Sermon: The Father, the Son, and the Law – John 7:14-24

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.” 


Our heavenly Father, 

It says in your Word that: Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him. 

And: No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also.

And: in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. 

Your Son, our Lord taught: 

I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.” 

Father, we thank you for our Lord Jesus who points us to you, who makes you known, and who has reconciled us to you. May we believe and know the truth of your gospel that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Let that be our only source of hope. May we know the saving work of Christ. May we live our lives in gratitude and the knowledge of your gospel. Lord, we continue to pray for greater trust and reliance on you, through all of the uncertainties and unknowns of this season. 

1 God is our refuge and strength, 

a very present help in trouble. 

Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, 

though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, 

3 though its waters roar and foam, 

though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah 

4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, 

the holy habitation of the Most High. 

5 God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved; 

God will help her when morning dawns. 

6 The nations rage, the kingdoms totter; 

he utters his voice, the earth melts. 

7 The Lord of hosts is with us; 

the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah 

8 Come, behold the works of the Lord, 

how he has brought desolations on the earth. 

9 He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; 

he breaks the bow and shatters the spear; 

he burns the chariots with fire. 

10 “Be still, and know that I am God. 

I will be exalted among the nations, 

I will be exalted in the earth!” 

May we trust that you are our refuge and strength. May we be still and know that you are God. And may we worship you for your greatness and goodness. Lord, we do not deserve you. We are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes but you are the eternal God who has promised eternal life through your Son. 

Jesus is the one who makes you known and it is through him and him alone that we can know you and approach you. 

And so may we humbly come before you in adoration and in a heart of worship to again study your Word. Lord, we ask that you bless our time and bless our hearts and minds as we seek to know you and to know your truth through the preaching of your Most Holy Word. 

In Jesus’ name, amen. 

Introduction – the Halo Effect 

There’s the saying “don’t judge a book by its cover.” And the point is that we shouldn’t judge things merely by outward appearances or what’s on the surface level. 

As people, we have a tendency to make assumptions about other people. 

To give an example. There’s been vast psychological research into attractiveness. If all we have to go on is looks, we assume that a beautiful person is also nice, and intelligent, and competent. 

Without any corroborative information. 

If we think something good about someone, we’re likely to have other good associations with them. . 

We take limited information and make larger assumptions. 

It’s the same reason why leading male actors in movies are almost universally tall, unless a shorter stature is relevant to the story. 

Even if the actor himself is short, they will utilize lifts in shoes, smaller props, and camera angles to make him look tall. Because we associate height with dominance and power. 

And it works out in the real world. In a survey of Fortune 500 CEO’s, they averaged being 2.5” taller than the average person. 

Of the 11 U.S. presidents since 1960, only one was shorter than 5’11” and the last president we had who was below average was William McKinley, almost 120 years ago. 

We take limited information and make assumptions about a person. 

It’s why we have family political dynasties because we assume competence to someone who’s related to someone else we like

We judge books by their covers. 

We’ll have more on that in a little bit. 

Series context 

We’re resuming in the Gospel of John this morning. 

And to remind us of where we are in this gospel. Jesus has arrived at the Feast of Booths. And as we’ve discussed before, the Feast of Booths is an annual Jewish celebration in the fall which looked back to the time when the Israelites had to reside in the wilderness during their desert wanderings, it was a celebration of the fall harvest, and also looked forward to the following year. 

And as we’ve talked about the autumn Jewish holidays over the last couple of weeks, this year’s Feast of Booths is actually currently happening this week. 

But turning back to our passage. It’s the Feast of Booths and Jesus is in Jerusalem for the feast. He’s teaching in the synagogue and this is causing a stir among a new audience as well as the ruling authorities. It’s a passage where we’ll see themes relating to divine authority, the law of Moses and where we’ll revisit a controversy that Jesus has already been involved with in this gospel.

We’ll look at this passage in three scenes.

First scene – Misunderstanding Jesus 

 Verse 14 is where the passage begins: About the middle of the feast Jesus went up into the temple and began teaching. 

John mentions it’s the middle of the feast. The feast of booths lasts 8 days. But the point isn’t so much that it was exactly day 4 or exactly day 5, but that Jesus begins teaching at the temple at some point in the middle of the week long celebration. 

Verse 15, the crowd responds to Jesus:  The Jews therefore marveled, saying, “How is it that this man has learning, when he has never studied?”

We don’t know specifically what Jesus has been teaching but the crowd is impressed with Jesus’ understanding of the scriptures and teaching of the scriptures. They knew that Jesus had not learned under any of the well known rabbis of the day and so they question how he has acquired this education. 

For most Jewish boys in Jesus’ lifetime, your schooling ended in early adolescence, and then you generally moved into the profession of your father. For some who were especially bright, they might have continued in rabbinical training where they learned at the tutelage of a rabbi and this took several years. And having an academic pedigree mattered to the ruling authorities. 

But Jesus did not have that. There would have been those who would have discounted what Jesus had to say because of that. Grant Osborne’s commentary of John points out that rabbis in Jesus’ day anchored much of their teaching and theology into what rabbis who had preceded them had said. People in academic circles still do this. 

This type of elitism is certainly not unique to Jesus’ day. There are domains today where people expect a certain pedigree. Of the eight justices currently on the Supreme Court, all eight graduated law school at Harvard or Yale.

I looked up men who have been the Chief of Operations for the United States Navy. Basically, the person who’s in charge of the navy. Of 32 men who have held that post, all but two have gone to the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. 

There were leading rabbinical figures in Jesus’ day. And Jesus hadn’t sat at their feet or learned from them. 

After the ministry of Jesus, his disciples would still deal with this intellectual prejudice.

Acts chapter 4, Peter and John appear before a ruling council of the Jewish leaders. 

And we again see the low expectations of the council. 

Acts 4:13: Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished.

In fact, there are still scholars today who look at the fact that Peter would not have had much in the way of formal education and question if he was even capable of writing a book like 2 Peter, which is considered some of the highest level Greek in the New Testament. 

It’s similar when people question Jesus’ family and background. 

Matthew 13:53-55: 53 And when Jesus had finished these parables, he went away from there, 54 and coming to his hometown he taught them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished, and said, “Where did this man get this wisdom and these mighty works? 55 Is not this the carpenter’s son?

We see the same thing at the beginning of John’s Gospel when the first disciples are following Jesus. Philip is enamoured with Jesus but his brother is not so sure, in sights his hometown as a justification for his prejudice. 

John 1:45-46: Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” 46 Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?

And here again, the crowd marvels at Jesus and they question:  “How is it that this man has learning, when he has never studied?

I spoke in the beginning about not judging a book by its cover. People made all sorts of assumptions about Jesus based on little information throughout his ministry. But as is so often the case in the Bible, the things that we can be tempted to criticize in others are not always so different from our own sins and flaws.Because we’re all prone to rushing to conclusions and unfair judgments of people. 

It can be based on appearance, based on how a person dresses or looks. In a small town where so many of the families are known, we can make unfair judgments about a person based on who their family is. If it’s a good family, we can assume good things. 

And if it’s not such a good family, or an infamous family, we can also unfairly judge people based on background rather than who they are. 

Again, I think it’s something that we’re all susceptible to. We don’t have perfect knowledge. We’re fallible people.  But I think it’s important to be proactive in showing fairness to people. 

In James 2, the Lord’s brother James describes a situation in the assembly where the Christians are showing partiality and bias. 

James 2:1: My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory

James goes on to describe a situation where two types of people come to church. 

James continues: if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, 3 and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” 4 have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?

The point is that we do have a tendency as sinful and fallen people to make such judgments. 

But that that is sinful. 

And it’s actually an idea to which Jesus will again refer at the end of this passage. 

7:24:  Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.”

Again, it’s important to know the temptation to judge a book by its cover. But as Christians, it’s important to actively work against that. Because it’s an easy trap that anyone can fall into. 

So that’s our first scene. How the world misunderstands Jesus. 

We come to a second scene.  

Second scene – The God Jesus points to

So the crowd questions Jesus. It’s worth pointing out that there’s nothing wrong with them wanting to know where Jesus’ ideas come from. 

It’s just that the problem was the ruling authorities put too much stock into man made systems as the authenticator. They’re counting on their assumptions about teaching and about the Messiah instead of on the scriptures. 

Verse 16-17, Jesus responds: 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. 

Jesus’ teachings come from the ultimate source. Jesus has come with a divine message.

Again, in the rabbinical tradition, teachings were often looked at in light of historical precedent. 

But what if the initial teachings were wrong? Or flawed? 

It was still ultimately the teachings of men. 

 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. 

As Jesus has done throughout this gospel, he confronts the audience – and us the readers – with another bold claim. 

If you truly desire to know the will of God, you will know that what Jesus is teaching is from God. 

Put more simply: to know God is to know Jesus. 

Let’s unpack that. And let’s look at this statement in our own lives. 

 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. 

It’s both an ethical statement and a theological statement. 

If you desire to do God’s will, to live out God’s will, that person will be able to recognize whether or not Jesus’ teaching is merely opinion or whether or not its of divine authority. 

But how? 

Because of the gospel. 

Let’s work through the gospel in understanding why Jesus statement is true. 

Beginning with sin. 

Romans 3 has one of the great summaries in the Bible of the human condition. 3:10-12: 

“None is righteous, no, not one; 11 no one understands; no one seeks for God. 12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” 

It is the natural disposition of fallen humanity to not desire God or the things of God. It is through the regenerative effect of the gospel that a person  has a desire for the will of God. 

Titus 3:4-6: But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior,

So our desire for God is not something that we simply decide to have, but it’s a result of regeneration whereby we are given God’s Spirit. 

2 Corinthians 2, Paul talks about the natural man and the Spiritual man. The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 15 The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. 16 “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ (2 Corinthians 2:14-16)  

So. It is not we ourselves who desire the truth of God but it is God working in us through the Spirit. And so it is true that to desire to know the will of God that we are necessarily led to the affirmation of who Jesus is. A desire for the will of God leads us to the truth of God and to Jesus who is himself the truth. 

But that’s only part of the equation. Because anyone could make the statement that Jesus made. In fact, others have. As we’ve discussed before. But to further authenticate that Jesus himself is the one uniquely sent form God, we have the life and ministry of Jesus. 

It is not merely big talk. 

But that Jesus’ life and ministry are unimpeachable through his righteousness, through his teachings. Furthermore, his miracles speak to his divinely appointed ministry. And his death and resurrection point us to the truth of his gospel. That as he died and rose, we who are dead in sin have the promise of eternal life. 

And we’re left with the overarching truth that a desire to follow the will of God will always lead us to the Son of God. 

Given the Spiritual aspect of faith, we cannot truly seek God and be led in the wrong direction. 

You might be tempted to ask “well then why are there so many other religions?” 

Because men love darkness rather than the light. (John 3:19) 

As Paul warned Timothy: the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths (2 Timothy 4:3-4).

Proverbs 21:2 says:  Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the heart.

The world likes to earn righteousness and salvation on its own and the Bible constantly points us to the reality that we cannot. Nearly every other religion works on a scale of righteousness and sins. But it is through the gospel, that we have a message of grace. Seeking the will of God leads to Christ.

To attempt to follow any other way is idolatry. 

As Hebrews 11:6 tells us, it is impossible to please God without faith. 

Continuing in our passage. 

Verse 18, Jesus says: 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.

Jesus points again to the authority and glory of God. And Jesus himself is glorious. He is perfect. He is divine. 

Think of the things the world applauds and celebrates? We create awards for ourselves. People who have enough prestige or wealth built monuments to themselves. Pay for schools or buildings to be named after themselves. 

The world loves to bring itself glory. 

Yet Jesus walked the earth to point to the glory of God. 

As Paul wrote to the Philippians: who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Philippians 2:6-8) 

I think that’s a powerful example for all of us. 

To live humbly. 

To live to bring glory to God. To seek to bring God glory in every domain of our lives. As spouses and parents and grandparents. As friends, siblings, and fellow church members. In our jobs. Among our neighbors. Everything we do should be to the glory of God and point to God. The great composer Johan Sebastian Bach used to sign the initials S.D.G. to his church compositions. It stood for the Latin phrase Soli Deo Gloria which means “Glory to God alone.” 

And that should be the heart we have for everything we do in our lives. 

For the glory of God. 

In the Westminster Catechism, it asks: what is the chief end of man? 

And the response is: man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy him forever. 

1 Corinthians 10:31 sums it up well: whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

Jesus lived a perfect life. He did not tell people he was glorious, he displayed glory through his signs. He didn’t tell people perfect, he showed people his perfection through his perfect life. And so we have Jesus who is glorious, who is righteous, who is perfect, the one in whom the fullness of deity was pleased to dwell, yet he came ito the world and was submissive to God and followed the will of God. We’re just people. Finite and frail people. We were created to bring God glory, not to glorify ourselves or to glorify men. Because we’re not glorious. 

So we’ve seen how the world understands Jesus and the God Jesus points to. 

We come to a third scene which is the law Jesus fulfills. 

Third scene – the law he fulfills 

Has not Moses given you the law? Yet none of you keeps the law. Why do you seek to kill me?”

Verse 19, Jesus says that these people have the law of the Old Testament and that none of them keeps it. 

I think there are layers of meaning to that statement. None of you keeps the Law. First, it’s true that no one keeps it in that no one keeps it perfectly and that everyone is sinful. Except Jesus. Secondly, we see their failure to oversee the Law in the fact that they’re seeking to kill Jesus. 

For the experts in the Law, the religious leaders, the beginning of the passage has already informed us that they sought to kill Jesus.

Despite the fact that Jesus is righteous. He never sinned. He broke no laws. He certainly never committed a capital offense. They would plot against Jesus. They would bring false accusations and trumped up charges against him. 

That was a violation of the law. It’s also true on a third level in that the law and the prophets point to Jesus. So Jesus asks “Has not Moses given you the Law?”

Having the law was a great source of pride for the Israelites, but if their ruling authorities truly understood that law, they would know to whom it pointed. 

Jesus has already told this to a group of Jewish leaders in chapter 5. In chapter 5, Jesus has given a lengthy address in the aftermath of healing a paralyzed man on the Sabbath. 

Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father. There is one who accuses you: Moses, on whom you have set your hope. 46 For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me. 47 But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?” 

To truly know God is to know Jesus. Pause for a second. I’ve thrown a lot at you. In chapter 5, Jesus was also at the temple in Jerusalem speaking to a group. 

It seems reasonable that not everyone listening to him in chapter 7 was in that original group. 

So some people are totally confused by what Jesus has said. They think he’s crazy. 

Verse 20: The crowd answered, “You have a demon! Who is seeking to kill you?”

And as we’ve seen many times in this gospel, Jesus responds to a question by not answering it. 

Jesus has talked about the plot to kill him. 

But where does that come from?

Yes, we saw it a couple weeks ago at the very beginning of chapter 7. 

Just as a reminder, John 7:1 says: “After this Jesus went about in Galilee. He would not go about in Judea, because the Jews were seeking to kill him.”

But the origin of the Jewish leaders seeking to kill Jesus originally starts in chapter 5. It’s in the wake of Jesus heals theparalyzed man on the Sabbath. This is looked at as being a violation of the Sabbath. Jesus responds that his father is working on the Sabbath and so is he. 

And it is that incident to which Jesus refers when he responds to the crowd in verse 21. Jesus answered them, “I did one work, and you all marvel at it.

The one work was the healing on the Sabbath. That becomes evident as he continues speaking. 

Stay with me, we’re almost done. 

Verses 22-23: 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?

Let’s try to tie all of this together. 

Jesus goes directly to the heart of the Sabbath. And this ties into what he’s just been saying to the pharisees regarding the Law of Moses and the fact that they don’t keep it. 

They don’t truly understand the law. They don’t truly understand the Old Testament. 

Their failure to recognize Jesus shows that. 

Their desire to kill Jesus shows that. 

And so Jesus makes a comparison between circumcision and the Sabbath. 

Both of these are integral elements of Judaism. 

Both of which were Judaic practices which actually pre-dated the time of Moses. We see the Sabbath in creation and it’s observance is commanded prior to the Ten Commandments. And we see circumcision given to Abraham. 

But then you also have them both in the Law of Moses. 

Circumcision and the Sabbath. 

Now Abraham was commanded that all of his offspring must be circumcised on the eighth day after they’re born. 

But what about when the eighth day is the Sabbath? 

The male was still circumcised. 

And as Jesus says in verse 23, that was not a violation of the law. 

And so Jesus asks the religious leaders: are you angry with me because on the Sabbath I made a man’s whole body well?

You can circumcise a baby on the Sabbath but you can’t heal a man on the Sabbath? 

Leon Morris adds a helpful note in his commentary. Jesus is not undermining the Sabbath. He’s not criticizing the Sabbath. He’s not liberalizing the Sabbath. 

He’s pointing them to the heart of the Sabbath. 

The Jewish leaders could see the rationale to circumcise a baby. Even on the Sabbath. But they couldn’t see the justification of healing someone? 

The law is not arbitrary. The law is not just a list of commands for the sake of commands.

The law points to God, points to holiness, points to life. 

Now circumcision does not have the religious significance for us that it did and does for observant Jews. But for them, it was profoundly meaningful. It was a God-given symbol of the covenant. And Jesus talks of healing the entire person. 

That act of love and grace had more to do with the heart of the Law and the heart of the Old Testament, than the unnecessary rigidity of the ruling authorities. 

At the end of our passage, Jesus says in verse 24:  Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.” 

They needed to hear that because they weren’t doing that. 

And it is because they were not judging with proper judgment that they got both Jesus wrong and the law wrong. 

They got God wrong. And so they didn’t understand his law or what it pointed to. They had a worldly perspective not a heavenly perspective. 

They had  rigid view of the law, not a loving and gracious view of the law. 

They had manmade opinions about the Messiah, and so they missed the Messiah when he was right in front of them. 

They weren’t judging based on truth. 

They didn’t truly know God and so they couldn’t understand the one whom God sent. 

They didn’t truly know the heart of the law and so they could not appreciate the heart of God. 

Jesus pointed to a greater revelation from God. A greater fulfillment of the law and the true understanding of the law. 

And what this passage ultimately teaches is that we cannot get Jesus wrong and God right. 

Because God’s word points to Jesus. His will was to send Jesus. His righteousness is lived out through Jesus. His wrath is absorbed by Jesus. His creation is redeemed through Jesus.