Jesus is a controversial figure. Divisive, even. And I speak of the Jesus of Scripture, of course. The “nice guy” Jesus of our culture is not only uncontroversial, he isn’t even interesting. He wants everyone to get alone, he is OK with other gods, and he loves you just the way you are. But when we come into contact with the Jesus of Scripture he immediately divides the room. And such is the case with the story of John 7. Jesus reenters Jerusalem for another feast of the Jews and even before the people know he is there, they are divided about who he is.
If we put ourselves in the places of the people in Jerusalem trying to figure out who Jesus is, we are presented with a real problem. There are those who say he is a great teacher, those who claim he is a rotten teacher. There are those who go so far as to say he is the Messiah, and those who want to kill him for blasphemy. One way or another, Jesus was not – and is not – a boring figure.
So how are we to decide who Jesus is? Are there better or worse ways to understand who he is? If we put it another way, if our spiritual formation depends on getting Jesus right, how do we get him right? In the course of the conversations in chapter 7, Jesus gives us at least two answers to this question. The first is all about our desires.
“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.” (vs. 17)
If our wills are pointed in the right direction, Jesus promises us that we will come to a deeper and more accurate understanding of God and a more intimate relationship with him. If we can understand our will as something guided by our most powerful desires, if our desires are healthy our relationship with God will become healthier. And we have already seen this truth in action in John’s Gospel. In chapter 5, the Jewish leaders cared more for their Sabbath laws than the healing of a life-long paralytic, so they not only missed Jesus, they decided to kill him. The first story of John 7 involves Jesus’ brothers as mockers and tempters. As such, they completely missed who Jesus truly was. In contrast, after hearing a very difficult conversation about what it would mean to follow Jesus, Peter proclaimed that there was nowhere else for them to go. He would follow Jesus no matter what followed. That decision didn’t make Peter’s life perfect, but it did mean he found Jesus.
The second way is through our glory.
“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.” (vs. 18)
As our example, the Son of God, the second member of the Trinity, God in flesh, lived for the glory of God and it resulted in the truth of God here on earth. I, a simple and broken human being, am tempted on a regular basis to replace God’s glory with my own. Through my daily life of taking care of people, tasks, and self I become habitually caught up in me and my life. But we learn through Christ that glory is a glimpse into who does and does not see God.
If Christ’s life on earth was lived to the glory of God and he is known because of it, how much more will I see, experience, and reveal that life if I live for the glory of God.