A brief overview for Sunday School teachers and Bible study leaders, of Lifeway’s “Explore the Bible” lesson of John 7:14-29 for Sunday, Jan. 29, 2023, “He Sent Me.”
(A video version of this overview is available on YouTube at:
INTRO: One way to begin the lesson this week would be to ask your class: “Can you think of a time, in the Bible or in your experience, when God did things differently than people might have expected?”
(There are many examples from scripture: God sending Israel through the Red Sea, and the wilderness, instead of the direct route to the Holy Land. God calling a fearful Gideon to lead His people in Judges instead of some brave warrior; God calling little David instead of the impressive Eliab to be king of Israel, etc.)
(One experience from my own life: I had a minister of music friend ask me about 5 years ago if it was ok if he put my resume in at his church. I told him, I’d love to work with you again, but I’ 60 years old, and I’ve just come off of being out of the ministry for 2 years sick; that’s not usually the kind of guy churches are looking for at the top of their list! But as everything unfolded, me to FBCA: not high on the list: 60 & sick! But it was God’s will, and He has blessed these last 4 years.)
You and your group can share more like this.
How many times is it just like that: God’s plan, God’s ways, are way different that anything we expected. (That’s one of the reasons why we need to be careful how we pray: let’s don’t get I the habit of telling God how we think He should do things!) He OFTEN/usually does things differently than WE would have: including when it came to sending Jesus!
God’s ways are different than man’s. Isaiah 55:8-9 says: “‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,’ declares the LORD. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.’” God’s ways are different than Man’s — and we see that spelled out in several ways in John 7 this week.
CONTEXT: “The Feast of Booths” (also called “The Feast of Tabernacles), one of three major Old Testament feasts God commanded His people to observe every year. This one happened at the end of the harvest (about October), when the harvest had been gathered in (kind of like Thanksgiving!) and they celebrated God’s goodness. It also featured the people making temporary “booths” made of tree branches that they would live in for a week, reminding them of the Wilderness journeys.
So :14 says: “But when it was now the midst of the Feast Jesus went up into the Temple and began to teach.” THIS is the context of today’s lesson. Jesus publicly teaching in Jerusalem during the Feast of Booths. And what they saw and heard from Jesus was how different God’s ways are from ours!
I. God’s Learning vs. Man’s (:15-16)
II. God’s Will vs Man’s (:17)
III. God’s Judgment vs. Man’s (:19-24
IV. God’s Savior vs. Man’s (:25-29)
I. God’s Learning vs. Man’s (:15-16)
:15 “How then has this man become learned, having never been educated?”
Jesus = in :16, “My teaching is not Mine, but His who sent Me.” Basically He = I got it from GOD!
ONE important application: make sure that you are able to say, like Jesus did: “My teaching (doctrine) is not mine, but His who sent me.” Make sure that what you believe and teach is not just “your opinion,” but is from GOD!
We may want to believe or teach some particular things, but the question should always be: IS IT BIBLICAL? THAT should be our primary concern: let’s just teach what’s in this Book.
In 1521, Martin Luther was on trial at the Diet of Worms for his faith. (BTW: “diet” was the name for the religious council of the Holy Roman Empire; “Worms” is pronounced VARMS and was the name of the city in Germany!)
But when Luther gave them his answer, he said:
“Unless I am convicted by Scripture and plain reason-I do not accept the authority of popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other-my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise. God help me. Amen.”
Basically Luther said to them: “Show me scripture.” Not councils or popes or traditions. Show me SCRIPTURE. And that is how we should be too. Don’t give me popular opinion; don’t give me mere religious tradition — not even Southern Baptist tradition! “Show me scripture” would be a good motto for us today too.
Like Jesus, let’s make sure that our teaching is not “ours, but His who sent (us).”
AND HOW DO WE GET THAT? There is pretty much only ONE way to get it: from walking personally with God in His word and prayer. There is a wisdom and power that comes from walking with God, that has nothing to do with formal educational or “theological training.”
In 1919, A.W. Tozer was called to pastor his first church. He had only been a Christian for 5 years. He had NO “theological training.” Yet Tozer went on to pastor for 44 years, wrote 40 books, two of which are considered classics. He was considered by many to be a modern prophet. But like Jesus, he had no “theological training.” He had something more: a call from God, and a real daily walk with Him.
I can truly say, Seminary did not increase my “Bible knowledge” as much as one might think. Most of those classes were on administration, and Sunday school, and missions, and preaching. Most of the Bible knowledge I have comes from reading God’s word every day, for myself, and taking notes on it, for the last 45 years.
And YOU can have that same knowledge too — if you will get into God’s word and write down what He shows you. GO TO THE “SCHOOL” JESUS WENT TO: the school of the Holy Spirit and the word of God.
As we’ll see tonight at FBCA in Simply Prayer, there is a power to be had that has nothing to do with “religious training;” it comes from God’s Holy Spirit in prayer.
This is what Jesus had. He didn’t have the “formal training” of the Pharisees; but He had something more: personal training in God’s word, and power in the Holy Spirit through prayer.
And that trumps ANY “formal training” anywhere else!
Let’s be committed to be people like Jesus, who are people of God’s word & prayer.
II. GOD’S WILL VS. MAN’S (:17)
:17 introduces a VERY important concept, that we ALL need to be aware of, and implement in our Christian lives.
Jesus says in :17 “If anyone is willing to do His will, he will know of the teaching, whether it is of God of whether I speak from Myself.”
Basically He says: If you are WILLING TO DO GOD’S WILL, God will show you the truth.But you have to be WILLING to do it.
— I think of the example of the Jewish religious leaders in Matthew 21, who came to Jesus and asked Him where His authority was from. But Jesus didn’t answer them. Instead He asked them: “Where was John’s baptism from: heaven or men?” And He knew they wouldn’t answer it. But the reason Jesus didn’t just tell these men the OBVIOUS answer, that He got His authority from His Heavenly Father, is that they were not willing to follow Him.
As an example: I can think of several people throughout my ministry, who told me: I didn’t see how I could tithe, until I actually made the commitment to DO IT — and then when I did, God made it all work. You couldn’t see how, until you committed to DO IT. And there are a lot of things in the Christian life like that. You & your class may have other examples like this that you could share.
The Lord is not going to show us His truth for our entertainment or our religious curiosity. He will show us His truth if we are willing to FOLLOW it; to DO it. “If anyone is willing to DO His will, he will know of the teaching whether it is of God …”.
You commit to Jesus first. You tell Him you’ll DO IT — whatever it is — and then He’ll show you. Not the other way around.
III. GOD’S JUDGMENT VS. MAN’S (:19-24)
Jesus takes this occasion while addressing the crowd at the Feast to address the controversy we looked at last time in John 5, when the Jews condemned Him for telling the healed man to carry his pallet on the Sabbath.
Jesus said in :23 that they circumcise on the Sabbath; why do they condemn Him if He made a WHOLE MAN well on the Sabbath?
And then He says in :24 “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.”
THIS has a lot of application. One of our biggest problems as human being is “judging according to appearance,” as Jesus says here. We see something and we condemn it, because it looks wrong. But we don’t know the truth about it.
— The Jews did that with this man. They say him carrying his pallet and immediately judged him: “Oh, he’s carrying his pallet on the Sabbath!” But they did this before they knew the whole story
How many times do we do this? We judge people based on appearances, without knowing all the facts.
ONE EXAMPLE: isn’t almost every other tv show plot based on this? Some character on the show sees their husband/wife/boyfriend/girlfriend/whoever with someone, and they “jump to conclusions” — usually the WRONG conclusion — until they find out all the facts, and then they end up having to apologize, because “it wasn’t what they thought.”
I had that happen in real life when I first started dating my wife Cheryl. I was playing basketball in a church league and she was there watching me. But while I was playing I could see she was really talking to this other guy in the stands. I got so jealous and I told her about it. But she told me “I was telling him pretty I thought your hair was!” I should have known better. I had judged “according to appearance, not with righteous judgment.”
If you have a real-life example like that, you can share it — and/or ask your group if they have a story like that, where they judged by “appearance” instead of getting all the facts. How many times have we misjudged someone like that: because they had a certain appearance, or a tattoo, or drove a motorcycle, or whatever — but later we found them to be an entirely different person than we initially thought.
That kind of misunderstanding might make an entertaining tv show, but in real life this kind of judgment is extremely hurtful. It causes us to condemn people we should not condemn. We need to heed Jesus’ words here: “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.”
We need to ask the Lord to help us overcome our prejudices, refrain from our surface judgments, and wait until we get all the facts.
Again there are a LOT of areas in life where this applies. Let’s not be people who look at the “Eliabs” and think that because they LOOK right, that that is God’s answer. Let’s listen to God and let Him show us the “Davids” whose hearts are really after God. Let’s judge with GOD’S judgment, not man’s surface judgment.
IV. GOD’S SAVIOR VS. MAN’S (:25-29)
:26 they doubted this was the Messiah: “The rulers do not really know that this is the Christ, do they?”
:27 “However we know where this man is from; but whenever the Christ may come, no one knows where He is from.”
The bottom line here is, Jesus was not Who they expected Him to be. The Jews were looking for a certain kind of Messiah, and Jesus did not “fit the criteria”:
— He wasn’t going to deliver them from the Romans; He told them to put down their swords.
— He wasn’t going to “toe the line” on all their traditions and man-made rules.
— He was going to die on the cross, which NO ONE was expecting.
But Jesus said in :29 “I am from Him; He sent Me.”
God’s salvation is not what many people expect
It’s like the story of Naaman in II Kings 5 that we looked at a few months ago. He had leprosy, and went to Elisha to be healed, and Elisha told him to dip in the Jordan River seven times — and he was offended. He had a pre-conceived picture in his mind of how it should be. He said: I thought he would “wave his hand over the place and cure the leper”! It wasn’t what he EXPECTED, and he almost didn’t receive the healing as a result.
And of course it’s that same way today, too. Real Christianity is NOT what people expect.
I just started reading a classic biography: James Boswell’s Life of Dr. Samuel Johnson (the English literary man). Boswell is telling a story from Johnson’s childhood: “He told me, that he remembered distinctly having had the first notice of Heaven, ‘a place to which good people went,’ and hell, ‘a place to which bad people went,’ communicated to him by her (his mother) when a little child in bed with her …”. (James Boswell, The Life of Samuel Johnson, p. 11)
Unfortunately, this is what most people think: that “good people” go to heaven, and “bad people” go to hell. It’s all based on our works. And that is indeed what most world religions teach: do enough good works, and you will go to heaven. This is what most people think; what most people expect. This is man’s way of salvation.
But I would share the Gospel with my class at this point:
That is NOT what God sent His Savior to bring us! God teaches that we are ALL “bad people”: “ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” That is why Jesus came: to die on the cross and pay for our sins, so that we could go to heaven, NOT because of all the “good things that we did for God,” but because of the good thing that GOD did for US in Jesus! THAT is God’s way of salvation. Jesus said here: “He sent Me.” He is God’s Savior for mankind. NOT what we “expected,” but God’s Savior nonetheless. Make sure that your class members hear the gospel this week, and point them to Jesus, God’s way of salvation, not Man’s!
If you write something in the Comments below, I’ll be sure to pray for your and your group by name this week, as well as any specific requests you list
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