John 7:16 Jesus answered, “My teaching is not my own. It comes from the one who sent me. 17 Anyone who chooses to do the will of God will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own. 18 Whoever speaks on their own does so to gain personal glory, but he who seeks the glory of the one who sent him is a man of truth; there is nothing false about him. 19 Has not Moses given you the law? Yet not one of you keeps the law. Why are you trying to kill me?”
20 “You are demon-possessed,” the crowd answered. “Who is trying to kill you?”
21 Jesus said to them, “I did one miracle, and you are all amazed. 22 Yet, because Moses gave you circumcision (though actually it did not come from Moses, but from the patriarchs), you circumcise a boy on the Sabbath. 23 Now if a boy can be circumcised on the Sabbath so that the law of Moses may not be broken, why are you angry with me for healing a man’s whole body on the Sabbath? 24 Stop judging by mere appearances, but instead judge correctly.”
25 At that point some of the people of Jerusalem began to ask, “Isn’t this the man they are trying to kill? 26 Here he is, speaking publicly, and they are not saying a word to him. Have the authorities really concluded that he is the Messiah? 27 But we know where this man is from; when the Messiah comes, no one will know where he is from.”
28 Then Jesus, still teaching in the temple courts, cried out, “Yes, you know me, and you know where I am from. I am not here on my own authority, but he who sent me is true. You do not know him, 29 but I know him because I am from him and he sent me.”
30 At this they tried to seize him, but no one laid a hand on him, because his hour had not yet come. 31 Still, many in the crowd believed in him. They said, “When the Messiah comes, will he perform more signs than this man?”
While teaching at the Jerusalem Temple during the Festival of Tabernacles, attention moves to the question of Jesus’ origins. Jesus’ teaching is authoritative and unique. So where did he get this teaching? Who taught him? Any recognised teacher goes through a disciplined process of training, mentoring, and apprenticeship. They have learned at the feet of some other teacher– and not just academically. Their whole life is shaped by the values, the practices and the mission of their Master. So the crowd want to know, ‘Who sent Jesus? From where does he get his authority?’
Jesus is quite happy to affirm this question. His teaching is not his own. It comes from the one who sent him (v16). So far so good. Stepping forward from there, Jesus explains that he is sent from God. God is the source of his teaching. He is carrying out God’s mission. He speaks and acts on the authority of God. The person who sets themselves to do God’s will discovers that Jesus’ teaching is entirely congruent because his teaching has its origins in God.
Such an assertion is nothing more than the Pharisees claim. Their teaching, they say, is founded on the law of Moses and so it carries all the authority of God. The Pharisees claim that they are true to God, and yet Jesus is a law-breaker. Jesus’ practice of healing on the sabbath shows that he does not keep the law of Moses, and therefore he and his teaching must be opposed to God.
It is not clear which miraculous ’work’ Jesus is referring to in verse 21. No sign or miracle is recorded in chapter 7 but, most likely, this refers to Jesus’ healing of the man at the pool in chapter 5 (earlier, in Jerusalem). This was done on a sabbath and Jesus had specifically instructed the man to carry his mat and walk around on the sabbath. Thus the Pharisees were well aware of Jesus and actively committed to killing him. There was real danger associated with Jesus openly preaching in Jerusalem (Jn 5:16-18; 7:1), which explains his reluctance to go the festival. Jesus was indeed aware of their intent to kill him (v20).
In reply to the Pharisees accusation that he is a ‘law-breaker’ Jesus demonstrates how the Pharisees also ‘break’ the laws of Moses in their circumcision rituals. Arguing from the lesser (tending to a boy’s body) to the greater (healing a man’s whole body), Jesus demonstrates that his testimony is greater than that of the Pharisees. They seem to have nothing to say in reply such that the crowd begin to wonder whether they too have concluded that Jesus is the Messiah.
There was broad agreement that, when the Messiah came, his origins would be unknown. And yet the crowd had figured out that Jesus was from Galilee– perhaps his brothers had dobbed him in! Jesus replies that, though they thought they knew him, they did not know God the Father who sent him. Jesus– the sent one– knows him but the crowds do not. Unsurprisingly, with the crowds now also stirred up and offended, there is an attempt to seize Jesus. Again, it fails because Jesus’ ‘hour’ has not arrived.
Lord Jesus, you know the Father fully, and reveal him truly. You are from him and you speak on his behalf. Please stir my heart and mind to pay attention to you, that I might know the Father. Graciously grant that I too may learn to live as his. Amen.