Faithlife Sermons

Identity Crisis

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Does it bother you when you feel that you have been labeled as a particular kind of person? Especially when the label may not be true? Maybe someone felt that you weren’t true to your word. That you did not follow through on a promise. You forgot to add something to a calendar.

Maybe someone totally misunderstood something that you said, or has a totally distorted view of who you truly are. Maybe a momentary lapse of self-control, you said some things out of anger or bitterness. But these traits don’t necessarily characterize you. But now you have been labeled an angry or bitter person. And this doesn’t sit well with you.

Or maybe you’ve had a dramatic transformation in your life. You are no longer the person you once were. Perhaps you were an addict or a cheat… a perpetual liar. But a change has happened in your heart and in your behavior. Yet you still wear the label.

This can be tough for us. It creates within us an urge to shout out that “that’s not me. You’ve misunderstood what I said… or it was a genuine mistake… or I’ve changed… I’m a new person now.” You want to send a bulk email or a Facebook post that says “This is me! You’ve got it wrong.”

Think about Jesus for a moment. If you think that this scenario is difficult for you, what did Jesus experience? Jesus, as the Son of God, was sinless. We read in John’s gospel (and elsewhere) that he created everything that existed. He is eternal. He is unrivaled in power and majesty. Yet Jesus humbled himself and became like one of his creatures. He became a human baby. He grew and lived among us people.

Yet Jesus never had a momentary lapse of self-control. He did not lash out in selfish, bitter anger. Jesus did not forget to add something to his calendar and miss an appointment. There were no oversights on his part. Jesus did not lie. He did not cheat. He was not addicted to the things of this world. Yet over and over, everywhere you look, Jesus is misunderstood and mislabeled.

One of the things that I particularly appreciate about John’s Gospel is his inclination to repeat the truths about Jesus. If you missed something early on, it’s ok because we’ll revisit many of the themes again.

And if you haven’t noticed it yet, a primary recurrence to this point is that people’s experiences with Jesus often have profound effects. If you stop to think about, Jesus has encounters over and over again. People come to him for a variety of reasons. Some stick around and continue with him. Others lose interest because he is more than a circus act. Yet others become greatly offended and enraged with him. But he doesn’t leave people unaffected.

This morning’s passage is no exception. Again we see that the people that Jesus encounters mischaracterize him. This will involve at least three different groups of people. But perhaps most interestingly in this text, is the interaction with Jesus’ own brothers.

Please turn in your Bibles to John 7. The problem that we encounter again to day is that people continually misunderstand Jesus and his mission. This is the case throughout all the Gospel accounts. This is the case for people throughout all of history, as you probably know. So, this morning let’s consider this: Jesus’ identity and mission are embraced by his true disciples. I’ll read verses 1-13 as we get underway.

First, we will see that Jesus is misunderstood by his family. John the gospel writer moves his account forward in the first verse by the inclusion of ‘after this’. Remember that John is approaching his gospel from a different angle. He is not following a close chronology of events like the other gospel writers. So his ‘after this’ is likely six months after Jesus’ interaction with the crowds and his temporary followers. It is believed that he likely spent a year in the Galilee region after arriving from Judea. And you will find that the other gospel writers highlight this particular time period in his ministry.

As John mentions also, Jesus was avoiding this southern region of Israel because of the growing hostility and opposition toward him. It is to be noted that Galilee and Judea were under separate jurisdictions. So someone who might have been in some trouble in one part of the country, could find a bit of safety in the other. But note also that Jesus does not shy away from this hostility because of fear, but because of plan. More on this in a just a bit.

But the Jews were seeking to kill him. Remember, Jesus does not leave people unaffected. And because of this, it is the religious leaders who are the most unimpressed with Jesus and his ministry. Jesus has been saying some things and doing some things that did not fit their mold or criteria. We have already encountered some of this in our study including our time spent in chapter 5.

John 5:18 “18 This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.” These folks were not indifferent, simply curious or believers. They were the active and hostile opposition to Jesus.

But John again makes a very significant insertion here. You’ll recall that in the last chapter, he very intentionally mentioned the time of the Passover. Here he locates the time of the Jews’ Feast of Booths, or the Feast of Tabernacles.

You remember that John repeatedly recalls the events of the ancient Israelites for his readers. We are encouraged to recount the forming and redeeming of God’s people from their bondage in Egypt. Through the blood of a lamb, the people were released from captivity and led into the wilderness on their journey to the Promised Land.

Moses was appointed by God to lead them to this destination. Along the way the people grumble. Along the way, the people get hungry. And all along God is faithful in providing the necessities for his people. All these themes are introduced in John’s gospel by referring to Jesus as the faithful provider, the superior Moses. Yet the people continue to grumble.

The Feast of Booths was a festival of celebration for God’s people. It was one of three of the most important festivals. In fact, we come to learn that this was likely the most popular and celebrated feast. It was introduced throughout the writings of Moses (Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy) as a celebration that commemorated God’s faithfulness to his people where they lived in booths in the wilderness. It was a celebration of the ingathering of harvest.

There were several components of the feast that will become significant as we continue through the next few chapters of this gospel. They will include the pouring of water and the lighting of lights. Jesus will again pick up on these themes and introduce the spiritual fulfillment of them.

So, the Feast of Booths was near. The party of the year was happening in Jerusalem. People would venture there from all over the region. And this event will shed some light to what comes next.

Jesus’ brothers enter the story. Contrary to the Catholic doctrine of the perpetual virginity of Mary, Jesus did in fact have a biological family. His brothers and sisters were born after him, and through the union of Mary and Joseph – not the Holy Spirit.

But Jesus grew up in a household with siblings. We are reminded of this also in both Matthew’s and Mark’s gospels. In Mark 3:31–35 “31 And his mother and his brothers came, and standing outside they sent to him and called him. 32 And a crowd was sitting around him, and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers are outside, seeking you.” 33 And he answered them, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” 34 And looking about at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.”

Here it is that we encounter his brothers. And they encourage Jesus to leave Galilee and go to Judea in order to show the people there the works he is doing. Because (as they indicate) no one does things in secret if they want to be known openly – publicly. So what’s going on here? Why would his brothers make such a suggestion?

Well, we can look at this a couple of ways. First, here is the difficulty. We have a difficult time looking at this event and determining the motivation for what they say. Now the motivation is not the primary point of the passage. But we do learn some significant matters along the way.

Verse 5 tells us that his brothers don’t believe in him. And yet, they encourage Jesus to go public with his ministry. So, perhaps they felt sorry for him that his ministry that was previously going so well, seemed to be failing – as so many of his curious followers had abandoned him. ‘Jesus had better act quickly on this opportunity if he wanted to revive his ministry!’ Or did his brothers use the same realization in order to mock and insult Jesus. Perhaps they were stinging words to Jesus.

We do know that his immediate family did not always view him favorably. Matthew 13:57 57 Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and in his own household.” Mark 3:21 “21 And when his family heard it, they went out to seize him, for they were saying, “He is out of his mind.”

In Jerusalem, Jesus has an opportunity to be in the limelight. If people come from all over the place, it makes sense a bit. If Jesus is doing all these mighty works, then he should perform them now! If this is a publicity stunt, if he is trying to get people to follow him based upon miracles and signs, then this is the way to go. Perhaps this is where the brothers stand. It is obvious that they don’t connect the miracles with Jesus’ claims to Messiahship. They remain on a physical level.

Can you imagine? Jesus grew up with this family. He knew his mission. And those that he probably held so dear did not recognize him for who he truly was! That must have been heart-wrenching for Jesus.

But how does he respond? In verse 6, Jesus says that his time has not yet come, but your time is always here. Huh?

Jesus knows that if he goes to Jerusalem with a full entourage, the timing of the mission will be affected. Jesus knows that he will go to Jerusalem a final time. He knows what will happen. It’s all part of the plan. But the timing of it is not up to anyone else except the Father. As we read in verse 10, Jesus will go. But only when determined by the Father and himself.

But he tells his brothers they can go. Actually he says, “My time has not yet come, but your time is always here.” Jesus’ situation is different from that of his unbelieving family. What they do is inconsequential to the plans of God. Jesus is a marked man who must plan his steps intentionally.

Don Carson suggests that “Jesus’ brothers would not be upset to hear Jesus say his time had not come, but they may well have been scandalized to hear him say for you any time is right. It is almost as if they are being excluded from divine sovereignty—not that God suspended his providential reign in their case, but that what they did was utterly without significance as far as God is concerned.”

And this is confirmed in the next verse where Jesus elaborates. But notice first the connection. Jesus’ brothers, in verse 4, tell Jesus to show himself to the ‘world’. In verse 7 he says that “world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify about it that its works are evil.” Jesus says that there is a big difference between himself and his brothers. Because they are unbelievers, they are aligned with the world. There would be no hate directed toward them from this unbelieving world.

But for Jesus, it is much much different. The opposition is repeated numerous times in this gospel alone. In Jesus’ words to his disciples later in John 15:18-19 (ESV)

18 “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. John 17:14 (ESV)

14 I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.”

Why the opposition? Why the hate? Because the world always hates to have its evil exposed. John 3:19 (ESV) 19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. John 16:8–9 (ESV) 8 And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: 9 concerning sin, because they do not believe in me…”

Jesus, as the Light of the World, exposes the wickedness of the world. The darkness does not like, does not appreciate being exposed. Wickedness loves the darkness, not the light. Jesus has come to expose their deeds and provide the light.

Not sure how the brothers received all of that. Nevertheless, they depart for Judea and Jesus remains in Galilee for a bit longer.

Jesus is misunderstood by his family. And Jesus is misunderstood by society.

In verse 10, we read that some time after the brothers departed, Jesus also went to Jerusalem. It was probably necessary to go later so as to avoid all the publicity and a premature execution. The opposition is mounting feverishly. But at the same time, there seems to be also an increasing isolation on the part of Jesus toward his biological family.

Jesus goes in private. And even doing so, look at what happens. The Jews were looking for him!! The ‘Jews’ refers specifically to the Jewish religious leaders. “Where is he?”

Isn’t that interesting? Here we are at probably the greatest of celebrations in their history, and the religious leaders are looking for Jesus. Were they thinking something like, “Where is he? I know he’ll come here and try to mess things up. Is he going to make a grand entrance? If so, we’ll be ready for him…”

And though it doesn’t appear as if Jesus has been noticed yet, there are murmurings all through Jerusalem at the Feast of Feasts. Jesus has certainly had an impact. Verse 12 says that there was much muttering about him among the people…

There is an Identity Crisis. Jesus knows who he is. Yet many others have not yet made the determination. Watch it.

The Jewish leaders are in clear opposition to him. They are hostile. Others are just trying to figure it out. Some say he is a good man. Others say he’s leading the people astray. And all the chatter is in hushed tones because they were afraid of the religious leaders. You almost have a visual in your mind. Don’t you?

We must recognize that to lead people astray (or to deceive people in this way) was a serious charge. If someone was to lead others to idolatry or apostasy, Deuteronomy prescribes the death penalty. So some serious charges are being alleged here against Jesus. Yet nobody is willing to speak openly.

We encounter a fair bit of this today – especially the confusion and the hostility. Certainly, there are many that are vehemently opposed to any talk of Jesus or Christianity. Naturally speaking, it is hard to understand why this is the case. I have never understood the militant atheist. If God doesn’t exist for them, why does it make such a difference? But supernaturally speaking, it makes a LOT of sense.

Here (and elsewhere) we learn that apart from Christ, we are his enemy. The unbelieving world does (and will) stand hostile and opposed to the mission of Jesus. Again, the Word of God makes sense of all of life. It informs us and warns us and encourages us that we are in a spiritual battle with real spiritual enemies.

Yet there are some who are still formulating their opinions of Jesus, because God is still in the business of bringing the lost to Jesus Christ. He begins a work in their hearts and minds to lead them to Him.

So, Jesus is misunderstood by his family. He is misunderstood by society. But Jesus is understood by those who are his true disciples.

Those who come to faith in Jesus Christ are convinced that he is indeed the Savior of the World. They understand that there is no name under heaven given among men by which we are saved. They understand that when they call on Jesus, they will be saved.

No longer are these men and women alienated and hostile to Jesus Christ. They have been brought near by the blood of the Lamb. Because of God’s great love and mercy he has made us alive with Jesus Christ.

And the thing is, the true disciples cannot remain silent. Whereas the unbelieving world whispers in hushed tones and murmurings about Jesus, those who believe in him have an inclination to make him known. For if he is truly who he says he is, Jesus must be proclaimed among the nations.

Jesus is not leading people astray. He is leading them home. He is leading them to their Creator. Jesus is leading people to live as they were designed – in worship to God.

Some of you have been brought to faith in Jesus and remain with unbelieving family. Be comforted that Jesus knows personally what this is like. It is true that his family did believe in him after the resurrection. But he knew the pain associated with their unbelief also.

If you have not yet placed your faith in Jesus, I would encourage you to consider his many claims. There is no neutral ground. Jesus is the full provision for your deepest needs. He is the bread from heaven. He is the light of the world. He is the provision of forgiveness for all your sins. Become one of his true disciples today. Let’s pray.

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