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Mar 1 / Chuck Smith, Jr.



February 24, 2019 – Mark 7:14-23 John 7:37-39

Intro: It is not easy to follow the thread of John chapter 7

So I will begin with a quick synopsis of what is here:
– in Galilee, Jesus’ brothers told him he should “make an appearance” in Judea
• if he wanted public recognition, he should show himself to the world
◦ apparently they assumed that he wanted a measure of fame
• this was not friendly advice, For not even his brothers believed in him
◦ Jesus answered, it was not his time
kairos — the right moment (appointed time)
– later, Jesus went to Judea, not publicly but in private
– before showing up in the temple, people were already talking about him
– half-way through the feast, Jesus went into temple and began teaching
• as always, the impression he made was uncanny
◦ some in the crowd wanted to know how he knew so much
(not being “lettered”–i.e., not having a formal education)
◦ Jesus’ answer was that the teaching wasn’t his – he had been sent
– verse 19 is where it becomes tricky–Jesus starts talking about Moses

Has not Moses given you the law? Yet none of you keeps the law. Why do you seek to kill me?

• their religious life was defined by the law Moses had given them
◦ but seeking to kill Jesus was contrary to the commandments
• the crowd answered, You have a demon! (You’re crazy)
Who is seeking to kill you?
◦ Jesus didn’t answer, but instead, he spoke of circumcision

Here is the point Jesus was making. According to God’s covenant with Abraham, every male baby of his descendants was to circumcised on the eighth day. Even if the eighth day was a Sabbath, the circumcision would still be performed–although non-life threatening medical procedures were forbidden according to the current interpretation of the law. So to keep the commandment regarding circumcision, certain details of the Sabbath law were suspended. Jesus’ logic is simple: If it is justifiable to perform a circumcision on the Sabbath day, it was also justifiable for Jesus to make a man’s whole body well.

• Jesus then challenged them,
Do not judge by appearances but judge with right judgment
– next, John takes us back into the gossip mill – the Christ?
• the problem was they knew where Jesus was from (they thought)
◦ Jesus seems to agree, but that’s not the point
◦ the point is who it was that sent Jesus – they don’t know him
– the Pharisees heard about the crowd’s speculations
• and they sent officers to arrest him
◦ meanwhile, Jesus resumed his teaching
• if before, the issue was where he was from,
◦ now it was where he was going
◦ this left the crowd confused
– now John jumps to the last day of feast

On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.'” Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified (Jn. 6:37-39)

• this is the heart of the chapter
• everything else points to this and circles down to it
◦ Jesus, who was sent from God and speaks for God,
◦ has life to give to anyone who comes to him
– the crowd is now clearly divided over Jesus
– while they’re arguing, the officers return to the Pharisees
• when asked why they did not have Jesus in custody, they said,
No one ever spoke like this man!
• John leaves no doubt regarding the Pharisees’ opinions:
◦ people who followed Jesus were being deceived
◦ no other authorities or Pharisees believed in Jesus
◦ the crowd, not educated in the law, was cursed
• Nicodemus tried to defend Jesus, but was quickly shut down

We have been investigating what makes John’s gospel unique

First, he did not have to say what had already been said
Second, there are gaps in the Synoptic gospels
(for example, in the disciples’ understanding)
• a good example is here in v. 39, where John has to explain about the living water
• he wrote years after this event, and with greater insight
John’s gospel is like a spiritual commentary on the other gospels
– he uncovers a deeper level of meaning in Jesus’ teaching

In the Synoptics, Jesus had a lot to say about the heart
Blessed are the pure in heart
• where your treasure is, there your heart will be also
out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks
this people’s heart has grown dull
• love God with all your heart
are your hearts hardened?
– what the Synoptics don’t tell us is what we can do about our hearts
• how can I become a person who is pure in heart?
• how is the heart repaired–or better, “redeemed”?
– John grabs onto something Jesus said in the temple
• it was an invitation to anyone who was thirsty
◦ by now we know this thirst is more than a physical drive
◦ it may be an inner void or emptiness
◦ or a yearning for something more
• Jesus gives the person who comes to him living water
◦ in fact, it will flow from that person’s heart like a river
◦ only, Jesus didn’t say “heart”

The Bible has a variety of visceral words
– this reminds us how difficult it can be to describe our deepest feelings
• the word Jesus used can refer to the entire abdomen
◦ in the gospels, it is especially the stomach and female womb
◦ Luke (the physician?) uses it more than twice as many times as the other gospels
• this inner part of a person would include the heart
◦ but it may also refer to an even deeper place
– in time, John came to realize Jesus was talking about the Spirit
• what comes out of my heart isn’t always so lovely or nice
• but Jesus brings something else to my inner self
◦ the very Spirit of God
◦ and everything he inspires is good, true and beautiful
• Paul expands on this work of the Spirit in greater detail
(especially in Romans ch. 8)

I want to point out something else

In verse 36 the people ask,

What does he mean by saying, “You will seek me and you will not find me?

– I believe Jesus was intentionally cryptic
• everyone in this chapter had formed opinions about Jesus
◦ beginning with his brothers
◦ then the crowd–who thought they knew him
◦ at the end, the Pharisees–who were certain they knew him
• Jesus said something about himself they could not understand
◦ if they continued listening to him,
◦ they would have to do it with fresh ears, an open mind
– we cannot listen to Jesus the way they did and understand him
• they heard him as if listening to someone who was only human
◦ they listened to him and reacted to his words
◦ but they did not really hear Jesus
• we cannot know Jesus apart from Jesus
(that is to say, apart from an encounter with him, the person)
◦ we cannot know him by studying him (like bacteria in a lab)
◦ this is the reason the officers could not arrest Jesus
there was no one else like him

Jesus invites us to come to him – that’s only way we can know him
– the only way to receive what he has to give
The whole Gospel of John is built around this question

What does he mean?

– John provided his answers to the question of Jesus’ teaching meant,
but I believe he also demonstrated ways we can find answers

  1. The chapter begins and ends with disbelief (vv. 5 & 48)
    ◦ to get at what Jesus means, we have to trust him
    ◦ sent from God, there’s a deeper meaning, and it’s true
  2. Then, there is the clue that that Jesus gave in verse 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

◦ the person who wants to do God’s will hears authenticity
3. We have to hold lightly what we think we know
◦ they thought they knew where Jesus was from, vv. 41-42
◦ knowing the Synoptic gospels (as John and his readers did),
we already know Jesus was from Beth.
◦ there’s a limit to what knowing can do for us
4. We need to respond to Jesus invitation (cf. Mt. 11:28)
5. We need to take what Jesus offers us
◦ and he offers himself, his Spirit
◦ the Spirit unlocks the meaning within Jesus’ message

William Johnston has written, “I myself believe that within us are locked up torrents and torrents of joy that can be released by meditation–sometimes they will burst through with incredible force, flooding the personality with an extraordinary happiness that comes from, one knows not where.”

Conclusion: Let’s say that today we thirst for God

How can we drink come and drink that living water?
– perhaps our breath can be a way to drink Spirit
• breath is the core of our existence – our “self”
◦ it was when God breathed into matter, matter became a living person
• we know our psychological state affects our breathing
(when stressed or anxious we pant, hyperventilate, hold our breath)
◦ we can use our breath to work the other way around
◦ mindful breathing can calm us, focus our minds, return us to peace
• begin every prayer with a cleansing breath
(and perhaps cross every threshold with a cleansing breath)
• a cleansing breath is one we draw into the abdomen (the belly)
◦ do this in silence and it can open that deeper place in us
◦ our breathing is a very natural way to become aware of the Spirit
• the body is calibrated by rhythm – find the rhythm of your breath
◦ perhaps inhale: “Breath of heaven”
◦ and exhale: “fill my soul”

The best part of breathing is that we do it all the time
(See? You’re breathing right now)
And–we take our breath everywhere we go
So anytime and anywhere
we can awaken our soul to God
and return to the peace of his presence

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