25 Some of the people of Jerusalem therefore said, “Is not this the man whom they seek to kill? 26 And here he is, speaking openly, and they say nothing to him! Can it be that the authorities really know that this is the Christ? 27 But we know where this man comes from, and when the Christ appears, no one will know where he comes from.” 28 So Jesus proclaimed, as he taught in the temple, “You know me, and you know where I come from. But I have not come of my own accord. He who sent me is true, and him you do not know. 29 I know him, for I come from him, and he sent me.” 30 So they were seeking to arrest him, but no one laid a hand on him, because his hour had not yet come. 31 Yet many of the people believed in him. They said, “When the Christ appears, will he do more signs than this man has done?”
32 The Pharisees heard the crowd muttering these things about him, and the chief priests and Pharisees sent officers to arrest him. 33 Jesus then said, “I will be with you a little longer, and then I am going to him who sent me. 34 You will seek me and you will not find me. Where I am you cannot come.” 35 The Jews said to one another, “Where does this man intend to go that we will not find him? Does he intend to go to the Dispersion among the Greeks and teach the Greeks? 36 What does he mean by saying, ‘You will seek me and you will not find me,’ and, ‘Where I am you cannot come’?”
Our heavenly Father,
You are the creator and the sustainer of all things.
Nothing has happened or will ever happen outside of your sovereign providence for your creation.
Lord God, we continue to pray for our nation in all of the uncertainty that we’re facing.
Lord, we continue to pray for this season that we’re in. It’s been a long year. It’s been a tiring year. It’s been a trying year.
Lord, we ask that you use this experience and this season in all of our lives to refine us and perfect us. Lord, we are imperfect people. We cling to various idols and hopes. We rely on ourselves and not on you. We look to the world for our protection and security. Lord, we have different vices and different struggles. But regardless of what we think of this virus, we’re in this season as a church and as people. Regardless of what we think, we are all impacted by the fallout. And through that, through changes, through uncertainty, through unrest, through all that we’re facing, may we more and more rely on you and trust in you. May our security be in you.
Lord, we ask that you bless our time in the study of your word. May it point us to you and your gospel.
In Jesus’ name, amen.
The providence of God is one of the great themes that we see running throughout the Bible.
It is so prevalent that it’s almost easy to to take for granted and overlook.
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.
And for the rest of the Bible, we see God’s work of sustaining his creation. It’s providence.
God maintains the universe. He is providential over the ongoings of the nations. He is sovereign over life and death. Over the significant and the seemingly insignificant events in our lives. Over the monumental and seemingly random events, God is providential. He is the Lord in the victories and the defeats. It is because of God’s divine providence that we can pray to him with confidence and that we can take assurance in his promises. And it is through his guiding work of providence that he has woven his gospel throughout human history.
On the subject of providence the late theologian J.I. Packer said “If creation was a unique exercise of divine energy causing the world to be, providence is a continued exercise of that same energy whereby the Creator, according to his own will (a) keeps all creatures in being, (b) involves himself in all events, and (c) directs all things to their appointed end.”
There is nothing that happens outside of God’s providential governance of his creation.
As Proverbs 16:33 says:
The lot is cast into the lap,
but its every decision is from the Lord.
It is because providence that we can have assurance in Romans 8:28 that all things work together for good for those that love the Lord and who are called according to his purposes.
And it is for that reason that God’s providence should be a great joy to all Christians. We have a God who is powerful enough to work all things together for good and who works all things according to the council of his will (Ephesians 1:11).
Providence is something that we see throughout the Bible and it should influence our understanding of the Bible, of human history, of the natural world, and of the events in our lives, society, and the world today.
This morning, we continue in the Gospel of John. Just like last week, Jesus is still speaking at the Feast of Booths, but I was struck this week as I looked at this passage and the thread that’s throughout this section is God’s providence in the ministry of Christ.
And so we come to this wonderful passage in God’s word that we’ll look at in three scenes this morning.
Just a reminder to give the setting for this event.
It’s the Feast of Booths, one of the great high holy days in the Jewish calendar.
Jesus has grown in popularity to this point in John’s Gospel but he has also grown in infamy and the ruling religious authorities are already plotting against Jesus.
John 7:1 alerts us of the plot to kill Jesus and how Jesus was keeping a low profile.
After this Jesus went about in Galilee. He would not go about in Judea, because the Jews were seeking to kill him.
First scene – divine providence in sending
With that, we come to our first scene which reminds us of the divine providence in sending Jesus.
Verses 25-26. The crowd sees Jesus openly speaking in spite of the fact that there is a plot against this and they’re confused about how this can be. Some of the people of Jerusalem therefore said, “Is not this the man whom they seek to kill? 26 And here he is, speaking openly, and they say nothing to him! Can it be that the authorities really know that this is the Christ?
Something that’s interesting about verse 25. John says some of the people of Jerusalem.
Quick note. As Jesus has been speaking in this section, there are three different groups of people whom the Apostle John has identified. Leon Morris is helpful with this.
John refers to the Jews, which are the ruling Jewish authorities. And that’s the group whom Jesus was calling out at the end of our last section when he questioned their application of the Sabbath. That’s the same group who is seeking to kill Jesus at the beginning of chapter 7.
Secondly, we have the crowd. This seems to be people from all over Israel who had traveled to Jerusalem to participate in the Feast of Booths.
In verse 19, when Jesus talks of the plot to kill him, we see the response of “the crowd.”
7:20: The crowd answered, “You have a demon! Who is seeking to kill you?”
They’re not even aware of the plot. And that makes sense because they’re not all from the Jerusalem area. They’re not all familiar with Jesus.
But in our passage, John introduces a third group of people when he says the people of Jerusalem.
They’re the locals. They’re not the ruling authorities. They themselves are not the ones who are seeking to kill Jesus here. But they’re aware of the plot. And they’re aware of Jesus and know a bit about his reputation.
We see in chapter 7 that there are people from all three groups in the audience to whom Jesus is speaking.
Those who oppose him. Those who don’t know him. And here we have people who know him but don’t oppose him.
So they have awareness of the controversies surrounding Jesus in verse 25 when they ask: is not this the man whom they seek to kill?
But there’s confusion.
If there are people who want to kill this guy, Jesus, and he’s right here, why don’t they just do it?
Jesus is here, out in the open, speaking and teaching and yet they do nothing!
And so they ask Can it be that the authorities really know that this is the Christ?
Consider that question. The Jerusalem crowd is wondering if some of the ruling authorities have actually believed that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah.
That doesn’t mean that the Jerusaemites believe. In fact, they generally don’t believe, as the passage will tell us.
Verse 27: But we know where this man comes from, and when the Christ appears, no one will know where he comes from.”
In their understanding, they’re explaining why Jesus can’t be the Christ.
But ironically, they’re wrong in their assessment.
For instance, they say they know where Jesus comes from. They don’t.
Where is Jesus from?
So they don’t know his true origin.
But we’ll see in this passage that they also don’t know his earthly origin. They’ll say he’s from Galilee. It’s true that he grew up there but Jesus was born in Bethlehem.
So they don’t actually know Jesus’ origin.
And we also see another point that the crowd gets wrong.
They say that when the Christ appears, no one will know where he comes from.
That’s a statement that is a little bit odd to our ears. D.A. Carson suggests in his commentary that many Jewish people in the first century believed that the true Messiah would be a person who was an unknown. But they knew who Jesus was – or at least, they thought they did – and so in their thinking, a little familiarity with Jesus meant that he could not possibly be the Messiah.
But the irony is that they actually don’t know his true origin.
Jesus responds with irony in verse 28.
Verse 28: Jesus proclaimed, as he taught in the temple, “You know me, and you know where I come from.
“You know me and you know where I come from.”
There’s a double meaning. In one sense, they do know about Jesus and his origins. They know a little bit about his ministry and where he grew up. But in another sense, they don’t know his true origins or his true purpose.
Jesus continues speaking.
28 into 29:
I have not come of my own accord. He who sent me is true, and him you do not know. 29 I know him, for I come from him, and he sent me.”
Jesus reiterates the idea that he’s brought up at other points in this gospel. That Jesus is not acting of his own accord, but is acting in accordance with the will of God.
He says twice in those two verses that he has been sent.
It is something that he has explained time and again in this gospel.
John 5:30: I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me.
John 6:38-39: I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.
He continually points to himself as one who has been sent.
And as one who was sent, Jesus lived in total fidelity to the will of God.
In our current passage, Jesus tells the crowd that God is true but they do not know God. And this is exemplified in their failure to understand Jesus and who he is.
The fact that Jesus has not come of his own accord shows the unity within the Trinity. We do not have competing wills within the Godhead
I want to look at that again in the light of the providence of God. Because the fact that Jesus was sent was the divine plan for all of eternity.
We see it going to Genesis 3 and right after the fall.
Genesis 3:14-15, a passage that many theologians refer to as the protoevangelium, or “first gospel.”
We see the curse upon the serpent.
14 The Lord God said to the serpent,
“Because you have done this,
cursed are you above all livestock
and above all beasts of the field;
on your belly you shall go,
and dust you shall eat
all the days of your life.
15 I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head,
and you shall bruise his heel.”
That’s pretty striking that in the same passage as the fall, we learn of an offspring of the woman who will bruise the serpent. And throughout the centuries, theologians and scholars have correctly understood this verse as a verse pointing forward to Christ as the one who would overcome the devil and evil through the gospel.
God providentially purposed his gospel since the fall, but even before the fall, he knew humanity would sin.
We see this talked about in 1 Peter 1:18-20:
you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. 20 He was foreknown before the foundation of the world
The gospel was the eternal plan of the Lord.
And throughout the Old Testament, we see God at work in preserving the family of Abraham through whom he made his promise. We see him intervening in the order of the world to bring forth Isaac, despite his parents’ old age. We see God calling upon Abraham to sacrifice his son, with God knowing all along that he would provide the sacrifice which pointed to the true sacrifice.
Jacob and Rebekah plotted to trick Isaac into giving him the birthright but even through that dishonesty, God accomplished his purpose of exalting Jacob over Esau. We see Jacob and his sons who represent the 12 tribes. They were on the verge of extinction but God intervened through the dreams of Joseph to save his family, to save Israel, and to save the line that led to Christ.
And throughout the Old Testament, God preserved his people and preserved the family line that led to Christ.
We see divine providence in the Exodus. It was God who showed his power and dominion over creation in the plagues. Quoting from Joel Beeke in “Reformed Systematic Theology” “God’s divine control is universal. The plagues upon Egypt demonstrated that the Lord controls rivers, frogs, insects, livestock, storms, light, and darkness, and human health and life.”
God is over all things. Big and small.
We see God’s providence in sustaining the Israelites during their time in the desert, in God fulfilling his promises. We see his providence in providing prophets who warned Israel. We see his dominion over the nations when Israel was conquered.
We also see in the prophets a long history of foretelling the coming one. Nothing by accident. It is because of God’s providence and sovereignty over creation that there could be certainty that all of these events would come to pass.
God orchestrated human history to bring forth his son.
Galatians 4:4-5: when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.
God exercises his providence over the family which led to Christ, over our salvation, through the nations of the world.
And all of this is reason why we should take such great joy and confidence in the promises of God. Because they’re rooted in the character of God who is providential and sovereign over creation.
And it’s true in our lives.
If you’re alive, you’re a living example of God’s providence and provision.
Our lives are examples of God’s divine providence.
Do you see it that way?
Nothing has been random. All of it has been in accordance with the will of God.
That’s not to say that we’re robots.
The famous analogy given is that it’s like we’re living on a great ship. You eat, you spend time on the deck, you enjoy the sights and entertainment but God is the captain of the boat and the ultimate destination of the boat is outside of your control.
We’ll never know on this side of eternity how our difficulties really were used for our good. We’ll never know on this side of eternity all of things we were protected from or saved from.
But all throughout life, God is working and he is good.
So that’s our first scene. The ministry of Christ looked at in light of the will and providence of the Lord.
The second and third scenes will be briefer than that first scene.
We continue in our passage.
Second scene – the attempt to arrest Jesus
Vere 30, they’re seeking to arrest Jesus. But the text tells us: no one laid a hand on him, because his hour had not yet come.
His hour had not yet come.
This is a phrase that we’ve seen elsewhere in this gospel which always points to the time of Jesus’ crucifixion. And again, that points us to the providence of God.
There was nothing left to happenstance in his ministry. There was an appointed hour at which time his ministry was to come to its culmination.
But it’s not that God has a very specific plan for Jesus and is then leaving all of our lives up to chance. God is providential through all of time and all of creation.
Psalm 139:16 says:
Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them.
It’s amazing how much of our time we can spend worrying and fearful.
Time where we could be fellowshipping with God, serving God, spending quality time with our loved ones. We so often let so much of our precious time be ruled by worry and stress.
Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount:
do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?
My point isn’t to beat you up if you’re someone who does struggle with anxiety or worry.
I’ll be the first to admit that I stress out far more often than I should.
But we are called to trust in the Lord.
Psalm 9:10 says: those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you.
We should all take comfort that there is absolutely nothing that will ever happen in our lives that is outside of God’s providence.
That’s not to say that everything is pleasant or enjoyable.
There are horrible sins that we can fall victim too.
And that’s confounding to the world. And that’s offensive to the world. That God could possibly allow bad things to happen.
But that is where the trust comes in that God really does work all things for good for those who love him and are called according to his purposes.
It’s an easy verse to quote. It’s an easy verse to love.
But when the going gets tough, it can be one of the hardest verses to believe.
But we must believe it.
It must be at the core of our faith.
Trust in God’s providence and goodness must be at the core of what we believe about God.
Again. I realize that there are times for many of us, where that can seem easier said than done.
But maybe part of that is because it can be so easy to go through life and look at it as if we’re largely in control of what happens. To look at our talent or effort as the cause of any successes we have. To look at our talents and skills as being things we can take credit for.
Instead of daily remembering that it is all from the Lord.
James 1:17-18: Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. 18 Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth
We must consider God’s providence as it is seen all throughout scripture and all throughout our lives.
Isaiah 46:9-10 says:
remember the former things of old;
for I am God, and there is no other;
I am God, and there is none like me,
10 declaring the end from the beginning
and from ancient times things not yet done,
saying, ‘My counsel shall stand,
and I will accomplish all my purpose,’
Nothing happens outside of God’s providence.
Martin Luther said “He is almighty because it is His power alone that works in all and through all and over all…this is a most important article of faith, including many things; it completely puts down all pride, arrogance, blasphemy, fame, and false trust, and exalts God alone.”
There are sufferings that we face, but in them, we see God’s providence. That is true in the gospel as God took an evil and worked it for good. And it is true in our lives.
So again, we often face a temptation to fear and to worry. But maybe part of the reason for that is because we don’t take enough time looking at our lives, what has happened, and where God is bringing us in light of his providence.
There is nothing that happens in our lives which is not providential. And all of it is meant for our ultimate good.
So the people seek to arrest Jesus but they’re unable.
7:31: many of the people believed in him. They said, “When the Christ appears, will he do more signs than this man has done?”
We see that some people are drawn to Jesus. They consider the signs that he’s done. Some want to arrest Jesus but there are at least some in the crowd who rhetorically ask if another person could do such wonderful signs?
That’s almost a quick aside in the middle of the passage.
Because the story quickly shifts to the attempt to arrest Jesus.
The temple guards had thus far been prevented from arresting Jesus. But finally, their officers are sent. Between verse 30 and 32, it’s unclear if a little bit of time might have passed.
7:32: The Pharisees heard the crowd muttering these things about him, and the chief priests and Pharisees sent officers to arrest him.
Jesus has been teaching. What he’s said is not popular with the religious authorities. They seem to tolerate it up to a point, but as people start to respond favorably, they desire to put a stop to what Jesus is saying.
And that’ll bring us to our third scene.
Third scene – Jesus’s return to the Father
They are continuing to attempt to arrest Jesus but Jesus will explain the reason it will be fruitless.
Verses 33-34: Jesus then said, “I will be with you a little longer, and then I am going to him who sent me. 34 You will seek me and you will not find me. Where I am you cannot come
He is pointing forward to the time of his death when he says I will be with you a little longer.
It’s not yet the hour of his death. But Jesus is on the home stretch of his ministry. As we’ve said, the Feast of Booths is in the fall. Jesus would be crucified the following spring.
From the end of John 11 until his crucifixion, eight full chapters are dedicated to the final week of Jesus’ life.
And when we’re not in that week, so much of John’s Gospel is pointing forward to his hour, his death.
There are over 15,000 biographies of Abraham Lincoln. His life has been covered in seemingly exhaustive detail. His early life, the tragic loss of his mother in childhood. His many failures. His time in the White House. The complexities of his faith, of his relationship with Mary Todd. His leadership in the Civil War. The personal tragedies he experienced.
I’ve used this example before but perhaps the longest biography written of Lincoln is the 5,000 page Life of Lincoln by his two former secretaries John Hay and John Nicolay. And in 5,000 pages, they cover his assassination on just 20 of those pages.
But when the gospel writers wrote about Jesus, they didn’t have the luxury of writing a 5,000 page book. In fact, Jessu did so many things in his ministry that the final verse of this gospel says:
John 21:25: there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.
But when you consider the sections which cover the final week of Jesus’ life and everything that points to it, in the gospels, one third to one half of each of the gospels is dedicated to his crucifixion.
And the reason is because that is the only way to God. That is the culmination of his ministry.
It is the only way to redemption. It is the only way to God. It is the only way to forgiveness. It is the only way to heaven.
There’s no other way than through the presence of God on earth who was torn down and raised back up three days later.
And it was all in fulfillment of the divine plan.
The temple guards are bearing down on Jesus to arrest them but his focus is on a different time when he knows he will be arrested, where he knows he will be tried, where he knows he will be betrayed, where he knows he will be crucified.
Because Jesus came into the world to save the world and he came into the world to fulfill the divine will.
It is the only way to redemption. It is the only way to God. It is the only way to forgiveness. It is the only way to heaven.
There’s no other way than through the presence of God on earth who was torn down and raised back up three days later.
Jesus talks throughout this gospel of being sent but here he talks of his return to the one who sent him.
As we often see in this gospel, people don’t understand what Jesus is saying.
35 The Jews said to one another, “Where does this man intend to go that we will not find him? Does he intend to go to the Dispersion among the Greeks and teach the Greeks? 36 What does he mean by saying, ‘You will seek me and you will not find me,’ and, ‘Where I am you cannot come’?”
Once again, that ends up being an ironic statement.
They think that Jesus might just give up on his Jerusalem ministry and try to reach non-Jewish Greeks.
That’s ironic because the gospel would be for them too. The gospel is for the whole world. The gospel would extend beyond Israel.
But that also was on the divine timeline and the fruition of that plan would wait until after Jesus had died and rose.
There’s also irony in that they think that Jesus might try to get away as if he’d need to hide from them. He’s their creator and their judge. It is not because Jesus is fearful.
Jesus concludes this passage by pointing to the divine mission. From beginning to end, this passage points us to the providence of God.
We see it throughout this passage, throughout the ministry of Christ, and throughout the Bible.
And it is my hope that we will be a church who see God’s providence throughout our lives.
Nothing in life happens outside of the providence of God. And may we be people who let that influence our thinking about God, his story of redemption. May it enhance our faith. May it give us greaterner boldness in our prayers. May it give us greater assurance of God’s promises.
All to the glory of God.