“Don’t judge a book by its cover.”
You’ve heard it. I’ve heard it. We understand what it means. This little expression instructs us to avoid the temptation of evaluating someone based on what we see with our eyes. It’s easy to see the externals and miss the eternal. We talked about that last week in John 7:14-24.
The advice of this short expression seems to be lost on Jesus’ audience in John 7:25-44 where we read:
At that point some of the people of Jerusalem began to ask, “Isn’t this the man they are trying to kill? Here he is, speaking publicly, and they are not saying a word to him. Have the authorities really concluded that he is the Messiah? But we know where this man is from; when the Messiah comes, no one will know where he is from.”
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, but I know him because I am from him and he sent me.”
At this they tried to seize him, but no one laid a hand on him, because his hour had not yet come. Still, many in the crowd believed in him. They said, “When the Messiah comes, will he perform more signs than this man?”
The Pharisees heard the crowd whispering such things about him. Then the chief priests and the Pharisees sent temple guards to arrest him.
Jesus said, “I am with you for only a short time, and then I am going to the one who sent me. You will look for me, but you will not find me; and where I am, you cannot come.”
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? 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’?”
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. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” 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.
On hearing his words, some of the people said, “Surely this man is the Prophet.”
Others said, “He is the Messiah.”
Still others asked, “How can the Messiah come from Galilee? Does not Scripture say that the Messiah will come from David’s descendants and from Bethlehem, the town where David lived?” Thus the people were divided because of Jesus. Some wanted to seize him, but no one laid a hand on him.John 7:25-44
New International Version
The crowd is starting to put the pieces together. While some thought Jesus was demon-possessed by claiming the Jewish leaders were trying to kill Him, these people knew of the plans already.
But if Jesus surprised them by speaking publicly in spite of the death threats, it was certainly no less surprising that the authorities remained silent. They wondered, in verse 26, if they had concluded Jesus was the Messiah. No sooner does this amazement hit their minds than it is dismissed in verse 27. “After all”, they thought, “no one will know where” the Messiah “is from”.
This was based on a belief of their time that the Messiah would simply “appear”—as in, appear out of thin air. But regardless of what they do or do not think, Jesus’ origin is heaven and He has come down from the Father.
Jesus is who He is regardless of Who we think He is.
Make no mistake, dear one in Jesus, Jesus is divisive. His claims are extraordinary. There’s no “neutral ground” when it comes to His identity. Either He is exactly who He said He is and is the King of Heaven or He’s a liar and doesn’t deserve to be followed.
You really can’t judge a book by its cover. When it comes to Jesus, we see He is God in the flesh. He brings salvation to all who believe. When we consider what that means, eternity takes on a brand new light.
With whom can you share that light this week?