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Author:Dr. Wes Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Launceston, Tasmania
 Tasmania, Australia
 
Title:Jesus Christ is the Prophet you must take seriously
Text:John 7:14-24 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Our Salvation
 
Preached:2018
Added:2018-12-04
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Hymn 7

Psalm 145:5 (after the law)

Psalm 40:1,3,4

Hymn 81

Psalm 30:1,2,5

Scripture readings:  Deuteronomy 18:15-22, John 5:1-18

Text: John 7:14-24

* 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,

If you want to get into politics, you need to have credibility.  People have to be able to take you seriously.  In 2016, a young man from our Canadian sister churches ran for a seat in the Ontario provincial parliament.  Sam Oosterhoff was just 19 years old.  There were many who said he couldn’t be taken seriously.  Not only was he young, he’d been home-schooled, and he was a Christian, and therefore socially conservative.  He’d never served in public office before.  He had no experience, no real qualifications.  How could a young man like that have any credibility as a politician?  Yet, amazingly, he won the election and another one after that too.  This young man fought hard to be taken seriously, he knocked on a lot of doors, talked to a lot of people, and he was successful. 

Credibility is important.  We want people to take us seriously.  In our passage from John this morning, we see people who don’t take our Lord Jesus seriously.  He has a credibility problem with these people.  It’s a problem which persists today.  Out there in the world, most people don’t take Christ seriously at all.  If they ever mention him, usually it’s just as a curse or an exclamation.  But they don’t think about him, who he is, what’s he said, what he’s done.  They don’t think highly of the Bible and they don’t think much of the Jesus who’s revealed in the Bible.      

But what about you?  Do you take Jesus seriously?  Does he have a credibility problem with you?  Here we are in church and we all know the answers we’re supposed to give.  I think most, if not all of us, claim to believe that the Bible is true in every respect.  We have a high view of the Bible and therefore at least on paper we have a high view of Christ.  But do we really take Jesus seriously?  What would we see if we put your life beside that of an unbeliever?  If we’re honest, we all know there’s a lot of room for improvement in how seriously we take our Lord Jesus.  I certainly know it’s true for me. 

Our text this morning confronts this age-old problem of God’s people not taking Christ seriously.  Here Christ addresses God’s people back in his day, but also us as God’s people here today.  Let’s listen to what he has to say and let the Holy Spirit work in us through the Word of God.  I preach to you God’s Word,

Jesus Christ is the Prophet you must take seriously

We’ll consider:

  1. His prophetic authority
  2. His prophetic law-keeping

Our Lord Jesus was in Jerusalem for the Feast of Booths.  As a faithful Jewish man, Christ made the mandatory pilgrimage to give thanks for the harvest.  By the time of our passage, he’d been in Jerusalem for three or four days.  During those days, he’d been moving about in obscurity, biding his time, waiting for the opportune moment. 

Then, about the middle of the feast, Christ went up to the temple.  He took up a place in one of the outer courts.  There he began to teach.  The Bible doesn’t tell us exactly what it was that he taught.  That’s not the focus here.  Instead, the focus is on the reaction of the Jewish crowds.  They were astonished. 

They were amazed, incredulous because they knew some things about this man who was teaching.  One of the things they knew was that he had never studied with a rabbi.  They mention this in verse 15.  Clearly, Jesus had learning.  The average Jewish man was literate and would have been given basic biblical training.  The average Jewish man would have known the essential bits of the Old Testament Scriptures.  But Jesus was quite different.  His grasp of the Scriptures was at least on the level of the rabbis, the Jewish religious experts.  Normally a person with that level of biblical understanding would have been trained.  He would have been trained by another rabbi.  But everyone knew that Jesus had never received such training. 

Now the key thing to take away from this is that this made the teaching of Jesus suspicious.  Even if he could quote the Bible at length, that might mean he has a really good memory, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s faithful.  Every heretic has passages he can quote.  Heretics always appeal to the Bible.  But their understanding of what the Bible says is wrong.  So, with Jesus, the Jewish people there could be amazed at his teaching, and how much of the Bible he knows, but yet because he wasn’t trained by a rabbi in understanding the Bible, his credibility is in question.  What can Jesus say in response?

Verse 16, “My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me.”  He gets to the heart of the matter.  Because he wasn’t trained by a rabbi, the Jews imply that his teaching is just something he’s invented.  Jesus is just spouting his own ideas.  But here Christ insists this is not the case at all.  His teaching comes from God.  God sent him into this world as the Saviour, but also as a prophet or teacher.  He is the fulfillment of the prophecy in Deuteronomy 18.  God said to Moses,  “I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers.  And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him.”  That’s about Jesus.  He comes with the teaching of God in his mouth.  His teaching therefore carries the greatest credibility.  Because he was sent by God and deliver’s God’s teaching, you have to take him more seriously than anyone else!  

How is it possible to tell that Jesus’ teaching comes from God?  How can you discern?  Christ answers that question in verse 17.  If there’s a person who truly desires to follow what God wants, that person will be able to discern that the teaching of Jesus is from God.  That person will know that Christ has to be taken seriously.  It’s a matter of the will, or the desires.  If your desires are lined up with what God wants, then you’ll take Christ seriously.  But if you don’t care about what God wants, if you don’t take God seriously, then you won’t see Christ as credible either.  The two go hand in hand.  It makes sense.  If you step outside the world of this passage for a moment, then we can note what the Bible says elsewhere about spiritual discernment.  The Holy Spirit gives people a new heart so that they can and do desire what God wants.  If you have that gift of regeneration, then you’ll also take Jesus seriously.  But here in our passage, when Christ says, “If anyone’s will is to do God’s will…”, there’s an implied call.  He’s calling people to desire to do God’s will.  He’s calling you to desire to do God’s will, so that you would take him seriously as well. 

Our great Prophet Jesus takes this a little further in verse 18.  He says that speaking on your own authority is wrong, because it’s all about glory for yourself.  But if you speak on the authority of the one who sent you, then it’s about his glory.  That’s what Christ does.  He speaks on God’s authority.  He teaches for the purpose of bringing glory to God.  He does so truthfully – he is true.  You can think of what he says later in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life…”  In Christ there is no falsehood or unrighteousness.  Because of who it is who sent him, and who he is in his sinless person, this prophet has the greatest authority.  He demands to be taken seriously.  He demanded to be taken seriously by the Jews in his day, and he still does today with us.

In Lord’s Day 12 of the Heidelberg Catechism we confess that Jesus is called Christ because he has been anointed as our prophet, priest, and king.  We confess that he was anointed with the Holy Spirit “to be our chief Prophet and Teacher…”  Loved ones, we must take him seriously as our chief Prophet and Teacher.  We have to hang on every word he says and strive to learn from everything he says.  And where does he speak to us?  He speaks to us through the Bible, both the New Testament and the Old Testament. 

Perhaps you have what’s called a “red-letter Bible.”  In such Bibles all the words of Jesus are printed in red.  It gives the impression that some words in the Bible are more important than others.  It also gives the mistaken impression that some words in the Bible are words of Jesus, whereas others aren’t.  No, the whole entire Bible is the word of Christ.  As our chief prophet and teacher, Jesus teaches us from Genesis to Revelation.  If you need proof of that, think of Colossians 3:16 where we’re told to let the word of Christ dwell in us richly.  Then Paul speaks of singing the Psalms to and with one another.  The Psalms are the word of Christ, just as the whole entire Bible is. 

So, for us to take the Prophet Jesus Christ seriously, we have to be diligent students of the Word.  We have to be regularly sitting under his prophetic authority in the Scriptures.  Loved ones, I want you to encourage you again to do that daily.  Make it your daily habit to spend some time at the feet of the Prophet and Teacher.  For those of us who are fathers and mothers, we should do that with our families.  Regular daily family worship where the Bible is opened and discussed is important.  We ought to make it a priority.  But it’s also important for all of us individually and personally to be in the Word of God.  You have to make a daily habit of that.  Look, the Word is where we get the teaching of Jesus.  The Bible is how the Holy Spirit helps us to grow in faith and obedience.  Show me a person who is backsliding.  I can almost guarantee that person is not being busy with the Bible in a meaningful way.  They’re not taking care of their spiritual hygiene.  Loved ones, you have to take Jesus seriously as your Prophet and Teacher, and the starting point for that is always the Bible.

Christ’s engagement with the Jews carried on in verse 19.  The focus switches to the law.  These people who find it hard to take Jesus seriously because he hasn’t been formally trained, they also don’t take God’s law seriously.  “Has not Moses given you the law?”  That was a point of pride for the Jews.  The law had come to them through Moses at Mount Sinai and they prided themselves on being disciples of Moses.  But Jesus draws attention to the truth:  there’s a difference between receiving the law and keeping the law.  As a Prophet he speaks out and rebukes the people for their law-breaking.  He boldly says, “Yet none of you keeps the law!”  And if right away they would think, “Where are we breaking the law?,” he points out one of their most obvious transgressions – they desire to kill him. 

Now let’s just pause there for a moment and notice something.  Jesus is carrying out his office as a Prophet.  Sometimes we think of prophets in the Old Testament as holy fortune-tellers, people sent from God just to announce future events.  But if you study the prophets in the Old Testament, you’ll find that being a prophet was much more than that.  A prophet was an instrument of God’s revelation.  Many times the revelation was meant to confront God’s people living in sin.  The revelation was meant to bring God’s people to repentance, to meaningful change.  That’s what’s going on here too.  Christ is confronting the Jews about the evil in their hearts.  He’s exposing their sin.  He’s showing that the law of God is not just about external, superficial actions.  In particular, he’s talking about the Sixth Commandment, “You shall not kill.”  Jesus says that their desire to kill him is already a breaking of God’s law.  Even though they haven’t actually laid hands on him yet, just their desire to kill him is already sinful and wrong.  He’s confronting them on that.  They don’t take God’s law seriously.  If we go back to verse 17, they don’t desire to do God’s will and following on from that they don’t take the teaching of Jesus seriously.

The crowd’s answer in verse 20 shows that they’re still not taking him seriously.  They allege that this Prophet sent from God has a demon.  He confronts them with their law-breaking and then they deflect by claiming he’s on the side of Satan.  And they say, “Who is seeking to kill you?”  They’re claiming Jesus is either deluded, mistaken, or lying.  But the evidence is there in John 7.  In verse 1 it says that that the Jews were seeking to kill him.  In verse 25, after our passage, some of the people in Jerusalem are heard to be saying, “Is not this the man whom they seek to kill?”  It seems that it was pretty well-known that there was a desire to kill Jesus.

And it all stemmed back to the Prophet’s law-keeping.  They want to break God’s law and kill him because he kept God’s law.  Oh, in their eyes, it was because he broke God’s law.  But the great Prophet and Teacher demonstrates that their understanding of God’s law is the problem here, not his actions. 

In verse 21, Jesus refers back to a miracle he did.  That miracle was in chapter 5 and we read it together.  The last time he was in Jerusalem he had healed on the Sabbath.  It got people talking.  Jesus was getting a name for himself as a religious revolutionary.  Now he’s going to demonstrate that he’s actually the law-keeper who must be taken seriously.  With a bit of impressive reasoning from the Scriptures, he’ll show that they’re the ones in the wrong.

Christ refers back to Moses and circumcision.  Circumcision was included in the Mosaic ceremonial laws for Israel, even though technically it dated back to Abraham.  For those who don’t know, circumcision was a religious ceremony where the foreskin of a man’s genitals was removed.  It was a sign and seal of God’s covenant of grace, just like baptism is today.  A Jewish baby boy was supposed to be circumcised on the eighth day after birth.  Now the important thing for Christ’s argument is that it didn’t matter what day it was on the eighth day.  If it was the Sabbath, if it was Saturday, the Jewish day of rest and worship, it didn’t matter.  Babies got circumcised on the Sabbath all the time.  The Jews recognized that circumcision took precedence over the Sabbath.  And circumcision involved all kinds of preparations as well – it wasn’t just a simple cutting of the foreskin.  There were all kinds of procedures that needed to be followed.  And from the Jewish perspective, it was no problem.  The Sabbath wasn’t being broken by circumcising a baby.  This was a good and necessary act that served the benefit and well-being of a human being.  Jesus doesn’t have a problem with it either.  As the great Prophet and Teacher he agrees that it was entirely good and legitimate to circumcise a baby on the Sabbath.  As the one sent from God, you can be sure that this was God’s perspective on it as well. 

Now what about comparing that to what Jesus did in John 5?  Circumcision is a matter of a little piece of skin.  It’s a bit of surgical removal.  A wound is left.  It is done in the best interests of the one who receives it – it’s a good thing to get the sign and seal of God’s covenant.  Now look at what Jesus did.  The man he healed had been an invalid for 38 years.  Jesus made his whole body healthy so he could walk again.  He restored his whole body to health.  He left no wounds, and he did it in the best interests of the one who received it.  You see, if the little matter of circumcision is legitimate on the Sabbath, then certainly the greater matter of healing a man’s whole body is equally legitimate on the Sabbath.  Christ therefore showed love to his neighbour by healing the invalid.  Rather than breaking the law, Christ fulfilled it by healing on the Sabbath.  The Sabbath is all about mercy for humanity, and no one showed more mercy than Jesus Christ! 

So he draws things to a close with the confronting words of verse 24, “Do not judge by appearance, but judge with right judgment.”  On a superficial level, one might think that Christ was a law-breaker, but if you think about it carefully, you actually see that the reverse is true.  The Prophet teaches that he is the great law-keeper.  If you judge with right judgment, you’ll reach the same conclusion. 

Loved ones, here too, we have to take our Prophet seriously.  Take him seriously as the law-keeper.  He healed that man and in so doing he obeyed the law of love and kept the Fourth Commandment.  Take him seriously as the one who did this in your place.  To be accepted by him, God requires that we keep his law perfectly.  This is something we can’t do on our own.  We don’t love our neighbour as we should.  We don’t honour the Fourth Commandment as we should.  But the gospel announces:  Christ has done it for us.  His obedience is yours through faith.  Just trust in Christ and every good work has been done for you, so that you can be accepted by God, declared righteous, and received into his family.  If you judge with right judgment, you’ll see that Christ’s law-keeping was not for his benefit, but for ours. 

Ultimately, he follows God’s law all the way to the cross.  Because of the cross and the sacrifice made there in our place, because he bore our wrath and took our hell, we are going to be made whole as well.  In his love, he is going to restore us fully.  Already now we have the gift of regeneration, we have the Spirit living in us.  Already now we have the joy of peace with God.  But we are not yet entirely well.  No, we’re a long ways from that.  Our bodies continue to experience the ravages of a world under the curse.  We get sick.  Our bodies break down.  Spiritually speaking, we still have to wrestle with the left-overs of our old nature.  There’s a lot of battling that goes on in a Christian’s life.  But let’s take Christ’s reasoning further.  Just as a making a man’s whole body well on the Sabbath was loving and greater than circumcision on the Sabbath, so too restoring us body and soul in the eternal Sabbath will be the greatest act of love of our Saviour of all.  In the eternal Sabbath, he will lovingly raise our bodies to be like his glorious body, our perfected souls will be reunited with our glorified bodies, and we will be with him forever.  That’s something to look forward to, isn’t it?

So Christ’s prophetic law-keeping is an act of love for our benefit.  It proclaims the good news to us and gives us great hope and encouragement.  But his law-keeping also instructs us in the ways of righteousness.  If Christ is our great Prophet and Teacher, we would want to follow his example and instruction.  In particular, we can think of the law of love.  Romans 13:10, “Love does no wrong to a neighbour; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.”  And we can think of the Lord’s Day as a day for rest and worship, but also as a day for mercy and love.   The Lord’s Day is a day to work, to work at showing kindness to those around us, just as our Prophet Jesus did.  We do this by allowing others the opportunity to rest, not participating in a 24/7 economy, but also by actively looking for ways to do deeds of mercy and love.  For example, if there are congregation members who are shut-in, unable to get out and come to church, Sunday can be a great day to visit with them and encourage them.  Use the Lord’s Day as a day to show love and mercy.    

Brothers and sisters, for many people today Christ never enters their thinking.  They give no thought to our great Prophet and Teacher.  But if we’re Christians, we claim to be disciples of Christ.  How odd it would be for disciples to rarely think of their Master and Teacher!  How strange it would be if we, of all people, would not take him seriously.  Again, the Word of God puts him and his claims before you.  Your Master calls you to follow him – accept his authority, embrace his law-keeping, and walk in his ways.  AMEN. 

PRAYER

O Christ our Lord,

We honour you as our chief Prophet and Teacher.  Your teaching is like that of no other.  This morning we have been again impressed with your wisdom and your love.  Please help us with your Holy Spirit to take you seriously, not only today, but every day.  Please guide us with your Spirit and Word so that we honour your authority as our Prophet.  Saviour, we thank you for the law-keeping you offered up in our place.  You kept the law of love and the Fourth Commandment and you knew how to do both.  You did it for us, and we’re thankful.  You took the curse against us for breaking these commandments when you hung on the cross – and for that we’re grateful, Lord.  We also praise you that we can look forward to our restoration in the Eternal Sabbath.  Lord, please make that day come quickly.  Maranatha.  Until it comes, help us too to show love and mercy to those around us, and especially to those of the household of faith.                                             

 

                                 




* 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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