This past week I watched another divisive situation take place. A former WR for the Carolina Panthers decided to sit down with a sports reporter, and intentionally talk about his problems with his former QB. Lack almost any high profile QB he is already publicly scrutinized quit a bit—it comes with the job. But this particular QB is even more scrutinized because he is high profile black QB. Therefore, in that sense I did not feel like the comments were helpful. They seemed inflammatory and lacked sober judgment. The two played each other this past week, and the QB attempted to talk to his former WR at midfield, but he was completed rejected. Sadly, there are countless situations like this today. But as Christians I think we have responsibility to live different…
Theme: It is important in a divisive world we display God’s sober judgment.
1. Difficult Division—John 7.40-44.
In order to understand the verses we are examining today we will need to remember they are set in a certain context. The interaction taking place in John 7.40-52 is based on what Jesus said in John 7.37-39, therefore, let’s read that—READ John 7.37-39. It is important to remember Jesus said this on the last of “The Feast of Booths.” This particular feast was designed by God to help Israel remember He liberated their entire nation from slavery. This would be like black Americans having a national holiday to celebrate the emancipation proclamation. The closet they have is “Juneteenth” which celebrates when it finally arrived in the state of Texas.
This image Jesus is using would carry a great deal of significance in the context of this particular festival. It would have an Israelite reminiscing about the entire Exodus narrative. They would have thought of Moses, their greatest prophet. They would have been reminded how God provided water for them in wilderness through the prophet. We know that is what these people are thinking about because of how they respond to Jesus’ proclamation—READ John 7.40-41a. This was the response of those who are impressed with Jesus, but there was also a response from people who were not impressed with Jesus—READ John 7.41b-42.
Friends, there is a significant truth we see here that we know through Scripture, empirically, and experientially. The people are very DIVIDED on who Jesus really is. We could take a survey of people in our communities and see how divided people are. When it comes to Jesus there is “DIFFICULT DIVISION”—READ John 7.43. Jesus Christ did not come into the world to bring about division, but no matter His intent the world is still full of sinful people.
Even among Christians today there is division on the significance of Jesus and what that means for our lives. Let’s say you are having a conversation about a movie, dinner, coffee, sports, or anything else, and someone starts talking about Christ in the midst of those conversations. Suddenly there will be an awkward silence, non-verbal clues that people are now uncomfortable, and possibly someone who wants to intentionally shift the conversation to something other than Christ. We can talk about Christ as a concept or idea, but when we move to something personal and intimate people become uncomfortable. Sincere, personal, devotion to Jesus Christ will almost always cause division. But what everyone needs to understand is when have any significant relationship it changes our desires, values and habits. If I lived like a single man when I am married there would be a problem. If I still lived like I was not a parent when I am there would be something dysfunctional. Friends, if we are married to Christ, and are God’s adopted children, then we are in a transformative relationship. As Christians we need to embrace this difficult division and not be embarrassed by it. Like Christ we don’t want to be divided with other people, but we are.
2. Rebellious Rejection—John 7.45-52.
The group that did not admire Jesus had a much more destructive response—READ John 7.44. This group was called the Sanhedrin, and they were the religious, political, elites during Jesus’ time. They wanted Jesus arrested because they believed He was stirring up needless controversy.
During the 1960s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was accused by the white clergy of stirring up needless controversy for encouraging peaceful, non-violent protest. This is the very reason Dr. King wrote, “Letter From Birmingham Jail.” Both Jesus and Dr. King were being wrongly accused of divisive. They both were attempting to be address something wrong in the world through constructive means. But those in power usually do not like that because it will mean a loss of control, influence, and status for them.
The very thing the Sanhedrin were accusing Jesus of was the very thing they were actually doing and attempting to do. I mean consider the interaction between the Sanhedrin and their law enforcement—READ John 7.45-49. The temple guards go to arrest Jesus, listen to Him, and decide He is not doing anything wrong. In fact they think some of His teaching is rather compelling. What is the response of the Sanhedrin? They belittle the temple guards and crowds for respecting Jesus. Essentially they slander these people by accusing them of being “ignorant.” It is easy to demonize our enemies when we don’t spend time around them and engage them. Pastor Kent Hughes put it this way, “It is much easier to refute your opponent from a distance” (p. 228). Many of the opponents of Jesus Christ back then, and today, have never really considered what He is actually saying. They have never spent time with Him to truly consider His life and message.
I am sure many of you have met people who are adamant that they do not agree with the claims of Christianity, but are not willing to read some of the best books on the validity of Christ’s claims. While most people will never admit it, their REBELLIOUS REJECTION of Jesus Christ is quite clear. Friends, not much has changed since the time of Christ. Jesus’ enemies were those who considered the political and intellectual “elite” in society and this is still true today. You can visit almost any western university and see the same prideful, ignorant rebellious rejection of Jesus. Any time we bring Christ into our world in a real, intimate, genuine, personal way we will face the same pressure, alienation, and opposition that they did to Jesus.
Right toward the tale end of this brief story we see a subtle detail with significant implications—READ John 7.50-52. In John 3 is where we first encountered Nicodemus. He was a part of the religious, political, elite called the Sanhedrin (in fact a highly respected member). But Nicodemus sought out his opponent in an attempt to understand Him. After that encounter Nicodemus was persuaded to believe Jesus.
Now here in this story Nicodemus seems to be only voice of reason—he seems to be the only one encouraging the Sanhedrin to slow down and think with sober judgment. Nicodemus is holding them to the second greatest commandment—“You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Lev 19.18). This is the equivalent of Jesus’ golden rule—“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets” (Matt 7.12). And what is the response of these rebellious men?—READ John 7.52. Once again, they resort to belittling and ridiculing someone. Like most prideful, rebellious, stubborn people they are projecting onto someone else their own problem. They were bad fact checkers. Jesus was not from Galilee, and there is a famous prophet from Galilee named Jonah. They are really the ignorant ones.
So, friends, how can we steer clear of this prideful, ignorant, stubborn behavior? Well, we know Paul encourages us in Romans 12 “to think with sober judgment.” But once again how can we do that? Well, let’s examine that passage briefly:
For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.—Romans 12.3
Learning to slow down and think “SOBER” judgment requires us to adopt the same habit of the apostle Paul. At the beginning of every assertion, every epistle, every claim Paul makes he grounds in the Cross of Christ. The Cross reminds us to not think of ourselves highly than we ought to. The Cross says I deserve the wrath of God, but God gave me grace. The Cross is how I judge myself, others, my circumstances, anything. The Cross is where I see the height of who Jesus is, what He has down, and what He is proclaiming to the world. When the Cross becomes the centerpiece of all our judgment we can began to think with SOBER judgment.