John 7 takes place in Jerusalem during the Feast of Tabernacles about six months before Jesus’ crucifixion. As John is prone to doing, he takes an event (like Jesus meeting the Samaritan woman or the feeding of the multitude) and details some of the ripples that emanated from it.
In the seventh chapter, the event is Jesus’ presence at the Feast. By this time, He is a popular, controversial figure and there is a great deal of speculation about and interest in Him. This is only heightened when He isn’t present for the first few days of the feast. He finally shows up about halfway through the week and begins to teach in the temple courts. One of the things John shows us is how divided the people and even some of the leadership were concerning Jesus. In the chapter we are told of people who:
- wanted to kill Jesus (v. 1),
- didn’t believe in Him (v. 5),
- thought He was a good man (v. 12),
- thought He was a deceiver (v. 12),
- were amazed (v. 15),
- were confused about Him (v. 25-27, 41-42),
- believed in Him (v. 12, 31, 41-42).
In other words, it was just like it is today. A recent Barna poll (March, ’20) found that more people believed that Jesus was both God and human and sinned (44%), than those who believed He was both God and man and sinless (41%). The same poll interestingly found that more people believe in the biblical view of Satan (56%) than the biblical view of God (51%). There will always be divisions over Christ.
One of the reasons for this is that there will always be superficial judgments about Jesus. Christ addressed this in v. 24 when He told His critics to, “Stop judging by mere appearances, but instead judge correctly.” In the context, they had accused Him of breaking the Sabbath law because He had healed a paralytic on the Sabbath (v. 23). Jesus pointed out if it was permissible under the law to practice circumcision on the Sabbath (the cutting away of a small portion of flesh), how could it not be lawful to make a person whole? If the Sabbath was given for man’s restoration (and it was), then healing was in perfect harmony with the Sabbath!
We’re all guilty of superficial thinking from time to time. (No one has the time or the energy to critically think through every decision we’re called on to make). We make judgments based on partial knowledge, erroneous information, faulty intuition, our mood at the time, etc. Much of the time it doesn’t matter—like when we’re deciding what to wear or what we want to eat. When it does matter though, we need to think things through at a deeper level. That’s what all people should do in regard to making a decision about Jesus. But there is a something people can do that promises they will make the right decision about Jesus.
What is it?
Christ told the same group of people, “If anyone is willing to do His will, he will know of the teaching, whether it is of God or whether I speak from Myself” (v. 17, NASB). A good question to ask someone who is confused about Jesus is what difference would it make if they found out Jesus is Lord? Are they willing to do His will? That’s the key. A person with such a mindset is ready to hear and understand about Jesus. The person who isn’t, is resisting Him. God wants all people to come to a knowledge of the truth and be saved (1 Timothy 2:4). But He will force no one. But to the person who is willing, He promises to reveal His Son.
“Speak for your servant is listening” (1 Samuel 3:10). When people come to God with this attitude, there will be no divisions over Jesus.
It makes a difference how we hear.