Meditations and Comentary on John 7:11-13

I have sought, in previous blog articles regarding my study, over the years, on the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ as written about by His Spirit through the apostle John, to share parts of that study which would be beneficial and therefore “able to build you up and give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified” (Acts 20:32b). That this is according to “God, and the word of His grace” (Acts 20:32a) is my greatest prayer, hope, and desire. With this end in view, I will continue to share tidbits of that study that I have been engaged in for the benefit of the local portion of the catholic body of Christ, of which I am a part, as well as the greater visible church.

I am definitively of the persuasion that the great doctrines in this gospel, and indeed, throughout the Word of our Holy God, who is beyond our reach, yet has deigned to make Himself accessible to those who are His in Christ Jesus, are put forth in this gospel perhaps more than any other. The majesty of our King, Lord, Redeemer and Mediator is so plainly set forth in John’s gospel as to be without dispute, which is in agreement and augmentation of the history of redemption our great God has set forth for the benefit of His people in all the gospel accounts. I pray that these crumbs of knowledge and wisdom He has seen fit to give one who eclipses that claim of the apostle of being “the chief of sinners” are of blessing to my brethren.

John 7:11-13: So the Jews were seeking Him at the feast and were saying, “Where is He?” There was much grumbling among the crowds concerning Him; some were saying, “He is a good man,” others were saying, “No, on the contrary, He leads the people astray.” Yet no one was speaking openly of Him for fear of the Jews.

By “the Jews were seeking Him” we understand, first of all, that this is the religious authorities, the very same ones spoken of in v. 1, where it is said “they were seeking to kill Him,” which is confirmed, as to the general mood of the crowds, in v. 13, where they would not speak openly for fear of these religious leaders. We have discussed our Lord’s wisdom in not placing Himself in harm’s way before the proper time, and how this relates to our own walking in He who loved us and gave Himself for us, as well as how, when it was in the timetable His Father set for Him, He did not hesitate to present Himself among His enemies at the preordained times, and how this should embolden us in our sharing and preaching (for those who preach; all share) of the gospel. We may take it that the Jewish authorities were not inquiring after His presence for purposes of simply knowing His whereabouts, for they were hostile to Him, and this hostility of those recognized as the foremost religious persons in the nation had a strong effect upon the crowds of their fellow countrymen, for they were speaking of Him among one another, but not so that these leaders could overhear them.

Secondly, however, this expression refers to the crowds of His countrymen who were looking for His appearance at this important feast. Of this passage, Calvin remarks, “The Jews therefore sought him. Here we ought to consider what was the condition of the Church. For the Jews, at that time, gaped for the promised redemption like hungry men; yet, when Christ appears to them, they remain in suspense. Hence arose that murmuring and that variety of opinions. That they whisper secretly is an indication of the tyranny which the priests and scribes exercised over them. It is a shocking exhibition, indeed, that this Church, which was at that time the only Church on earth, is here represented to us as a confused and shapeless chaos. They who rule, instead of pastors, hold the people oppressed by fear and terror, and throughout the whole body there is shameful desolation and lamentable disorder. By the Jews he means the common people, who, having been accustomed for two years to hear Christ, inquire about him, because he does not appear according to his custom. For when they say, Where is he? they describe a man whom they knew, and yet that word shows that they had not yet been earnestly moved, and that they always remained in doubt and suspense.”[1]

Mark what is recorded, however, of what the people in the crowds were saying of our Lord, how some said that He was a good man, while others said He was a deceitful man.

Upon what basis did they arrive at such conclusions? All our Lord had ever done was good; indeed, all that He ever did was to preach the truth to those around Him, and work miracles of mercy and provision which pointed to the fact that He was the chosen one, the anointed one of God (Luke 4:18-21; cf. Isaiah 42:1; 61:1-2; Acts 4:26-27; 10:38; Hebrews 6:8-9; cf. Psalm 45:6-7; Isaiah 61:1, 3), sent to the nation that had so rejected Him throughout their history, to heal them and those others decreed of Him to be saved (Isaiah 2:2-3; 42:6-7; 49:5-6). Indeed, in another place, our Lord quotes Isaiah in response to John the Baptist’s inquiry: “the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me” (Matthew 11:15b-16; cf. Isaiah 35:5-6; 8:14-15).

This reasoning of the people in the crowds about who our Lord was, whether a good man or a deceiver, showed that they did not yet see with those eyes given of the Spirit of God, and this is to be a lesson to us as well, for random disputing about the King of glory among His people has never been a good thing, and is a form of breaking the third commandment, for it is a vain thing to discuss who our Lord was, and what He was doing, rather than to recognize Him for who He is, and has always been, as well as His place as the firstborn from all creation, which is to say, the firstfruits of the New Creation (Romans 8:28; Colossians 1:15-19).

The reason many today wish to discuss who our Lord was and what He was doing, in the context of breaking the third commandment, is because of the movement away from the historical doctrines of orthodoxy to a “what does this mean to you” type of individualistic, humanistic, relativistic mindset. This permeates even portions of the church, sadly, but we have the Holy Scriptures as a safeguard against this type of relativistic discussion of that which is plainly set forth of our Lord in Scripture, and we have the historic creeds and confessions which, while not being Scripture, faithfully expound upon the meaning of the great doctrines of the church catholic. Discussion of our Lord should be guided by proper understanding of the passages which speak of Him, according to the tradition of the church, not individual interpretation, for the latter leads to division and heresy, while the former insures that the Word of God is being faithfully understood and represented (2 Thessalonians 2:15; cf. 2 Thessalonians 3:6; 2 Peter 1:20). In order to rightly understand the great doctrines of the faith God has given to us, we have the expositions of faithful, gifted men God has given to the church, down through the ages, who follow in the orthodox tradition of the apostles and other New Testament writers; in discussing our Lord, this necessarily limits such discussion to those texts of Scripture wherein He is described and defined to the extent that we can comprehend these things of our finite minds, by the grace and Spirit of our God, and in this manner, we get the most important doctrine of Christology right, rather than empty discussions of who our Lord was and what He was doing (as these men in this passage are involved in doing). In saying this, we must notice that these men had the Holy Scriptures before them, but without the Spirit of God regenerating them, could not understand who it was that actually stood before them on so many occasions, despite the multiple and manifold evidences He gave of Himself and His Father. Let us not fall into similar vain discussions of our blessed Lord, for He has given us to have “the mind of Christ,” which is His Spirit.

[1] Calvin, Commentary on St John (1563)

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