Skip Heitzig - John 7:1
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We are in the Gospel of John, but I looked. I saw that the Gospel of John chapter 7 has 53 verses. And ain't no way I'm going to do 53 verses outside on Wednesday night in the breeze with a fire going on before we take communion. So what I'm going to do with you is read a few verses, but we're going to look at one single verse, and that is Chapter 7, Verse 1 of the Gospel of John. I'm going to read first nine verses, and then we'll look at the first verse in layers.
"After these things, Jesus walked in Galilee, for he did not want to walk in Judea, because the Jews sought to kill him. Now, the Jews' Feast of Tabernacles was at hand. His brothers, therefore, said to him, depart from here and go into Judea that your disciples also may see the works that you are doing, for no one does anything in secret while he himself seeks to be known openly. If you do these things, show yourself to the world, for even his brothers did not believe in him.
Then Jesus said to them, 'My time has not yet come, your time is always ready. The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify of it that its works are evil. You go up to the feast. I am not yet going up to the feast, for my time has not yet fully come. ' When he had said these things to them, he remained in Galilee."
Now, let's go back to the first verse because I want to just concentrate on four layers of that verse. There are four phrases that I'm going to just take piece by piece, layer by layer, one after another. There are only 23 words in verse 1, but there's enough stuff, there's plenty of thoughts to occupy the rest of our time leading into the Lord's supper.
You know, I've had the privilege of preaching on whole books of the Bible in one sitting. Most times, I'll do, I want to say, two chapters, but I'm lucky if I get through one chapter on a Wednesday night... I've done paragraphs of scripture. I've taught on words. I even taught once on a comma in the scripture, but tonight we're going to look at one verse. 23 words found in verse 1. I'll read it again.
"After these things, Jesus walked in Galilee, for he did not want to walk in Judea because the Jews sought to kill him." John gives to us in Verse 1 four things to see, four layers of this story. He gives us the when, he gives us the what, he gives us the where, and he gives us the why. He begins with time. He's showing us a chronological orientation when he writes, after these things.
15 times in the Gospel of John he uses the phrase, "after these things." That's how John writes. In fact, that's how he writes in the Book of Revelation. "After these things", I saw such and such, and "after these things", then this appeared.
So it's a very John, the writer, John the Apostle, way of writing. So John is first telling us a little bit about the when. He wants us to see the time denotation, the chronological orientation. "After these things." After what things? All of the things that he just wrote about in the previous section, beginning with the miracle of Jesus, feeding the 5000 men plus women and children. After the miraculous walking on the water that his disciples saw, after the confrontation over him being the bread of life, and after the disciples, not the 12, but some of the disciples, in hearing the disturbing words of Jesus, decided to leave him and follow him no longer. After all of those things, then this happened.
What you don't see readily is that there is a six-month to seven-month gap in these words. Between Chapter 6 and Chapter 7, beginning with the next section that we didn't read, is a six to seven-year gap. How do we know that? We know that because in Chapter 6, Verse 4, it tells us it was the time of the Passover. Do you know when the Passover is? Do you know what time of the year? Tell me, what time of the year is the Passover, anybody? Springtime, it's around April. That's when the Passover is, late March, early April. Typically, that's when Passover is.
By the time we get to Chapter 7, it's already the Feast of Tabernacles, because eventually Jesus will go up to Jerusalem and his own brothers mention the Feast of Tabernacles. So there is six to seven months between Chapter 6 and Chapter 7, of which John writes nothing about. Now, that doesn't mean Jesus wasn't doing anything during that time. He wasn't at the Sea of Galilee with his feet up on a raft just soaking in the rays. He was doing a lot of things that aren't recorded by John. Matthew, Mark and Luke tell us some of the things he was doing. Let me tell you a few of them.
One of the things he did is he went to the western shore of the Sea of Galilee, the farming area known as the Plain of Gennesaret, and he healed many people in that area. That's one thing he did during that six to seven-month period. Not only that, but he had a confrontation with the leadership, the Pharisees, over tradition, Jewish tradition. They came to him and said, your disciples don't wash their hands the proper traditional way when they eat their bread. And there was a conflict that Jesus had with the leaders.
Not only that, but Jesus went all the way up to the coast of Lebanon, to Tyre and Sidon. And there was a woman who had a daughter who was demon possessed and she begged Jesus to heal her daughter. And after a short conversation, Jesus healed that girl.
Jesus then came back to the region, and he fed another group of people, not 5000 men, this time 4000 men, plus women and children, but a smaller group than the first time. Not only that, but during this time, Jesus went up north to the area of Mount Hermon, in the north, Caesarea Philippi. And there he asked his disciples, "Who do men say that I am? Who do you say that I am?" And Peter said, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."
Right after that, Jesus announced that he would be going to Jerusalem and dying on a cross. It was the first time he ever told his disciples plainly what was going to happen. That all occurred during that period of time. But not only that, but Jesus took a few of his disciples up onto that mountain where the Bible says a transfiguration took place. He was transfigured before them. Then, after that, Jesus goes back down to the region of the southern Galilee around the lake, and he heals a man's epileptic son. The disciples were unable to do it.
All of that was happening during this period of which John tells us nothing. The biggest thing Jesus was doing during this silent period, not silent in the other gospels but silent in John, is he was teaching his disciples. That was his main activity. He was taking them places. He was teaching them. He was getting them ready, not only for what would happen at Jerusalem, but what would happen after Jesus rose from the dead and ascended. Now, that's very interesting. Jesus did a lot of things. John doesn't mention any of them during that time. Why is that? It's because it didn't suit the purpose of John's writing this book.
Do you remember every time we begin a New Testament Gospel, we mentioned there are four Gospels, and all of them have a very different purpose for writing. Well, John has a purpose for writing the book and his purpose is not to give you an exhaustive chronology of Jesus, but the exact identity of Jesus. John wants the reader to know this Jesus is God in a human body. He is the long-awaited messiah, but he is the word made flesh, the one who is equal with God. That's his purpose, is to uncover that identity.
Now, there's a principle here that I want you to see, and here's the principle, God doesn't give us all the information that he has. God doesn't give us all the information that we want, but, listen, God gives us all the information we need. Did you get that? God doesn't give us all the information he has, God doesn't give us all the information you want, God gives us all the information you need.
Deuteronomy 29:29 says, "The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children." God knows what you need to hear. I know we'd like to know more. People ask you questions, why would God do this, why would God allow this. I don't know what your answer is, but let me tell you what the right answer is from you to them. I don't know. The secret things belong to the Lord, not to me. God doesn't give me all the information I want. He doesn't give me all the information he has, but he gives me all the information I need. He gives me just enough information to act on that.
Hey, how are you doing acting on the information he's given you so far? Let's just start there. So John felt it wasn't important to give the details, but the ones he gave were important details. There's something else in that phrase, "after these things." Here's the principle, another principle. God's watch is more accurate than my watch. I wear a watch. I don't always remember to wind it. I have the kind that you have to wind every day or it will tell you the wrong time. So I wound it this morning, and I think I have pretty good time, it's accurate. But God's watch is more accurate than my watch.
God keeps perfect timing. God is never late. And one of the things we find over and over again in the Gospels is just how accurate God was in his timing. Galatians, Chapter 4, Verse 4, "That in the fullness of the time, God sent forth His son, born of a woman, born under the law to redeem those who were under the law." At just the right time. And once Jesus hit planet Earth, boy, was he on a perfect timetable, right? He gets to Cana and then his mom goes, come on, do this miracle. And Jesus said, "My hour has not yet come."
He wasn't just keeping the days, he was keeping the right hours. His watch was accurate. Later on, when it is the time for the crucifixion, he prays to his father in John, Chapter 17. "Father the hour has come, glorify your Son that your Son may glorify you." Jesus was moving to the exact timetable as set by the father. So it was, "after these things." The apostle, Peter, is a part of this whole entourage and later on he will say this, "For God is not slack concerning his promise, as some count slackness. He's just long suffering, not willing that any should perish."
Now, my earthly father was late. He was late for picking me up from school. He was late for dropping me off to school. He was late for doing just about anything that involved me. I remember well, that was my earthly father, but my Heavenly Father is never late. Your Heavenly Father is right on time. So that's the first layer. "After these things", that's the first phrase. The second phrase in the second layer, it says, "After these things, Jesus walked in Galilee". Hey, how did Jesus get around from place to place? Oh, he didn't take a car or a moped or a bus? He walked.
Now, I don't want to really belabor this, but I want you just to think about it. Some of us took a tour to Israel not long ago. Raise your hand if you were with us. Raise your hand if you went to Israel. If you've ever been to Israel, how's that, raise your hand. OK. So when we all went to Israel, we had an air-conditioned bus that took us from place to place to place to place. The bus did all the work. The bus took us to about 1/100 of all the places Jesus went to. The bus let us off, the bus picked us up, and we just walked a little bit around some of those places. And even doing that, we all said, I'm tired.
Hey, Jesus didn't just walk in Galilee, he walked to Galilee. He didn't just walk in Jerusalem, he walked to Jerusalem. And all the places I just mentioned, he didn't just walk in them, he walked to them. There was a 16-year-old teenage boy who just got his driver's license and he said to his dad, Dad, I'd like to talk to you sometime about my use of the family car. Dad said, tell you what, son, if you can bring your grades up and if you start studying the Bible more and if you cut your hair, then we'll discuss your use of the family car.
Well, a month later, this kid brought his grades up. He'd been reading his Bible and his dad said, Son, I'm so proud of you. Your grades are up, almost straight A's. I notice you've been reading your Bible every morning, but your hair, you still didn't cut it. And his son said, well, you know, Dad, I've been thinking about that and I notice in the Bible, Samson had long hair, and Absalom had long hair, and Moses had long hair, and even the Lord, Jesus, had long hair. And his father said, you're absolutely right, and they walked wherever they went.
So listen, don't always pass these words up when you read them in the scripture, and he walked in Galilee. But here's what this means in particular, the word walked is the Greek word, peripateo. Peripateo means to walk about, to walk around and it's typically a metaphor for hanging out, staying in, or living at. The point is Jesus hung out and stayed mostly around Galilee living there as his base, his headquarters, for that period of six to seven months.
It doesn't mean he didn't take a jaunt up north or a jaunt over to Mount Hermon, but he came back and mostly was teaching his disciples walking around Galilee. Have you ever wondered what it was like to be a disciple? I don't even have to ask for a show of hands. I know some of you have thought, boy, wouldn't it be cool to have been in that group of disciples and follow Jesus around.
Now, just think about that thought. How hard would it be to follow Jesus? Do you think it would be hard? Do you think it would be hard to walk all these places and all of the demands and crowds that Jesus constantly had around him. I bet it would be very hard to follow the Lord Jesus Christ. First of all, let me tell you about Galilee in the summer. You think it's hot here? I checked the weather today and the next few days in Galilee, 101, 102, 103 with the kind of humidity that a lake affords.
I've been to Galilee in the summer. I've gotten sick and dehydrated in Galilee for a few days. They had to put me in bed. So I can just imagine what it would have been like to be these disciples following Jesus during that summer, in the heat, walking to all these places. But what they saw, what they heard, what they experienced during that summer would last a lifetime. It would be enough for a lifetime of memories and changed lives. What they saw they would write about in the generations to come.
Take the transfiguration, for example. Peter would write about that in second Peter, saying, we didn't follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. We were eyewitnesses of his majesty. When that voice from God the Father came down from the excellent glory saying, this is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased. So following Jesus was hard, but what they learned would last them a lifetime.
Here's the point I want to make, Here's the principle in this layer, following Jesus Christ, really following Jesus Christ, is hard but it sure beats the alternative. Following Jesus is hard, but it beats the alternative. Hey, you know what? The Lord has led me into places that are highly uncomfortable. He has led me into places that are even painful but it's always been fruitful. It's always been profitable. Not easy, but it beats the alternative.
What's the alternative? Living a boring life. Living an unimaginative, boring life. And you know what? The last time I checked, everybody's doing that. Everybody around that I see has got that pretty well covered. The things that Jesus said in John, chapter 6, they were so shocking to people some of those disciples said, we're leaving. We're not going to follow you anymore. They loved his works, they didn't like his words. They loved the miracles, they loved the food, they loved the healing. They didn't like what he said, and so they turned and followed him no more.
So Jesus said to his inner circle of apostles, "Will you also leave?" Remember what Peter said? Do those words still ring in your memory from last time? "Where else would we go, Lord? You alone have the words of eternal life and we are convinced that you are the Christ, the Son of God." Hey, you know, after all that I've experienced, as good as it's been, as hard as it's been, as difficult as it may be, where else would I go? Nowhere. It's the best life. Talk about an, you wanted adventure, follow Jesus.
My wife, along with some of you, were on a little team over to Iraq last week. How's that for an adventure? In Jordan and Iraq, five playgrounds were built with Reload Love from all of the finances that we've collected through your generous giving. Five playgrounds for children who've been impacted by terrorism. And so I was thinking, I don't think there's been a lot of people last week that I know who have been in Iraq. I think if I went to Starbucks, and said, how many of you guys have been to Iraq building playgrounds? I probably wouldn't get a single taker. But that group was there, and they were there because they follow Jesus, who took them there.
So two layers we've covered, the when and the what. "After these things, Jesus walked in Galilee." And when you follow that one, it's not boring, It's exciting. Now, let's consider the where. It says, "After these things, Jesus walked in Galilee because he did not walk in Judea. For he did not walk in Judea." Now, just let's think about that. He didn't walk in Judea. Why? Did he not like Judea? Did he think the Judeans were just like second-class citizens? I don't want to be around those Judeans.
You know, that had nothing to do with it, right? I mean, wasn't Judea the heart of the Jewish nation? Who knows what city was in Judea? Any takers? What city was in Judea? If you know it, shout it out. Jerusalem. Capital city. A place where all the action is. The temple is there. It's the epicenter of religious life for the nation. But "Jesus walked in Galilee, he did not want to walk in Judea."
Now, a quick little thumbnail, sketch of history. The reason it's called Judea, do you remember why? It wasn't always called Judea. the 12 tribes came in and settled the area, right? They settled the land, 12 tribes. It was one nation, but it was like 12 states, the United States of Israel, 12 states, 12 tribal allotments.
But there was a problem. They wanted a King, so they got a King, his name was Saul. Didn't work out too well. The next was a man after God's own heart, that was David. That worked out pretty well, but David had a son named Solomon. That didn't work out too well because he overtaxed the people so much that his taxation programs just to pay for the government broke the people's backs.
So when his son comes into office, named Rehoboam. The older men say, young man, young king, you need to ease the tax burden on these people or they're going to rebel. But some of these young men said tax him more. You think my dad was bad? Wait till you see what I've got planned for this country. When he said that, and he did, there was a split. There was a revolt of the northern 10 tribes called Israel.
Israel and the 10 two southern tribes called Judea, comprised of Benjamin and Judah. But it was always thereafter referred to, even in the New Testament times, as the area of Judea. So in Jesus' day, you had Judea, then you had further north some area, and then just a little further north, Galilee, and then the north of that, Syria. So Jesus did not want to go or walk in Judea.
Now, I have a principle with this layer of this one verse, God will never go where God doesn't want to go. You can't force him. You can't make Jesus walk where he doesn't want to walk. He doesn't want to walk in Judea, he's not walking there. He will later on, but he doesn't want to go there now. You can never force God to do what God doesn't want to do, and here's why.
God has an attribute that you and I don't have, it's called sovereignty. Ever check what that word means, sovereign? We have a sovereign God. It means completely independent, totally autonomous, fiercely self-determining and totally and always in control of everything. That's what sovereign means. God is that. You and I are never that. He is always that and he is the only one who is that. He is the only sovereign being in the universe. He's what theologians say, he is the only non-contingent being. We are contingent beings, that is, we depend on God giving us life and breath, and when God is done, we're done. We are contingent because God is the only absolutely sovereign, non-contingent being in the universe.
Jesus will say later on to Peter, his disciple, he'll say, you know, Peter, when you were young, you put your clothes on, and you walked wherever you wanted to walk. But when you are old, others will take you where you don't want to go. That's true of Peter, never true of Jesus
God will never go where God does not want to go God's sovereignty, according to Arthur Pink, who wrote a thick book called "The Sovereignty of God," Arthur Pink says, "God's sovereignty is the foundation of Christian theology. It is the center of gravity, of this system of truth. It is the sun around which all lesser orbs are fixed." I like the way he said that.
So when people say why would God do this, and why would God allow that, and why would the Lord, your answer is, I don't know. But God has an answer. You know what God's answer to those questions are? It's simply this, because I'm God and you're not. That's God's answer. Why would you, because I'm God and you're not. He is absolutely sovereign. He acts according to his own perfect will.
Corrie ten Boom, some of you have heard her name. She was a survivor of the Nazi death camps. She was in a concentration camp, and she said, "Don't bother to give God instructions, just report for duty." How's that for a good theology? Don't bother to give God instructions, just show up for duty. Yes, sir, you're sovereign, you're God, and I'm not.
The quicker you learn that, the happier you will become.
The key to happiness, accepting this truth. Adjusting to God's sovereignty is always better than suffering the consequences of your obstinacy. Just yes, Lord, yes, Lord. Compliance is always better than consequence.
So "after these things", that's the when. Jesus walked in Galilee, that's the what. He didn't walk in Judea, that's the where. Now, the fourth phrase of that 23-word verse, Verse 1, gives us the why, "because the Jews sought to kill him." Let's put it all together. "After these things, Jesus walked in Galilee, for he did not walk in Judea, because the Jews sought to kill him."
Beginning in this section, and we'll pick it up when we begin again in the Gospel of John, and we'll cover the chapter next time, not one verse. This begins a whole new section of Jesus' ministry, and here's the section. From this point onward, there is an intensity of hatred toward Jesus that will take him to the cross. In six months from now, he'll be dead.
It's the Feast of Tabernacles. He'll eventually go up to that, six months after that will be the Feast of Passover. That will be the last time he spends in Jerusalem. He'll be arrested, and put on a cross.
There is a growing hatred, a mounting animosity, a fomenting, hate-filled course that they are set on.
By the time we get to Chapter 11, it says from that day forward, they plotted to put him to death. And that all begins back here in chapter 7.
Now, Jesus will go up to Jerusalem in chapter 7 and spend six to seven months in Galilee. He'll eventually go up to Jerusalem during tabernacles, but listen, it says he goes secretly. He goes secretly
Six months after, he comes for the Passover, he doesn't come secretly, he comes openly, openly. He presents himself to the nation on a donkey-fulfilling scripture. He presents himself to that nation.
But why does he go up secretly now? Because it's not his time to die, that's why. Oh, he's going to die, and, oh, they want him dead, but it's not his time to die.
By the time in six months, Jesus gets to Jerusalem, and it's Passover time. Those leaders, those Pharisees, those scribes, they think they've trapped Jesus, and they used Roman jurisprudence to put him to death. What they don't realize is they're just pawns on God's chessboard to affect our salvation through his death.
Let me throw an interesting thought out at you. What the Pharisees and scribes, the Jewish nation at the time, what they wanted and what God wanted were the same thing.
Did you hear that? What they wanted and what God wanted were the same thing. You know what that is? The death of Jesus. They wanted him dead. God the Father wants him dead. But for totally different reasons.
They want to take his life from him because they hate him. He wants to give his life for them, because he loves them. Big difference. No man takes my life from me, Jesus. I'd lay it down of myself. They want him dead, they want him buried, God wants him dead, God wants him buried. But God wants him resurrected.
So this is perfectly in the moment by moment, hour by hour, a perfect plan and will of God.
And so in one verse, we get a pretty clear picture from all that we've seen so far that Jesus is the Messiah, the long-awaited deliverer, predicted in the scripture. He is the sovereign son of God. He is God in a human body who walks with perfect timing according to his father's timetable, who lived and moved and walked around Galilee.
And in so doing, the lives of the disciples were absolutely changed during that six and seven months. And he is sovereignly waiting for the right time to give himself as a ransom for many. So that in the fullness of time, God sent his son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those of us who were born under the law, the law which condemned us. The leaders wanted Jesus out of the way. God the Father presented Jesus as the way, the truth, and the life.
So, hey, we didn't cover a lot of verses, we covered a single verse, but we drilled deep tonight. And I just thought, sometimes, it's better to meditate on less, than a whole lot because sometimes, you know, less is more, isn't it? If you just peel those layers and meditate on those layers, and find out what they mean, there's a lot there. I'm going to pray and I'm going to ask our communion servants to get ready and start passing these out as the band comes.
Father, we want to thank you for the great truths in seemingly a very simple verse that gives just a little bit of information and color. We find it gives great depth, great intent, great context, and shows us the great love that you have, how sovereign you are, how perfect you are, how just you are. And how you move life, even our lives, surrender to you in perfect time. I pray, Lord, that will cause those who are here to rest, to relax, in the all powerful sovereign hands of the living and loving Savior. Thank you for your dying for us on the cross. All these truths, Lord, are in these elements that we take. This peace of bread, this little bit of juice, they speak to us of a broken body, of shed blood, not because of a murder, but because of a sacrifice, not because Jesus was killed, though from an earthly perspective, he certainly was, but he was offered on the altar of your love for the world. "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whoever believes in him will not perish but will have everlasting life."
As we pass out these elements, if you don't know the Lord Jesus Christ yet, if you're not personally attached to him, if you've never come to a place where you've surrendered your life to Him, I'm going to kindly ask that you don't take with us, because the Bible says you're just preaching a sermon of your own condemnation to yourself if you do that. I'll rephrase that. If you are unwilling at this point to trust Jesus, then you let it go. If, however, you are inclined, you are willing, to open up your heart and allow the Savior in, then right where you're at, right now, in your mind or out loud with your lips, say:
Jesus, I believe you are the Savior. I know that I'm a sinner and I'm sorry for my sin. I believe you, Jesus, came from heaven to earth to die for me in my place and to be raised from the dead alive right now. I turn from my past. I repent of my sin, I turn to Jesus as Savior and Lord. Help me to live for you. I ask it in your name, Amen.