Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Jesus Teaches at the Feast (Jn 7:10-24)

This is a personal summary of the preaching of Rev Dr Stephen Tong on 17 October 2010 in True Way Presbyterian Church. It was preached in Chinese with English translation.

Passage: John 7:10-24

After Jesus’ brothers left for Judea, Jesus also left. Why did Jesus say he was not going and that his time was not up yet, but he went later? Jesus was so sensitive to the timing of God that he would not even deviate from it by 10 minutes. If you go into action before the timing is up, you will violate the teaching of Jesus. But when the timing of God is up and you still tarry for another 10 minutes, you will be behind his will. People concluded that Jesus was a coward and would move only when guaranteed safety. This is a great damage to the reputation of Jesus. If Jesus was really a coward, he could have just stayed behind. But the fact is that after they left, Jesus also went. The Bible said that when Jesus reached there, he went up to the temple courts to teach. He was not afraid. He was not lying. He was not a coward. He was doing what God wanted him to do at the right time and at the right place.

When he was teaching in the temple courts, he did not just teach a selected group of people and avoided the officials. The Bible says once Jesus taught, the Pharisees immediately reacted by looking down on him, saying: “How did this man get such learning without having studied?” This is a mistake that many academics make. Da Vinci influenced the modern world but he was not formally trained. In Jesus’ time, there were people who were very learned in the law of Moses and the Scriptures. But none other could bring greater inspiration and challenges to the world than Jesus. Jesus’ teaching was not recognised by the academics, but the things he inspired far surpassed them. On the surface he seemed unworthy to speak, but in reality many people listened to him and their lives were transformed.

Intellectuals like to gather together and are afraid of outsiders with greater influence. This is so in the world of art, music, literature and philosophy. People with unique and unusual thoughts can influence many to come. Jesus must have taught things that all Old Testament prophets could not express but which climaxed only in the New Testament. Such a person would be lonely in his time because he would not follow the traditions of the past and he would also not be made obsolete by generations to come. In his teaching Jesus had the essence of eternity. Many things cannot be taught by academics, but by a genius. People like Socrates and Confucius came out from nowhere. They not only learnt from the ancients, but they could also identify and correct the mistakes of the ancients. They are original and creative, and cannot have a place in their generation, but the next generation cannot get rid of them as well. Sakyamuni, Muhammad and Beethoven were such people. Before Sakyamuni there was no Buddhism. His teaching was completely different from Hinduism. He created a universal religion that is much more open than Hinduism. The existence of such people would greatly inspire the generations to come, but they would shame and challenge the scholars of their generation.

How did this person get such learning without having studied? People were despising Jesus, but they would not have imagined 2000 years later we would not be discussing about them but we would all be discussing about Jesus Christ and his status. He is far above the experts of the law. They studied the law from Moses, but Moses received the law from Christ. As the Son of Man, he was the Word of God. The Word itself is greater than anyone who has been sent to preach the Word. The Word is God. The Word is divine. The Word has eternal value. The eternal Son of God is the true Word itself. When he came to the world to teach, his word was superior than that written by Moses. God through the angels gave Moses the law, and through Moses gave the law to the Israelites. All Moses did was to receive the words that the angels brought and the angels are not higher than God, with the exception of the single messenger of God. Christ is the only Angel sent by God, different from the many angels. All the angels are creatures, only Christ is the Creator. John 1 started by saying: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” The second person is the Word of God and is God. When God through the angels gave us his word, the people who received the Word were creatures and the Word they received was brought by angels. But the only Angel is God. The Angel who gave the Word to Moses is God himself. He is God so he is eternal and greater than the written word itself. This transcendence is most important. We need to understand the Bible has this transcendence. Because of faith, we discover that there is a leap of faith found in the Bible.

In the eternal will of God, I am a child of God because before the creation of the world God already elected me and not man. This is a Biblical faith. Paul said those who say only by circumcision can one be saved might as well go all the way and be emasculated. In Romans, he said Abraham was justified by faith, not by circumcision or by the law. When he was justified, the law did not exist. The law and the commandment of circumcision came after he was justified. Circumcision is not necessary for justification and following the law is not a pre-requisite. Circumcision was granted not long after justification. The law was given 430 years after justification by faith. Before circumcision we are already justified. Without the law we can be justified. We see the leap of faith. We see this is the principle of the Bible. Many of us are constrained by doctrines, by dogmas, by what we can see, by phenomenon. We believe in many wrong things, so we find it difficult to believe in the truth. We believe based on the authority of others. When Jesus taught, the people tried to trap him with common principles. Do you have a degree, authority or academic qualifications? They want to take away his authority in teaching. How did Jesus react to this? He did not quite care about what people said or what people would judge. As the Word, he is able to teach the truth to created people. Steadily he answered: “My Father has sent me. My Father has given me the truth. I taught you based on what he has taught me. I know where I come from and where I am going, but you would not know this.” When Jesus talked about where he came from, he was clear that God revealed himself to him. In Christ this is absolutely right.

The problem is that many false prophets also say: “God spoke to me and told me the truth, so believe in what I say.” One can believe in Jesus, but not necessarily them. Christ is the Son of God, the Word in itself, but they are not. One needs to be cautious and fight boldly. When such thinking and attitude are displayed from those who are not from God, they would be powerful and attract a lot of people to them, and we would be most confused and follow them. Jesus did not learn formally and he taught, but that does not mean that anyone who has not learnt can teach. For Jesus it was because he was the Word. But people who have not learnt, who think they need not learn and who just teach, are falling into the trap of Satan. Jesus is the Word. He came in the flesh and spoke of His word, completely based on what God has told him. No one else is like him. Be cautious and flee from Charismatic leaders that claim God has spoken to them. Don’t be naïve and think they are like Apostle Paul. What Apostle Paul received became our Bible. These people presume that God has given them new revelation and they have confused the entire Christian world.

When Jesus Christ taught, people criticised him and said he is not learned. Jesus answered: “My teaching is not my own. It comes from my Father who has sent me. I have taught what comes from God and you accept what I have taught.” When Jesus taught, he mentioned a principle: He does not seek his own glory. He who works for his own honour is not true. The most important word in the Hebrew culture is the word “truth”. We are to worship the true God, preach the true sermon and truthfully we are to seek the will of God. The truthfulness of God gave us his promises and so truthfully we want to glorify God and be beneficial to others. Jesus said here that whoever seeks his own glory, he is not true. The one who seeks the glory of God is indeed true. He has truth in his heart. We find an important clue: If a person is speaking for the glory of God and by the truth that God has given to us, then he is true.

When they spoke to Jesus in this manner, he said Moses has given them the law, but not one keeps the law. This was mentioned twice, by Jesus and by Peter. All the Jews from the time of Moses went against the law. What is the purpose of giving the law? Watchman Nee said God gave us the law to break it. I cannot accept it. This statement places God as a source of an evil trap. We cannot doubt the motive of God, that he could give us the law so that we would sin. The fact is that Jesus said: “Not one of you keeps the law”, which is different from purposely breaking the law. Not being able to keep the law means you are limited, not that you are purposely breaking it. You cannot do what you will in your heart. You may hope for the best but you will fail.

After Jesus was resurrected and ascended to heaven, the apostles went to preach the gospel everywhere. Some Jewish Christians found that the Gentiles were saved without circumcision. Paul said there was no need for circumcision because if believing in Jesus still required circumcision, it would mean Jesus’ salvation was not good enough. Peter said since our fathers until now, no one has been able to observe the law. Paul added that those who fail in the law find righteousness in Christ. This has appeared twice in the Bible. Firstly, Jesus said Moses gave us the law but no one keeps it. Secondly, Peter said since our fathers until now, people cannot fulfill the law. Whether it is Jesus or Peter, both were clear that we cannot fulfill the law. As we cannot keep the law, it is impossible to be saved through the law. Righteousness comes about only from faith in Christ. Jesus was saying to them: “None of you has kept the law, so why do you have circumcision on the Sabbath? You say you want to follow the law. But you cannot be saved by circumcision. To be saved, you have to take on the punishment of sin, to be chastised by the Father and be delivered from sin. Why do you think I broke the law when I healed someone on the Sabbath day? You have performed circumcision on Sabbath and you think you have honoured the law, but you do not fulfill the law. But why do you judge me when I heal someone on the Sabbath?” The comparison shows us how confused they were, but they did not want to follow the truth. So they considered Jesus’ healing on the Sabbath to be against the law. The true meaning of the Sabbath is that people may be saved and enjoy the true rest of the Sabbath. The man who was bound by sickness and sin, was without peace for 38 years. When Jesus healed him, he truly was healed. It means that salvation far surpasses the law. The law judges our sin, but salvation forgives our sin. The law brings curses, but salvation brings grace and blessing. Not only did they not understand what Jesus Christ did, but they also thought he was against the law. Jesus said he healed the whole man completely on the Sabbath. A doctor cannot heal a person completely from all medical conditions. Different doctors are needed for different medical conditions. They did not know how large a miracle Jesus had done. They were focused only on the fact that he healed on the Sabbath. So Jesus said: “Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment.”