Letters to the Prison - Week 69

Hello, everyone.  We’re so grateful for the chance to consider God’s word with you.  Please be sure to thank the people who make these posts available to you.  If you need a Bible, ask for one!  
Last week we saw the unbelief of Jesus’ brothers and a profound thing Jesus says about himself:  He has the authority to judge the world… and the world hates him for it.  Moving on, we’ll see a few things other people say about Jesus:
•The Jews were looking for him at the feast, and saying, “Where is he?” 12 And there was much muttering about him among the people. While some said, “He is a good man,” others said, “No, he is leading the people astray.” 13 Yet for fear of the Jews no one spoke openly of him.-John 7:11-13
Seems like everyone is talking about Jesus at this feast… but no one has the right information.  The Jewish leaders don’t know where Jesus is…
Some people are saying Jesus is a “good man.”  Jesus is fully man…  and he is good… but that’s not the whole story.  Jesus’ own claims about himself and his actions don’t leave “nice guy” as an option.  He is either God incarnate here to save sinners, or he is a raving lunatic… or worse.
Some say, “he is leading the people astray.”  Astray from what?  From the “comfortable” traditions of the superficial and hypocritical religious system of the day?  From the oppressive and abusive Roman government?  From the “anything goes” depravity of the 1st-century pagan world?  We see Jesus leading people from these things today…  and the world hates him for it.
We see here that the crowd had lots of opinions, but no one had the right answers.  This is the dire peril of crowd mentality.  Just because a bunch of people agree about something doesn’t make it right… or true…  This danger is as real today as it was back then.
The Jews in verse 7 are the Jewish religious leaders who were searching for Jesus with hostile intent.  The Jewish leaders’ hostility will become open and apparent soon enough.  But for the moment, we know their intentions are not good because, in verse 13, everyone else is afraid of the Jewish leaders to the point where no one is speaking openly of Jesus.  So, even though the Jewish leaders will later blatantly deny that they intend to murder Jesus, the crowd already clearly senses the danger of discussing Jesus openly.
We see this hostility toward Jesus today as well.  It might not be blatant hostility (sometimes it is).  But try bringing Jesus up seriously in a normal conversation with someone you’ve just met or in a public place often enough and you will undoubtedly encounter some kind of hostility toward Jesus… either openly or covertly.  Many Christians feel an intense unspoken pressure to keep their beliefs about Jesus to themselves.  They fear being shamed or ridiculed or mocked or threatened.  People are often murdered for their belief in Jesus.  This is the sort of hostility the world continues to hold against Jesus even today.  And, very often, the crowd tends to go along with the world in this hostility.  So, listening to and following the crowd without carefully considering the facts for ourselves can be a dangerous prospect.
We’ll see more of the danger of crowd mentality later in our study.
Meanwhile, the Feast of Booths is a seven-day feast.  And:
•14 About the middle of the feast Jesus went up into the temple and began teaching. 15 The Jews therefore marveled, saying, “How is it that this man has learning, when he has never studied?”-John 7:14-15
Jesus, having arrived discretely, “went up into the temple and began teaching” (John 7:14) about the third or fourth day of the feast.  We’re not told what exactly he is teaching, but it is clearly profound and accurate.  The Jews are marveling at his teaching because Jesus had no formal human training in the Scriptures.  Humanly, he was the son of a carpenter from Nazareth.  Usually, if one is going to teach in the temple in Jerusalem, he must first study intensely under a leading and respected Jewish Rabbi.  Since Jesus had never done such a thing, the people listening to him were amazed and trying to figure out where he got his education.  Jesus gives them the answer:
•16 So Jesus answered them, “My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me.       -John 7:16
Jesus, having clearly claimed to be sent by God from heaven numerous times already, is asserting here that his teaching is God’s teaching.  This is a profound assertion to make.  But when we consider that Jews in that day placed an extremely high value in the teachings of their human Rabbis, what Jesus says here is even more shocking.  Typically, a Jewish Rabbi follows a long tradition of rabbinical teaching as a student before they themselves begin to teach.  So, when they teach, they are teaching from sometimes ancient traditions that have been thought through, debated, and documented for generations.   In mathematics, this would be the equivalent of teaching someone through numerous courses in basic arithmetic, algebra, geometry and trigonometry before going into calculus.  And all of the formulas and theories taught there are already well-established by often ancient scholars.
So, what Jesus is doing at this moment would be like an “uneducated” man with no human training walking into a college classroom and teaching complex mathematical equations with a profound understanding of all existing knowledge of math.  
And when people ask Jesus who trained him, he answers “God.”  They can’t refute his teaching, and they can’t deny what they know about his human upbringing and lack of any human educational “pedigree.”  
So, when Jesus claims to bring God’s teaching… and that teaching is perfectly accurate –even correcting the long-established ideas of ancient rabbinical scholars—how will his enemies respond?  We’ll see in a few verses that they are left with two choices:  Agree that Jesus is who he says he is and follow him… or deny him and try to silence him.  Interestingly, this is exactly the same choice the world has today about Jesus.  And some choose to follow while others choose to try and silence Jesus.  
Friends, we encourage you today:  Stand firm in the truth about Jesus.  Pray that we would do the same.  We love you!  Until next week!

Dean A.



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