Jesus, the Messiah: Have you ever wondered what Jesus was doing in your life? Messiah (Christ in Greek) is a title meaning anointed/chosen one. But if Jesus is the Messiah, what was he anointed/chosen to do? We must be careful not to shrink the purpose of Jesus. Instead, let us hear the invitation of the Messiah, who offers nothing less than his Spirit and real, everlasting life in his kingdom. Recorded on Oct 29, 2023, on John 7:25-52 by Pastor David Parks.
Finding Life in Jesus’ Name is a sermon series on the gospel according to John in the Bible. Have you ever felt unsatisfied with your life? Or, even when things were going well, something was still missing? Many people sense there must be something more. But what?? John, one of the closest friends of Jesus, believed that Jesus came into the world so that we may have life and have it to the full. Jesus turned John’s life upside down, and John claims this new life — marked by God’s power, presence, and purpose — is available for all who believe.
So all year, we’re going through the gospel according to John in a series called Finding Life in Jesus’ Name. And today, we’ll finish John chapter 7, considering what it means for Jesus to be the Christ, the Messiah. I think a lot of people think that Christ is Jesus’ last name, like Mary and Joseph Christ and Jesus Christ. But I wonder how old I was when I learned that Christ is a title, not his last name. It’s a title that means anointed one or the chosen, Christ in Greek and Messiah in Hebrew. But anointed/chosen to do what, exactly? Well, that is very much John’s point in this passage. Just who was Jesus, and what was his mission? Why was he sent from heaven? What did he come to accomplish? Have you ever thought about that in your life today? What is he trying to accomplish in your life? What is Jesus trying to do? I’ve definitely had times of anger/pain/fear when I’ve cried out to the Lord to get some answers as to what was happening. “Jesus who are you and what are you doing here?” Have you ever felt that way? It was no different in Jesus’ day. People were divided over who he was and what he was supposed to accomplish as the Messiah. And yet Jesus knew who he was; he knew what he came to do as the Messiah, and he extends an open invitation to all, even today. If you have a Bible/app, please take it and open it to John 7:25.
John 7:25–27 (NIV), “25 At that point some of the people of Jerusalem began to ask, “Isn’t this the man they are trying to kill? 26 Here he is, speaking publicly, and they are not saying a word to him. Have the authorities really concluded that he is the Messiah? 27 But we know where this man is from; when the Messiah comes, no one will know where he is from.” Ok, let’s pause here for a little context. So last week, we saw Jesus, the great Teacher, who came to the Festival of Tabernacles in Jerusalem and was teaching in the Temple courts. His teaching was amazing because of its authority and power. It was helpful and encouraging, but it also offered a correction and sometimes even a rebuke. It was like nothing they’d ever heard. And they were baffled because Jesus hadn’t been formally trained. They just didn’t understand. So here, we’re still in the Temple courts with this mix of the crowd there for the Festival and the religious leadership who were plotting against Jesus. The crowd knows the leaders aren’t a fan of Jesus, it appears from this that they even knew they were trying to kill him. So they’re confused as to why the leaders seemed to be allowing him to teach publicly here. Had they changed their minds about Jesus? Did they now think he really was the Messiah? But they’re not sure because John says that they thought that when the Messiah came, no one would know where he was from. Why did they think this? Probably because of OT passages like Daniel 7:13–14 (NIV), “13 “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. 14 He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.” No city or family is mentioned here to help identify the origin of this son of man whom God would appoint to be the king of the kingdom of God, a kingdom that would last forever. But at least some in the crowd in Jerusalem think they know where Jesus is from. Now, as we’ll be reminded in just a few months at Christmas, though Jesus indeed grew up in the town of Nazareth of Galilee, he actually was born in Bethlehem in Judea because of a Roman census that required everyone to go back to their ancestral homes. John ironically reveals that some people thought they knew more about Jesus than they really did. How would he respond?
John 7:28-36 (NIV), “28 Then Jesus, still teaching in the temple courts, cried out, “Yes, you know me, and you know where I am from. I am not here on my own authority, but he who sent me is true. You do not know him, 29 but I know him because I am from him and he sent me.” 30 At this they tried to seize him, but no one laid a hand on him, because his hour had not yet come. 31 Still, many in the crowd believed in him. They said, “When the Messiah comes, will he perform more signs than this man?” 32 The Pharisees heard the crowd whispering such things about him. Then the chief priests and the Pharisees sent temple guards to arrest him. 33 Jesus said, “I am with you for only a short time, and then I am going to the one who sent me. 34 You will look for me, but you will not find me; and where I am, you cannot come.” 35 The Jews said to one another, “Where does this man intend to go that we cannot find him? Will he go where our people live scattered among the Greeks, and teach the Greeks? 36 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’?” So this is kind of a chaotic scene. A busy temple court full of people, some of whom seem to want to seize Jesus. It’s not clear if they want to seize him to stop him from continuing to claim to be sent from heaven. Or if they want to seize him and make him their king. Or maybe both. But there are some in the crowd who believe in Jesus, having been convinced by the miraculous signs. We’ve already seen five of the seven signs in John’s gospel, not including the resurrection. They say, “When the Messiah comes, will he perform more signs than this man?” Like, this has to be him, right? This is similar to what the Samaritan woman had said back in chapter 4 to the other people of her city after talking with Jesus. “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?” (Jn 4:29) But when the Pharisees, the religious leaders, heard people talking like this, they knew they needed to act quickly and put an end to this kind of talk. They didn’t accept Jesus or believe in him, so the last thing they wanted was for the people to recognize a Messiah or King who might upset their own power/authority/political influence. So, they sent the temple guards to arrest Jesus. In the meantime, Jesus starts talking about his departure. He says there will come a time when you’ll look for me, but you won’t be able to find me. And the people struggle to understand what he means by this. Only after his death on the cross for the sins of the world will his disciples realize that his death and the grave were what Jesus was talking about here. But at this point, there’s faith, and there’s unbelief; there are people ready to follow Jesus the Christ/Messiah, and there are people trying to arrest/kill him. There are people who want to seize him for all sorts of reasons. If I were Jesus, I’d be pretty frustrated by all this chaos. I’m sure I’d be tempted to use my divine power and authority against the doubters and the critics and certainly against my enemies. But that’s not Jesus. Look and see what he does.
John 7:37-52 (NIV), 37 On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” 39 By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified. 40 On hearing his words, some of the people said, “Surely this man is the Prophet.” 41 Others said, “He is the Messiah.” Still others asked, “How can the Messiah come from Galilee? 42 Does not Scripture say that the Messiah will come from David’s descendants and from Bethlehem, the town where David lived?” 43 Thus the people were divided because of Jesus. 44 Some wanted to seize him, but no one laid a hand on him. 45 Finally the temple guards went back to the chief priests and the Pharisees, who asked them, “Why didn’t you bring him in?” 46 “No one ever spoke the way this man does,” the guards replied. 47 “You mean he has deceived you also?” the Pharisees retorted. 48 “Have any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed in him? 49 No! But this mob that knows nothing of the law—there is a curse on them.” 50 Nicodemus, who had gone to Jesus earlier and who was one of their own number, asked, 51 “Does our law condemn a man without first hearing him to find out what he has been doing?” 52 They replied, “Are you from Galilee, too? Look into it, and you will find that a prophet does not come out of Galilee.” This is God’s word. So Nicodemus comes back into the story once again from chapter 3 there at the end. He seems to try and diffuse what the Pharisees want to do and encourage them to obey the law and give Jesus due process. But in response to all this swirling, divisive chaos around him, on the last and greatest day of the festival, which was the eighth day, Jesus stood up and shouted out an invitation to all people, to the crowd, to the Pharisees, to the temple guards, to the faithful, to the doubters, to everyone great and small, rich and poor: “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” John helps us out by telling us the meaning of the metaphor of the water is the giving of the Holy Spirit, which would happen on the Day of Pentecost after the resurrection of Jesus. But for the Jewish people, this offer of living water would’ve instantly made them think of famous passages from the Hebrew Bible, such as the story of the Exodus when God made water flow from the rock in the desert wilderness to save/sustain the lives of his people. Or of the many promises of God related to water through the prophets such as Isaiah, Zechariah, and Ezekiel. Just one of these passages is Isaiah 44:3, where God says that one day, “…I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants.” So Jesus stands up and loudly proclaims that what God promised through Isaiah would be fulfilled by him. It’s all happening now. And anyone who comes to me and believes in me will have these streams of living water, water welling up to eternal life because that water is the very power and presence of God, the Holy Spirit. This is huge. In fact, when we better understand the context, that this is the final day of the Festival of the Tabernacles, this pronouncement is an even bigger deal than we might think. According to Lev 23, the Festival of Tabernacles (Feast of Booths) was to be celebrated every year after harvest time. The people were to take a week off of work and live in temporary tents/shelters/booths in order to remember when the Lord led them through the wilderness after freeing them from captivity in Egypt. For seven days, they were to bring palm branches, food offerings, water and wine, and rejoice before the Lord. According to commentator D.A. Carson, “On the seven days of the Feast, a golden flagon was filled with water from the pool of Siloam and was carried in a procession led by the High Priest back to the temple…The water was offered to God at the time of the morning sacrifice…these ceremonies of the Feast of Tabernacles were related in Jewish thought both to the Lord’s provision of water in the desert and to the Lord’s pouring out of the Spirit in the last days. Pouring at the Feast of Tabernacles refers symbolically to the messianic age in which a stream from the sacred rock would flow over the whole earth.” (Carson, PNTC, p. 321-322). So it was on the eighth day, during the final, sacred assembly of the people at the temple in Jerusalem, that Jesus stood and said in a loud voice…it’s me. I’m the one God promised to send. This Festival of Tabernacles that you’ve been celebrating for at least 1200 years, all of that was pointing to me and what I will do. And this was enough for some. “He is the Messiah,” they say, but others are confused, so they’re still divided. The crowd is divided. The Pharisees and the temple guards are divided. Nicodemus and the rest of the Jewish Ruling Council are divided. Of course, this is what we’ll continue to see in John’s gospel in the weeks ahead. Really, it’s a battle to understand and believe in who Jesus is and what he came to do. But if Jesus was and is the Christ/Messiah, the Chosen One sent by God the Father in heaven, what does that really mean for us today? How do we apply this teaching to our lives today? Well, for our remaining time, I’d like to leave you with one caution and one encouragement.
First, the caution. If you believe that Jesus is the Messiah, be careful you know for sure what he came to do. To be anointed or chosen by God always comes with a specific God-given task. Prophets were anointed to prophesy. Priests were anointed to do the work of the priesthood. Kings were anointed to reign and rule. So, in the same way, the Anointed One (Messiah) was anointed for a purpose. And confusion over the purpose of Jesus divided the people both then and now. In that day, some of the people wanted to seize Jesus and make him their king for political purposes. Remember that at the time, Israel was part of the Roman Empire. Many people at the time thought the purpose of the Messiah would be to lead a rebellion against Rome and set their people free. But as big as that would’ve seemed at the time, it’s too small of a vision of what God was actually doing. God was doing so much more than providing political freedom or power to his people in this broken world. Jesus wasn’t chosen to conquer the Romans — he was chosen to conquer Satan and provide freedom from sin and death itself. So, in the same way, we must be careful we don’t shrink the purpose of Jesus in our own hearts/imaginations/lives, too. You see, lots of people start following Jesus because they think he will help them have a better marriage/family/life. But that’s too small of a vision of what the Messiah came to do. If you believe in him, Jesus will take you from death to life, you’ll be born again, and he’ll come into your heart and life and will change/transform you in every way. Second, the encouragement. We must be careful we do not underestimate the purpose/work of Jesus, the Messiah. But also, remember what he did on the last day and greatest day of the Festival; during the sacred assembly, he stood up and cried out in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” This offer is open to all, whether you’ve always had a clear view of the person and work of Jesus or not. Whether you’ve always followed his way or you are just considering to start following Jesus today. Even in times of anger/pain/fear when you can’t understand what God is doing. Let anyone who is thirsty, let anyone who needs the life and light and love of God and his kingdom and his power and his glory come to Jesus the Christ, the Messiah, for he is the promised one, born in Bethlehem, who is the King of the kingdom of God. And only he provides springs of living water welling up to eternal life. Let us pray.