When the feast was half over, Jesus went up to the temple courts and began to teach. Then the Jewish leaders were astonished and said, “How does this man know so much when he has never had formal instruction?”
So Jesus replied, “My teaching is not from me, but from the one who sent me. If anyone wants to do God’s will, he will know about my teaching, whether it is from God or whether I speak from my own authority. The person who speaks on his own authority desires to receive honor for himself; the one who desires the honor of the one who sent him is a man of integrity, and there is no unrighteousness in him. Hasn’t Moses given you the law? Yet not one of you keeps the law! Why do you want to kill me?”
John 7:14-19 (NET)
The challenge every Sunday morning for every preacher is to speak in such a way as to convince people of the truth about Jesus. Yes, truth. Not the subjective or relative post-modern definition of truth, but universal and objective truth. Can we ever know?
This same question is posed by the Jewish leaders to Jesus. The question relates not just to “how” Jesus attained such knowledge, but to the nature of the knowledge. The “how” determines whether what Jesus is saying is true. This is the clincher: if Jesus is proven to speak truth, then He is proven to be true, since His claims are about Himself.
Just like the scientific community today, the Jewish leaders were more inclined to accept the teachings of a famous Rabbi as truth over a small fry academic’s ideology. Truth comes from the reputation of the teacher. If Jesus said His teaching was from one of the famous Rabbis of the time, then its got to be true! Teaching from a famous Rabbi means that the ideas are published in a reputable journal, well researched, peer reviewed and has good methodology.
But whats true for the scientific community isn’t necessarily true when it comes to God/kingdom truth. The test is different. This is where Jesus talks about the litmus test for His truth. Its simple:
- If you desire to do God’s will, you will know whether the speaker is truly from God.
- If the speaker gives honour (glory) to the one who sent him (God), then the speaker is true.
This test is easily applied to others and so often we do. But what about first applying this to ourselves? Am I a true spokesperson for God? Do I speak His truth? I can only find out by desiring His will and ascribing to Him the glory and honour. The opposite of this is self-exaltation – speaking from my own authority and honouring myself.
His retort to the Jewish leaders is about their lack of desire to follow Law – God’s expressed truth and will. They have no desire to do God’s will, nor do they do so, and thus no one recognizes Jesus’ truth! It wasn’t because they didn’t know His will, it was because they didn’t want to do His will. We need to recognise that accepting the truth about Jesus is not a matter of knowledge. It is a matter of the will – the heart.
I ask that God would so transform my heart that every desire I have is His. Every preference is His preference. Every will is His will. Every self-glorifying cell in my body submits under God-glorifying.