He that speaketh of himself seeketh his own glory: but he that seeketh his glory that sent him, the same is true, and no unrighteousness is in him. Did not Moses give you the law, and yet none of you keepeth the law? Why go ye about to kill me? The people answered and said, Thou hast a devil: who goeth about to kill thee? Jesus answered and said unto them, I have done one work, and ye all marvel. Moses therefore gave unto you circumcision; (not because it is of Moses, but of the fathers;) and ye on the sabbath day circumcise a man. If a man on the sabbath day receive circumcision, that the law of Moses should not be broken; are ye angry at me, because I have made a man every whit whole on the sabbath day? Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment. Then said some of them of Jerusalem, Is not this he, whom they seek to kill? But, lo, he speaketh boldly, and they say nothing unto him. Do the rulers know indeed that this is the very Christ? Howbeit we know this man whence he is: but when Christ cometh, no man knoweth whence he is. Then cried Jesus in the temple as he taught, saying, Ye both know me, and ye know whence I am: and I am not come of myself, but he that sent me is true, whom ye know not. But I know him: for I am from him, and he hath sent me. Then they sought to take him: but no man laid hands on him, because his hour was not yet come. And many of the people believed on him, and said, When Christ cometh, will he do more miracles than these which this man hath done? The Pharisees heard that the people murmured such things concerning him; and the Pharisees and the chief priests sent officers to take him. Then said Jesus unto them, Yet a little while am I with you, and then I go unto him that sent me. Ye shall seek me, and shall not find me: and where I am, thither ye cannot come. Then said the Jews among themselves, Whither will he go, that we shall not find him? will he go unto the dispersed among the Gentiles, and teach the Gentiles? What manner of saying is this that he said, Ye shall seek me, and shall not find me: and where I am, thither ye cannot come?
It seems almost a pity that one is not able, because of the fullness of the narrative, to take up at one time a complete account such as that which we have in this seventh chapter, because it all relates to our Lord’s meeting with the Jews in the temple court at Jerusalem. One incident follows another in rapid succession, but they are all connected.
In our last message we saw the Lord presenting Himself to the people and considered the beginning of His conversation with them. Now, in Joh_7:18 we go right on with the same incident. The Lord Jesus Christ had said in Joh_7:16-17, “My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me. If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.” Now He adds, “He that speaketh of himself seeketh his own glory: but he that seeketh his glory that sent him, the same is true, and no unrighteousness is in him” (Joh_7:18). The Lord Jesus always claimed to be the Sent One of the Father and then He says, “If any man will do his will.” He means, of course, that if people are sincerely desirous of knowing and doing the Lord’s will and will come to Him seeking the light, they will find out whether He, Himself, is just a self-seeking egotist endeavoring to gather men for His own glory or whether He is, as He said, the One sent from God as the Savior and Redeemer. If He was only speaking of Himself, He was simply seeking His own glory.
We remember that passage in Pro_25:27, “It is not good to eat much honey: so for men to search their own glory is not glory.” The illustration that is there used is rather interesting. Solomon used it frequently. Honey is that which is naturally pleasant and agreeable, and I suppose that there is nothing more pleasant than to have people speak well of us. There is something in us that makes us really enjoy having people say nice things about us. Well, according to Scripture, that’s honey. Don’t get too much of it. Too much will upset us and cause trouble. So he says, “It is not good to eat much honey,” and for many to attract attention to themselves is a dishonor. It is a shame for men to seek their own glory. You remember in Jer_45:5, God sends a special message to Baruch, “And seekest thou great things for thyself seek them not: for, behold, I will bring evil upon all flesh, saith the LORD: but thy life will I give unto thee for a prey in all places whither thou goest.”
That is the path of blessing. Our Lord Jesus Christ came not to do His own will but the will of Him that sent Him. His forerunner was a man of like character. He said, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (Joh_3:30).
So our Lord Jesus here reminds us that if a man is constantly talking of his own work and his own ability and power, and that kind of thing, with the idea, of course, to get people occupied with himself, he is seeking his own glory. “But he that seeketh his glory that sent him, the same is true and no unrighteousness is in him.” And this is what the Lord Jesus came to do. Before He went away, as He prayed in that last night before He went out to Gethsemane, He said, “[Father,] I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do” (Joh_17:4). And in this He becomes our great example. The one thing that men ought to be occupied with above everything else is bringing glory to the One who has redeemed them. I like that question in the Shorter Catechism of the Westminster Confession, “What is the chief end of man?” The answer is, “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” You see, we make such a mistake when we put self first. We tell ourselves that if we don’t seek our own interests, no one else will, but the Word declares that is not true. “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Mat_6:33). In other words, Put God first and self last, and God will see that you are honored in His own time.
And so the Lord Jesus made this the object of His life-to seek to glorify the One who sent Him. But then He turns to His opponents who accuse Him of being false, and says, “Did not Moses give you the law, and yet none of you keepeth the law?” (Joh_7:19 a). It was the glory of Israel that God had given to them the law on Mount Sinai. No other nation had such a revelation of the mind and will of God as that which was given to them. “And yet,” Jesus says, “[not one] of you keepeth the law.” Not one man had been found, until Christ came, who walked in complete obedience to that law. Therefore the law could only condemn. It said, “Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them” (Gal_3:10). And in the New Testament we read, “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all” (Jam_2:10). How that cuts out from under us any possibility of justifying ourselves before God by obedience to His law. No one but Christ has ever obeyed perfectly. And yet He went to Calvary’s cross and bore the curse of the broken law in order that we might be redeemed.
But these people in Israel were so occupied with their own special place and privileges that they gloried in that which could only condemn them. And the Lord Jesus put His finger at once upon a sore spot. He said, “Why go ye about to kill me?” (Joh_7:19 b). But, of course, the common people were not aware of all this, and the crowd answered and said, “Thou hast a demon. You are demon-possessed. Who goeth about to kill thee?” (Joh_7:20, author’s paraphrase). Doesn’t it show how lowly He had become? He is the Creator of heaven and earth, and He stands calmly there among His own people and allows them to bring a charge like this against Him. Yet He answered them so quietly. They said, “Thou hast a [demon].” And Jesus said, “I have done one work, and ye all marvel” (Joh_7:21).
To what was He referring? To the healing of the man at the Pool of Bethesda. They had never forgiven Him for healing that man on the Sabbath. The word had gone out that He was a lawbreaker, because He had found that poor soul, who had been thirty-eight years helpless, and He had made him whole on the Sabbath. They concluded that this was a violation of the law. Jesus showed them that there were certain things that had to be done on the Sabbath: circumcision of a child, for instance. Jesus declared, “Moses gave you this covenant.” On the Sabbath day they carried out this requirement. On the Sabbath day they put the sign of the covenant upon the body of a child. And if a man on the Sabbath day received circumcision, why were they annoyed with Him because He made a man every whit whole on the Sabbath? If God gave strength to a helpless cripple, a paralytic, and He chose to do it through Jesus on the Sabbath day, should they not rather rejoice that God was visiting His people and pouring out blessing upon mankind?
Then He adds, “Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment” (Joh_7:24). How we need to take that to heart! How quick we are to judge without knowing all the facts! That is what they did. They heard He had come and made the man whole on the Sabbath. They jumped to the conclusion that He was controlled by Satan and breaking the law of God, and so they condemned Him as if He had sinned against the law. Yet all the time it was God’s own Son acting in grace toward needy souls!
Our blessed Lord said in another place, “Judge not, that ye be not judged” (Mat_7:1). And then He added solemnly, “For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again” (Joh_7:2). What did He really mean? There are times when Christians are called upon to judge. For instance, if evil breaks out among believers, Christians are called upon to judge the wicked person and put him away from their fellowship, and if they do not then God will hold the church responsible.
How is that to be harmonized with these words, “Judge not, that ye be not judged”? There our Lord was referring to motives. You and I are not competent to judge the underlying motives of the acts of others. Oh, how cruel we are at times! Perhaps I am prejudiced against someone and yet cannot find any fault in his outward life, but I am ready to attribute evil to anything he does. Perhaps a man gives a large contribution to the work of the Lord, and I say, “Oh, he is just doing that to make an impression.” It is concerning such things that the Lord Jesus says, “It is not for you to judge.” God reads the heart; you do not. “Judge not according to the appearance.” “Man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart” (1Sa_16:7). “Judge righteous judgment,” and righteous judgment, of course, is on the basis of that which is manifest and clear. This, you see, was not the case when they were judging Him for breaking the law.
But they were perplexed. “Then said some of them of Jerusalem, Is not this he, whom they seek to kill?” (Joh_7:25). They knew that the leaders were trying to apprehend Him and put Him to death, and yet His words and bearing were so wonderful that they could not understand why anybody should hate Him and want to kill Him. So they asked wonderingly, “‘Is not this he, whom they seek to kill?’ Then why is He so bold and without fear? Does He not know they are lurking on the outskirts of the crowd, and yet He speaks so boldly. Do the rulers know who He is? After all, can it be that our leaders know in their hearts that He is the promised Messiah?” You know, of course, that the Greek word Christ and the Hebrew word Messiah are one and the same, and both mean “the Anointed.” “Can it be that our rulers know that He is God’s Anointed-the One who was to come into the world for the deliverance of Israel?”
And yet they are puzzled. “After all, it can’t be, because we know this Man and where He comes from.” They knew He was born in Bethlehem. But they say, “When Christ cometh, no man knoweth whence he is” (Joh_7:27). Why, the Word of God said, “But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting” (Mic_5:2).
Who is this strange mysterious personality? They say, “We can’t understand that, but this Man we know all about.” He was born in Bethlehem, He lived in Nazareth, and worked at the carpenter’s bench. But Jesus took them up on what they were saying. He could hear the very thoughts of their hearts and “cried… in the temple as he taught, saying, Ye both know me, and ye know whence I am: and I am not come of myself, but he that sent me is true, whom ye know not” (Joh_7:28). “You know that I was born at Bethlehem and lived in Nazareth, but you don’t know My Father. You don’t know the One who sent Me. If you did, then you would receive Me. But I know Him; I know who the Father is. I am from Him and He hath sent Me.” And in this He was declaring His Deity, because you remember it says that He came from God and went to God, and He prayed, “Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was” (Joh_17:5). He was One with the Father from all eternity. He was conscious of that as a Man down here on earth. He knew the Father in a sense that no one else did.
But, in their minds, this was tantamount to blasphemy. They endeavored to arrest Him, but no man laid hands on Him because His hour was not yet come. That should make clear to us that Jesus was not subject to man’s power. Jesus did not die on the cross because He was helpless in the hands of His enemies. Not until the appointed hour when He was to go out to die was it possible for anybody to injure Him or for anybody to put Him to death. “No man laid hands on him, because his hour was not yet come” (Joh_7:30). As a result of this we read that many of the people believed on Him. That does not necessarily mean that they trusted Him as Savior, but they believed in His sincerity that He was in all likelihood the true Messiah. They were waiting now to see how He would manifest Himself. For they said, “When Christ cometh, will he do more miracles than these which this man hath done?” (Joh_7:31). How could they credit any other person as Messiah if He was not the One predicted by the prophets who was to come for the deliverance of Israel?
But the Pharisees, the most strict of the Jews who were looked upon as rigidly orthodox, who accepted all the great doctrines of the Bible and yet some way or other had refused to receive the Lord Jesus Christ, they heard that the people murmured concerning Him and these Pharisees and the chief priests sent officers to take Him. He met them and said to them, “Yet a little while am I with you, and then I go unto him that sent me” (Joh_7:33), as much as to say, “You cannot take Me, the hour is not come. I am not ready to be delivered into your hands. I am still going on with My ministry among you.” “Yet a little while I am with you, and then I go (voluntarily of My own will) unto Him that sent Me.”
He knew that He was going by way of the cross, by way of the tomb. He had come into the world for that very purpose. But from the tomb He was to rise triumphant and to ascend into the presence of the Father. And to those to whom He had come and ministered, but who had set their hearts against Him, He said, “Ye shall seek me, and shall not find me: and where I am, thither ye cannot come” (Joh_7:34). Solemn words, not only for them, but for people living today. For once more Jesus is presenting Himself to mankind through the preaching of the gospel and is asking men to open their hearts to receive Him, but they refuse to do it. For them the time will come when they shall seek Him but shall not find Him. He meant that when He should go back to the Father, if they persisted in refusing obedience to His message, they could never be with Him yonder.
Do you see how contrary that is to the conception that many have that no matter how folks live, everybody is going to heaven at last?
We would like to believe that there is something about death so purifying that the soul would be made clean from sin, but we dare not believe it with the testimony of the gospel to the contrary. No, no. Jesus says, “If you refuse to accept My testimony, ‘where I am, thither ye cannot come.’” Unless men receive Christ here on earth they will never be with Him in eternity. Have you trusted Him? Have you accepted Him as your own personal Savior? Or are you still debating and saying, “Maybe some day I will settle this question.” Be persuaded that your time is short. Your opportunity will soon be gone. Be sure you close with Him as He waits in grace, before He says to you, “Ye shall seek me, and shall not find me.”
The Jews did not understand that He spoke of His death. They said, “Whither will he go, that we shall not find him? will he go unto the dispersed among the Gentiles, and teach the Gentiles?” (Joh_7:35). What did they mean by this? Well, you see, centuries had elapsed since Israel had been dispersed among the Gentiles. Year after year many came up to Jerusalem to keep the feasts, but their homes were among the Gentiles, and the Jews who lived in Palestine looked upon them with a measure of scorn. They asked, “Will He go out to these wanderers among the Gentiles and preach to them?” No, He did not mean that exactly, and yet there was a sense in which that would be true, for after His resurrection His gospel was to be carried not only to the dispersed of Israel but to the Gentiles everywhere.
But that was not exactly what He meant when He said, “Where I am, thither ye cannot come.” He was referring to His ascension into heaven. But they asked, “What manner of saying is this that he said, Ye shall seek me, and shall not find me: and where I am, thither ye cannot come?” (Joh_7:36). And with this the present conversation broke up. The Lord Jesus apparently turned away and said no more to them, but left them to think it out and debate the question among themselves. Later on He appeared again among them on the last day, the great day of the feast, but this must be reserved for our next address.
Have we trusted Him? Have we opened our hearts to Him? Oh, if we have, let us seek to go on to serve Him better and let us seek, by grace, to become increasingly like Him by witnessing to a lost world.