would begin to read and study this Book to become familiar with the mind of God, we would soon have a great revival among the people of God and a great awakening among the Christless.
Sometime ago a dear missionary in England was telling us that he had left his station in India because of ill-health. He read us a letter from one of the native elders in the church in India. He was telling how much they missed him, and, yet, he went on to say, during his absence they were doing a great deal more praying and reading the Word. In fact, they were having a real “re-Bible.” And that missionary, when he read it to us, said, “I think what my Indian brother said is right, where we have ‘re-Bible’ we will have revival.” “Man [does] not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). But when people do not take the trouble to know, they will be held responsible for their ignorance.
We read that “there was a division among the people because of him” (John 7:43 ). There is still a division because of Him. Some said, “Is not this the Christ?” (4:29). There were others who said, “Will the Messiah come out of Galilee. No, we cannot accept Him.” So there are the two classes today. There are those who look up in faith and say, “We recognize in Him our Savior and Redeemer,” and there are those who spurn and refuse Him. But God has told us that there is no other name given among men whereby we must be saved. If we will not accept God’s testimony concerning Him, if we go on refusing to receive Him as Savior and Lord, then His own solemn words will be fulfilled, “Whither I go you cannot come, for except you believe that I am He, ye shall die in your sins.”
Yes, there is a division because of Him today. May I ask you tenderly now, On which side are you? Are you among those who have trusted in Him and received Him, or are you numbered among those who have spurned Him and rejected His grace? Thank God, if you are among the latter, it is not too late to come to Him in repentance and to take Him as your Savior.
There was a division among the people because of Him. Some would have taken and arrested Him, but no man laid hands on Him. The hour was not come when He was to be offered up. The Pharisees had sent certain officers to Him to arrest Him and bring Him before the Sanhedrin, but we are told in verse 45 that they came back empty handed. The chief priest said, “Why have ye not brought him?” “Why did you not arrest Him?” And the officers gave this wonderful answer, “Never man spake like this man” (v. 46). Yes, there was something about Jesus, something about His very message, His manner of speaking, and the matter of His instruction that stirred the hearts of these officers-hard, ruthless men-so that they found themselves absolutely helpless and paralyzed, and they did not dare arrest Him. They went away baffled and amazed. Who is this One who speaks with such power? “Never man spake like this man.”
And as they answered the chief priests and Pharisees like this, they thought these officers must have been persuaded of the Messiahship of Jesus. They said, “Are ye also deceived?” (v. 47). They meant, “Are you also deceived so that you are not able to weigh things carefully and thoughtfully?” Then they asked, “Have any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed on him?” (v. 48). The great ones, as a rule, are not given to believing on Him. But God has chosen the poor of this world, the people that are despised. He uses the things that are not to bring to nought things that are. The great ones seldom get in. But yet, on the other hand, there have always been those even in the higher ranks of life who have discerned the beauty and blessedness of our Lord Jesus, and so among the outstanding saints of God have been men and women even in royal or important families. God has saints even among wealthy people, and that is a great thing, you know.
They asked, “Have any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed on him?” They declared that these people who know not the law are given up to judgment because they do not understand. This was the opportunity for Nicodemus to show where he stood. He was one of the Pharisees, one of the doctors of the law, an authority on the Scriptures. Nicodemus spoke right up, “(he that came to Jesus by night, being one of them), Doth our law judge any man before it hear him, and know what he doeth?” (vv. 50-51). As much as to say, “Have you heard Him yourself? Have you seen His works of power? If you have not, then why do you pass judgment? Why do you say He is a deceiver?” In other words, Nicodemus is saying, “Investigate before you judge.” And we would say that today to all those who try to refute the claims of the Lord Jesus Christ, “Investigate before you judge.” If you are an agnostic or infidel, and you say, “I can’t believe the story of Jesus Christ. I can’t believe He was the Son of God, born of a virgin,” let me ask you what investigation of the records have you made?
I think almost all well-educated ministers of the gospel have read scores of books by men who reject the Bible and refuse the testimony of the Lord Jesus Christ. I can say that I have read literally hundreds of such books written by unbelievers. “Have they not shaken your faith in the Bible?” you ask. No, they only show me the folly of unbelief. But having said that, let me say this, I have never met an infidel yet who has ever read one serious book on Christian evidences. Now there may be some, but I have never met one who has. Men read the arguments from the other side, but the average objector does not take the trouble to read the books written in defense of the truth of God.
I knew a lawyer who was an infidel by his own confession for years. Finally, someone said, “But you haven’t read the other side.” “I have made up my mind,” was the reply. “Yes, but you have never read the other side. There is an old book-it is called Nelson on Infidelity-suppose you read it.” “Well,” he said, “I presume I ought to.” He read it. Before he finished he was a Christian. There are many such books, as Dr. A. T. Pierson’s Many Infallible Proofs, and others one might speak of. The trouble is with the enemies of the cross of Christ, they are not willing to investigate because they do not want to give up some sin that the Bible condemns. They know that to become Christians would mean turning from sin and yielding their wills to Christ.
Nicodemus throws down the challenge and says, “Doth our law judge any man, before it hear him, and know what he doeth?” Do they answer him? Oh, not at all. They answer, it is true, but their answer is an evasion. They said, “Art thou also of Galilee? Search, and look: for out of Galilee ariseth no prophet” (v. 52). And again they showed their ignorance. They thought they knew it all, these dignified doctors. They thought that “all scholars were agreed” with them, and when one of their own number comes out to speak for Him they say, “Art thou also of Galilee?” “Are you also going to join that crowd? No prophet ever came out of Galilee.” They had not been reading their Bibles very carefully. They forgot that Jonah was from Gath-Hepher, a town in Galilee (see 2 Kings 14:25 ). Then, too, it is generally believed that Nahum was a Galilean. So at least one prophet had come out of Galilee, perhaps two, and it was not impossible that another should. But they said, “Look: for out of Galilee ariseth no prophet.” That is the way men do away with the truth of God today. Oh, dear friends, do not be unfair to your own souls. If you have never yet investigated the claims of the Lord Jesus Christ, I beg of you to do so. It is the height of folly to assume that His claims are false, when you have never weighed the evidence.
But now let us come back to those words used by the officers. They said of Him, “Never man spake like this man,” and I want you think of those words as indicating the wonderful character of our Lord Jesus Christ. His words were words of power. It was not merely the lovely similes and beautiful illustrations that led them to speak like that. They said, “Never man spake like this man.” Think of some of His sayings. If He declares, “Now in the law it is written so and so, but I say unto you.” Surely never man spake like this Man!
Think of the power of His words! When the people in distress came to Him. The blind man said, “Lord, that I may receive my sight” (Luke 18:41 ). He put His hands upon his eyes and said, “Be opened,” and the blind man saw. Look at the poor leper, so unclean and polluted and denied. “If thou wilt, thou canst make me clean,” he said (Matthew 8:2 ). Jesus put forth His hand and touched him and said, “I will; be thou clean” (v. 3). As that leper looked at his clean flesh wonderingly, his heart said, “Never man spake like this man!” And then when Jesus stood by the dead or by the grave, as when He went into the house where the little daughter of Jairus was, and took her by the hand said, “[Little girl], I say unto thee, arise,” and she arose (Mark 5:41 ). Her parents must have thought, “Never man spake like this man.” At the grave of Lazarus, when they had rolled the stone away, He cried, “Lazarus, come forth. And he that was dead came forth” (John 11:43-44 ). I imagine that crowd must have said in their hearts, “Never man spake like this man.”
And oh, dear friends, when He hung upon the cross and He prayed for the transgressors and cried, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34 ), and then He exclaimed in triumph a little later, “It is finished” (John 19:30 )-surely “never man spake like this man!” When He came forth in resurrection and met His disciples and said, “All hail!” (Matthew 28:9 ), and later appeared among them and said, “As my Father hath sent me, even so send I you” (John 20:21 )-surely they must have gone away saying to themselves, “Never man spake like this man.” And now He has gone up to the glory of God and is sitting on the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. But in a little while He is coming back, and He will call the dead from the tomb and cause the living to be changed.
When He exclaims, “Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away” (Song of Solomon 2:13 ), we will rise and go singing our way through the air crying, “Never man spake like this man.” And when at last the ages of time have run their course and the Great White Throne is set, and the dead are called from their tombs and they stand before Him for judgment and look into the face of the One who walked the shores of Galilee, the One who spoke so tenderly to the troubled and distressed, when they see Him on the throne and they stand before Him to give account for their sins, and above all else, for the sin of rejecting His grace, and hear Him say (How I hope you will never have to hear Him say it!), “Depart from me, ye cursed, into the everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41 ), they will turn away wringing their hands and crying, “Never man spake like this man.” “Oh, if we had only accepted His testimony when He called in grace and said, ‘Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden (Matthew 11:28 ), and we would have never had to hear Him say, ‘Depart from me.’”
Today He speaks, and He says, “Come unto me…and I will give you rest.” “Today, if ye will hear his voice, harden not your heart, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness” (Psalms 95:7-8 ). He speaks to you who are in your sins and He promises you deliverance if you but trust Him. Let your hearts cry out: “Never man spake like this man!” Say, “I will take Him now as my Savior.”
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Ironside, H. A. "Commentary on John 7". Ironside's Notes on Selected Books. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Easter