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Author:Dr. Wes Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Launceston, Tasmania
 Tasmania, Australia
 
Title:Believe in the Saviour whose humiliation deepened in Jerusalem
Text:John 7:10-13 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Christ's Suffering
 
Preached:2018
Added:2018-12-03
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Psalm 100

Psalm 25:5 (after the law)

Psalm 40:1,3

Hymn 84

Psalm 98

Scripture reading:  Nehemiah 8

Text:  John 7:10-13 (begin reading at verse 1)

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved congregation of Christ,

What’s the most popular Australian holiday?  What’s the day that Aussies get the most excited about, that they look forward to the most?  Australia Day?  Perhaps it’s Christmas or maybe some other day.  But in most countries there’s a day or two that stands out above all the rest as being extra special.   

Amongst the Jews of Jesus’ day there was definitely a holiday like that.  It was the Feast of Booths.  The Feast of Booths was a harvest festival – it celebrated the completion of the harvest of things like grapes, figs, and olives.  It celebrated God’s blessing over the Promised Land.  God’s law required Jewish men to come to Jerusalem, and many people looked forward to it.  The Feast of Booths was always going to be a good time.  Of all the Jewish feasts, this one was the most joyful of all.  We see that in our reading from Nehemiah 8 as well.  After many years of neglecting this Feast, after the exile in Babylon, the Jewish people finally kept the feast again.  And they did it with great rejoicing.  That’s the way the Feast of Booths was celebrated into the time of the New Testament as well.

Jewish people would come from all over and go up to Jerusalem.  There’s a reason why we have a number of Psalms that are called “A Psalm of Ascents.”  They were meant for going up to Jerusalem.  From just about anywhere in Judea or Galilee, going to Jerusalem meant going uphill.  So you would be going up and you would be going up with the anticipation of joy. 

But there was one Jewish man whose experience was quite different.  This was what we see in our text from John 7 this morning.  Physically and geographically, Jesus went up to the Feast of Booths like everyone else.  But spiritually speaking it was a different story.  Spiritually speaking, for Jesus this Feast of Booths was another step on his path downward in humiliation. 

We’re going to see how our passage from John calls us to believe in the Saviour whose humiliation deepened up in Jerusalem

We’ll consider:

  1. The obedience of Christ
  2. The hostility of his enemies
  3. The confusion and fear of God’s people

Earlier in John 7, Jesus had that encounter with his brothers.  They didn’t believe in him, so they had a go at him.  They said that if really wanted to be a superstar, he should get out there and act like it.  They didn’t believe in him, didn’t understand him, and so they treated him like this.  Meanwhile, Christ knew that he had to do things God’s way.

That’s the background to what we read in verse 10.  The Holy Spirit tells us that his brothers went up to the Feast of Booths in Jerusalem.  As was the custom, they probably went up as part of a pilgrim caravan.  There would have been a huge group of people travelling together and celebrating along the way.  But Jesus was not among them. 

He still went up to the feast.  However, verse 10 tells us how.  He went up privately, not publicly.  He didn’t go as part of a festive pilgrim caravan.  Instead, he went up quietly.  At this point, Christ didn’t want to be noticed.  He certainly didn’t want any fanfare with his journey or arrival in Jerusalem.  This was the way it was supposed to be.  This was the way it had been ordained by God. 

Though it’s easy to overlook, it’s important to see the obedience of our Saviour in verse 10.  There are two elements to his obedience and it’s good to treat them each separately.

First of all, we need to see that Christ was obedient to the requirement of God’s law that he, as a Jewish male, go up to the feast.  In Deuteronomy 16 it is clearly stated that every Jewish man was expected to go up to the Feast of Booths.  Christ followed God’s law on this point, just as he did on every other point. 

To dig a bit deeper with this, it’s true that Christ is here fulfilling the requirements of what we call the ceremonial law.  The ceremonial law of the Old Testament is made up of all these requirements that were there for the Jews, but are no longer binding on Christians in the same way.  So, for example, Old Testament Jews were required to go to Jerusalem every year for the Feast of Booths.  Since the coming of Christ, Christians are no longer bound to that – we obviously don’t have to make an annual trip to Israel for this feast or any other feast. 

But connected to this ceremonial law is also the moral law.  The moral law is the permanent will of God for all people.  The moral law is summarized in the Ten Commandments.  When Christ obediently attended the Feast of Booths he was also obeying the moral law.  Now I want you to think about that for a moment.  Which of the Ten Commandments was Jesus obeying in verse 10?  Obviously it wasn’t one of the commandments pertaining to our neighbours, so you can rule out 5-10.  That narrows it down to commandment 1-4.  Which of the first four commandments was Christ obeying here?  There are actually elements of each, but the one most in focus here would have to be the second.  As you may remember from the Catechism, the Second Commandment includes the requirement to worship God in no other way than he has commanded.  Attending the Feast of Booths was an act of worship.  For Christ to go up to the Feast of Booths in Jerusalem was to worship God as he had been commanded.  Christ was obeying the Second Commandment.

That connects to our salvation.  His perfect obedience qualifies him to hang on the cross as the innocent Lamb of God.  He didn’t have to bear his own sins – he could bear all of ours instead.  Christ could atone for all the times we haven’t worshipped God as he commands.  For example, you could think of all the times we’ve worshipped with insincerity, or all the times we’ve been distracted during our worship.  Don’t kid yourself.  It’s sinful.  It’s wrong.  But look to the cross, and the sinless Saviour has borne those sins for you.

His perfect obedience also fulfills the requirements of God’s law for you.  He was obedient in your place and his righteousness is credited to your account.  Because Christ kept the Feast of Booths, because he was always obedient to the Second Commandment, God looks at you and he sees you as he sees Christ.  Our Father sees the perfectly obedient child.  Isn’t that comforting and encouraging to know?  Loved ones, this is the Saviour in whom we all need to believe.          

The other element in Christ’s obedience here has to do with the way he went up.  First of all, he went up willingly.  I know you don’t find that said in verse 10.  But it is said elsewhere in Scripture.  We sang from Psalm 40 and it’s said there.  In the New Testament book of Hebrews, Psalm 40 is quoted a number of times and its words are put on the lips of Jesus.  This is also true of Psalm 40:8, “I delight to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.”  Christ’s obedience was not begrudging, but willful.  He didn’t have to be coerced to go up to Jerusalem.  So he went up willingly. 

But he also went up secretly, because he knew that this was the Father’s plan.  It wasn’t the right time for glory.  He first had to experience his humiliation and suffering.  It was to be first the cross and then the crown.  So, his going up quietly and meekly fit together with God’s plan for our salvation.  Christ wasn’t going to take the easy way out.  Instead, he would obediently go down the path of suffering and humiliation that awaited him.  He would do it out of his great love for you.    

As we get to verse 11, we witness a search taking place.  People in Jerusalem are looking for Jesus.  But who are these people?  The Holy Spirit identifies them as “the Jews.”  Many times in the Gospel According to John, “the Jews” refers to the Jewish religious leadership.  It’s often referring to people like the scribes and the Pharisees.  The scribes were like religious lawyers, experts in the law.  The Pharisees were a Jewish sect known for their strictness about law keeping.  The Jews here refers to people like the scribes and the Pharisees.  That was the way the term was used back in verse 1 of this chapter:  “the Jews were seeking to kill him.”  That wasn’t a reference to every single Jew, but to the Jewish religious leadership.  The same thing is here in verse 11. 

The Jewish religious leaders expected that Jesus would be in Jerusalem.  They expected that he would fulfill his obligation as a Jewish man to go up to the Feast of Booths.  So they were trying to find him in Jerusalem.  The reason behind it was murderous.  The religious leaders were searching for Jesus because they wanted to kill him.  Earlier in John’s gospel, he enraged them by healing on the Sabbath and making himself equal to God.  Even though it happened some time ago, they hadn’t forgotten that.  They were not ready to let bygones be bygones.  Jesus had to die. 

Their intense hostility towards Jesus can be seen in two ways in our passage.  The first is in verse 11 with their question, “Where is he?”  In Greek, it literally says, “Where is that man?”  They don’t say, “Where is Jesus?”  They don’t even want to mention his name – they hate him that much.

The second way you can see the intense hostility of these religious leaders is with what’s said in verse 13.  No one spoke openly about Jesus because they were afraid of the Jewish religious leaders.  Later in John 9, we read about the healing of the man born blind.  The Jewish leaders go to the healed man’s parents and ask about the situation.  “Was your son born blind?  How does he now see?”  And the parents tell the leaders to go and talk to their adult son themselves.   Then John 9:22 adds an explanation, “His parents said these things because they feared the Jews, for the Jews had already agreed that if anyone should confess Jesus to be the Christ, he was to be put out of the synagogue.”  In other words, the Jewish leaders had agreed to excommunicate anyone who believed in Jesus.  That decision may have already been made by the time of our passage.  Whether it was or not, the Jewish religious leadership had undoubtedly placed a social and religious cost on any positive talk about Jesus.

Again, we need to see this in terms of Christ’s humiliation.  He goes up to Jerusalem, but he is going down in his work for our salvation.  Who were these people who hated Christ with so much hostility? 

First of all, they were God’s covenant people.  These were descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  They had been circumcised on the eighth day after their birth as a sign and seal of their covenant status.  As God’s covenant people, they had been given the promises of salvation.  Now the One who fulfills those promises is in their midst and they are looking for him.  But they’re looking for him not to sit at his feet and learn from him.  They’re looking for him, not so that they can entrust themselves to him.  Rather, they’re looking for him because they hate him and want him dead.  This is not only hostility towards Christ; it’s also humiliation for Christ.  These people should have put out a welcome mat for him, but instead they put a target on him.

But these Jews were not just ordinary Jewish men.  They were leaders.  Some of them were scribes and Pharisees. They claimed to be religious experts.  Others were priests.  The priests were all from the tribe of Levi, descended from Aaron.  They had been given the responsibility to manage the sacrifices and temple worship.  Priests were also responsible for teaching the people the law of God.  Before Moses died, he blessed and encouraged all the tribes of Israel.  Concerning Levi, the tribe of priests, he said in Deut. 33:10, “They shall teach Jacob your rules and Israel your law…”  Priests were to teach.  And in Ezra 7, we see Ezra as the ideal Jewish priest.  The Holy Spirit says in Ezra 7:10, “For Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the LORD, and to do it, and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel.”  And indeed, Ezra did that very thing in our reading from Nehemiah 8.  He read the Law of God and then he gave the sense – he explained so that the people clearly understood.  Priests were expected to lead the people in God’s ways, according to God’s Word.  But now, in our text, you have priests and other leaders who are hostile to the incarnate God, to Jesus who is God come in the flesh.  They are hostile to the one the Holy Spirit described as the Word.  Instead of leading people to Christ, they’re driving people away from him.  Their leadership failures here are not only offensive to God, but they’re also deep humiliation for Christ.

So our Saviour goes up to Jerusalem and this is what he finds waiting for him.  He finds the leaders among God’s people looking for him with intense hostility, ready to do violence against him.  Yet he knew that this was God’s plan and he followed it faithfully.  Brothers and sisters, our Lord did this out of his love for you.

We can look at all this and say, “What a shameful thing for these Jewish leaders to do!  They were God’s covenant people and yet they hated the Messiah who’d come for their redemption.  They were appointed leaders, meant to lead people to God, and yet they drove people away from the God who had taken on human nature to save them.”  It’s true, it was wrong, and it was shameful, it was humiliation for Christ.  But let’s not forget that in ourselves we’re not cut from better cloth.  We’re covenant people too, but in ourselves we’re not inclined to love the Messiah.  Many of us have leadership roles too, even if it’s just in the family context, but in ourselves, we’re not able or willing to lead those under us to God either.  We’re not better.  Those people in our text needed the Holy Spirit to make things different and so do we.  We need the Holy Spirit to work in our hearts so we love the Saviour and also want to lead others to him -- and then also do lead others to him.   So we ought to keep on praying that the Spirit would do this work in our lives and in the lives of others.

In our passage there was not only hostility, but also confusion.  God’s people were divided about the assessment of Jesus.  You can see that in verse 12.  It says, “there was much muttering about him among the people…”  There was restless, quiet murmuring.  People were talking amongst themselves in a secretive way.  There were different opinions.

Some said that Jesus was a good man.  You might be inclined to criticize that.  You might say, “They think he’s good, but like so many people today they only think of him as a man.  They don’t recognize that he’s also God.”  However, in the original Greek, the word “man” is only implied.  All that’s signified there is that there is a masculine individual who is good.  Nothing is being said about humanity versus divinity there.  So we ought to take care that we don’t read too much into that.  The focus is on his goodness, not on whether or not he’s only a human being.  When they said he was a good individual, what they meant was that he was beneficial, he was well-intentioned.  In other words, he wasn’t a threat, but a blessing.  It’s only said here in a general way.  There’s no way of telling whether this assessment is in relation just to his miracles, or whether it relates to his teaching, or even just to his personality and demeanour.  Maybe for some in Jerusalem it was one way and maybe for some a different way. 

But others had a decidedly different opinion of Jesus.  Others said he was dangerous because he was leading the people astray.  Astray from what?  Astray from God and his ways.  They believed that Jesus was a false teacher or worse.  He was not beneficial or good for anyone.  Jesus and what he was doing, what he was teaching, all of it was going to turn out very badly for everyone involved.  This opinion of Jesus was what led to his suffering and crucifixion. 

Afterwards, many of the Jewish people continued to have the same view of Jesus.  Judaism has a collection of rabbinic writings known as the Talmud.  The Talmud actually mentions Jesus and his death.  This is interesting for a couple of reasons.  One is that it’s one of several documents outside of the New Testament that speak about Jesus as an historical figure.  Sometimes unbelievers will talk as if it’s only the Bible that speaks about Jesus and, since the Bible can’t be trusted, Jesus wasn’t even a real person.  But you should know and they should know too, that there are several Roman and Jewish sources which mention our Saviour as a figure in history.  But the other reason the Talmud’s mention of Jesus is interesting is that it directly connects to verse 12.  The Jewish rabbis wrote that Jesus was executed because he was a sorcerer and “he enticed Israel to apostasy.”  Apostasy is turning away from God, leading people astray from God.  The Talmud verifies that this was a view many Jewish people had of Jesus.

But whatever views they had, people were careful in their speaking about Jesus.  They were afraid of the Jewish religious leadership.  As I mentioned before, there was quite likely the possibility that you could be excommunicated for being allied to Jesus.  If you’re speaking in quiet tones and someone just hears you mention the name “Jesus,” they might report you and you could be facing an interrogation.  You might have been speaking negatively about him, but the one who overheard only heard you say the name, and they might have jumped to the conclusion that you were a supporter of Jesus.  So, it was dangerous to speak openly about Jesus. 

So, there’s all this confusion and fear connected with Christ in Jerusalem.  Again, this too is part of his humiliation up in the holy city.  These people of God should have embraced the fulfillment of all of God’s promises in the Messiah.  They should have been like godly Simeon or Anna – these godly believers who were looking for the redemption of Israel and rejoiced to see the Messiah with their own eyes.  Instead, with many there’s a negative reaction, and with those who have a more positive reaction, they’re too timid to speak out loud.  No one wants to embrace the Saviour publically and this is part of the alienation that’s leading up to his total loneliness on the cross.  By the time he gets to the cross, everyone will have abandoned him.

What a shameful thing for our Saviour to endure at the hands of his own people.  It would also be shameful for us to be either confused about our Lord or fearful to speak of him.  Loved ones, if we’re good students of the Scriptures, we’ll have a good understanding of who Jesus is and what he came to do.  We’ll be saying far more than “He is a good man.”  We’ll be saying, “He is good, and he is my Saviour and Lord.  He’s the one who lived a perfect life in my place.  He’s the one who loved me so much that he took my place on the cross.  Jesus is the one who rose from the dead for me.  He sits at God’s right hand and continues to love me from there.  He shows that love by interceding for me every day.  And some day, I’m going to this Saviour or he’s coming for me.”  If we’re good students of the Bible, that’s how we’ll talk about Christ.  We would certainly never say that he’s a deceiver or someone leading us on the wrong path. 

But then we’d want never to be ashamed to speak of him openly as well.  The fear of what other people might think is powerful to keep us quiet when we have an opportunity to speak.  You’re intimidated to keep quiet about your faith because you’re worried of how other people might react.  They might laugh at you.  They might joke about your faith.  Do you know what you’ve done when you let that fear get its way?  You’ve made people big and Christ small.  You’ve said that you care more about what people think and less about the honour of your Saviour.  So are you exalting him or humiliating him?  Think of what Christ says in Mark 8:38, “For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”  Those are heavy words.  If you’re ashamed of Christ, he will be ashamed of you.  If you let the fear of man control you, you show what’s most important to you.  It’s better to take the attitude of Paul in Romans 1:16, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God to salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”  Can you say that?  Can you say, “I am not ashamed of the gospel”?  Do you want to exalt Christ or humiliate him like the Jews in our text?  No, it’s better to take the approach of David in Psalm 56:11, “…in God I trust; I shall not be afraid.  What can man do to me?”  Loved ones, be bold about your faith.  Be fearless when it comes to other people.  Honour your Saviour by speaking openly about him at every opportunity you get. 

As we go further into the Gospel of John, this theme of Christ’s suffering and humiliation is going to be seen more and more.  Unlike the synoptic gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, more than half of John’s gospel is taken up with the events leading up to the cross.  Of course, this is purposeful.  The Holy Spirit wants us to see the suffering Saviour.  He wants to understand the depths to which he willingly plummeted.  The Holy Spirit wants us to witness the great love of Jesus for sinners – that he would go to these lengths in our place.  And ultimately, it’s all so that we would place all our hope and trust in Christ alone.  So, brothers and sisters, make sure you do that and continue doing that.  AMEN.

PRAYER

Our Lord Jesus Christ,

We praise you for your obedience to the law in our place.  Saviour, we worship you for bearing our curse in your humiliation.  Please help us with your Holy Spirit that we might grow in our understanding of who you are and the great things you have done.  Please strengthen us with your Spirit that we might never be ashamed of you.  We pray for opportunities to speak about you with those who don’t yet believe.  We pray for boldness in speaking the gospel.  Lord, mercifully help us in every way to always honour and exalt you.                     

 

                                 




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

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