WHY SHOULD ANYONE LISTEN TO JESUS?
Dr. Chuck DeVane, Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
July 5, 2020
14 About the middle of the feast Jesus went up into the temple and began teaching. 15 The Jews therefore marveled, saying, “How is it that this man has learning, when he has never studied?” 16 So Jesus answered them, “My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me. 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. 18 The one who speaks on his own authority seeks his own glory; but the one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and in him there is no falsehood. 19 Has not Moses given you the law? Yet none of you keeps the law. Why do you seek to kill me?” 20 The crowd answered, “You have a demon! Who is seeking to kill you?” 21 Jesus answered them, “I did one work, and you all marvel at it. 22 Moses gave you circumcision (not that it is from Moses, but from the fathers), and you circumcise a man on the Sabbath. 23 If on the Sabbath a man receives circumcision, so that the law of Moses may not be broken, are you angry with me because on the Sabbath I made a man's whole body well? 24 Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.”
— John 7:14-24, ESV
Why should anyone listen to Jesus?
That was the question “The Jews,” the religious rulers of Israel, were putting forth to the people as Jesus’ public ministry began to wind down. It was a negative, rhetorical question lodged against the most positive rhetoric ever preached, the good news of the kingdom of God delivered by the Son of God.
Christ’s critics claimed He was no King, just a nobody from the peasant class of Galilee. They said Jesus was no Messiah, merely a megalomaniac trying to pull people away from the Jewish religious establishment. They said Jesus was not the Lord sent from Heaven, but a demon-possessed pawn in the palm of Satan.
The critics today are a little kinder. They say Jesus was a good man, but not the God man. They say He preached the truth, but the religious truths of yesterday are not practical for the prerogatives of today. They say He showed people the way to God, but today there are many ways to God of which Jesus is only one, not the only One.
So why in this present age would anyone want listen to Jesus? This passage in the Gospel of John would like to give us at least three reasons.
The Teaching of Jesus is of the Finest Quality
Teachers, preachers, and other public speakers have about thirty seconds or less to compel someone to listen to what they have to say, then about thirty minutes or less to tell them what they have to say. The ways to make first impressions and hold attention spans have changed throughout the centuries, but Jesus faced the same public pressures that preachers have faced throughout history.
How did Jesus do? It seemed people could not take their eyes, or ears, off of Him. His preaching and teaching was other-worldly, yet at the same time it contained this world’s finest intellectual, emotional, and volitional quality.
In terms of intellect, Jesus is the one man in human history who really knew everything. His perfect mind was put on display every time He preached. Even His contemporary critics marveled that Jesus had “grammata” (“learning” in vs. 15), which would have been unnatural for a mere carpenter’s son from Galilee, but not surprising for the supernatural Son of God.
In terms of emotion, Jesus preached not only from the head, but straight from the heart. His great, heart-felt messages were the only explanation for the great range of emotions that were returned to Him, either in loyalty or loathing. Passion begets passion. Jesus’ emotional range could climb to the highest form of love for God and then descend to the hottest form of indignation for the enemies of God. There was not much middle ground at the feet of Jesus.
In terms of volition, or will, God’s will was Jesus’ sole ground and goal in preaching. “If anyone’s will is to do God’s will,” He said in vs. 17, they would acquiesce to the life-changing quality of Christ’s words. This is what excellent preaching and teaching does, it informs the mind, inspires the heart, and it moves the will to conformity with God’s will. No one has ever preached or taught as perfectly as the Lord Jesus Christ.
Therefore, more than eleven people should have listened to Jesus then. Many more people should be listening to Him now. And we can! The Bible contains four Gospels, each Gospel contains passages which some editions color in red.
The red words cut the deepest,
The red words are the call.
The red words come from Jesus,
And they mean the most of all.
— Vince Gill, “The Red Words”
I challenge you to read the red words of Jesus, then tell me who is more intelligent than Him? I beg you to hear the words of Jesus, and tell me who loves you more than Him? I charge you to read the commandments of Jesus, and tell me who is more worthy of Him of being followed and obeyed. All people should listen to Jesus, because of the sheer quality of His words, and because they are the words of God.
But the red letters are not the only words from God. There is quality, authority, and gravity in the black letters, too.
The Teaching of Jesus is of the Highest Authority
There are two mentions of the word “authority” in this text. Also, two sources of God’s authority are revealed. One, of course, is the word of Jesus Christ, who plainly speaks with the beauty, quality, and the authority of God. The other, mentioned by Jesus, is the “law of Moses.” Here is where the black letters come into important view.
God is one, but He reveals Himself to us in the Holy Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. God has one voice, but He channels His voice through all three persons of the Trinity. There were times, albeit rare, when God the Father spoke audibly. There was a season, of some thirty years of life which included three years of public ministry, when God spoke through the person and work of the Son, Jesus Christ. And through many years in many ways through many authors, the Holy Spirit has spoken through Holy Scripture, beginning with “the law of Moses.”
The Pentateuch (five books of Moses) is known to the Jews as the “Law.” People of faith in the Old Covenant also recognized God’s hand and authority in the “Writings” (Joshua through Song of Solomon) and the “Prophets” (Isaiah through Malachi). Early Christians received and revered the New Covenant through the writing of the “Gospels and Acts,” the “Epistles,” and the “Revelation.”
“All Scripture is breathed out by God …”
— 2 Timothy 3:16
Jesus is clearly claiming here that His spoken words and the written word of God, now known as the Bible, both carry the highest authority possible, the authority of Almighty God. When the Word of God, Jesus Christ, speaks, people should listen. When the word of God speaks, the Bible, speaks, people should listen. But, they don’t.
“Now I think I know,
What you tried to say to me.
And how you suffered for your sanity,
And how you tried to set them free.
They would not listen, they're not listening still,
Perhaps they never will.”
— Don McLean, “Vincent”
And this is where the controversy comes in.
The Teaching of Jesus causes the Greatest Controversy
If the teaching of Jesus and the right interpretation of Scripture is true, then the Jewish religious leaders of Jesus’ day were wrong. He is, and they were. So, they killed Him.
Jesus scolded them for not listening to Him and for not interpreting and obeying the Bible correctly as well. The Old Testament had a lot to say about honoring the Sabbath, but Jesus’ healing on the Sabbath, the “one work” (ref. John 5:1ff) referred to in the dialogue, in no way violated the word of God. It violated some of their man-made misinterpretations and additions to the word of God.
If the teaching of Jesus and the right interpretation of Scripture is true today, then every other religion is wrong, and the whole of mainstream culture — politics, courts, media, entertainment, etc. — is going the wrong way. So, what will our present world do with Christ, and Christians? This is a fight for which you want to go down with the Lord Jesus Christ, dying to self and taking up your cross and following Him.
Remember that Jesus’ words in this text arise at the peak of His unpopularity. In six months, He will be hanging on a tree. He offered His teaching, but the people would not listen. They wanted a different kind of Messiah made in their own image. So, they used their influence to persuade people not to listen to Jesus.
The world today is doing the same thing and asking the same question. Why should anyone listen to Jesus? Why should anyone honor and obey the Holy Scriptures? Whey should we obey God, when we can all just go our own way?
“All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned — every one — to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.”
— Isaiah 53:6
We stand today, as they did in Jesus’ day, at a great crossroad. Go your own way, listen to the sirens of the world, or listen to your own autonomous voice, take pleasure now and punishment later. Or, go the Jesus way, repent and believe, trust and obey, live your life according to the gospel and the word of God. They road you choose will determine your destiny for eternity.
“Judge with right judgment,” Jesus said. Listen to Jesus. He is the Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God!
Dr. Charles F. "Chuck" DeVane, Jr., is the Pastor of Lake Hamilton Baptist Church in Hot Springs, Arkansas. His weekly sermon article, "The Gospel Truth," has been published in newspapers in Arkansas and Georgia. Dr. DeVane is a graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and has served in the pastorate for over 20 years. Contact Pastor Chuck at PastorChuck@lakehamiltonbaptistchurch.org