There are very, very few true atheists in life. Even those who profess being agnostic generally have very strong opinions for why they DON’T believe. The fact is that we either fully believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Messiah, or we’ve replaced Him with something else, something that we’re equally passionate about protecting, defending, even growing. As portrayed in this chapter, the discussion of Christ may begin with a mild tit-for-tat as to what kind of man He was, but it always and inevitably leads to the decision, “Is Jesus the Christ the Son of God?” The final resolution to that question determines everything that follows.
Read verses 1-9
Q: According to what kind of logic is Jesus’ brothers’ thinking in v.3-5? What are they assuming about Jesus?
A: It’s the logic of the world, of the perceived path to public success. Since they don’t believe Jesus is actually the Messiah, they assume He has embarked on a career to be popular, well-known, in the public eye.
Q: What do you think Jesus means in v.8 when He states, “My time has not yet fully come”?
A: It’s the continuing application of His teaching as stated in John 5:30:
I can do nothing on My own initiative. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is just, because I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.
How does this compare to the approach we take to our own ministry?
How does this compare the approach we take for our local church’s activities?
Have you noticed individuals or organizations that seem to operate mainly according to the world’s definition of the path to success?
How do we know we should take a ministry or activity “to the next level”?
Read verses 10-13
Q: What is the key word in v.12 that indicates what’s really going on? What does this reveal about these people?
A: “Grumbling”. They seem to be more concerned about what others think, guided more by public opinion than personal faith.
Are you confident of your knowledge and relationship with Christ?
In what ways or according to what teachings are you just “going along”?
Is it healthy to accept only the opinions and/or interpretations of church leaders?
Read verses 14-18
Q: In v.15, reading between the lines, what is the real question that they’re asking? Is this really an issue of teaching credentials or training?
A: They recognize the power of the message, but they just don’t recognize the origin of the message. It’s a very polite way of stating, “How can such a message come from someone’s own imagination? Couldn’t this be from God?”
Q: What does Jesus indicate in v.17 as the key to the people obtaining the right answer to their question?
A: “If anyone is willing to do His will”. It all begins with a desire to seek God rather than self, to want to do God’s will at the expense of one’s own will. Having properly subjected one’s heart to God, the truth of Christ becomes crystal clear.
Q: How does v.18 reveal the test of a true messenger from God?
A: The true messenger seeks God’s glory, not his own.
What is the application here for testing whether an individual, ministry or activity is of God or man?
What might be a measurement of how successful an endeavor may or may not be? [Hint: Whose will is given priority?]
Read verses 19-24
Q: So before they rejected Christ’s word, what had they also previously rejected?
A: God’s Word, as already provided in the Old Testament.
Q: Why is this an important point? What does it indicate?
A: In general, they’re not inclined to obedience from the heart but, at most, following the rules of the Law. Their heart is not in it.
Is it surprising that if we’re not generally obedient to God’s Word that we struggle greatly when we need to be obedient in a large thing?
Is it possible to “follow the rules” yet not follow from the heart?
If we don’t apply and follow the simple commandments, how will we understand the deeper wisdom and teachings of God’s Word?
Read verses 25-31
Q: What is the chief difference between those who believe and those who don’t?
A: Believers accept Christ and His Word as divine, unbelievers react violently toward Him and His message.
Point: It’s very rare to find someone who has no passionate response—either for or against—on the subject of Jesus. Notice that they are not evaluating Him as a teacher or good man, but whether or not He is the Christ. Everything else proceeds from this central, personal decision as to whether or not Jesus is the Messiah. Every person, upon hearing Christ’s words, instinctively know that they cannot be accepted without accepting Him as God; otherwise, in rejecting His words, Jesus must be rejected as God.
Read verses 37-39
Note: At this point in the feast there was a great ceremony involving the pouring out of water. Jesus’ words would have dramatically mirrored what was going on at the feast and the deeper meaning of the Law in this regard.
Q: What is the significance of the conditional statement “if” used by Jesus?
A: Not everyone is thirsty. Spiritual thirst can be satiated by drinking from sources OTHER than Christ.
Q: What is “drinking” equated to in v.38?
A: Belief in Jesus alone.
Read verses 40-44
Q: When the people were grumbling about Jesus in v.12, what terms were they arguing about in describing Jesus?
A: “A good man” and “lead the people astray”. It was basically a general assessment as to whether He was a “good” or “bad” man, a “good” or “bad” influence.
Q: How is this different from v.40 and 41 where He is described as “the Prophet” and “the Christ”?
A: They now recognize the only way to explain Jesus is from a spiritual perspective. Their personal decision must be to determine whether or not He is divine, to accept or reject Him as from God.
Application: On what basis have you accepted/rejected Jesus? How would others know this?
Read verses 45-52
Q: The “officers” are not Romans but Jews, something akin to a police force assigned to the temple. Why should their testimony be a double witness to the Pharisees?
A: They would have spent their careers within earshot of the Pharisees themselves teaching and preaching. Their stunning admission, “Never has a man spoken the way this man speaks” is both a testimony of the authority of Christ and the lack of same for the authorities.
Q: How would you summarize the Pharisees’ basic character flaw?
A: They believe they have all the answers; unless everything is fulfilled exactly the way they’ve predetermined, no one measures up. It’s the contrast to v.17, “If anyone is willing to do His will, he will know of the teaching, whether it is of God whether I speak from Myself.” They have placed their will over God’s will. There’s no room in their heart for another.
Taking all the different viewpoints and situations covered in this chapter, what is the best indicator of our walk in Christ, of whether or not we’ve accepted Him fully as the Messiah? (If we accept and obey His Word.)
In what ways do we need to make personal changes so that this is completely, 100% true in our life?