John 7:11-24 – Right Judgment of Jesus

Jesus arrives at Jerusalem and is confronted with incorrect views of both Who He is and How He is capable of such learned teaching.
• Just as He explained the unbelief of the crowd in John 6, here He will also explain the reason for these incorrect views.
• And as is so often the case in the Gospel of John, ground zero for the clash between discerning the “Father’s Jesus” and the “World’s Jesus” is the nature of one’s heart, mind and will.
• Jesus teaches us that only those who “judge with right judgment” can discern the Who and the How.


John 7:11–13 (ESV) — 11 The Jews were looking for him at the feast, and saying, “Where is he?” 12 And there was much muttering about him among the people. While some said, “He is a good man,” others said, “No, he is leading the people astray.” 13 Yet for fear of the Jews no one spoke openly of him.

These verses seem to confirm our discussion on the reason why Jesus’ brothers insisted Jesus go to the feast in public.
• A crowd eagerly anticipated His arrival no doubt wanting to greet Him and see what He would do next in Jerusalem.
• As we know, last time He was there He healed on the Sabbath (John 5).
• An action that motivated the Jewish leadership to seek His death.
• Therefore in our text, we most likely have the Diaspora Jews, Judean Jews and/or Galilean Jews talking amongst themselves about Jesus, not the Jewish leadership.
• It is interesting that the Jewish leadership’s hatred of Jesus was so well known that the common Jew feared speaking in public about Him.
• And there discussion as to His identity clearly missed the mark – some calling Him a “good man” and some calling Him a charlatan.
• It is fascinating how many “World’s Jesus’” (“good man”, “leading people astray”, healer, grocery store, teacher, demon possessed, etc.) there are and yet none are truly accurate.

Jesus will soon address, as He did in John 6, why so many of the Jews do not know the “Father’s Jesus”.


John 7:14–15 (ESV) — 14 About the middle of the feast Jesus went up into the temple and began teaching. 15 The Jews therefore marveled, saying, “How is it that this man has learning, when he has never studied?”

As we discussed last time, Jesus went up “about the middle”, i.e., God’s timing not His brothers’ timing.
• The crowd had spent 3 or 4 days discussing His whereabouts and who He was in vss. 11-13.
• Now He arrives alone, there is no triumphal entry.
• He simply went to the temple courtyards and began to teach as the Father led Him.
• And it is here that the Jewish crowds make an interesting transition from talking about Who He is to How His teaching can be so impressive.
• They all seem to know He had no formal training.

BTW – We have had a lesson on how Jesus’ teaching style is one of many ways to see He thought of Himself as God.


John 7:16–24 (ESV) — 16 So Jesus answered them, “My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me. 17 If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority. 18 The one who speaks on his own authority seeks his own glory; but the one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and in him there is no falsehood.

As a side note, Jesus answer in vs. 16 is at odds with what you find quite often today, even in Christianity.
• Jesus does not claim to bring a new message or truth.
• And in that respect, He did not seek His own glory as He says in vs. 18.
• But as He always does, He gives all credit for His teaching to the Father.
• “The age in which Jesus lived did not prize originality. If Jesus had acknowledged that he was self-taught or had originated his own message, he would have been immediately discredited for arrogance” – Kostenberger.
• Listening to Rob Bell on Unbelievable Radio this week, by contrast, one hears someone doing the complete opposite of Jesus’ example in our text – grounding truth in men’s fears and therefore seeking their glory instead of grounding truth in God’s word and glorifying Him.

So now Jesus addresses the crowds’ questions as to How His teaching is so impressive and, underlying that, Who He is.
• Jesus’ answer, “If anyone’s will” lays down a challenge to the Jews to examine their will.
• “The Lord’s challenge to the crowd was simple: If they would humble themselves before God’s Word (wherein His will is revealed) to know and obey it, they would come to a sure realization that His teaching was true” – John MacArthur.

Now we need to explore the relationship between the will and discerning the truth of Jesus.

Right Judgment and the Will:
It is telling here that Jesus does appeal to intellectual arguments, and the various methods of rabbinic teaching to establish that what He was teaching was true.
• Instead He appeals directly to the nature of one’s will and by extension the condition of one’s heart (remember the link between Heart, Mind in Will – John 3, Ezekiel 36, etc.).
• In other words, for one to know that Jesus’ teaching was true and thus from the Father one “must be fundamentally committed to doing God’s will” – D.A. Carson.
    o Psalm 40:8 (ESV) — 8 I delight to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.”
    o 1 Chronicles 28:9 (ESV) — 9 “And you, Solomon my son, know the God of your father and serve him with a whole heart and with a willing mind, for the LORD searches all hearts and understands every plan and thought. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will cast you off forever.
Who are those “fundamentally committed” to doing the will of God?
Who has the law within their hearts?
Who are those that “serve Him with a whole heart and with a willing mind”?

This raises a profound circumstance of the depravity of the human condition that impacts our ability to “judge” Jesus’ teaching as true and to make spiritual judgments in general.
• “Finite and fallen human beings cannot set themselves up on some sure ground outside the truth and thus gain the vantage from which they may assess it. Divine revelation can only be assessed, as it were, from the inside. From that perspective the person who chooses to do God’s will discovers that Jesus’ teaching articulates it, that Jesus does not speak on his own but as the Word of God” – D.A. Carson.
• And this is why John MacArthur says, “Accepting or rejecting the claims of Jesus Christ is never a purely intellectual decision; there are inescapable moral and spiritual implications that are also involved”.

We see, then, that Jesus has laid down a fundamental truth.
• In order to know How His teaching is true and learned, and thereby know that Who He is is the Messiah, one’s will must be in submission to God.
• A will in rebellion to God the Father cannot know the “Father’s Jesus”, but only the “World’s Jesus”.

Jesus, knowing they think they do know and seek God’s will through the law then proceeds to address this issue.
• A somewhat similar circumstance as the rich young ruler.

Right Judgment and the Law:
19 Has not Moses given you the law? Yet none of you keeps the law. Why do you seek to kill me?” 20 The crowd answered, “You have a demon! Who is seeking to kill you?” 21 Jesus answered them, “I did one work, and you all marvel at it. 22 Moses gave you circumcision (not that it is from Moses, but from the fathers), and you circumcise a man on the Sabbath. 23 If on the Sabbath a man receives circumcision, so that the law of Moses may not be broken, are you angry with me because on the Sabbath I made a man’s whole body well? 24 Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.”

Jesus now turns His attention from the relationship of knowing the truth of Jesus’ teaching and God’s will to also include God’s law.
• What exactly is the will of God for the Jew at this time?
    o It is to do the will of God as contained in the law.
• Jesus’ rhetorical question in vs. 19 can be paraphrased, “Moses has indeed given you the law” (though in fact circumcision came through Abraham as John reminds us) – D.A. Carson.
• And then knowing how highly esteemed Moses is among the Jews (see lesson’s on John 6), Jesus declares that none of them keep the law even when they know it’s source is God.

Having heard Jesus thus far, the crowd accuses Jesus of being demon possessed in verse 20.
• This comment betrays the fact that Jesus’ point concerning their inability to know His teaching is in fact valid.
• And this accusation made about Jesus is not an uncommon one.
    o John 10:20 (ESV) — 20 Many of them said, “He has a demon, and is insane; why listen to him?”
    o Mark 3:22 (ESV) — 22 And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem were saying, “He is possessed by Beelzebul,” and “by the prince of demons he casts out the demons.”

Then Jesus further illustrates His point in 21-24:
Jesus readily admits that He healed a man and had Him carry away His mat on the Sabbath, for which He was accused of breaking the Sabbath.
• However, He then points out that they circumcised on the Sabbath.
• If a child was born and the eighth day fell on the Sabbath, the Jews decided to proceed with the circumcision even though it was on the Sabbath.
• When two laws conflicted like this, the Jews employed a “hierarchy of precedence” – D.A. Carson.
• An example – Matthew 12:5 (ESV) — 5 Or have you not read in the Law how on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath and are guiltless?
• The circumcision took precedence over the Sabbath – the “making whole” a person over the day.
• Jesus was pointing out that using their logic of the “hierarchy of precedence” the healing of a man’s “whole body” took precedence even more so.

Their condemnation of Jesus fails on both their standard (their judgment) of the law and on God’s standard of the law.
• Had they truly sought God’s glory and to do His will as “in the spirit of the law” over “the letter of the law”, this would have been plainly obvious.
• Therefore to condemn Jesus using the letter of the law was to condemn themselves; if He was wrong they were wrong.
    o James 2:10 (ESV) — 10 For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it.
• This misuse of the law, legalism, indicates that they have chosen not to do God’s will.
• Therefore, as we have just seen, those who do not choose the will of God cannot know, in the way Jesus’ speaks of in our text, that His teaching is true.
• “They have the law: Moses gave it to them (cf. 1:17) and they delight in it. But, like Paul, this passage insists that mere possession of the law cannot guarantee sanctity. Ironically, it guarantees condemnation: ‘not one of you keeps the law’” – D.A. Carson.

But there is more than that here.
• John MacArthur puts it as follows: “If they did not object to the ceremonial cleansing of one part of the body on the Sabbath, how could they object to His healing the entire body on the Sabbath? In this way, Jesus not only exposed their rank hypocrisy (cf. Matt. 12:11–12; Luke 13:10–16), but He also demonstrated that it was permissible to do good on the Sabbath.
    o Matthew 12:11–12 (ESV) — 11 He said to them, “Which one of you who has a sheep, if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not take hold of it and lift it out? 12 Of how much more value is a man than a sheep! So it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.”
• The Law of Moses had been corrupted and Jesus’ was here to fulfill it and set it right.

The challenge Christ issued in verse 17 has now come full circle with His words in verse 24.
• “Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.
• The Jew who truly seeks the will of God and who rejects the corruption of the Law of Moses can be free to recognize both Jesus’ Who and How – the Messiah operating under the authority of the Father.
Who seeks the will of God and rejects the corruption of the law?

Lesson for Us:
There is a principal here that Right Judgment of Christ is found in:
• A life Seeking God’s Will – Not seeking one’s own will
• Sees Jesus’ teaching as under the Father’s authority – Not Seeing Jesus’ teaching as on His own authority
• Seeks Father’s glory – Not Seeking His (and his) own glory
• Spirit of the Law (Heal on Sabbath) – Not Letter of the Law (Circumcise on Sabbath)

The right hand column is incapable of a right judgment about Jesus, and as we have seen corrupts the law and becomes legalistic.
• It is interesting that even Christians who were brought up in a legalistic Church and family setting have a very difficult time grasping some aspects of the “Father’s Jesus” – like the freedom we have in Christ.
• To teach the letter of the law and not the spirit of the law is a very dangerous thing.
• For example, to teach a Christian to “not drink”, instead of teaching the spiritual principal of being a stumbling block and being filled with the Spirit short sells God’s word and keeps the Christian on milk instead of meat.


John 7:1-10 - God's Timing

Our Diving Deeper lesson title comes from our text where Jesus twice says that His “time has not yet come”.
• Along with fleshing out all 10 verses, we will pay particular attention to the contrast Jesus reveals between His time and the unbelievers time.


John 7:1–2 (ESV) — 1 After this Jesus went about in Galilee. He would not go about in Judea, because the Jews were seeking to kill him. 2 Now the Jews’ Feast of Booths was at hand.

We learned about the Feast of Booths last week so no need to address here.
• Suffice it to say, however, that we are about 6 months after John 6.
• That puts us about 6 months from Jesus’ crucifixion.
• So it is with building tension that John reminds us that Jesus’ life was in danger because of His words and works thus far.
• A specific example would be John 5:17–18 (ESV) — 17 But Jesus answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I am working.” 18 This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.
• It is also worth mentioning that Deut 16:16 made it mandatory that “all your males shall appear” for the Feast of Booths.
• This brings us to our next verses.

POI – Just 6 months prior, Jesus taught the profound lessons of the Father’s role in salvation to possibly thousands. When He finished, He was left with 12.
• John MacArthur points out how important it is that Jesus really spent the majority of His time with small groups, specifically with the Twelve, that he might disciple them and mature them spiritually.
• He then says, “the measure of any church’s success is not the size of its congregation, but the depth of its discipleship.”
• I must confess that this observation is an encouragement given what we do in our class.


John 7:3–5 (ESV) — 3 So [perhaps because males were supposed to] his brothers said to him, “Leave here and go to Judea, that your disciples also may see the works you are doing. 4 For no one works in secret if he seeks to be known openly. If you do these things, show yourself to the world.” 5 For not even his brothers believed in him.

No doubt Jesus’ half brothers, James, Joseph, Simon and Judas (Jude), were aware of how numerous Jesus’ losses were with respect to His followers.
• Many suggest that Jesus’ brothers were advising Jesus on how to stem these losses.
• Kostenberger says, “At the upcoming Jerusalem festival, Jesus (so his brothers tell him) has an opportunity to reverse his fortunes.
• Additionally, there is a sense here in which if Jesus was to be the political Messiah that most hoped for, Jerusalem (“the world”) during the Feast would be the time and place to “show yourself”.
• To merely “show yourself” in Galilee wasn’t going to get it done, apparently, because Jerusalem is the real test.
Why would Jerusalem during the Feast of Booths be considered “the world”?

And then John takes us abruptly into a specific direction by telling us that Jesus’ brothers were not believers.
• John seems to be implying that everything Jesus’ brothers just said lacked some type of connection with a truth that could only come from an understanding and believing heart.
• The fact that Jesus must make Himself known in Jerusalem was certainly true, even if it was to be a crucified Messiah instead of a political one.

But as unbelievers, they made a few couple of very crucial miscalculations.
• (1) “It is not Jesus’ failure to “show himself to the world” that impedes the reception of his message but the world’s sinful rejection of its Creator” – Andreas Kostenberger.
    o We have seen numerous times that most that followed Jesus had a spurious faith founded in what He did and not who He was.
• (2) They falsely assumed that Jesus’ calling was self-serving, a “fundamental misunderstanding of who He is” (a similar mistake assumed by Satan while tempting Jesus in the desert) – Kostenberger.
    o Jesus was not out to attract a following for his own sake.
• (3) Finally, from our next verses, the third miscalculation appears to be one of timing.

POI – It is striking to me how often and how detailed John has Jesus teaching on the nature of unbelief.
• In light of the current trends toward inclusivism and universalism, I wonder what those who adhere to such views would make of John’s teachings if, at the end of the day, they don’t really matter?
• As well, as Warren Wiersbe points out about how deprived unbelievers are, “Here were men going up to a religious feast, yet rejecting their own Messiah!” – who cares if we all get saved anyway?


John 7:6–10 (ESV) — 6 Jesus said to them, “My time has not yet come, but your time is always here. 7 The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify about it that its works are evil. 8 You go up to the feast. I am not going up to this feast, for my time has not yet fully come.” 9 After saying this, he remained in Galilee. 10 But after his brothers had gone up to the feast, then he also went up, not publicly but in private.

Why was timing the issue and what did it matter?

Before we try to answer this question, it is important to survey just how important timing is for God’s actions.

In General:
• Genesis 15:12–16 (ESV) — 12 As the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell on Abram. And behold, dreadful and great darkness fell upon him. 13 Then the LORD said to Abram, “Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years. 14 But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions. 15 As for yourself, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried in a good old age. 16 And they shall come back here in the fourth generation, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.”
• Leviticus 16:2 (ESV) — 2 and the LORD said to Moses, “Tell Aaron your brother not to come at any time into the Holy Place inside the veil, before the mercy seat that is on the ark, so that he may not die. For I will appear in the cloud over the mercy seat.
• Ecclesiastes 3:1 (ESV) — 1 For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
• Isaiah 66:18 (ESV) — 18 “For I know their works and their thoughts, and the time is coming to gather all nations and tongues. And they shall come and shall see my glory,
• Jeremiah 8:7 (ESV) — 7 Even the stork in the heavens knows her times, and the turtledove, swallow, and crane keep the time of their coming, but my people know not the rules of the LORD.
• Acts 1:7 (ESV) — 7 He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority.

Specifically with Christ:
• Galatians 4:4–5 (ESV) — 4 But 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.
• 1 Peter 1:20 (ESV) — 20 He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you
• John 2:4 (ESV) — 4 And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.”
• John 7:30 (ESV) — 30 So they were seeking to arrest him, but no one laid a hand on him, because his hour had not yet come.
• John 8:20 (ESV) — 20 These words he spoke in the treasury, as he taught in the temple; but no one arrested him, because his hour had not yet come.

Now having seen how Sovereign God’s relationship with time is, we can try to discover why the issue of timing was so crucial.

Verse 6 shows us that Jesus’ timing was specifically constrained by the Father’s will and so Jesus, who always took His cues from the Father, knew beyond all doubt that His time had not yet come.
• But His brothers, on the other hand, had no such divine constraints on their time.
• In fact, from a Jewish perspective, Jesus’ words “your time is always here” could have been easily been taken as an insult, according to D.A. Carson.
• D.A. Carson puts it as follows, “It is almost as if they are being excluded from divine sovereignty—not that God suspended his providential reign in their case, but that what they did was utterly without significance as far as God is concerned” – D.A. Carson.

So here we have 3 new interesting characteristics about time and unbelievers.
• (1) Their “time” brings no glory to God because it is lived in rebellion to God.
    o Truly a life is wasted if it makes no difference in God’s work.
• (2) They suggest courses of action that are contrary to God’s timing.
    o In seeking their own interests and/or a miscalculation of Jesus’ they suggest He act against the Father’s will.
• (3) Because their “time” brings no glory to God they are of the world.
    o Jesus implies this when He tells them in verse 7 that “the world cannot hate you”.
    o “Jesus asserts that the world cannot hate his brothers (presumably because they were part of it—quite an indictment” – Kostenberger.
    o “Their alignment with ‘the world’ means they know nothing of God’s agenda. They do not listen to his word, do not recognize it when it comes, and cannot perceive the Word incarnate before them. They are divorced from God’s kairos, his divine appointments, and so any time will do” – D.A. Carson.

We also see here, once again, How committed Jesus is to the will of the Father.
• We have learned already how the words He speaks and the authority he displays, etc., all owe themselves to the Father.
• Now we see that He even attributes the timing of His actions to the will of the Father.
• Jesus would not go to Jerusalem publically as His brothers desired but would go secretly, about 3-4 days later, as verse 10 states.
• “Jesus is not going to be pressured to act before his time” – Kostenberger.
• Additionally, it was customary for extended family to travel together to Jerusalem for festivals.
    o That Jesus didn’t do so here, “points to Jesus’ increasing isolation” – Kostenberger.
    o Psalm 69:8 (ESV) — 8 I have become a stranger to my brothers, an alien to my mother’s sons.
• And Jesus, in going up on his own, must have done so in the timing of and obedience to the Father not because He was fickle or indesicive.

And as we all know, 6 months later His time would come “to be known openly”.
• Luke 9:51 (ESV) — 51 When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem.
• John 12:23 (ESV) — 23 And Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.

• The unbelievers timing is uninformed and self-serving.
• The believers timing is divinely informed and God-serving; use it wisely to God’s glory.
• God is Sovereign over time and is directly involved in its unfolding.
• “One very important conclusion flows from this. If the events of Christ’s life were ordered by God, as we have seen, then it follows that the most important thing that can be said about the death of the Lord Jesus Christ is that God the Father caused it. God the Father put Jesus to death. In the history of the church there have been times when men and women have emphasized the role that the Jewish leaders had in Christ’s crucifixion. This has led in a very unjustifiable way to much anti-Semitism. It is true, of course, that the religious leaders did have a part in Christ’s death, but this is relatively unimportant. Others, to counter this line of thought, have emphasized that it was actually the Gentiles, in the person of Pilate, who sentenced Christ to death. But again, while this is true, it is nevertheless relatively unimportant. The important thing is that God the Father put Jesus Christ to death and that he did so in order that there might be an atonement for our sins” – James Boice.


John 7 Intro - Feast of Booths

John 7 takes place within the context of the Jewish feast called Feast of Booths.
• In order to properly understand the significance of what takes place in chapter 7, we need to understand exactly what the Feast of Booths is.
• Today, we will do just that.


John 7:2 (ESV) — 2 Now the Jews’ Feast of Booths was at hand.

It’s Origins:
Feast of Booths is also called Feast of Ingathering, Feast of Tabernacles and Sukkot (from sukkah, meaning booth).
• It was ordained by God in Leviticus 23:33-36.
• Leviticus 23:33–36 (ESV) — 33 And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 34 “Speak to the people of Israel, saying, On the fifteenth day of this seventh month and for seven days is the Feast of Booths to the LORD. 35 On the first day shall be a holy convocation; you shall not do any ordinary work. 36 For seven days you shall present food offerings to the LORD. On the eighth day you shall hold a holy convocation and present a food offering to the LORD. It is a solemn assembly; you shall not do any ordinary work.

What are the booths?
Leviticus 23:42 (ESV) — 42 You shall dwell in booths for seven days. All native Israelites shall dwell in booths
• The booths were literal booths made with the branches of palm trees that were constructed for the week to serve as temporary dwellings.
• They were built on the “roofs of their houses, and in the streets and squares” – John MacArthur.

Example of a modern day Booth:

It’s timing:
• The seventh month is referring to October (Lev. 23:34).
• This timing is significant because it follows just 5 days after the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur).
• Yom Kippur, a very solemn holiday, is perhaps the most significant Jewish holiday; the day to “make atonement…before the Lord your God” (Lev. 23:28).
• Following Yom Kippur also put Feast of Booths at the end of the harvest, which is appropriate since the Feast was associated “with the ingathering of the harvest” – D.A. Carson.
• And in Jesus’ day, unlike Yom Kippur, “it was marked by celebrations and parties” – John MacArthur.
• In our text, this Feast of Booths was about 6 months after John 6.

It’s Purpose:
Deuteronomy 16:15 (ESV) — 15 For seven days you shall keep the feast to the LORD your God at the place that the LORD will choose, because the LORD your God will bless you in all your produce and in all the work of your hands, so that you will be altogether joyful.
Leviticus 23:43 (ESV) — 43 that your generations may know that I made the people of Israel dwell in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.”
• (1) God desired to bless the Hebrews harvest as they obeyed.
• (2) God intended that they remember how He sheltered them during the Exodus from Egypt.

It’s Demise:
It appears that the Hebrews did a poor job of observing the Feast of Booths.
• In Nehemiah (445 B.C.) we are told that not since Joshua’s time (1400-1200 B.C.) had it been observed.
• Nehemiah 8:17 (ESV) — 17 And all the assembly of those who had returned from the captivity made booths and lived in the booths, for from the days of Jeshua the son of Nun to that day the people of Israel had not done so. And there was very great rejoicing.

It’s Rise:
In Nehemiah, written after the Babylonia Exile, we also see that the Feast was reinstituted.
• Nehemiah 8:14–17 (ESV) — 14 And they found it written in the Law that the LORD had commanded by Moses that the people of Israel should dwell in booths during the feast of the seventh month, 15 and that they should proclaim it and publish it in all their towns and in Jerusalem, “Go out to the hills and bring branches of olive, wild olive, myrtle, palm, and other leafy trees to make booths, as it is written.” 16 So the people went out and brought them and made booths for themselves, each on his roof, and in their courts and in the courts of the house of God, and in the square at the Water Gate and in the square at the Gate of Ephraim.
• And “in postexilic Judaism the Feast of Booths became a popular occasion, particularly among Diaspora Jews who undertook lengthy pilgrimages to the temple at Jerusalem” – EBD.
• Apparently the Diaspora Jews would not make booths but carry a citron and palm frond together, known as a lulav.

Example of a modern day lulav:

Another significant development was that “during the seven-day observance the priest presented libations after the morning offering, while the choir pronounced the words of Isa. 12:3: “With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation” – EBD.
• This is commonly referred to as a water drawing ceremony.
• The intent of this was apparently to remember another of God’s provisions during the Exodus.
• Numbers 20:2–8 (ESV) — 2 Now there was no water for the congregation. And they assembled themselves together against Moses and against Aaron. 3 And the people quarreled with Moses and said, “Would that we had perished when our brothers perished before the LORD! 4 Why have you brought the assembly of the LORD into this wilderness, that we should die here, both we and our cattle? 5 And why have you made us come up out of Egypt to bring us to this evil place? It is no place for grain or figs or vines or pomegranates, and there is no water to drink.” 6 Then Moses and Aaron went from the presence of the assembly to the entrance of the tent of meeting and fell on their faces. And the glory of the LORD appeared to them, 7 and the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 8 “Take the staff, and assemble the congregation, you and Aaron your brother, and tell the rock before their eyes to yield its water. So you shall bring water out of the rock for them and give drink to the congregation and their cattle.”

Significance to John’s Gospel:
• It is interesting that a few weeks ago we learned how the Hebrew’s were to remember the provision of the manna to remind them of God’s work during the Exodus and in the Feast of Booths we see yet another example of God’s desire that the Hebrews remember God’s work in the Exodus.
• It is obviously not a coincidence that the provision God demanded they remember would find ultimate fulfillment in the provision of Jesus Christ.
• It is no wonder then that God was so adamant that they remember – living water, bread of life, flesh & blood!
• As we will see in a later lesson, like the manna, Jesus will use the water symbolism to point to Himself.


John 6:60-71 - Discipleship Tested by Doctrine

Last week we saw that Jesus did not sugar coat the truth He was teaching.
• In fact, he illustrated His role in salvation in a way that was even more divisive.
    o “feeds on my flesh”
    o “drinks my blood”

Today we look at the response of the Jews to the truths Jesus’ taught in His Bread of Life discourse.
• Our aim is to figure out why Jesus’ words were considered to be “a hard saying”.
• We will determine if the Jews understood or did not understand what Jesus was saying.
• Our title, from James Boice, reveals the pruning affect Jesus’ sayings ultimately had.


John 6:60–61 (ESV) — 60 When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” 61 But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples were grumbling about this, said to them, “Do you take offense at this?

We are introduced here, for the first time in this discourse, to those called “his disciples”.
• Thus far, we have seen that this discussion began with many who were partakers of Jesus’ feeding of the 5,000.
• Later, John simply refers to the audience as Jews.
• At some point the scene moved to the synagogue.
• And now we are told that some of the crowd/Jews present were disciples of Jesus.
• Now whether or not their faith in Jesus was a saving faith or a spurious faith we will quickly see.

Bu for now, let’s address some of the obvious questions regarding the “hard sayings”.
(1) What are the sayings that were hard?
(2) What does it mean to be hard?
(3) Why were they hard?

(1) The Hard Sayings – what were they?
Most of the smart guys – Kostenberger, MacArthur & Boice – agree about what they might have been.
• Jesus’ heavenly origin and incarnation (vv. 33, 38, 31)
• Jesus’ demand that he, not Moses’ manna, is THE bread of life (vv 33, 35, 48, 50, 51)
• That eternal life was contingent on Jesus’ death on the cross (vs. 51)
• The symbolism of eating Jesus’ flesh and drinking His blood (vs. 53)
• That God played such a primary role in salvation as compared to mankind’s role – gives and draws (vv. 37, 44)

With this information in mind, we can now look at the 2nd question.

(2) The Hard Sayings – what does it mean to be hard?
The Greek word skleros in our text means “causing an adverse reaction because of being…unpleasant” – BDAG.
• John MacArthur takes this to mean in our context that the crowd/Jews/disciples took “Jesus’ [sayings] not as incomprehensible, but as unacceptable.
• And therefore, “they rejected His words as objectionable and offensive.”
• In other words, “hard saying” does not mean difficult to understand.
• In fact, I could find no lexicon that indicated that the words “hard saying” meant “difficult to understand.”
• Andreas Kostenberger agrees saying, “‘hard saying’ does not mean ‘hard to understand’, but ‘offensive.’”
• The TDNT describes “skelros” and its related words as ultimately signifying “the hardening of unbelievers.”

Understanding the meaning of this word is huge as we seek to answer our 3rd question.
• Knowing that Jesus’ sayings were not hard to understand narrows the scope of possible answers.

(3) Hard Sayings – why were they hard?
In answer to this question, we can certainly say that what we have learned thus far tells us that they understood, at least on some level, what Jesus was saying.
• Yet, if this is so, we are left with the puzzle of why their understanding led to rejection and being offended instead of acceptance of Jesus’ sayings.
Though understandable, was it because Jesus sayings weren’t clear enough?
Or, was it due to something present or missing in the listeners?
• We will come back to this question momentarily when we deal with verse 63-65.


John 6:62 (ESV) — 62 Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before?

In John 6:38, Jesus made the following statement – John 6:38 (ESV) — 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.
• He told the Jews that He had come from heaven at the directive of the Father.
• In other words, He was in the presence of the Father.
• Now Jesus suggests to the Jews that if they are offended by His sayings, they will be offended even more when they see Him return to the Father.
• This is, most believe, no doubt due to the fact that His return to the Father goes through the cross – on which He “will give for the life of the world [His] flesh” (vs. 51).
• Just as He taught Nicodemus – John 3:14 (ESV) — 14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up.
• D.A Carson sums this up as follows, “If the disciples find Jesus’ claims, authority and even his language offensive, what will they think when they see Jesus on the cross, his way of ‘ascending’ to the place where he was before? That is the supreme scandal.”

Now back to our 3rd question, why were Jesus’ sayings offensive?


Remember, the problem was not a lack of understanding.
• We have seen that they were offended precisely because they had a certain level of understanding of Jesus’ words.
• We then wondered why their understanding led to rejection and being offended instead of acceptance.
• In verses 63-65, Jesus solves this puzzle for us.

John 6:63–65 (ESV) — 63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. 64 But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) 65 And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”

Jesus gives us 3 reasons for why they would take offense at His words.
• (1) They are living in the flesh not the Spirit
• (2) They aren’t believers
• (3) The Father has not granted them to come to Him (vv. 37, 44)

We have already looked at these concepts individually in past lessons.
• So to understand the big picture of how they relate to our question, we will look at the implications of all of them taken together.

Why rejection and offense instead of acceptance?
• Andreas Kostenberger makes a great point when accounting for Jesus words in vv. 63-65.
• He says Jesus’ point is that “human reason [the flesh] unaided by the Spirit is unable to discern what is spiritual”.
• In other words, those dead in sin can’t “get” the spiritual truth of Jesus’ words.
• But wait…we have said that “hard saying” did not mean “difficult to understand” but “objectionable and offensive”.
• We seem to be contradicting ourselves by implying that they did not understand the spiritual truth of Jesus’ words.
And since a spiritual or “heart” understanding is really the intent of Jesus words, how do we account for this apparent contradiction?
    o BTW – is this “heart understanding” really the only intent of Jesus’ words?
    o It can be argued God is also hardening the hearts of those who reject him.
    o See ESV Study Bible notes on Matt 13:12-13 and John Macarthur says of Jesus’ words that they were “both an act of judgment and an act of mercy. It was “judgment” because it kept them in the darkness that they loved, but it was “mercy” because they had already rejected the light, so any exposure to more truth would only increase their condemnation” – John MacArthur.

We need to look to Jesus’ words elsewhere to give us a solution.
• Mark 4:33 (ESV) — 33 With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it [they were capable of a certain level of understanding].
• Matthew 13:10–17 (ESV) — 10 Then the disciples came and said to him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” 11 And he answered them, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. 12 For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 13 This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. 14 Indeed, in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says: “ ‘You will indeed hear but never understand, and you will indeed see but never perceive. 15 For this people’s heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them.’ 16 But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. 17 For truly, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.

These verses, taken with what we have learned in our lesson today (and past lessons), demonstrate a distinction between an “understanding of the heart” vs. a purely cognitive “understanding of the mind”.
• This would mean that the answer to our apparent contradiction is that they didn’t “understand with their heart” but fully understood and could think and reason on the implications behind Jesus’ words.
• In their depravity they lacked the moral ability to understand spiritually (they weren’t born again).
• Therefore they understood as fully as they were able, and importantly, as fully as they wanted to.
• They were coming to Jesus’ words as judge, seated on their throne, mistakenly believing they were in an autonomous, neutral stance (a law unto themselves).
• This is why they were so offended – they were being asked to put Christ on their throne!
• D.A. Carson describes their understanding as being characterized by having, “wrong motives, be it worldly materialism or political interests, [and being] unwilling to yield control of their lives to follow Christ.
• This is reminiscent of the “Saving Faith and Spurious Faith” lesson.

Also, it might be helpful to remember the “Heart, Will and Mind of Belief” lesson.
• There we described the hovering flight of a humming bird.
• We learned that to hover, to fly like it was made to fly (i.e., in fellowship with God via a saving faith), it must move its wings with two motions – up and down and back and forth.
• But to just fly, as any bird can do, all that it needed was the up and down motion.
• The unbelievers could “understand with their minds” (fly), but they did not have the ability to hover (“understand with their heart”).

Jesus understands this dynamic fully and so ends his encounter with the crowd the way he started.
• In verse 64 He tells us that, “there are some of you who do not believe”.
• This parallels verse 36 where He said, “you have seen me and yet you do not believe”.
• And in verse 65 He attributes this unbelief to the Father, “no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.
• He makes the same attribution in verse 37, “All that the Father gives me will come to me”.

The point here is that Jesus believes that those that have ears to hear and eyes to see, those with the “heart of understanding” and a saving faith are those that have benefited in a special way from a work of God.
• Ezekiel 36:26–27 (ESV) — 26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.
• It is only these folks that can understand with the heart, as in believe and entrust themselves to, the words of Jesus.
• These are the folks that consume Jesus’ words as Jeremiah advocates.
• Jeremiah 15:16 (ESV) — 16 Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by your name, O LORD, God of hosts.
• (These are, by the way, my two favorite Old Testament verses).
• Thus we see why John tells us that Jesus’ words are “spirit and life” (vs. 63).
• And with this, Paul agrees – 1 Corinthians 15:45 (ESV) — 45 Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit.

There are enormous implications to these truths which deserve further consideration if we had the time; here are a few:
• The unbeliever is held fully responsible for rejecting Christ even though they cannot understand with their heart.
• This underscores the importance of speaking Jesus words, the Gospel, to the unbeliever because it is his rejection (on his own understanding) or acceptance (on a born again understanding) of the words of “spirit and life” that determine his eternity.
• The mind’s understanding alone does not produce saving faith.
What then is the role/relationship of evidential apologetics in evangelism?
• Jesus knew that many that heard His Bread of Life discourse would not believe in Him (vs. 64).
What is the purpose of heaping more judgment on them and hardening their hearts further by speaking truth?


John 6:66–71 (ESV) — 66 After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. 67 So Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” 68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, 69 and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” 70 Jesus answered them, “Did I not choose you, the Twelve? And yet one of you is a devil.” 71 He spoke of Judas the son of Simon Iscariot, for he, one of the Twelve, was going to betray him.

We finally come to the end of chapter 6.
• And it ends with a scene that is a complete contrast to the scene at Pentecost.
• Instead of many believing, most turn and leave and “no longer walked with him”.
• Only 12 remain and even one of those is simply a stubborn hanger-on possessing only a spurious faith.
Was Jesus’ Bread of Life discourse a success or failure?

If it was a failure, we need to reevaluate the God we worship.
• If it was a success, we need to redefine what we call successful evangelism.
• Jesus did not soften His message to produce fake converts and pad His numbers.
• He spoke the truth and left the rest up to the Father.
• And whether men chose to believe or reject, He had fulfilled His mission in obedience to the Father.