Teaching series from John

Reaching A Verdict About Jesus

John 7:1-41

Teaching t05624

Introduction

Briefly explain the Feast of Booths. Jesus refuses to go up with his brothers, but goes up later.

As people are exposed to Jesus and his teaching, they begin to form very different conclusions about him. This is the way it is with us, and the verdict we form about him is the most important verdict because our eternal destiny relies on it.

Rather than reading through each verse, let's survey some of the possible verdicts, and then see what Jesus says about how we can reach a correct verdict . . . 

Possible Verdicts

GOOD MAN (vs 12a):

You can understand why someone would draw this conclusion because of Jesus' works of love and compassion. It is also attractive because it doesn't require a real commitment that might upset our lives. It's still a very popular verdict (EXAMPLE?).

But Jesus rejected this verdict (Mk. 10:18), and upon closer reflection, of all verdicts this is the least feasible one. Why is this? Because of the claims Jesus made concerning himself. GOD; CREATOR; JUDGE; SAVIOR. If I made these claims, it would certainly polarize this situation, wouldn't it? It would be then impossible to simply call me a "good man."

By the way, this is why the verdict that Jesus was a prophet (vs 40) is also inadequate. The Old Testament prophets always said "Thus says the Lord . . . " but Jesus said "Truly, truly, I say to you . . . " He claimed that he was greater than the prophets (Matt. 12:41)--the fulfillment of the prophets (Matt. 5:17).

In fact, some of the people who were aware of Jesus' claims realized that a couple of other verdicts really make more sense . . . 

DECEIVER (vs 12b):

This verdict acknowledges Jesus unique claims, but denies their validity and provides an explanation of them--he was a fake!

There is a lot of precedent for this verdict. There are lots of religious deceivers--including messianic deceivers (EXAMPLES). There are certainly lots of gullible people out there. This was in fact the official verdict of the Jewish religious leaders concerning Jesus.

But there are also some real problems with this verdict.

Most liars justify lying as a means to their desired ends, but Jesus made truth and truth-telling one of the cornerstones of his message (denunciations of hypocrites; Jn. 8:32, etc.). "How in the name of logic, common sense, and experience, could an impostor--that is a deceitful, selfish, depraved man--have invented, and consistently maintained from the beginning to end, the purest and noblest character known in history with the most perfect air of truth and reality?" [1] Of course, every good liar knows that people are more likely to believe a bold lie (HITLER), so maybe this was just a good ploy.

But it also invites close scrutiny, especially if you make the kind of claims Jesus made. His enemies were constantly watching him and trying to catch him in any kind of morally objectionable behavior. Yet he could demand Jn. 8:45,46 from them, and they couldn't bust him on even one lie at his trial. His own disciples were with him all the time, and would have been able to scrutinize his private life and spot inconsistencies between his teaching and his behavior. Would they have been willing to die for him if he emphasized truthfulness, yet lied??

The biggest problem is providing a motive for Jesus' deception. Deception is risky--and the bigger the lies, the greater the possible consequences. Liars are willing to lie in order to get something that really appeals to them (HITLER >> POWER; CON-ARTIST >> MONEY; PLAYBOY >> SEX) What was Jesus trying to get through his deception? When the people wanted to make him king (Jn. 6:15), he turned away from them. No one ever accused him of being in it for the money (Lk. 9:58). Even his enemies could never pin a sex charge on him. When at his trial there was no benefit to perpetuating the ruse, why wouldn't he have recanted like other pseudo-Messiahs have (S. ZEVI)? I guess this is possible--but not that probable.

DERANGED (vs 20):

Maybe Jesus was not in control of his senses--either demonized (vs 20) or insane (like his family concluded at one point in Mk. 3:21). This would explain a lot--like the fact that Jesus claimed to be on a special mission from God (vs 28,29) and that he was getting special messages from him (vs 16). You hear stuff like this from a lot of paranoid schizophrenics . . . 

But there are some serious problems with this verdict also. The biggest one is that crazy people aren't very likely to propound sound principles of mental health. I've spent a fair amount of time dealing with delusional people, and I can assure you of this. Yet people have realized for centuries that Jesus' teachings personify mental health.

C. S. Lewis: "The discrepancy between the depth and sanity of his moral teaching and the rampant megalomania which must lie behind his theological teaching unless he is indeed God has never been satisfactorily explained." [2]

J. T. Fisher (psychiatrist): "If you were to take the sum total of all authoritative articles ever written by the most qualified of psychologists and psychiatrists on the subject of mental hygiene--if you were to combine them and refine them and cleave out the excess verbiage-- . . . and if you were to have these unadulterated bits of pure scientific knowledge concisely expressed by the most capable of living poets, you would have an awkward and incomplete summation of the Sermon on the Mount. And it would suffer immeasurably by comparison . . . " [3]

THE MESSIAH (vs 31,41):

This is clearly what Jesus claimed to be, and this is the verdict that makes the most sense. This conclusion is based not only on a negative process of elimination (above), but also on the positive evidences of his fulfillment of Old Testament messianic prophecies and the witnesses of his promised resurrection (GORD'S TEACHING; DEN'S BOOK).

These are pretty much the range of options. You need to reach a verdict, because a lot is at stake (EXPLAIN)! Why not begin your inquiry today?

"How can I ever really know if it's true? It was so long ago." Part of the answer to this question is surveying the kind of evidence we investigated today. But Jesus says God is prepared to help you . . . 

Help In Reaching the Correct Verdict

Read vs 17. This is a promise that God will get personally involved in giving you sufficient certainty about Jesus. But there is a condition: You must be willing to do God's will. You must genuinely have the attitude of humility before God: "I am willing in advance to bow to God and follow his will, whatever he reveals it to be."

This sounds suspicious, doesn't it? It sounds like we have to adopt a basic bias toward God before any of his evidence will make any real impact on us. This is exactly the case! The truth is that we all always have a bias either for or against submitting to God. We are never completely neutral about God, nor are we completely objective about any important issue. So God calls on you to turn your bias toward him and following his will!

Think about what the alternative attitude sounds like: "Even if you are there, God, I am not necessarily willing to follow your will for my life. So why don't you show me whether this Jesus thing is true, so I can consider what I want to do with it." If this is your attitude, why should God show you anything? And what could he show you that would really be convincing? I know what it was like with me. When I wasn't willing to submit myself to God, none of the evidence Christians gave me made much impact. And the stuff I couldn't explain I simply tabled.

God is not playing "hide and seek" with you. According to the Bible, the dilemma is not that we are looking for God but God is making it hard to find him. He wants us to meet him far more than we do! The key issue is whether we're really willing to obey God's will. The moment we make the painful decision to humble ourselves to adopt this attitude, God gives us plenty of guidance (ME; GUY WHO CRIED OUT TO GOD IN HIS ROOM).

Are you willing to submit yourself to God or not?? Are you willing to give your life to Jesus Christ and follow his leadership if God shows you he is the truth? If you are, why not call out to God today and tell him that? After all, it's not like Jesus is threatening to ruin your life! Take a look at what he says is . . . 

The Result of Reaching the Correct Verdict (vs 37-39)

This passage contains one of the most dramatic statements Jesus ever made.

BACKGROUND: Every day throughout the Feast of Booths, the priests poured a bowl of water from the Pool of Siloam over the altar at the Temple. This commemorated God providing water for the Israelites from the rock that Moses stuck (Ex. 17:6). While they did this, the people recited words from Isaiah's messianic prophecies: "Come, all who are thirsty, come to the waters . . . With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation" (Isa. 55:1; 12:3).

But on the "last day" the water was not poured. Instead the people stood silently and contemplated the living water that the Messiah would someday bring. Probably in this very moment of silence, Jesus stood up and shouted vs 37,38 (read). Jesus isn't interrupting the festival--he is fulfilling it! He is the smitten Rock whose death makes God's living (spiritual) water available to all of us.

Note John's explanation of the living water in vs 39: the indwelling Holy Spirit personally imparts God's love and life to us. How do you get this living water? It's so simple.

"If anyone is thirsty" - Admit you are thirsty, and that other "water" does not satisfy (Jer. 2:13).

"Come to me and drink" - Turn to Jesus and personally ask him for the gift of his forgiveness and the Holy Spirit. No matter how alienated from God you have been, he will give you his Spirit which will fully quench your thirst and also enable you to be his conduit for others!!

Conclusion

It's your move! How are you going to respond to Jesus' claims, God's offer to help to know, and Jesus' offer? What verdict will you reach?

Footnotes

[1] Philip Schaff, The Person of Christ (New York: American Tract Society, 1913), pp. 94,95.

[2] C. S. Lewis, Miracles: A Preliminary Study (New York: Macmillan, 1952), p. 113.

[3] J. T. Fisher and L. S. Hawley, A Few Buttons Missing (Philadelphia: J. B. Lippencott, 1951), p. 273.