John tells a story that overlaps three spheres of interaction with people: the first sphere in the family, the second sphere in the crowds of Jerusalem, and the third sphere in the intelligentsia of Jesus’ day. In each sphere he underscores something about the people involved that each points at the root problem of presuppositions.
It is underscored almost explicitly in John 7:24 “Do not judge according to appearance but judge with righteous judgment.” The people have the evidence, they acknowledge the goodness of the works, they have some real theological theories, but they put it all together in such a way that explains their already embraced knowledge.
It’s sort of like the agnostic evolutionist who has all the same evidence as the proponent of intelligent design, but winds up with a different conclusion because he has the pre-knowledge that a designer is totally improvable.
In John 7, the first sphere occurs in the home as the feast of booths draws nigh. This is an excellent feast of rejoicing because the Lord provided for the people in the wilderness. They, back then, would make little booths of palm leaves and today continue the practice. So although you can’t see what’s going on in the inside—the little booths don’t look very happy or comfortable at all—something different is going on in the inside: the people are rejoicing.
Well in this home, as the celebration approached, the brothers of Jesus do not believe—if anyone you would expect to believe it would be them. They indeed tell him that he should go to the feast and declare himself openly but he tells them two things that underscore their problem:
- One, they are part of this world’s system. They can do what they want here because their actions flow within the restrictions of this world—but not so with himself. John tells us in Chapter 1 that he came Into the world.
- Two, the World can’t hate them but it hates Him because he testifies that its deeds are evil. See, the world can’t hate them because they’re friends of the World.
So they give him advice, but they base their advice on what they know in This World and This World is against Christ. They in effect, think they know better even though they don’t have the proper grounds to know better.
So they go up to the Feast and Christ, getting the signal from the Father, follows a couple of days later. And here we see the second sphere of activity with the people discussing their ideas on the person of Jesus. Oh they think he does good works—but are they good enough? They have their theology—the Christ will come from we don’t know where or when; but we know when and where this guy came from. Isn’t it true that Messiah comes from Bethlehem of the line of David—this guy is only from Nazareth.
They have their ideas, and the irony is that some of their ideas are dead on and John records it maybe even laughing behind his hands. Yes, the Messiah is from Bethlehem! Yes, the Messiah does do these good works! Indeed, they’re expecting the Messiah to bring the showers of spiritual blessing and to provide for the people as God provided water from the Rock in the wilderness.
But Jesus points out their problem:
- First, their expectation of good works is out of wack. If they do good works on the Sabbath (by saving a whole man and circumcising him) then surely he can do good works by saving an entire man of his infirmities.
- Second, their problem isn’t so much knowing him but that they don’t know who sent Him. He’s not speaking of his own authority but like the prophets of old, he’s speaking on the authority of another. But there’s a major difference: he speaks like no man.
- Third, they look to the festival and the temple for the expectation of latter day Spiritual showers but Christ Himself is the source of those showers.
Then the scene cuts away to the Intelligentsia speaking about what they know above the crowds. The people are unschooled and don’t have a clue about the Law—of course the rabble would gather round an usurper and sinner. Indeed, their gathering is probably just because they’re fellow countrymen since everyone knows that the expectations of the people of God look differently from This Man.
Jesus points out the situation here in some pretty intense ways. They don’t know his Father though they search the Scriptures. They judge but they do that according to the flesh—and not the Spirit. They seek light but they don’t know that Christ is the light of the world: the light of life. They reject his testimony, and prove that they are of this world—just like his brothers who didn’t believe him.
The problem for the intelligentsia was the same problem of the crowds and his brothers though it was evidenced in different ways: they thought they knew better.
The unbelief was illustrated expertly by the miracle with the blind man. There he goes, a man who knows he’s blind and that the only solution exists outside of himself. He finds himself healed, not of his own power, but of the mandate of another and he states: one thing I know, I was blind but now I see.
The Pharisees, on the other hand, scorn the guy, refuse to believe it’s really him, refuse to believe he was always blind, finally kick him out of the synagogue, and stand tall stating that they can see all things clearly—and Christ points out their problem.
Since they know they can see, they remain blind unable to see. They walk about with their eyes wide shut to their detriment: they think they know better.
Paul would call this the failure to retain the knowledge of God in their mind by rejecting the self-evident truth. The day will come that these people, who persist in this sort of activity, will find themselves locked into the Lie because they refused to love the truth. Darkness willingly embraced because the light was openly rejected.
And there Christ stands calling out: Stop thinking you know better. Stop judging according to your eyes but judge according to righteous judgment. Christ came from Outside and Intervened in our time and space by being a man, being handled and touched. He knows better. He points to himself as the source of spiritual life and blessing: to drink from him and to rejoice rightly as a person who can now finally see!
We interact with people across all spheres and the solution is always the same, even if the available word usage increases: we need to point these people to a person and thus exposing their presuppositions. Evidence is great, but it can all be reinterpreted. It’s only when you point to Christ, the source of Spiritual Waters, can you find the true healing of such foundations.