Summary: Three obstacles to the knowledge of God. 1. Wrong Pursuits 2. Warped Assumptions 3. Willful Opposition
Obstacles to Knowing Truth
Fortifying the Foundations # 17
Text: John 7:14-36
Come with me this morning to the temple at Jerusalem during the last year of Jesus’ life. The city is full of people who have come to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles. As you recall Jesus’ brothers had wanted him to join their caravan and enter Jerusalem with the crowd. But Jesus waited for the Father’s timing and entered alone. Half way through the feast Jesus walks into the large court area where most of the people are. It is a 14-acre area and thousands of people are there. Jesus sits down and begins to teach a few people from the Scripture. As he teaches the crowd gathers around him. In that crowd there are three distinct groups.
Prominent in the crowd are the Jewish leaders—highly respected, highly educated religious leaders in the community. These people have already set themselves against Jesus. Two and a half years earlier Jesus had drove out the moneychangers in this very court. That’s when their confrontation with Jesus began. The enmity had grown over the last couple of years. Six months ago Jesus healed the man at the Pool of Bethesda. They took an aggressive stand against Jesus focusing on the fact that the healing took place on the Sabbath day.
A second group in the crowd is the residents of Jerusalem. They know about the controversy going on. They know that these leaders are just waiting for a chance to arrest Jesus. They are surprised that Jesus would even show up in Jerusalem let alone teach publicly at the temple.
The third group is the Jews and proselytes who have come from outside Jerusalem for the feast. They are not aware of what’s going on between Jesus and “the Jews” which is the term John uses to refer to the religious leaders in Jerusalem. They are just enjoying the occasion and are intrigued with Jesus’ teaching.
The crowd is mesmerized by the eloquence and power of Jesus’ message. Jesus has their full attention as he expounds the word of God like they have never heard before. One of the Pharisees turns to his buddy with a shocked look on his face. He was expecting to hear a country bumpkin from Nazareth. He was expecting to hear a carpenter’s attempt at discussing the Bible. But instead he is hearing a master. His amazement causes him to speak with too much volume and a lot of emotion. “How did this man get such learning without having studied?” “What’s going on here?” The text literally says, “How does this man know his letters so well?” The letters refer to the Scriptures.
“How did this man get such learning without having studied?” I hear in their tone both amazement and resentment. “He did not go through our schools. We did not train him. We did not ordain him. We control these things.” Yet here he is showing all the scholars up—stripping away the majesty of their position. They were amazed but they were not happy!
Here are people encountering Jesus and baffled by the encounter. How is it that a person can have an encounter with the Lord—but instead of getting saved he gets confused or maybe even angry? How is it that these people in our text hear the clear word of the Lord but it is anything but clear in their minds and hearts?
In the passage that follows there is awesome insight on the conditions of knowing God—First the conditions of getting saved—but beyond that also the conditions of growing in our knowledge of God. We know that some of the people did move toward a level of belief in Christ although I’m not sure they were coming to a saving faith. But at least some were giving sincere consideration of Jesus’ claims. Most were not. Most were rejecting Him and some were even trying to kill Him.
This morning consider with me three obstacles to the knowledge of God.
1. Wrong Pursuits
2. Warped Assumptions
3. Willful Opposition
I. Wrong Pursuits
In his answer to their question Jesus exposes the difference between religion and relationship with God. Verse 16 “Jesus answered, ‘My teaching is not my own. It comes from the One Who sent me’.” “It flows out of my relationship with the Father. What He reveals to me in secret I am now sharing with you in public.” Jesus was hearing from another world and speaking into their world—heavenly wisdom from above.
The prophet, Isaiah wrote (50:4)
4The Sovereign LORD has given me an instructed tongue, to know the word that sustains the weary. He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being taught. NIV
I want that kind of ear—don’t you?
When we have a listening ear we can have an instructed tongue!