June 14th, 2020
Message Text: John 7:45-52
Aux. text: Ezekiel 12:1-2
Call to Worship: Psalm 146
Service Orientation: Our prejudices blind us to the truth. Jesus can bring light to your darkness.
Bible Memory Verse for the Week: You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. — Revelation 3:17
- (v. 45) It is not clear what interval of time elapsed between verse 32, where we read that the officers were sent by the priests to take our Lord, and the present verse where we are told of their coming back to their masters.—At first sight, of course, it all happened in one day. Yet, if we observe that between the sending them to take our Lord and the present verse, there comes in the remarkable verse, “In the last day, that great day of the feast,” it seems impossible to avoid the conclusion that an interval of two or three days must have elapsed.—it seems highly probable that the officers had a general commission and warrant to take our Lord prisoner, whenever they saw a fitting opportunity, about the fourth day of the feast. They found however no opportunity, on account of the temper and spirit of the crowd, and dared not make the attempt. And at last, at the end of the feast, when the multitude was even more aroused than at first by our Lord’s open testimony, they were obliged to return to those who sent them, and confess their inability to carry out their orders. (J. C. Ryle, Expository thoughts on John, Vol. 2, 62-3)
- (v. 45) The “temple guards” (referred to in v. 32) now return to the Sanhedrin with their mission unfulfilled. Apparently their orders had been not simply to make an arrest (for then they would surely have pressed through the crowd and would have been stopped only by physical force), but to look for a favorable opportunity of apprehending Jesus. The authorities wanted an arrest but not a riot. (Leon Morris, The New Int’l Commentary on the NT: John, 381-2)
- (v. 46) They sent their officers to arrest Christ: they might as well have ordered them to stop the sun from shining. Not all the hosts of earth and hell could have arrested Him one moment before God’s predestined hour had arrived. (Arthur W. Pink, Exposition of the Gospel of John, 408)
- (v. 46) No man ever spake like Christ because His words were spirit and life (Jn 6:63). (Arthur W. Pink, Exposition of the Gospel of John, 408-9)
- (v. 46) They had never heard any man speak like this man. It tied their hands, and made them feel incapable of doing anything against Him.–They had besides marked the power of His speaking over the minds of the multitude which gathered round Him. They had never seen any one exercise such an influence over His hearers. They felt it useless to attempt arresting one who had such complete command over His audience. (J. C. Ryle, Expository thoughts on John, Vol. 2, 63)
- (v. 46) The witness of the guards was not borne of genuine faith, but John intends his readers to perceive that the guards spoke better than they knew. Literally rendered, their words mean, “No man (antrhōpos, “human being”) ever spoke as he does”–for John’s readers know, as the guards did not, that Jesus is not merely a human being, but the incarnate Word (1:14), the one whose every word and deed is the revelation of the Father (5:19-30; 8:28-29). (D. A. Carson, The Gospel According to John, 331)
- (v. 47) Caught between the power and grace of His message and the hatred of their leaders, they were paralyzed into inactivity. (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: John, 318)
(v. 49) If the common people did not know the law, yet the chief priests and Pharisees, of all men, should not have upbraided them with this; for whose fault was it but theirs, who should have taught them better, but, instead of that, took away the key of knowledge? Lk 11:52. (Matthew Henry’s Commentary: Vol. V, 978)
(v. 52) The Greek reads, “A prophet out of Galilee has not been raised.” (Oliver B. Greene, The Gospel According to John, Vol. 1, 433)
- (v. 52) They must indeed have been in a violent frame of mind when the mere hint at the desirableness of acting justly, fairly, and legally, made them ask a brother Pharisee whether he was a Galilean! (J. C. Ryle, Expository thoughts on John, Vol. 2, 66)
(v. 52) To identify Nicodemus with the despised, unsophisticated Galileans was the most demeaning insult they could make. (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: John, 320)
The question to be answered is . . . What is John trying to reveal to us in this passage?
Answer: Unless you see without fear, bias, prejudice, or antagonism, you will be blind to the truth. No matter how radical, outlandish, and insane you may think Jesus’ claims; He will prove Himself credible on every one. But, you must open your eyes and see.
In an age in which the popular culture embraces the notions that “there is no truth’, “judging others is wrong”, “It is unreasonable to believe in anything that cannot be scientifically proven”, and “God did not create the world”, we need to see that everyone who holds to biases and prejudices will be blind to realities outside of their world.
The Word for the Day is . . . Blind
John is a master of so arranging his material that mistakes or ignorance become a subtle means of underlining the truth. It is ironic that these people, who are so tenacious about tracking Jesus down, are not even familiar with His place of birth. (Roger L. Fredrikson, The Communicator’s Commentary: John, 151)
What does John reveal to us about the dangers of our prejudices?:
- Those threatened are blind to the truth. (Jn 7:47-48, 52; see also: Ezek 12:2; Lk 22:2; Rom 1:18-32)
The Pharisees were losing ground–the temple guards came back impressed by Jesus (7:46), and one of the Pharisees’ own, Nicodemus, was defending him. With their hypocritical motives being exposed and their prestige slowly eroding, the Pharisees renewed their efforts to protect themselves. Pride would interfere with their ability to reason, and soon they would become obsessed with getting rid of Jesus just to save face. What was good and right no longer mattered. (Bruce B. Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: John, 166)
What was said to this objection? Here is no direct reply given to it; but, when they could not resist the force of his argument, they fell foul upon him, and what was to seek in reason they made up in railing and reproach. Note, It is a sign of a bad cause when men cannot bear to hear reason, and take it as an affront to be reminded of its maxims. Whoever are against reason give cause to suspect that reason is against them. (Matthew Henry’s Commentary: Vol. V, 979)
They assumed that nobody could be right except themselves. If they did not believe in Jesus, he must be unreliable and his claims must be fraudulent. They regarded the mass of the people as ignorant of the law and consequently incapable of any intelligent faith. (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 9, 88)
They came to arrest him, but he arrested them! (R. Kent Hughes, Preaching the Word: John, 224)
They implied that he was ignorant of the most basic theological truths. But the statement actually exposed their own lack of knowledge, since some prophets had come from Galilee and Jesus was originally from Bethlehem. Nonetheless, their minds were already made up regarding Him. Thus they saw no need to seek the truth. (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: John, 320)
Those who do not agree with them are branded as ignorant, unlearned men–yet Paul says that God has chosen the simple things to confound the mighty and the wise (1 Cor 1:26-31). Down through the ages the great reformers and teachers such as John Wesley, Martin Luther, and others, have been mistakenly branded as ignorant, unlearned, and common. (Oliver B. Greene, The Gospel According to John, Vol. 1, 431)
The very possession of rank and learning is often a positive hindrance to a man’s soul. The great and the learned are often the last and most unwilling to receive Christ’s truth.–“How hardly shall a rich man enter the kingdom of God” (Mt 19:23). (J. C. Ryle, Expository thoughts on John, Vol. 2, 64)
The Pharisees viewed themselves as the spiritual elite; men who were above the possibility of being wrong about religious matters. In their minds, only those who were gullible, uneducated, and simple-minded could be deceived by Jesus’ claims. Such people were accursed, according to the Pharisaic perspective, for their ignorance of God’s law. (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: John, 319)
Many people who reject Christianity do not know what they are rejecting. (R. Kent Hughes, Preaching the Word: John, 225)
The very Pharisees who said the ignorant masses could not know anything here showed their ignorance. (R. Kent Hughes, Preaching the Word: John, 225)
When you cannot answer the argument, attack the speaker. (Warren W. Wiersby, Be Alive, 119)
Apparently Nicodemus had become a secret believer (see 12:42). Since most of the Pharisees hated Jesus and wanted to kill him, Nicodemus risked his reputation and high position when he spoke up for Jesus. His statement was bold, and the Pharisees immediately became suspicious. After Jesus’ death, Nicodemus brought spices for his body (19:39). That is the last time Nicodemus is mentioned in Scripture. (Bruce B. Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: John, 165)
When the officers said, “Never did a man speak as this man speaks,” they meant: so divinely, with such unaffected grace and truth and therefore so convincingly and so effectively. But the Sanhedrists change this into: so cleverly, with such a sinister purpose to lead astray. (William Hendriksen, NT Commentary: John 7-21, 28)
With disdain these Jewish leaders, who see their power slipping away from them, look down upon the unlettered crowds, the “people of the soil,” the mere rabble, the riffraff. The basic idea of the Pharisees was that the study of the law is able to make one wise and pious. Hence, the crowd must be ignorant and wicked. (William Hendriksen, NT Commentary: John 7-21, 28-9)
The Pharisees try to impress upon these “underlings,” who had not made a special study of the law, that it was wrong for them to have a mind for their own. Questions touching the identity and character of the Messiah should have been left entirely to the experts! (William Hendriksen, NT Commentary: John 7-21, 28)
“It is easy,” says Emerson, “in the world to live after the world’s opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.” (Essay on “Self-Reliance”) (George Arthur Buttrick, The Interpreter’s Bible, Vol 8, 591)
- Prejudices blind us to what others clearly see. (Jn 7:46; see also: Mt 6:22-23; 11:25-27; 23:16-17, 19, 24, 26; Lk 10:21; 11:33-36; Rom 1:18-32; Rev 3:17 Nave prejudice, bias, )
The religious authorities boast that they have not been duped; their very boasting is precisely what has duped them. (D. A. Carson, The Gospel According to John, 331)
The Sanhedrin had no doubt sent the most capable, most efficient officers available–but be it king or peasant, the Word of God is sharper than any two-edged sword and will pierce the heart of any man who will listen to it! (Oliver B. Greene, The Gospel According to John, Vol. 1, 430)
No prophet could be expected from Galilee, they argued, because no prophet had ever come from there. Even if they were right on the point of historical fact, they might now be faced with an exception to the rule. But there had been exceptions to the rule before: no less a prophet than Elijah came from Gilead (Galilee beyond Jordan). But it was generally felt in the south that only in Judea could pure religion be looked for–a heritage from the days immediately following the return from the Babylonian exile. The fact that Jesus was actually born in Judea (cf. vs. 41, 42) may not have been known to them. (F. F. Bruce, The Gospel of John, 186)
They content themselves with the cheap and easy assertion that those who do not agree with themselves are ignorant and know nothing, and that therefore it matters nothing what they think. Yet St. Paul says, “God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things that are mighty” (1 Cor 1:27). (J. C. Ryle, Expository thoughts on John, Vol. 2, 64)
III. Prideful prejudices blind us to our sinfulness. (Jn 7:48-51; see also: Ezek 12:2; Mt 19:23; Ob 1:3; Jn 3:19-21; 9:39-41; Rom 1:18-32)
With courage he rises, calling attention to the Law. All knew what he said was true. But they had gathered to kill, not reason. Speaking as he did at this moment, reveals not all the rulers oppose the Lord. This one could easily be a disciple. “We may condemn the people for ignorance of the Law,” he says, “but we condemn ourselves for despising its precepts.” He accuses them of prejudice so strong as to make them act in defiance of the Law. (C.S. Lovett, Lovett’s Lights on John, 139-40)
The hasty verdict of the Sanhedrists, a judgment which implied that in their eyes he was a deceiver (7:47), worthy of arrest (7:32) and even of death (5:18), was a gross violation of a basic human law–observed even among pagans–confirmed by a Mosaic ordinance (Ex 23:1; Dt 1:16, 17), to the effect that Justice must be impartial and must always give a man a fair hearing before condemning him! (William Hendriksen, NT Commentary: John 7-21, 29)
The reaction of the chief priests and Pharisees was contempt. The Pharisees had a phrase by which they described the ordinary, simple people who did not observe the thousands of regulations of the ceremonial law. They called them the People of the Land; to them they were beneath contempt. To marry a daughter to one of them was like exposing her bound and helpless to a beast.” The masses who do not know the law are accursed.” The rabbinic law said: “Six things are laid down about the People of the Land; entrust no testimony to them, take no testimony from them, trust them with no secret, do not appoint them guardians of an orphan, do not make them custodians of charitable funds, do not accompany them on a journey.” It was forbidden to be a guest of one of the People of the Land, or to entertain such a person as a guest. It was even laid down that, wherever it was possible, nothing should be bought or sold from one of them. In their proud aristocracy and intellectual snobbery and spiritual pride, the Pharisees looked down in contempt on the ordinary man. Their plea was: “Nobody who is spiritually and academically of any account has believed on Jesus. Only ignorant fools accept him.” It is indeed a terrible thing when a man thinks himself either too clever or too good to need Jesus Christ–and it happens still. (William Barclay, Daily Study Bible Series: John, 253-4)
If we do not move in divine forgiveness, we will walk in much deception. We will presume we have discernment when, in truth, we are seeing through the veil of a critical spirit. We must know our weaknesses, for if we are blind to our sins, what we assume we discern in men will merely be the reflection of ourselves. Indeed, if we do not move in love, we will actually become a menace to the body of Christ (Mt 7:1-5). (Francis Frangipane, The Three Battlegrounds, p. 75)
Condemnation is the board in our eye. He (Jesus) knows that the mere fact that we are condemning someone shows our heart does not have the kingdom rightness he has been talking about. Condemnation, especially with its usual accompaniments of anger and contempt and self-righteousness, blinds us to the reality of the other person. We can’t “see clearly” how to assist our brother, because we cannot see our brother. And we will never know how to truly help him until we have grown into the kind of person who does not condemn. Period. (Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy, 224)
These religious leaders are in effect saying, “Look at us. This man is not leading us astray with His wild claims. But this crowd is so ignorant of the law that it is damned.” What a paradox that these interpreters of the law, who are so certain of their own wisdom and expertise, are the ones who have misled the people. (Roger L. Fredrikson, The Communicator’s Commentary: John, 151-2)
They dismiss, with a contemptuous wave of the hand, the “rabble that doesn’t know the law,” the mass of ordinary Jews who hadn’t studied Torah in detail, or who held less stringent views of it than did the Pharisees themselves. As far as they are concerned, such people are effectively under God’s curse. (N. T. Wright, John for Everyone, Part One, 108)
Nicodemus attempted to make his fellow Pharisees adhere to the law they claimed to know (7:49) and to act fairly and justly. An accused person, according to Dt 1:16, must first be heard before being judged. (Bruce B. Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: John, 165)
They were not willing to hear Nicodemus, because they could not answer him. As soon as they perceived they had one such among them, they saw it was to no purpose to go on with their design, and therefore put off the debate to a more convenient season, when he was absent. Thus the counsel of the Lord is made to stand, in spite of the devices in the hearts of men. (Matthew Henry’s Commentary: Vol. V, 979)
- Egotistical prejudices blind us to our acting like an idiot. (Jn 7:48-52; see also: Rom 1:18-32)
I do not forget, moreover, that when men lose their tempers and fly into a passion, there is nothing too foolish and ignorant for them to say. Like a drunken man, they may talk nonsense, and say things of which in calm moments they may be ashamed. It may have been so with the Pharisees here. They were no doubt violently enraged, and in this state of mind might say any thing absurd. (J. C. Ryle, Expository thoughts on John, Vol. 2, 67)
As passion and rage so often render people unthinking, they blurt out that no prophet is ever to arise out of Galilee. Jonah came from there, the Scripture says so (2 Kgs 14:25). And so did Elijah, probably Hosea and Nahum as well. Beyond that, there is evidence Amos and Elisha were Galileans. How could they blunder so? Religious tribunals often act unrighteously, out of deep feelings. (C.S. Lovett, Lovett’s Lights on John, 140)
His response shows that, in fact, if anyone round here doesn’t know the law it’s the Pharisees themselves! They are condemning Jesus without having heard what he has to say for himself or seen what he is doing. (N. T. Wright, John for Everyone, Part One, 109)
To their way of thinking, the Scriptures never spoke of a prophet–much less the Christ–coming from Galilee. But they were wrong on three counts:
(1) Jesus was born in Bethlehem, the city of David (Lk 2:4-11; also Mic 5:2).
(2) The Scriptures do speak of the Messiah (called “Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace”–Isa 9:6) as a “great light” for Galilee. Isaiah said, “the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali. . . in Galilee of the Gentiles. The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light” (Isa 9:1-2; see also Mt 4:13-16).
(3) Jonah (2 Kgs 14:25) and Elijah (1 Kgs 17:1) came from this region.
But they referred to the prophet of Dt 18:15. They were proud and certain that he would come from their territory, Judea. (Bruce B. Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: John, 165)
. . . . whereas they had reproached the people, especially the followers of Christ, as ignorant of the law, he here tacitly retorts the charge upon themselves, and shows how ignorant they were of some of the first principles of the law, so unfit were they to give law to others. (Matthew Henry’s Commentary: Vol. V, 978)
And, as John surely intends us to see, their point about prophets not coming from Galilee shows just how wrong they are. Jonah and Hosea, two well-known prophets in the OT, both came from Galilee. And when John has them say that no prophet “rises up” from Galilee, the word he uses is almost always used elsewhere in the book to refer to the resurrection. Jonah was proverbial for coming, so it seemed, back “from the dead” after three days in the belly of the fish; and Hosea contains the prophecy that God will “raise us up on the third day” (6:2). (N. T. Wright, John for Everyone, Part One, 109)
The Pharisees’ claim that the religious rulers had unanimously rejected Jesus was, in fact, not true (cf. 12:42). The prominent rabbi Nicodemus (the same one who came to Jesus earlier [3:1-2]), perhaps the preeminent teacher in all of Israel (cf. 3:10) was the most notable exception. (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: John, 319)
The notion that no prophet comes from Galilee is not independently attested in Jewish sources. Indeed, Rabbi Eliezer (AD 90) said that there was no tribe of Israel that failed to produce a prophet (B. Sukkah 27b). It is just barely possible that the Jewish authorities say this out of sheer frustration at their inability to curtail the activities and teaching of Jesus, this despised teacher from Galilee. (D. A. Carson, The Gospel According to John, 332)
Worship Point: Worship the God of the Universe Who gives you His word, His Spirit, and His Church to keep you from going blind to the truth and making an idiot of yourself.
Gospel Application: Jesus has no pride, ego, prejudices or emotions that can blind Him from the truth. In fact, Jesus is Truth embodied. Jesus can free you from prejudices that darken your “spiritual eyes.” (Isa 29:18; 35:5; 42:7; Mt 11:5; 15:30-31; Lk 4:18; 7:21-22; Jn 1:4-5, 9; 8:12, 32-36; 9:5, 39-41; 12:46; 14:6)
Spiritual Challenge: Beware of pride, ego, prejudices, and emotions which can blind you to the truth.
It’s been observed in surveys that the average person believes he is better than the average person. We are blind to our own blindness. (David Jeremiah, Captured by Grace, p. 69)
Spiritual Challenge Questions:
- What positions do you hold on anything, that the Wesleyan Quadrilateral would challenge that position? In other words, can you give a credible, Biblical defense for your position?
- If you are blind you cannot see that to which are you blind. How can one find out that one is blind?
- To Whom do we look to allow us to see that for which we are currently blind?
- What role do humility and repentance play in allowing those who are blind to see?
So What?: We can easily allow pride, ego, prejudices and our emotions to blind us so we make poor decisions that are contrary to reality. God’s Word, Spirit, and Church can lead you into the truth, so the Truth can set you free (Psa 18:28; 19:8; 36:9; 43:3; 119:105; Lk 3:32; Jn 8:32; 2 Cor 4:4-6; 1 Pt 2:9). If the Truth embodied sets you free you are free indeed. (Jn 8:36)
Often a man finds himself in a situation in which he would like to defend Jesus and in which he knows he ought to show his colors. Often he makes a kind of half-hearted defense, and is then reduced to an uncomfortable and ashamed silence. In our defense of Jesus Christ it is better to be reckless with our hearts than prudent with our heads. To stand up for him may bring us mockery and unpopularity; it may even mean hardship and sacrifice. But the fact remains that Jesus said he would confess before his Father the man who confessed him on earth, and deny before his Father the man who denied him on earth. Loyalty to Christ may produce a cross on earth, but it brings a crown in eternity. (William Barclay, Daily Study Bible Series: John, 254)
GUIDE FOR THE BLIND