The Inevitability of Conflict – John 7:1-24

Some people seem to really enjoy conflict and a good fight or argument. Like most folks, I generally hate it and avoid it as much as possible. But it is inevitable that times will come when a stand must be taken relative to a belief or action.

Conflict will particularly happen when one is identified with Christ. Sooner or later there will be the need to take a stand against something that is wrong; or perhaps the conflict will arise out of an action taken to promote something that is right – though against the accepted flow of culture or society.

While our faith in Christ and the gospel unites us with him and with the Father, it will lead to some measure of division with the people of this world and of the kingdom of this world. That divide hurts particularly when it involves people we love – friends, and often even family.

At the end of the previous chapter six of John’s Gospel, you will recall that even in Galilee where miracles had been seen by so many, it is recorded that many chose to no longer follow Christ – because his teaching called for serious life change and commitment. His Twitter account and blog page were losing followers at a precipitous rate.

As we open chapter seven, it is now six months later …

7:1 After this, Jesus went around in Galilee. He did not want to go about in Judea because the Jewish leaders there were looking for a way to kill him. 

The events of chapter six were preceding the April feast of Passover. Jesus continued in Galilee for the following six month, as the events to now be highlighted occur just prior to and during the October season and feast of Tabernacles. Because of his words and works, Jesus was a polarizing lightning rod in Jerusalem where the religious establishment hung their robes and egos. He had to choose wisely when to be there and for how long. It was safer, until the right time, to stay in Galilee … even around the disbelieving multitude that included his own brothers …

But when the Jewish Festival of Tabernacles was near, Jesus’ brothers said to him, “Leave Galilee and go to Judea, so that your disciples there may see the works you do. No one who wants to become a public figure acts in secret. Since you are doing these things, show yourself to the world.” For even his own brothers did not believe in him.

What a sad note! There are no coattails of faith. If even the brothers of Jesus were not given an “automatic waiver,” then there is truly no hope for any today who trust in the faith of parents or spouses to have a redemptive spillage upon them. And along with verse 18 in today’s passage, neither is a big crowd and apparent human success a necessary mark of truth and God’s presence and pleasure.

But honestly, the observations of the brothers were correct, and that was the problem! Yes, in Jerusalem is where the Messiah would be revealed in power and majesty (ultimately upon a cross). But Jesus must await the right time, and it was not now. The feast of Tabernacles was a joyous seven-day commemoration of remembrance for God’s provision through the dessert wanderings, as well as a celebration of the harvest. Jesus is going to pull a fast one on his brothers …

Therefore Jesus told them, “My time is not yet here; for you any time will do. The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify that its works are evil. You go to the festival. I am notgoing up to this festival, because my time has not yet fully come.” After he had said this, he stayed in Galilee.

10 However, after his brothers had left for the festival, he went also, not publicly, but in secret.

RED ALERT:  Liar, liar, pants on fire – Jesus just told a deceptive fib!

No, not translated properly … at that moment when the brothers departed, he was not YET going to the week-long event. Seven days in public would overheat the situation, so Jesus delays just a bit before also going to Jerusalem. Since the brothers were essentially functioning and living on “Team This World,” it did not matter when or where they went – the world was not going to hate them.

11 Now at the festival the Jewish leaders were watching for Jesus and asking, “Where is he?”

12 Among the crowds there was widespread whispering about him. Some said, “He is a good man.”

Others replied, “No, he deceives the people.” 13 But no one would say anything publicly about him for fear of the leaders.

One can almost picture here a dramatic film – where the camera brings the viewer up into the whispering faces of individuals in the crowd. The tension in the air was palpable. The Jewish leaders were not simply annoyed after Jesus pops in again with his populist, yet incendiary rhetoric. No, they were actively looking for him in a manner that bespeaks espionage and intrigue … in the shadows and behind the pillars and around corners of buildings.

And like any teacher/preacher even today, there is a mixed report based upon the heart and condition of the hearers – some saying he was a good man, others that he was a deceiver. But clearly neither group wanted to be involved and get into the middle of this spat. But, again, the conflict is ultimately inevitable …

14 Not until halfway through the festival did Jesus go up to the temple courts and begin to teach. 15 The Jews there were amazed and asked, “How did this man get such learning without having been taught?”

16 Jesus answered, “My teaching is not my own. It comes from the one who sent me. 17 Anyone who chooses to do the will of God will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own. 18 Whoever speaks on their own does so to gain personal glory, but he who seeks the glory of the one who sent him is a man of truth; there is nothing false about him. 19 Has not Moses given you the law? Yet not one of you keeps the law. Why are you trying to kill me?”

20 “You are demon-possessed,” the crowd answered. “Who is trying to kill you?”

21 Jesus said to them, “I did one miracle, and you are all amazed. 22 Yet, because Moses gave you circumcision (though actually it did not come from Moses, but from the patriarchs), you circumcise a boy on the Sabbath. 23 Now if a boy can be circumcised on the Sabbath so that the law of Moses may not be broken, why are you angry with me for healing a man’s whole body on the Sabbath? 24 Stop judging by mere appearances, but instead judge correctly.”

The people, including the religious authorities, were amazed at the depth and penetrating quality of Jesus’ speaking. The authority and high caliber excellence of it did not square at all with any normal expectations. He was from Galilee. He was not a graduate of any rabbinical education. Where did it come from?

Jesus’ answer is that it came from his Father – from God … a truth that would be verified if they would follow God’s Word.  God had given them the Law through Moses; but Jesus points out to them that they did not keep the law, no matter how much they told themselves that they did.

As an example of their messed-up thinking, he points out a fact about the issue of circumcision … a law they got from Moses (though as John also points out in parentheses that circumcision actually predated Moses several hundred years to the time of the Patriarchs – to Jacob, etc.). This was done on the 8th day after birth, meaning that generally 14.3% (one-seventh) of all boys had it done on the Sabbath. Jesus had healed the paralytic on the Sabbath, and for this they wanted to kill him! So, if one act was allowed – a simple act in the flesh – why not the whole act of affecting a man’s entire body and life? Their thinking – their judgment – was wrong.

Of course, the underlying issue was not one of truth or messianic expectation. Those in power did not want this rabble-rousing preacher dude to upset the status-quo that had them in a “PPPP” = a pretty place of power and position.

It is inevitable that we too, when we stand with Jesus and God’s eternal truth, are going to face times where our values offend others in this world – maybe even family, maybe even brothers. It will be sad; it will be difficult. But we must stand, and we must proclaim the truth with love, compassion … and yes, Christ’s authority.

This issue and this application will return over and over in the Gospel of John.