Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on May 8, 2016
Open your Bibles to John 7:1-24. Today, in John, we begin the upward ascent to the ultimate humiliation and simultaneously the ultimate glorification of Christ. For today, in chapter 7 John begins to move our attention towards Jerusalem. He focuses us on the primary reason that Jesus had become flesh and dwelt among us, so that his flesh could be torn and given to God as a sacrificial lamb for our sins. Chapter 7 marks the last time that Jesus was in area of Galilee. As it says in Luke 9:51 “When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem.” John 7 is the hinge of this moment. So let us read our text, and likewise set our sights on Christ as he has his sights set on his death.
John 7:1-24 – “After this Jesus went about in Galilee. He would not go about in Judea, because the Jews were seeking to kill him. 2 Now the Jews' Feast of Booths was at hand. 3 So his brothers said to him, “Leave here and go to Judea, that your disciples also may see the works you are doing. 4 For no one works in secret if he seeks to be known openly. If you do these things, show yourself to the world.” 5 For not even his brothers believed in him. 6 Jesus said to them, “My time has not yet come, but your time is always here. 7 The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify about it that its works are evil. 8 You go up to the feast. I am not going up to this feast, for my time has not yet fully come.” 9 After saying this, he remained in Galilee. 10 But after his brothers had gone up to the feast, then he also went up, not publicly but in private. 11 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. 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?” 16 So Jesus answered them, “My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me. 17 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. 18 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. 19 Has not Moses given you the law? Yet none of you keeps the law. Why do you seek to kill me?” 20 The crowd answered, “You have a demon! Who is seeking to kill you?” 21 Jesus answered them, “I did one work, and you all marvel at it. 22 Moses gave you circumcision (not that it is from Moses, but from the fathers), and you circumcise a man on the Sabbath. 23 If on the Sabbath a man receives circumcision, so that the law of Moses may not be broken, are you angry with me because on the Sabbath I made a man's whole body well? 24 Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.”
Your Unbelieving Family
Today’s message is one of great hope. At first glance, you may not see why, but I know many of your stories. I know that many of you have heavy hearts for people in your family who do not believe in Jesus. And because you do believe in Jesus, you know what it means that they do not believe. John 3:36, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.”
Their rejection of the Son means that their destiny is Hell. You know that Jesus is the only solution to their greatest and eternal problem, the unrelenting, eternal punishment of a Holy God. And because you love your family, whether it be a parent, or a child, or a sibling, a grandparent, or grandchild, your heart aches. You mourn for them.
If that is you, which I know for many of you, it is. This message gives you hope. Because you feel like you have tried everything, to get them to believe. You have pleaded with them, you have read scripture to them, you have prayed for them, you have shared the Gospel with them over and over and over again, with zero results. It feels like you are moving backwards, and you don’t know what to do. You are ready to give up.
But you shouldn’t. As long as there is breath in their lungs, there is always hope. And our hope is in God. And our God is able to change a lepers spots and melt a heart of stone. So with this in mind, let us look at our text.
Believing a Different Jesus
In verse 1 it states, “After this Jesus went about in Galilee. He would not go about in Judea, because the Jews were seeking to kill him.” “After this” is referring to what took place in John 6. So what took place in John 6? Jesus effectively reduced his disciples from 15,000 people to 12. He then took those twelve disciples and, as it states in verse 1, went about in Galilee. This going about covers approximately 6 months and the reason we know this is because in John 6:4 there is a mention of the Passover and in verse 2 of our text today it mentions the Feast of Booths. These two celebrations are about 6 months apart.
If you recall, Galilee is Jesus's home-base. It is Galilee that has the town Nazareth, the childhood home of Jesus and also contained Capernaum, a place we are told Jesus moved to in Matthew 4:13. And this is one reason we see this dialogue take place between Jesus and his brothers. This is not the first time we see John mention Jesus brothers. If you recall, in John 2:12, “After this he went down to Capernaum, with his mother and his brothers and his disciples, and they stayed there for a few days.” The Greek word for brothers is adelphos. This Greek word is made up of two root words, alpha and delphus. Alpha is the beginning letter in the Greek alphabet. A term Jesus used to describe that everything begins with him, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.” The Greek word delphus means womb. So it is abundantly clear that the word adelphos is referring to brothers who got their start from the same womb, the same origin, the same mother. In this case, Mary.
In John's text we are not told the names of these brothers of Jesus. However in Mark 6:3 it states, “Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother (adelphos) of James and Joses and Judas and Simon?” Therefore, these brothers mentioned in our text today John 7 are James, Joses, Judas and Simon.
We are told in verse 5 that these brothers of his do not believe in him. What does that mean? Jesus's brothers obviously believed that he existed. They obviously believed his name was Jesus and that he had followers and disciples. They would have believed he was a very powerful teacher and preacher. They would have believed that he had the power to do signs, for they probably watched some of them take place before their eyes.
So what does John mean when he says that they don't believe in him? He means that they did not believe that he was God in the flesh, who came to take away the sins of the World. They did not believe that through him everything was made. They did not believe that he was the light of the World. They did not believe that he was full of Glory, as the only son from the father. They did not see him as full of grace and truth. They merely saw him as a man. Therefore their view of Jesus was a partial view, they believed in his humanity, but they rejected his deity. Therefore they did not believe, and if you don't believe the wrath of God remains on them.
Why is this important? It is important because in this world and in our communities we are surrounded by such people. People who think they have a close relationship with Jesus, who think they know him, but they don't. Two that come to mind are Morminism and Jehovah's Witness. These false religions claim to believe in Jesus. They believe Jesus was a great teacher. They believe he did miracles. They even believe that he died on the cross for their sins, but they do not believe Jesus is God. Last night I found this on jw.org, the primary Jehovah Witness website “we do not worship Jesus, as we do not believe that he is Almighty God.”
Their “belief” is no different than the unbelief of Jesus's brothers. They may claim to know Jesus, they may claim to be following Jesus; they may claim to have a personal relationship with Jesus. But their belief in the eyes of God, is no belief. And no belief means no salvation. In 2 Corinthians 11:4 Paul warns the Corinthian church about false teachers who proclaim another Jesus. This is what Mormons and Jehovah Witnesses do when they proclaim that Jesus is just a man, and not God incarnate. They are declaring their unbelief in Jesus, just like his brothers.
Realms of Glory
This unbelief of Jesus's brothers placed them in two completely different realms. You can see this in their exchange over whether to go to the Feast of the Booths or not. Verse 3, “Leave here and go to Judea, that your disciples also may see the works you are doing. 4 For no one works in secret if he seeks to be known openly. If you do these things, show yourself to the world.” His brothers wanted him to join the large crowd that was going to be making the pilgrimage to Jerusalem. The Feast of the Booths was one of the most festive events of the year, and his brothers thought it would be a great opportunity to make a grand appearance and perhaps get his numbers back up to 15,000 or more.
The reason this plan seemed like a good one is because of what motivated them. What motivated them is what motivates all non-believers, self-glory. You can see this in verse 18, “ The one who speaks on his own authority seeks his own glory.” Jesus's unbelieving brothers spoke from their own authority, their own sinful flesh, their own fallen nature, and the only thing that made sense to them was pursuing self-glorification.
Jesus, on the other hand, had a different plan. Verse 6, “Jesus said to them, “My time has not yet come, but your time is always here. 7 The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify about it that its works are evil. 8 You go up to the feast. I am not going up to this feast, for my time has not yet fully come.” Jesus's plan was different then his disciples. Why? Because he was working off a different playbook. His brothers were seeing the world the lens of their flesh. Jesus was seeing the world the the lens of God's providential will. He makes it clear that he is not going to the feast because his time has not yet fully come. He says it twice to them.
We have talked about this reality before. Everything Jesus did was perfectly in sync with God's will. John 5:19, “the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise.” John 5:30, “I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me.” We also discussed it in regards of Jesus' divine appiontment with the Samaritan Women at the Well in John 4. Jesus was concerned about God's will in everything he did, down to the exact moment that he would go to the Feast of the Booths. This is why he did not go with his brothers, publicly, but instead waited and went later, privately. The timing for Jesus's Triumphal entry would come at a later time, a week before the Passover, not the Feast of the Booths.
And why did Jesus desire to live his life in line with the will of His Father? There are several ways you could answer this, but let us look at the second half of verse 18, “but the one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and in him there is no falsehood.” Jesus does the will of God because he operates in the realm of glorifying God. The brothers of Jesus do their will because they operate in the realm of man's glory, Jesus as the perfect man, operates in the realm of God's glory.
And this is the fundamental difference between believers and unbelievers. For those who are believers, they see their ultimate purpose in life, just as Jesus did. To do the will of God. Why? Because by doing the will of God, you are magnifying His glory. For unbelievers, the opposite is true. Unbelievers do their will, why? Because it magnifies their glory.
This is what the fallen world is all about, a battle over glory. Satan desired glory. The demons that followed him desired glory. Adam and Even desired glory. Every human being born on this planet pursues their own glory. This is why the fall of all humanity is described in Romans 1:22 this way, “Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things..” Another way to define sin is to say an exchange of glory. The brother's of Jesus had a glory problem, why? Because they didn't believe.
The Cause of True Belief
They question I want to tackle now is why? Why doesn't James, Joses, Judas, and Simon believe that Jesus is God incarnate? Those four have spent their entire lives with him. Jesus was the first born of Mary, therefore each on of them was born into a house that literally wreaked of Jesus. They heard him speak, they watched him live a sinless life, they observed him constantly being about his father's work, day after day after day after day. But they still didn't believe?
Look at verse 16, “So Jesus answered them, “My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me. 17 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.”
This answer seems odd, doesn't it. Jesus says if your will is to do God's will, you will believe in Jesus. To go from not believing to believing is dependent on your will matching God's will. They have to be the same. But let us ask another question, what is the will? Jonathan Edwards in his book entitled, “Freedom of the Will” defines will as “that by which the soul either chooses or refuses.” This definition is a simple one, but it gets to the heart of the issue. The will of man is determined by the soul of man. Therefore, if our soul must match the soul of God, in order to believe in Jesus, what hope do we have? Think about it? If you can't believe in Jesus unless you soul yearns for the same thing that God's soul yearns for, is that even possible?
As Jesus so famously said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible. ” The only way for a man's soul to be changed to match God, is by God himself. This is the recurring truth that John has been laying out in his gospel.
And this is good news. For without this truth, the brother's of Jesus have no hope. And likewise, without this truth, your family has no hope. As I stated earlier, many of you have wept for your unsaved family and your hearts aches for them. Desiring that they would believe, yet in their life, the continue to live for their glory and not God's. But do not lose hope, instead hope in God. His timing and his way is always perfect.
At the moment in time when the events of John 7 took place, God did not desire that the brothers of Jesus would believe in him, for their time had not yet come. Eventually it did. When exactly, we don't know. But in Acts 1:14 right after the ascension of Jesus, the group of people who believed in Jesus are described this way, “All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.” The wind of the Holy Spirit blew into their life, we can't see it coming and we can't see it going, but we can see its effects.
So do not lose hope, instead hope in God.