This week we will study John 7:40-52. So let’s read the passage, “When they heard these words, some of the people said, “This really is the Prophet.” Others said, “This is the Christ.” But some said, “Is the Christ to come from Galilee? Has not the Scripture said that the Christ comes from the offspring of David, and comes from Bethlehem, the village where David was?” So there was a division among the people over him. Some of them wanted to arrest him, but no one laid hands on him. The officers then came to the chief priests and Pharisees, who said to them, “Why did you not bring him?” The officers answered, “No one ever spoke like this man!” The Pharisees answered them, “Have you also been deceived? Have any of the authorities or the Pharisees believed in him? But this crowd that does not know the law is accursed.” Nicodemus, who had gone to him before, and who was one of them, said to them, “Does our law judge a man without first giving him a hearing and learning what he does?” They replied, “Are you from Galilee too? Search and see that no prophet arises from Galilee.”
The Crowd is Divided
In John 7:40-52, we see that there was a division among the people about who Jesus is, and also that the Pharisees wanted to arrest Jesus. One question that many were asking was whether Jesus is the Christ. In other words, is Jesus the Messiah? All throughout John 7, people were looking for Jesus and many seemed to be divided about Him. People either think He is leading others astray and should go back to Galilee or they think that He is the Christ. The events of John 7 occur prior to and during the Feast of Booths, which is one of the three Israelite pilgrimage festivals, where all Jewish men were required to go to Jerusalem. John 7:40-52 occurred on the last day of the feast, when the largest crowds would be there. Jesus had been teaching since, about the middle of the feast. This part of John, draws the reader to the question, who is Jesus? I believe it is one of the most important questions ever asked. In this blog, we will examine this question, as well as looking at what the people in the crowd and the Pharisees thought about Jesus. No one throughout all of Jerusalem, seemed to be opinionless about Jesus. Everyone’s opinion fell into one of two categories: the first was Jesus is the Messiah and the second was that He was a false teacher. It seems that Jesus was someone that no one, who had ever heard about Him, could be neutral on. Some claimed that He was the Prophet, others the Christ, as for the Scribes, Pharisees, and others, they thought that He was a false teacher.
Before we get into the religious leader’s opinion, let’s break down what the crowd’s opinions was about Jesus. The crowd’s first opinion was that, He was the Prophet. Some of you might be thinking, the same thing as I was before studying to write this, that the Prophet should be phrased as a prophet, and the crowds were just calling Jesus a prophet like the prophets of the Old Testament. But, that is not what the crowds were talking about when examining the context and realizing that when they said, the Prophet instead of a prophet, they were referring to a passage in Deuteronomy 18. When Moses tells the Israelites that God will raise up a prophet like him, who will speak to God face to face (Deuteronomy 18:18-19, Exodus 33:11). Notice that Moses does not say the prophets, he says a prophet, which is what the crowds were referring to by calling Jesus the Prophet. They are saying that Jesus is the Prophet, the One that would be the new Moses, now whether that means they thought He was the Messiah depends on the school of thought among the crowds. Yet, others in the crowd were certain that He was the Christ. But, others said that He could not be the Messiah, because He was from Galilee and not from Bethlehem. This is why there was a division among the people, because they could not decide who Jesus was.
The Religious Leaders
The religious leaders and some in the crowd wanted to arrest Him, but no one laid a hand on Him, because His time had not yet come (John 7:30). Earlier in John 7, we saw that the religious leaders sent out officers to arrest Jesus. The officers went, but did not lay a hand on Him, because they had never heard anyone speak like Jesus. I think there are two main reasons the officers realized there was something different about Jesus. The first was Jesus spoke with authority, unlike the scribes (Matthew 7:29) and the second is the Holy Spirit was drawing the officers to accept Jesus. The Pharisees scoffed at the officers, asking if they too had been deceived. This shows what the religious leaders believed about Jesus; they believed that He was a false teacher. The religious leaders asked the question, whether any of the authorities believed in Jesus. Of course, this question was proven false by Nicodemus and several other religious leaders who believed in Jesus. They went on to say that, the only ones who believe, are the accursed crowd, which do not know the law. Some commentaries suggest that these officers were Levites, if this is true, then this would be a massive slap in the face to these officers, who would have been to school for years studying the law, not to the extent of the Pharisees, but not far from it. These were not loving teachers correcting their students, who they believed had gone astray. No, these were teachers who cared about no one, criticizing the beliefs of their own students, even going so far as to say that they were cursed (damned). Their dislike of Jesus was not as much about who Jesus was, but because Jesus kept leading the attention away from them and to God, which was where they claimed to be pointing as well (Matthew 23:5-7). Side note: this is one way to tell if you are seeking glory for yourself, instead of seeking to glorify God, is to see how you react when someone takes the attention off of you. When looking at their actions, it is obvious why they did not believe in Jesus and why they did not want others to believe either. The religious leaders could not find proof that Jesus wasn’t the Messiah. They were also not studying and seeking the Messiah’s coming, as they tried to make it appear. The real reason they did not believe and did not want others to believe, was because Jesus took the attention off them.
Nicodemus Stands Up for Jesus
Nicodemus was at this discussion with the religious leader and officers. So, he said, “Does our law judge a man without first giving him a hearing and learning what he does?” Nicodemus was trying to get the religious leaders to give Jesus a fair trial, in accordance with the law. Since they ignored this rebuke by Nicodemus, this shows that their heart was not set on glorifying God and fulfilling His law to the best of their abilities, as they claimed to be doing. Of course, Nicodemus got a similar response out of the Pharisees as the officers did. Instead of taking the rebuke to heart and realizing that they were mad because Jesus was leading the people away from them and not because He was leading them astray, as the religious leaders thought. They say two things to Nicodemus, first, they ask a question to enrage him, just as they had done to the officers, the question they asked was if he also was from Galilee. To understand why this would enrage him, you have to understand that being from Galilee would be like saying, you were from a small region, that was well known and despised by almost everyone who was not from there. The second question they asked was an attack against Jesus being the Prophet or even a prophet. They said to look and see that no prophet comes from Galilee; they were not correct, because there were three, Jonah (Gath-hepher, Galilee), Nahum (Elkoshite, Galilee), and Jesus (Nazareth, Galilee).
No Neutrality on Jesus
Just like the crowd, no one who has heard of Jesus can be neutral about who Jesus is. You either believe He is who He said He is or not, those are the only two options. Make sure today you do not miss Jesus, because you did not do your own research about who Jesus is. If you are interested in researching who Jesus is, I recommend The Case for Christ by Lee Stroble. When he wrote this book he was an atheist and a journalist at a major newspaper. This is a great book for both Christians and non-christians alike. Do not be like the religious leaders or the crowds, who did not even take the time to check and see where Jesus was born or who His parents were. Also, we should not be like the religious leaders, who were more concerned about what people thought of them, than figuring out if Jesus is the One who they had been looking for, for millenniums. They missed Jesus because they were more concerned about everyone seeing them and looking good before people. Being a Christian means being a lifelong learner, but not just for learning’s sake, but because we are seeking to grow in our relationship with Jesus. So this week, study the Bible, pray, and attend a local church, then watch your faith grow. If you do not know Jesus, don’t miss Jesus for any reason, do your own research, and you will find that Jesus is who He said He is and that is the most concrete fact in the history of the world!
If you would like to continue your research of Jesus, click here to see Why the Resurrection of Jesus matters in your life today https://www.biblicalencouragement.org/2022/04/16/why-the-resurrection-of-jesus-matters-in-your-life-today/