Can division be a good thing?
We’re so conditioned to think division is terrible that we forget there are times when division is helpful. Restrooms are divided (men and women). Your marital status is divided (single or married). And the ultimate division is the spiritual one: Christian or non-Christian.
Continuing from last week, Jesus is at the Festival of Tabernacles when we pick up the story of division in John 7:14-24:
Not until halfway through the festival did Jesus go up to the temple courts and begin to teach. The Jews there were amazed and asked, “How did this man get such learning without having been taught?”
Jesus answered, “My teaching is not my own. It comes from the one who sent me. Anyone who chooses to do the will of God will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own. Whoever speaks on their own does so to gain personal glory, but he who seeks the glory of the one who sent him is a man of truth; there is nothing false about him. Has not Moses given you the law? Yet not one of you keeps the law. Why are you trying to kill me?”
“You are demon-possessed,” the crowd answered. “Who is trying to kill you?”
Jesus said to them, “I did one miracle, and you are all amazed. Yet, because Moses gave you circumcision (though actually it did not come from Moses, but from the patriarchs), you circumcise a boy on the Sabbath. Now if a boy can be circumcised on the Sabbath so that the law of Moses may not be broken, why are you angry with me for healing a man’s whole body on the Sabbath? Stop judging by mere appearances, but instead judge correctly.”John 7:14-24
New International Version
What Jesus taught was not taught to people either in the Temple or in the Rabbinic schools of His day. Jesus even says so much, “My teaching is not my own. It comes from the one who sent me” (verse 16). Jesus deepens their interest by drawing the distinction between the two views of Who He was.
Jesus throws down a spiritual gauntlet based on His actions. Either Jesus is speaking the words of the Father or He is speaking for Himself and is a liar. Jesus made it clear: there’s no halfway with Him.
But rather than follow what the Law said, they would rather twist it to suit their needs. They needed to kill Jesus to get rid of Him, so they disregarded the command and plotted for a way to murder Him. Those in attendance had little knowledge as to the extent of their leaders’ intent so they counter in verse 20 with name calling, “You are demon-possessed…who is trying to kill you?”
Then Jesus makes them thirsty for more by telling them in verses 21-23 that a single miracle (recorded in John 5) on the Sabbath caused the Jewish leaders to plot to kill Him. The power of God is released on the Sabbath and they want to kill Jesus, yet circumcision could be performed on the Sabbath without breaking the Law because there were things more important than the letter of the Law—there was the spirit of the Law.
Jesus ends this part of the confrontation saying (in verse 24), “Stop judging by mere appearances, but instead judge correctly.” He tells them in essence, “You are looking at the externals and missing the eternal.” Therefore, they were drawing the wrong conclusions.
As disciples of Jesus, we can be guilty of the same thing today. So many people put words in Jesus’ mouth and assume it is a Biblical idea just because it appeals to our sensibilities and 21st century culture.
But just because we like it, doesn’t mean the Lord has said it. Just because something sounds good doesn’t mean it actually leads us closer to Jesus. More often than not, these misquotes and misapplications focus on the externals.
What Jesus told them is what He still tells us: get your eyes off the externals and put them on the eternal.