Judge with Right Judgment (+Q&A) | John 7:1-24
Alright, I want us to jump right into the Word of God. We’re in John chapter 7. This is some time after the end of John chapter 6. So, it’s a bit of a new chapter in Jesus’ ministry. And so, we’re going to read through the first 24 verses of John 7. Let me start with verse 24, though, the last verse, so we can see the main point that Jesus is going to make. And then, we’ll read our way through all of them starting back at verse 1.
Verse 24, the main point that Jesus is going to make: “Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.” That’s his main point. So, as we read this, I want you to see how all the people around Jesus misjudge him. Starting in verse 1:
After this Jesus went about in Galilee. He would not go about in Judea, because the Jews were seeking to kill him. 2 Now the Jews’ Feast of Booths was at hand. 3 So his brothers said to him, “Leave here and go to Judea, that your disciples also may see the works you are doing. 4 For no one works in secret if he seeks to be known openly. If you do these things, show yourself to the world.” 5 For not even his brothers believed in him. 6 Jesus said to them, “My time has not yet come, but your time is always here. 7 The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify about it that its works are evil. 8 You go up to the feast. I am not going up to this feast, for my time has not yet fully come.” 9 After saying this, he remained in Galilee.
10 But after his brothers had gone up to the feast, then he also went up, not publicly but in private. 11 The Jews were looking for him at the feast, and saying, “Where is he?” 12 And there was much muttering about him among the people. While some said, “He is a good man,” others said, “No, he is leading the people astray.” 13 Yet for fear of the Jews no one spoke openly of him.
14 About the middle of the feast Jesus went up into the temple and began teaching. 15 The Jews therefore marveled, saying, “How is it that this man has learning, when he has never studied?” 16 So Jesus answered them, “My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me. 17 If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority. 18 The one who speaks on his own authority seeks his own glory; but the one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and in him there is no falsehood. 19 Has not Moses given you the law? Yet none of you keeps the law. Why do you seek to kill me?” 20 The crowd answered, “You have a demon! Who is seeking to kill you?”21 Jesus answered them, “I did one work, and you all marvel at it. 22 Moses gave you circumcision (not that it is from Moses, but from the fathers), and you circumcise a man on the Sabbath. 23 If on the Sabbath a man receives circumcision, so that the law of Moses may not be broken, are you angry with me because on the Sabbath I made a man’s whole body well? 24 Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.”
Every single person on the planet who has heard or knows anything of Jesus has judged for themselves what they think about Jesus. Whether you know it or not, you have made your own judgements about Jesus. And Jesus is not trying to say we shouldn’t do that; he’s saying we must do this rightly! We must judge with right judgment. And so, three ways we see the people around Jesus misjudge him, which are, therefore, three ways we can misjudge Jesus as well. Three ways we can misjudge Jesus. Number One:
- We can misjudge his audience (1-9).
Now, we see in verse 1 that Jesus wanted to stay in Galilee because the Jews in Judea were trying to find him to kill him. The Jews in Jerusalem, especially, were trying to kill him. If you remember back to chapter 5, verse 18: John wrote that they were trying to kill him because he broke the Sabbath by healing a man, and he was saying things implying that he was equal with God. So Jesus wanted to stay in Galilee, to avoid these Jews.
But his biological half-brothers (and that’s who this is referring to), they wanted him to go to Judea, because the Feast of Booths was happening. This was the most attended Jewish feast at that time. So why did they want him to go? They wanted people to see him again, and see his works, so that maybe Jesus could become a successful leader again! That’s what seems to be in these brothers’ minds. “We know you had a rough go-at-it six months ago, with so many of your disciples leaving after you said those hard things; this is your chance! Jump back up on the platform!” Verse 4: “For no one works in secret if he seeks to be known openly. If you do these things, show yourself to the world.”
They have completely misjudged who Jesus is trying to please. They see him as, like, a failed rabbi, because he’s lost his big following. But Jesus doesn’t see it that way, does he? His goal is not to please the masses, to get as many people as possible to like him, and to do whatever it takes to see that happen. That’s not his goal. So, why do his brothers think this? Well, really the problem is that they actually don’t believe in him. They don’t see who he truly is, and they don’t see their own desperate need for him and the eternal life he can give. We see that in verse 5: “For not even his brothers believed in him.” So, if they don’t believe in him, then it kind-of makes sense that they’re going to misjudge who he’s trying to please, or why Jesus is doing what he’s doing. In their minds, the only audience worth pleasing, especially for someone with Jesus’ kind of gifts, is the audience of the world.
And if that’s the case, if they think the world is Jesus’ audience, then they probably think it was an accident that Jesus said what he said, in what we read last week. You remember, the masses were already talking about how difficult it was, what Jesus was saying. And yet, Jesus pressed even further, offending them even more, which is why so many left. To these half-brothers of Jesus, they must have thought that that was an accident, so now they’re thinking, “Let’s go to this feast and try and salvage what we can of the big audience you used to have.”
But Jesus has a completely different audience in mind, doesn’t he? Jesus certainly is not a people-pleaser. He’s not just trying to keep everyone happy. We see later that the ultimate audience that he had in mind was God the Father, not the world. He wanted to please His Father. But these brothers of his had the world in mind. And what he says here in verses 6 and 7, should be piercing to us.
Verse 6: “Jesus said to them, ‘My time has not yet come’ [he’s referring to what is his death on the cross that’s coming], then he says, ‘but your time is always here.’” What does he mean by that? Look at verse 7: “’The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify about it that its works are evil.’” Track with me here: Why is it that the world cannot hate Jesus’ brothers? Because his brothers are part of the world! They don’t believe in Jesus, they have completely misjudged who Jesus is trying to please. They’ve projected onto Jesus their own goals, which are what? To please the world! Of course the world is not going to hate them; they’re trying to do everything can to please the world! And they think Jesus wants the same thing they want! They are so mistaken, aren’t they?
So why does the world hate Jesus, according to Jesus? Because he’s not trying to please the world. He testifies that its works are evil. He does not sugar-coat it, he does not compromise. He does not nuance it so it’s a little bit easier for the world to accept. He calls their work, our work in the flesh, evil. And because of that, he is hated. He does not fit in.
So here’s the hard question for us: Who is our primary audience? Who are we trying to please? When asked the hard questions, do we shrink up, or do we speak the truth? Because I know that we all want to be compassionate, or at least I hope we all want to be compassionate, but can I tell you: True compassion—true, Godly compassion—does not compromise truth. But sometimes our flesh wants to please the world, doesn’t it? We want to nuance things to make it a little easier to accept.
I think, an interesting question to ask ourselves is this: Do we fit in nice and neatly with the world? Because if we do, that might be a sign that we’re trying to please the wrong audience. Do we fit in nice and neatly within our culture, the sexual revolution, a particular political party, any of them? Is that our audience we’re trying to please? Or, are we seeking to conform to the likeness of Christ, who only had one true audience in mind. He was seeking to please His Father, even if it meant that the world would hate him. Is that our goal?
This is a question we have to be asking in every area of our lives. At work, who are we trying to please? At church, who are we trying to please? In our private lives, who are we trying to please? In our homes: who are we trying to please, ultimately? If Jesus’s ultimate audience he had in mind was God, that must be ours also. [When People Are Big and God Is Small, Edward T. Welch].
So, we see Jesus remain in Galilee, but, then again, he does end up going in verse 10. Now, verses 8 and 10 may seem like a contradiction, or like Jesus was lying, but really that’s easily explained. In verse 8, he probably just meant that he wasn’t going to go to the feast the way that his brothers had in mind, in other words—publicly. Instead, he went privately.
And in going privately we see the 2nd Way We Can Misjudge Jesus:
- We can misjudge why he came (10-14).
Think, for a moment, about why Jesus came to the earth, why he became a man and did what he did. We see that he goes up to the feast privately, and there at the feast the Jews were looking for him. And then in verse 12, we see that people were disagreeing about him. Some thought he was a good man, and others thought he was leading people astray. Ironically, both of those groups of people in verse 12 were wrong, in a sense, right? He wasn’t just a good man, a good teacher. And he certainly wasn’t leading people astray. He didn’t come just to be a good man, and again, he certainly didn’t come to lead people astray. So why did he come?
Notice what he ends up doing at the feast. Verse 14: “About the middle of the feast Jesus went up into the temple and began teaching.” If you think about Jesus’ main purpose in any town that he visited—his main purpose was not to perform miracles. His main purpose was to teach. And his teaching, as we’ve seen so clearly in the gospel of John so far, was focused on pointing people to himself! Even his miracles, when he did choose to perform these miraculous signs—they were just that! They were signs pointing them to who he was!
It was never just about the miracle. He was there to teach them, and point them to himself. And yet, people so often misunderstood why Jesus was there. Just a few weeks ago, in John 6:15, they were about to take Jesus by force to make him their king, their political ruler! And you’d think, Man, these people loved Jesus, or at least they thought they did. But they loved the Jesus of their imaginations. They loved the Jesus they painted for themselves. They misjudged him, and loved their own version of Jesus. They believed that he should be their political king, and they believed that’s why he had come. They were mistaken. They were wrong!
So we have those who thought they loved him, and then we also have those who hated him because they believed he was blaspheming. You have, in some minds, the political king and ruler, and in others the blaspheming heretic. They completely misjudged who he was and why he came. They weren’t really listening to what he was saying about himself, were they? No, they knew what they wanted him to be, and so they projected that onto him.
Here’s the question for us, then: Do we love a Jesus of our own creation? Do we love a Jesus of our own creation? This has to be one of the biggest reasons for false conversions in our pop-Christian culture. Because it is so easy to love a Jesus of our own Creation, instead of the Jesus of the Bible, the Jesus who explained and told us exactly who he was and why he came. Do we take his own teaching with a grain of salt, maybe without even knowing it, and really just paint for ourselves the Jesus that we want him to be?
Do you love a Jesus who came to show us how to live a moral life, and we should follow him because that’s the right thing to do? Is that the picture you’ve painted? Do you love a Jesus who showed the world how to love one another, and that’s the focus of the picture you’ve painted? Again, those aren’t wrong things! Don’t misunderstand me! He did those things! But, have you heard and let soak in what Jesus told us about himself? Or what others said about him, right there in his presence, and he did not correct them, you know, implying that what they said was true! In other words, have you heard from the mouth of Jesus, and the mouths of those who walked with him? Or have you formulated your own version of Jesus!?
- 1:29- John the Baptist: “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”
- 1:49- Nathanael: “Rabbi, you are the son of God, the King of Israel!”
- 1:51- Jesus: “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”
- 2:19- Jesus again: “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”
- 3:14-15- “so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.”
- 3:16- “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
- 3:17- “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”
- 3:30-31- John the Baptist, again: “He must increase, I must decrease. He who comes from above is above all. He who is of the earth belongs to the earth and speaks in an earthly way. He who comes from heaven is above all.”
- 3:36- “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.”
That’s just from the first three chapters of John. Jesus came to teach and point people to himself as the only hope for the world. Jesus came as the GOD-MAN-KING who would became a lamb to be slaughtered, for a world that did not even know him. That’s good news, isn’t it? Do not misjudge why Jesus came. Listen to Jesus’ own words; listen to all these other words that were said about him. Judge with right judgment. The 3rd Way That We Can Misjudge Jesus:
- We can misjudge his authority (14-23).
This has some overlap with number two. We can misjudge his authority. In other words, we can misjudge, exactly, who he is.
In verse 14, we saw that he did end up going to the feast, and in the middle of the feast he goes near the temple and starts teaching. And apparently, the Jews are amazed at his teaching. They ask, “How is it that this man has learning, when he has never studied?” What they mean is that this man has not been part of a rabbinical school. He’s not been under the tutelage of any rabbi that they knew.
So, he responds by saying, “My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me. And if you’re truly seeking God’s will, you’ll know whether my teaching is from God, or just from me.” And then he points out in verse 18 that, “Anyone who speaks merely on his own authority is doing it for his own glory, but if he is seeking the glory of the one who sent him, then he is true.” In other words, the reason Jesus is so surprising to them, partly, is because his goal is to truly represent His Father in his teaching.
He doesn’t want their attention and praise for himself, as a mere man. He wants glory and attention given to His Father in heaven, which is why he can be trusted. He doesn’t have mixed intentions. He really and truly is a messenger from God the Father. He really and truly was sent by God the Father. Yet again, we see Jesus’ authority. He came from the Father, will go back to the Father if you remember that from last week—he has the key to heaven (so to speak), and now he only speaks on behalf of the Father.
Usually when a Jew would teach in the synagogue or in the temple, they would appeal to well-known Rabbis. They’d quote these rabbis who everyone would respect. Why? Because that would undergird the authority of what they’re saying. It’s like me quoting Don Carson or Andreas Kostenberger, or John Calvin. These are well-respected Godly scholars and theologians that help to explain the text. Jesus, though, has no need to quote anyone else! He’s Jesus! He speaks directly on behalf of God the Father. Do you see the significance of that? The weight of his authority? It’s a big deal to teach as Jesus taught.
We must grasp Jesus’ authority. At the end of the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 7, this may ring a bell: Matthew writes that the crowds were astonished at Jesus’ teaching, why? “for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes.” Jesus has no human authority that he has to appeal to. Jesus IS the human authority, because he speaks on behalf of God the Father.
I remember my older sister, Arinne, often trying to make me do whatever she wanted me to do. But the way she’d do that is not by saying, “Because I said so.” No, she appealed to a higher authority: “Mom said you have to pick up my room…Dad said we have to watch my favorite show…Mom said to stop playing your trumpet because it’s really annoying.” I remember her saying that actually quite often. I practiced like several hours a day at times. Which, to be honest, was probably pretty annoying, because my room was the closest to the living room. No one could even be together without my all-region music being played over and over and over and over. So my sister would do or say anything at times to try and get me to stop playing my trumpet. I’m sure at some point (I don’t remember if she ever did this) she probably said, “God told me to tell you, please, stop!”
Jesus is certainly not a child just trying to get what he wants, pretending he’s coming on behalf of a higher authority. He’s the Son of God, and his will is only that which matches His Father’s will. He doesn’t speak on his own authority as a man, but on behalf of God the Father, truly. This is the point he’s making.
And then, he goes on to point out their hypocrisy. Seeking to kill him, specifically because of healing a man on the Sabbath, making his whole body healthy, when they supposedly believe that it IS ok to circumcise on the Sabbath, if the 8th day of a newborn’s life falls on the Sabbath. He’s saying that why would you be ok with perfecting one part of the body, and not the whole body, which is what he did when he healed the invalid in chapter 5.
Ultimately, the question for the Jews is, “Have you misjudged the authority of Jesus?” And that’s the question for us as well. They saw him as a mere man, and they were astonished, but they also did not give him any authoritative status. For you and me, those of us who do recognize Jesus’ authority as the God-man, who only speaks as God the Father wants. We recognize that, but do we truly attribute to him God-like authority in our lives? Or, do we merely give him A seat at the table, so to speak. One influence among many, as far as how we make decisions?
Because we misjudge his authority when we only give him dominion over the spiritual parts of our lives, or even most of our lives, as opposed to all of our lives. He’s not just an influential man, he is God. We must treat him like God.
We’ve all given Jesus a verdict of sorts. Even if you’re not aware that you have, you need to know: you have. Jesus holds some sort of position in your life. The question is, what position does he hold? By what parameters do you judge him? Because Jesus doesn’t say not to make a judgment call; he says to judge with right judgment. So, how do we judge him?
Do we judge according to whether or not he does what we want him to do? Ok, I will believe and follow—insofar as it is mutually beneficial for me! As long as he does, generally speaking, what I want him to do. Or, I will believe and follow—as long as it makes sense within our culture, and as long as there are plenty of other Christians around me. I’m not one to go against the grain. Or, I will believe and follow—unless I learn something about Jesus that doesn’t fit within the picture that I’ve already painted of Jesus. I’ll believe and follow as long as what he says fits within what I already believe, or what I want to believe.
Judge with right judgment, like John the Baptist did. I already read part of this once, but I want to read John’s judgment of Jesus. And as I read this, ask yourself: “Is this the position Jesus holds in my life?”
He must increase, but I must decrease. He who comes from above is above all. He who is of the earth belongs to the earth and speaks in earthly way. He who comes from heaven is above all. He bears witness to what he has seen and heard, yet no one receives his testimony. Whoever receives his testimony sets his seal to this, that God is true. For he whom God has sent utters the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure. The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.
Is that your judgment? Don’t believe in a Jesus of your own making. Judge rightly. Discern who Jesus is from his own mouth and from the mouths of those who walked with him.