Without a lot of opening fanfare, Keith gets right to the focus of the episode, right after a quick promo for the Christian Podcast Community. We wrap up this chapter in John 7 with a look at the religious leaders coming a little unglued. Betrayed by the confusion of the crowd, as seen in earlier sessions, and now betrayed by their own security force and even one of their own.
The officers who were sent back in verse 32, now return empty handed. At the command of the religious leaders, they had authority to haul in prisoners, jail them, and take them under force if needed. Why had they disobeyed? how could Jesus have slipped through their fingers?
The crowd was beginning to believe, and wondered that the leaders let him teach. Remember the events of verse 27 when the crowd began to wonder if they supported him?
Matthew 7:29 (ESV)
for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes.
Did the officers also wonder at the authority of his teaching? Were they beginning to believe, or see a higher authority in Jesus than in the religious leaders?
There had been much muttering, murmuring, and division in the people. Now the guard is being accused of this. To hear Jesus was to believe. Even the worst of sinners could be healed, reconciled and believe. Only the stubborn, hard hearted ones kept turning a blind eye, and a deaf ear. The stubborness reached even as high as the most educated in religion.
In Jewish history, an enemy king threatened that no one could keep the Israelites from falling to his hand. God still supported Hezekiah, and defeated the enemy king instead. As summarized from 2 Kings 18.
Is the status quo right? Should we seek to be on the right side of history? How about if we find out what God wants and join him in doing his work.
Even to his death the religious leaders called Jesus an imposter. Matthew 27:63 Paul puts it this way:
2 Corinthians 6:8 (ESV)
through honor and dishonor, through slander and praise. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true;
In verse 26, the crowd had their doubts, thinking Jesus was being accepted, and getting mixed signals from the religious elite. We’ll find that Nicodemus was on hand, as seen coming up in verse 50. From his description and taunts from the other leaders, he was inclined to believe Jesus. He may not have been the only of these educated leaders to believe.
John 12:42 (ESV)
Nevertheless, many even of the authorities believed in him, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue;
Jeremiah 5:4-5 (ESV)
4 Then I said, “These are only the poor; they have no sense; for they do not know the way of the LORD, the justice of their God.
5 I will go to the great and will speak to them, for they know the way of the LORD, the justice of their God.” But they all alike had broken the yoke; they had burst the bonds.
Matthew 11:25 (ESV)
At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children;
Acts 6:7 (ESV)
And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith.
God makes the wisdom of the world foolishness,. He chose the foolish to shame the wise and the strong. If these rulers would have understood, they would not have wanted to crucify Jesus. If they refused to be taught by their fellow, common men of the crowd, what about by the teaching of the prophets? To the religious leaders anyone beneath their station was in utter sin. There was nothing to be learned from them. John 9:34
Isaiah 5:21 (ESV)
Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and shrewd in their own sight!
Isaiah 28:14 (ESV)
Therefore hear the word of the LORD, you scoffers, who rule this people in Jerusalem!
The educated religious elite had lost sight of prophecies that told of the deaf receiving their hearing, the blind receiving sight and the humble being lifted. They were too holy, in their own eyes, to be bothered by the truth. Where is the wisdom of the world? What good is it?
1 Corinthians 3:18-20 (ESV)
18 Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise.
19 For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their craftiness,”
20 and again, “The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.”
Nicodemus enters the picture to defend Jesus from his vindictive peers. He had met with Jesus before in secret, at night.
John 3:1-2 (ESV)
1 Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews.
2 This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.”
He was in the ruling class. He said, we. He wasn’t alone in recognizing Christ. He came by night earlier, now he’s being called out on his stance in public. Later he would openly bring burial needs for Jesus.
John 19:39 (ESV)
Nicodemus also, who earlier had come to Jesus by night, came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds in weight.
Nicodemus tried to talk sense to them, using the logic of their own laws. Processes they should have known very well, and had no need of being reminded.
Deuteronomy 1:17 (ESV)
You shall not be partial in judgment. You shall hear the small and the great alike. You shall not be intimidated by anyone, for the judgment is God’s. And the case that is too hard for you, you shall bring to me, and I will hear it.’
A fair hearing was demanded, discovering all the evidence, and using reliable witnesses. Then after consulting the known laws, make a judgement. None of which were being done.
Once decided, the judge had the final say. Then carry out the sentence diligently was expected. Deuteronomy 17:8
One witness wasn’t enough. There had to be 2 or more. B ing careful of false witnesses.
A false witness was to bear the punishment intended for the accused. As summarized from Deuteronomy 19:15-19
To put it simply, Nicodemus was reminding his peers to listen, and not to judge in haste. How did they take such sage advice?
They turned on Nicodemus. He was in good company of being turned on for intending good for his countryman.
Exodus 2:14 (ESV)
He answered, “Who made you a prince and a judge over us? Do you mean to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?” Then Moses was afraid, and thought, “Surely the thing is known.”
False leaders don’t take it well when truth confrontes them.
1 Kings 22:24 (ESV)
Then Zedekiah the son of Chenaanah came near and struck Micaiah on the cheek and said, “How did the Spirit of the LORD go from me to speak to you?”
Proverbs 9:7-8 (ESV)
7 Whoever corrects a scoffer gets himself abuse, and he who reproves a wicked man incurs injury.
8 Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you; reprove a wise man, and he will love you.
What about this Galilee claim? It was intended as a disparaging remark to link Nicodemus to the backwater region. Even his disciples held a similar thought. Can anything good come from there? John 1:46. It’s a misunderstanding that no prophet, or anything good would come from there. , even among these leaders. Matthew quotes Isaih in Matthew 4:15-16
Isaiah 9:1-2 (ESV)
1 But there will be no gloom for her who was in anguish. In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he has made glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations.
2 The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone.
We close with a challenge, not for these verses, but the final one that leads into our next passage. Most bible scholars recognize that it isn’t likely original to John’s gospel, but many still defend the lesson taught in it.
Next time, a big challenge and… The Woman Caught in Adultery
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Thanks to the recorded comments from J Vernon McGee. His ministry and daily bible study lives on through Through the Bible Ministries (ttb.org)
Scriptures in the show notes and episode are quoted from the King James Version, except when read by Keith, then it’s the NASB.
Scripture quotations are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”