Monday

13 July 2020

John 7:14-24

'Anyone who resolves to do the will of God will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own.' (v. 17)

Psalm: Psalm 74:1-17

Background

In the other three Gospels Jesus does not visit Jerusalem as an adult and teach in the Temple courts until the last days of his life. But here, rather earlier in his ministry, he chooses to teach in the Temple halfway through the festival that marked the ingathering of the harvest. The initial response is astonishment, as also happened in Galilee (Mark 1:22, Matthew 7:28-29) because his approach is different from that of teachers who had studied to be rabbis. Rather than just passing on the accumulated traditional interpretations of the law of Moses, with careful referencing of his sources, Jesus offered striking new insights without citing any external authority.

In verses 16-18, and partly in response to earlier complaints (in verse 12), Jesus claims his message comes directly from God.  He has previously done the same in 3:34 and 5:30. Since there is no higher authority than God this claim can only be confirmed by the person who, wishing to do the will of God, chooses to accept it.

The threat to kill Jesus is found in John 5:18, and would have been justified by its perpetrators with reference to Deuteronomy 18:18-20 were it not the case that Jesus was truly the prophet like Moses, there referred to, who speaks God’s own words.  The crowd is apparently unaware of the death threat and think Jesus is deluded (“you have a demon”, v. 20). But Jesus proceeds to explain why he accuses the Jewish leaders of law-breaking. Their death sentence on him back in chapter 5 was because he healed on the Sabbath. But he reminds them that the law of Moses not only forbade work on the Sabbath but also required circumcision on the eighth day of life, and that it was universally agreed that the latter law overrode the former.  His argument is then that if the Sabbath law could be overridden with respect to a single part of the body then, arguing from less to greater, how much more right was it for him on the Sabbath to heal the whole person. This kind of argument was not new and was already found among the rabbis.

 

To Ponder:

  • In what respects might the average person today be 'astonished' by the teaching of Jesus?
  • Since we are rational beings, do you think it is fair that the only way to be sure Jesus is speaking God’s own words is to have faith that he is?
  • “Do not judge by appearances, but judge by right judgement.” (v. 24) In regard to which issues today are we, like Jesus’ opponents, at risk of taking one text or biblical theme as a basis for judgement without considering other material that might be needed for a right judgement?

Bible notes author

The Revd Dr Stephen Mosedale

Stephen Mosedale is a retired Methodist minister living near Exeter, enjoying walking, gardening, and membership of a vegetable-growing co-op. He fulfils responsibilities for ministerial candidates, local preachers and worship leaders, and as a school governor. He has a particular interest in the natural world and its significance to faith, especially in the context of climate crisis. A former New Testament tutor at Cliff College, he has a passion for helping others use the Bible as our main way of knowing what God has to say to us in the world of today.

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