23 July 2014

John 7:25-36

“Yet many in the crowd believed in him and were saying, ‘When the Messiah comes, will he do more signs than this man has done?’” (v. 31)


John chapter 7 is a complex admixture of belief and unbelief. The chapter begins with a statement of the unbelief of Jesus' brothers (John 7:5). His own closest relatives did not believe he was the Messiah. Perhaps they thought in Monty Python terms, that he was simply "a very naughty boy".

The setting of the chapter is the Festival of Booths or the Feast of Tabernacles, and the location is Judea rather than Galilee, where Jesus' ministry is well known and probably well supported.

Given that it is the Festival of Booths, there would have been many pilgrims from other parts of the country who gathered in Judea, and some of these may well have been diaspora Jews from other parts of the world.

The crowds to whom Jesus later speaks would therefore have included a number who would never have met or heard about him, though it seems clear as number had at least heard of him by reputation.

The crowds are divided about Jesus. Some say he is a good man others thought he was a con-man (John 7:12). However, even those inclined to think of Jesus as a good man, often misunderstood his teaching.

It is clear that Jesus did not fit many contemporary stereotypes and expectations of the Messiah, but there were his miraculous signs and his exceptional teaching that simply could not easily be explained away by those who struggled to believe he was the Messiah.

There remain a number of people today who also struggle to believe in Jesus. Some are attracted to the activity of the Church, and resonate with Christian responses to injustice, poverty and social deprivation. Many enjoy something of the beauty of Christian liturgy and worship. Some deeply appreciate Christian schools, uniformed groups, Messy Church, and other youth and children related activities. However, despite this many still struggle with belief in the person of Jesus the Christ, the Messiah.

It seems to me that struggling with belief in Jesus is an acceptable and honest place to be. Faith often includes wrestling. Indeed secure faith comes not from placid acceptance, but from wrestling with difficult ideas and finding, eventually, a way of making some sense of it all.

That journey I think is captured well in the key verse above. Though Jesus does not fit some Messianic stereotypes many in the crowd conclude that the Messiah when he comes will not do more signs than Jesus has done. Put simply, even though it is difficult to believe there is no other reasonable conclusion: Jesus is Messiah.

To Ponder

  • What are some of the elements of Christian faith that you find it hard to believe?
  • How do we create safe spaces for wrestling with elements of Christian faith?
  • If it is true that secure faith is the result of wrestling, what steps should you take to avoid rushing to easy conclusions about challenging elements of Christian faith?

Bible notes author

The Revd Dr Calvin T Samuel

The Revd Dr Calvin T Samuel is a Methodist minister, currently stationed as Director of Wesley Study Centre, Durham - a Methodist theological institution which is part of St John's College within the University of Durham. Prior to this he was New Testament Tutor at Spurgeon's College in London and Chaplain to Farringtons School in Kent