WHAT JESUS WOULD SAY TO OUR DIVIDED WORLD?
Contemplations from John 7
The inauguration of Barak Obama was the biggest news item of last week. It has been fascinating to watch all of the connected stories, many of which are positively inspiring. My favorite part of the inauguration was Aretha Franklin’s hat – and even that had a neat side story about it. Before the ceremony there was a little concern that evangelical pastor, Rick Warren, might possibly mention the “J” word in his prayer. Not only did he mention the name of Jesus, he did so in Hebrew, Arabic, Spanish, and English! The world didn’t collapse and that concern was eclipsed by the bungled swearing in, and Beyonce’s serenading of the First Couple later in the celebrations. In all of the commemorations and adulations, Jesus’ name was heard by millions. Jesus is the Prince of Peace, and He has a needed message for the masses.
In John 7 there is a festival like ceremony that reminds me of the hub-bub of the inauguration. It was the celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles (Lev. 23:33-44; Numbers 29). This was a harvest festival, a commemoration of Israel’s journey through the wilderness. During this festival there would be the sacrifice of seventy oxen. The temple-trumpets were blown each day. There was a ceremony of the outpouring of water, drawn from Siloam, done in memory of the water out of the rock at Meribah. During the Feast of Tabernacles participants would witness the illumination of the inner court of the temple, which reminded them of the pillar of fire by night which had served as a guide through the desert. There was a torch-parade. People built booths or leafy shelters everywhere in and around Jerusalem, reminders of the wilderness-life of Israel (Lev. 23:43).
While all of this was going on, there is recorded in John 7 a number of questions that were asked by various people as they were milling around during all of the activities. Notice the questions from John 7:
Where is that man? How did this man get such learning without having studied? You are demon-possessed, Who is trying to kill you? Isn’t this the man they are trying to kill? When Christ comes will he do more miraculous signs than this man? Where does this man intend to go that we cannot find him? Will he go … and teach the Greeks? What did he mean when he said, ‘You will look for me, but you will not find me,’ and ‘Where I am, you cannot come’?” How can the Christ come from Galilee? Does not the Scripture say that the Christ will come from David’s family and from Bethlehem, the town where David lived? Why didn’t you bring him in? You mean he has deceived you also? Have any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed in him? Does our law condemn anyone without first hearing him to find out what he is doing?
As I look at John 7, verse 43 stands out to me: “Thus the people were divided because of Jesus.” There certainly were many contrary notions about who Jesus was and how He was to be treated. On the greatest day of the festival Jesus got up and spoke in a loud voice! (37-39) I imagine you could hear a pin drop – after all He had been the hot topic of conversation! What did Jesus say to the divided world in which he lived… and would that message be valuable to us today?
1. If You Are Thirsty (37)...
Jesus doesn’t waste any time with introductions or corrections. He just simply calls out to the open heart, the listening ear that was nearby. In Matthew 5:6, Jesus taught, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after God’s righteousness, for they will be filled.” How would you describe this spiritual thirst? Perhaps it is the burden of our own sin. It could be a desire to seek a more meaningful relationship with the Father. As we look at ourselves spiritual thirst could be the challenge to make a difference, to be different. Perhaps it is the desire for eternal life with Jesus. It could be a need for unconditional love. All of these ‘thirsts’ are satisfied in Christ alone. And then Jesus said…
2. If You Believe (39) …
Jesus had told the woman at the well, “… whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:14). Our belief in Jesus is not simply mental assent that He existed – but an ongoing affirmation that He exists in our hearts, He walks with us through each day, we are not serving and loving on our own strength but in His. John goes on in the next verse to explain that this is a reference to the Holy Spirit, which would later be a part of the Believer’s Experience. In my mind that points to Acts 2.
“Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off — for all whom the Lord our God will call.” With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.” Acts 2:38-41
3,000 people said “yes” to Jesus. An awesome day. I wonder how many shrugged their shoulders and walked away?
And that brings me back to John 7:43 “Thus the people were divided because of Jesus.” There is division in the world about Jesus. In our country. There is a division in this room this morning. There may be a division in your heart.
The financial world is in a scurry. Our world is at war. Washington is adjusting to a new Executive Chief. And that doesn’t even address the chaos at your workplace, in your own personal finances, at your house, in the lives of friends and loved ones. There is one clear voice shouting above it all. He invites you to come drink living water, and yield yourself to His work in your heart through the Holy Spirit.