“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.” Yet for fear of the Jews no one spoke openly of him. About the middle of the feast Jesus went up into the temple and began teaching. The Jews therefore marveled, saying, “How is it that this man has learning, when he has never studied?” So Jesus answered them, “My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me. If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority. The one who speaks on his own authority seeks his own glory; but the one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and in him there is no falsehood.”
John 7:12-18 ESV
Staying silent out of fear… (for fear of the Jews no one spoke openly of him) Some of us are just naturally outspoken and we don’t mind telling people what we think regardless of popular opinion or backlash. I know a few folks like that, you might be one of them. But, most of us are not that way and when our position or opinion is unpopular then we tend to go quiet and keep to ourselves. Now, get us angry or upset over something and we might get loud and, sometimes, obnoxious. But, when our views are not shared by the “cool kids” we tend to fade into the background. That is the basic situation we see in this passage. The crowds were interested and fascinated by Jesus’ words and powerful teaching, but out of fear they held back and wouldn’t commit to follow him.
In fact, it is fascinating to see how similar this situation is to our own culture. As our culture changes and shifts, followers of Christ are being increasingly confronted with choices of cultural compliance or Christian conviction. It wasn’t too long ago that our basic beliefs were culturally popular and generally accepted by mainstream media. However, we are all aware that is no longer the case and it has many of us upset, vocal, and even some are politically motivated to action.
Sounds a lot like the Zealots of the New Testament who incited the revolt against Rome and caused the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. In fact, one of the disciples, Simon the zealot, appears to have been a part of this political faction. However, Jesus called Simon to abandon his desire for political revolution in favor of spiritual transformation.
In some ways, we’ve lost sight of this very foundational principle of our Christian beliefs. In the very next chapter Jesus says, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32 ESV) While political and physical freedom are never trivial issues, they are certainly secondary to spiritual freedom. In other words, you can strive and fight for political freedom and still be a slave to sin and spend eternity bound because of your failure to recognize this fact. We must speak out for those who are victims of oppression or slavery. We must fight for the freedom of all, not just a few. But, NEVER lose sight of the fact that political freedom is secondary to spiritual transformation and freedom in Jesus.
So, will you stay silent out of fear or will you speak out? Before you open your mouth, consider this…
Out of order… have you ever watched a movie or TV crime drama where someone speaks out in a courtroom and the Judge slams down his gavel and declares them, “Out of order!” When the judge does this, he is declaring that the person speaking has done so without having the courts permission. The proper “order” or sequence is for the judge to authorize them or give them permission to speak or respond. But, when he has given permission to speak then you are acting under his or the court’s authority and you may speak freely, but must still stay within the bounds defined by the judge or the court. Occasionally you’ll hear one of the court’s officers declare an “objection” to something being said because they believe you’ve stepped outside of the bounds set by the court. The judge will then render a decision on whether the court agrees (sustained) or disagrees (overruled).
Now, you and I are likely sitting there wide eyed and confused by all these court proceedings. We are dependent upon our “counsel” to act and speak on our behalf and to interpret the proceedings to us. In a sense, this is what Jesus is doing. He is acting as our court counsel. When he speaks he is speaking under the authority and direction of God and when God the father speaks, Jesus tells us what he has said.
The Jews marvel at Jesus’ wisdom because he has never gone to school or been taught by the rabbis and elders. Jesus’ response is that he can speak this way because he’s NOT speaking his own words or wisdom but God’s words and wisdom. I wonder how often we speak out but in ignorance not wisdom.
I’ve been educated in several subjects, as have most of you. In fact, we often take great pride in our educational achievements. I firmly believe we ought to seek to be educated and knowledgeable in many ways. However, I’m just smart enough to know it would be stupid to try and represent myself in a court of law. I know some of the lingo, and am familiar with the laws of logic but I know just enough to know I don’t know enough. I have several personal friends who are lawyers, but each of them specializes in a particular area of law. If I were to ever find myself facing a court appearance, I’m going to pick one who specializes in that specific area of law.
Jesus speaks to life, love and the law. He knows what he’s doing because he speaks under the authority of the father and he only speaks what the father says. In other words, if you want to know God you need to listen to what his Son is telling us. Jesus knows him intimately, and wants us to know Him in the same way. Don’t try and speak “out of order” by trying to declare your own knowledge, skill or abilities. You’ll only be embarrassed by the results. But, before you walk away dejected and feeling rejected…
Ask yourself what it is you really want… that’s the focus of this passage. “If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will recognize me and my words as coming from God.”
What is it you really want? God’s will or your own? It is absolutely crucial that you grasp the differences. There are many who walk around claiming they want to know God, but then they speak their own words as authoritative. Notice how Jesus addresses this…
“The one who speaks on his own authority seeks his own glory…”
We tend to speak out of our own authority. We declare our intentions and goals, and then begin trying to make them a reality. Sort of like walking into a court and telling the judge how we intend to handle things regarding our case. The judge slams down his gavel and says, “now listen up, you are in my court and you’ll do things my way or I’ll hold you in contempt of court.” Interesting phrase, contempt of court. It means you are ignoring the court’s (or judge’s) orders and doing things your own way. In other words, you have contempt or “no respect” for his authority.
Let me pause here and ask you a question… do you think God’s will or your will is ultimately better for your life?
When we speak on our own authority we have declared that God doesn’t care, and what we want is better than what he wanted. We are declaring God’s words to be contemptible or unworthy of our respect and obedience.
I know what I need more than God does! He doesn’t really care about me! All this stuff about Jesus sacrificing himself on my behalf… Ha! What a joke!
In many ways, this is precisely what our culture says of God and his word. Scripture is so out of touch with reality. The Bible is just no longer relevant. That might have been ok for Jesus and his followers, but come on, this is the 21st century.
Let me simply end with this…
“Anyone who wants to do the will of God will know whether my teaching is from God or is merely my own.” (John 7:17 NLT)