We come here to a day in the life of our Lord. There are large parts of the Gospel of John that focus on one day or one week. This is one, it is mid-week. It is now six months until the spring Passover when Jesus will be crucified. So we are coming into the last leg of his ministry leading up to the cross. And here were these three feasts that were celebrated by every Jewish person.
This one is called the feast of tabernacles in which they remembered their wilderness wandering and staying in tents for 40 years before they entered the Promised Land, having been delivered from Egypt. Like all the other major feasts, the city of Jerusalem was teaming with hundreds of thousands of people. There was the population of Jerusalem, and all the others from all around Israel.
In the middle of that week, Jesus arrived in Jerusalem, because He wanted to delay His coming to avoid the hatred of the leaders who sought to kill Him. And upon arrival there, He went immediately to the temple and began teaching. That’s where we find Him when we come to John 7:25 - 36. What we’re going to see in this passage is a trend of unbelief that continues to escalate.
Progressive rejection marks the whole ministry of Jesus. Remember John 1:10-11, “He came into the very world He created, but the world didn’t recognize Him. 11 He came to His own people, and even they rejected Him.” Many of His disciples rejected Him. They had decided that as He talked about His life and His death to come, to walk away. And in John 7:5 He was rejected by His brothers.
In John 7:1 and 19, Jesus was rejected by the leaders of Israel, and in John 7:7 and 20, He was rejected by the people. So everyone rejected Him. He had only a small number of followers. In fact, there were only 120 in the room on the day of Pentecost, so it’s a story of progressive rejection of the greatest person ever, which speaks of the power of sin and the wretchedness of the human heart.
Hell is itself truth discovered too late. Jesus makes a penetrating and powerful statement in verse 34, “You will seek me and not find me”, which says that sinners will seek Him and not be able to find Him. Part of what hell is, is suffering for sin. Hell is also resentment. Hell is also unrelieved bitterness under the destructive hand of God. But hell is also eternal regret without remedy.
Hell is not where Christ is forgotten. It is where He is unavailable. Shut out of heaven forever. The common conception is that God is basically good, and everybody who is good is going to go to heaven. I’m one of the good people, so I’m going to go to heaven. That’s how people think. But here Jesus says, you will seek Me and you will not find Me, and where I am, you cannot come.
Heaven is clearly not for everyone. So this is a warning passage, and just understand that this statement is made to two groups. It’s made to the people, and it’s made to the leaders. They’re different characteristically. The people face Jesus with one perspective. The leaders are faced with a different perspective, but both are given the same sentence. There’s no hierarchy of condemned people.
Judgment will fall on the people, who are just confused about Jesus. And the same hell will be the eternal place of the people who hate Jesus, whether you’re a rejecter or whether you’re a person who is undecided. So let’s break this passage into those component parts and look first of all at the peoples’ confusion, and then at the ruler’s rejection, and then at the Savior’s exclusion.
Now there’s no mistaking the attitude of the people here. They’re confused. Verse 25 says, “Some of the people who lived in Jerusalem started to ask each other, “Isn’t this the man they are trying to kill?” How can they say, “Who seeks to kill you,” in verse 19, and in verse 25 say, “Is this not the man whom they’re trying to kill?” This last statement is from the people who know their leaders.
It was well known to them, but the crowd of people from Galilee and all the gentile areas, didn’t have that knowledge. They were seeking to kill Him. And yet they’re letting Him teach, and nobody is stopping Him. It’s their temple. It’s their territory. They’re in charge. Verse 26, “But here He is, speaking in public, and they say nothing to Him. Could our leaders possibly believe that he is the Messiah?”
This is a thought that comes into their mind. Verse 27, “But how could he be? For we know where this man comes from. When the Messiah comes, he will simply appear; no one will know where he comes from.” We know this can’t be the Messiah. We know His history. We know where He’s from. Yeah, this is the son of a carpenter, a man named Joseph and a woman named Mary.
They didn’t want to accept Jesus. Even the people didn’t because no matter what He offered, in order to receive the offer, you had to accept His indictment, and they hated the indictment. In fact, in His own town, when He told them they were essentially poor prisoners who are blind and oppressed and headed for judgment, they tried to kill Him. These are the people of Nazareth.
Look at John 7:41, “Others said, “He is the Messiah.” Still others said, “But he can’t be! Will the Messiah come from Galilee?” Then there were some who recognized that the Scripture said the Messiah would come as a descendent from David and from Bethlehem, the village where David was. Verse 43-44, “So the crowd was divided about him. 44 Some even wanted Him arrested, but no one laid a hand on Him.”
Micah 5:2 said that He would come from Bethlehem, but not Nazareth. They could have checked the records at the temple that He had actually been born in Bethlehem. And He would have been according His father, a child of the Davidic line and they could have checked His genealogy that his mother’s line was also Davidic. He was the son of David based on His genealogy.
They could have checked that, but they didn’t check that. All they were looking for was justification for their rejection because Jesus didn’t fit the pattern that the rabbis taught. A popular notion had developed that the Messiah would have made a grand entrance. They used some passages. One was Malachi 3:1, “Then the Lord you are seeking will suddenly come to his Temple.”
They misinterpreted those passages, and came up with this notion that the Messiah would have some kind of supernatural arrival at the temple, and not in the normal way. That’s what they decided. This can’t be the Messiah. We know about His family, and we know He came from Nazareth. He didn’t come suddenly from heaven to the temple. This can’t be the anointed one. This can’t be the Messiah.
All the leaders knew the Messiah comes from Bethlehem. The records show Jesus had come from Bethlehem. All the leaders knew He would come in the Davidic line. The record of the temple showed that Jesus was born to two Davidic families. People never seem to lack support for their desired beliefs. They can always justify their rejections. So there they are in this confusion.
Verse 28, “While Jesus was teaching in the Temple, he called out, “Yes, you know me, and you know where I come from. But I’m not here on my own. The one who sent me is true, and you don’t know Him.” Jesus is really saying, “The idea that in your unbelief and confusion, you know me is ridiculous. You don’t know me. You don’t know where I came from, and you don’t know who sent me.”
In John 8:19, He says to them, “You neither know me nor my Father. You don’t know anything about me. Oh, yes, you know the family in the town of Nazareth, but you don’t know me. I have not come of myself. I’m not the product of the family or the town of Nazareth. You may know my public deeds. You may have heard my words, but you have no idea who I am.
The problem is delineated in John 8:43-44, “Why can’t you understand what I am saying? It’s because you can’t even hear me! 44 For you are the children of your father the devil, and you love to do the evil things he does. He was a murderer from the beginning. He has always hated the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, it is consistent with his character; for he is a liar and the father of lies.”
Knowing a few external details about Jesus is to know nothing about Him. To know a little bit about His history, to know a little bit about the Christian stories that you may have heard is to know nothing about Him. What an indictment of Israel. We see it today in our culture where Jesus is a household word. People use His name in vain all the time. Most people use His name as a swear word.
People could tell you stories about Jesus. They would even talk about Jesus in some understanding of biblical history. Bibles all over the land, churches everywhere. But people don’t know Jesus. Verse 29, “But I know Him because I come from Him, and He sent me to you.” The Jews prided themselves on being the people of God who knew God, but Jesus says, “You don’t know God.”
In our country, maybe in the whole western world, this is the dominating reality. People say they know Jesus. They know the name Jesus. They know some things about Jesus. But they don’t know Him, and they don’t know God who sent Him. And that’s a horrible position to be in because there will come a time when you will seek to know Him, and He will not be available.
The people were confused and the rulers rejected Him. Verse 30, “Then the leaders tried to arrest Him; but no one laid a hand on Him, because his time had not yet come.” They want the rulers to do something. They needed somebody to lead them. So the rulers finally step in, and they want to seize Him. But no man lays hands on Him. From a human viewpoint, they may have said, “He’s too powerful.”
And they were right because He vacated the temple at the beginning of His ministry. He had supernatural power over demons. And He had supernatural power over disease. There was also a measure of fear and a measure of respect. He commanded and demanded respect. So from a human viewpoint, they’re paralyzed, and they don’t want to start a riot in the middle of the feast.
But the divine explanation is the only one the Bible gives us. The reason no man laid hands on Him to arrest Him was because His hour hadn’t come. They were restrained by the invisible hand of God. They couldn’t act because they were under divine control. The truth is that there is that overwhelming reality of the invisible hand of God which controls everything that happens in the universe.
Redemptive history is planned by God sovereignly, and everything happens according to His purpose, plan and timing. Nothing could be done without divine permission because God is in control of absolutely everything. Verse 31, “Many among the crowds at the Temple believed in him. “After all,” they said, “would you expect the Messiah to do more miraculous signs than this man has done?”
Nothing here to indicate that this faith was a permanent, genuine, saving faith, although in some cases, that’s possible. But the leaders see this, and they are really concerned now. Verse 32, “When the Pharisees heard that the crowds were whispering such things, they and the leading priests sent Temple guards to arrest Jesus.” The temple police are dispatched to go and arrest Him.
So they go. In verse 45, those temple police came back to the chief priests and Pharisees without Him, and they said to them, “Why did you not bring Him? We sent you to arrest Him. The officers answered, “Never has a man spoken the way this man speaks.” The Pharisees then answered him, “Have you been led astray too?” Verse 48, “No one of the rulers or Pharisees has believed in Him.”
And in verse 33, “But Jesus told them, “I will be with you only a little longer. Then I will return to the one who sent me.” Jesus is saying, “It’s not going to be long. It’s going to be over. I’m going to be out of your life. You’re not going to have to deal with me anymore.” This takes us to the final point going from the peoples’ confusion to the leader’s rejection to the Savior’s exclusion.
Verse 34, “You will search for Me but not find Me. And you cannot go where I am going.” Forty years later, Romans came and sacked the city. Hundreds of thousands of Jews were massacred. Did they remember that He said that there would come a day, where they would search for Him and couldn’t find Him? Certainly that would be true for people facing death.
Verse 35, “The Jewish leaders were puzzled by this statement. “Where is he planning to go?” they asked. “Is he thinking of leaving the country and going to the Jews in other lands? Maybe He will even teach the Greeks!” The Jews are sinful and faithless fools who mock the Son of God with blasphemous words. It is all sarcasm based on ignorance and willful rejection.
Verse 36, “What does Jesus mean when He says, ‘You will search for me but not find me,’ and ‘You cannot go where I am going’?” That’s part of hell, seeking what you will never find forever. Heaven is not for everybody. Heaven is for those who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ only, who believe in the true Christ and the true gospel and no one else.” Let us pray.