Presuppositions - John 7:25-36
©Copyright February 21, 2021 by Rev. Bruce Goettsche
A presupposition is a conclusion you have drawn before you even begin to examine an issue. Here are some examples of presuppositions,
· Anything suggested by the political party you don’t agree with, is wrong and some kind of conspiracy
· Anything that appears supernatural has a natural explanation.
· Someone presented as an expert always gives the best information
· Anything on the internet is true
· People cannot change
· Anyone who is a Christian is mean, empty-headed, and wrong
· If you call something “unbiased” it is unbiased
Our assumptions (bias) hinder our ability to discern truth and to get along well in life. It can also be a real barrier in our relationship with God.
Today as we look at John 7:25-36 we are going to see a passage that shows us some of the assumptions that hindered people from following Jesus. As we do so, it is my hope we will perhaps be warned about some of the assumptions we make that also hinder us in our faith. First, let’s dig into the text.
25 Some of the people who lived in Jerusalem started to ask each other, “Isn’t this the man they are trying to kill? 26 But here he is, speaking in public, and they say nothing to him. Could our leaders possibly believe that he is the Messiah? 27 But how could he be? For we know where this man comes from. When the Messiah comes, he will simply appear; no one will know where he comes from.”
28 While Jesus was teaching in the Temple, he called out, “Yes, you know me, and you know where I come from. But I’m not here on my own. The one who sent me is true, and you don’t know him. 29 But I know him because I come from him, and he sent me to you.”
Presupposition: He Can’t be the Messiah, We Know His Origin
Presupposition: He Can’t be the Messiah, We Know His Origin
The people questioned why Jesus was allowed to teach publicly. They believed (correctly) the officials wanted to arrest Him. They wondered, if they were not arresting Him because they now did think He was the Messiah. But, rather than examine the matter more fully, they dismissed Jesus because they knew where He came from and their presupposition (wrong thinking) was “He will simply appear; no one would know where he comes from.”
This was something that was taught by the Rabbi’s. They said the Messiah “is unknown, and does not even know Himself, and has no power until [Elijah] come to anoint Him and make Him manifest to all.”
However, if they had studied the Scriptures, they would have known a number of things about the Messiah,
· He would be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2)
· He would be a descendent of David (Isaiah 11:1)
· Mt. 2:23 says the prophets said, “He would be called a Nazarene.”
If they had made some inquiries, they might have seen that John the Baptist was actually the “Elijah who was to come.” He had baptized (or anointed) Jesus. However, their presupposition kept them from understanding. They were headed in the wrong direction because of their presuppositions.
Jesus was dismissed because people knew His family, and they knew he was the Carpenter’s son. It is like dismissing someone because their skin color, their family name, their gender, or the rumors you have heard about them. It blinds you to the truth!
Because the religious leaders were looking in the wrong direction, they not only missed the Messiah . . . they actually murdered Him! JC Ryle writes,
There are thousands in the present day just as blind in their way as the Jews. They shut their eyes against the plainest facts and doctrines of Christianity, they pretend and say they do not understand, and cannot therefore believe the things that we press on their attention, as needed for salvation. But in nineteen out of twenty cases it is a willful ignorance. They do not believe what they do not like to believe. They will neither read, nor listen, nor search, nor think, nor inquire, honestly after truth. As the old proverb says, “There are none so blind as those who will not see.” (Expository Thoughts)
Too many turn away from the message of the gospel because they don’t like what they believe the Gospel to be. Because God is not taking away their problems, or not doing miracles for them, since He hasn’t made their life “magical,” He does not measure up to their presuppositions of what God “should” be. God refuses to be put into the “God-box” we are sometimes guilty of creating.
It is hard to love when we believe people who don’t believe the same is us are wrong. It is hard to grow when we believe we have it pretty well figured out and those who don’t believe as we do are pagans. I believe we must be cautious about our pronouncements about the Second Coming of Christ for the same reasons. It is easy to give our experience or make our country the central focus for the return of our Lord. That, I believe, is exactly what happened when Jesus came the first time, and everyone missed the Messiah and even put Him to death! God’s word (Jesus) tells us we cannot know when He will return. Jesus also taught the Second Coming would catch people by surprise. Our task is to live in a constant state of readiness, living every day as if this could be the day the Lord returns. We must be very cautious when we go beyond these teachings because we may end up on a wrong path trying to be very sincere.
Presupposition: We Have Power Over Him
Presupposition: We Have Power Over Him
30 Then the leaders tried to arrest him; but no one laid a hand on him, because his time had not yet come.
The presupposition of the leaders is: they thought they were in charge. They believed all they needed was an opportunity and they could arrest Jesus. But the truth is, they had no power over Him because it was not His time. It reminds us that our Lord’s suffering was voluntarily. He did not go to the cross because He was overpowered, He did not die because He couldn’t help it. No one had power over the Lord until that power was given to them. And the power was given to them because it was God’s purpose to save mankind through these actions.
We are prone to forget the Lord is God and we are His people. We serve Him, He does not serve us. Any notion that we have influence or “power” over Him by saying the right words, or attending the right church, or learning the right facts, quoting the right verses, or attending the right program, is humorous. Shouting does not help. Working yourself up into a frenzy doesn’t help. God does not work by our timetable or cater to our whims. He is independent, sovereign, and in charge. Things happen because God ordains things to happen. He is in NO WAY subject to us!
God does not owe us explanations, He doesn’t have to give us more evidence, and does not need to prove anything to us. Os Guiness, in his book DOUBT, writes,
Presuppositions are vital to faith. They affect the picture of reality we hold in our minds, and if they are sharply or poorly focused, reality will be correspondingly clear, blurred or distorted. As with a pair of glasses, presuppositions determine what we see and how we see it, but they do not necessarily determine what there is to be seen.
Think about a time you faced a crisis. What did your attitude and responses show about your presuppositions about God?
· Were you mad at Him because you felt He didn’t fulfill His promises to you (which were assumptions about what He should do)?
· Were you scared because you believed God must have abandoned you? (The assumption being God’s love is fickle).
· Were you confident because you knew God always works for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose? (A correct assumption God’s Word is true)
Our assumptions are an accurate picture of what we believe. If our presuppositions are wrong, our faith may very well be idolatrous. The real divide in America right now has to do with presuppositions. Your assumptions about absolute truth are going to change the way you approach the world.
I don’t want you to think it is all bad. If our presupposition is the Bible is the Word of God and tells us the truth, then when we feel that circumstances are overwhelming, we will recall that nothing happens except by God’s permission. We will draw comfort from the assertion that nothing can touch us unless God sees fit to allow it to touch us. Though we may not know why He allows certain things, we will trust His wisdom and love for us.
Someone who Acts Like the Messiah Likely IS the Messiah
Someone who Acts Like the Messiah Likely IS the Messiah
31 Many among the crowds at the Temple believed in him. “After all,” they said, “would you expect the Messiah to do more miraculous signs than this man has done?”
32 When the Pharisees heard that the crowds were whispering such things, they and the leading priests sent Temple guards to arrest Jesus. 33 But Jesus told them, “I will be with you only a little longer. Then I will return to the one who sent me. 34 You will search for me but not find me. And you cannot go where I am going.”
35 The Jewish leaders were puzzled by this statement. “Where is he planning to go?” they asked. “Is he thinking of leaving the country and going to the Jews in other lands? Maybe he will even teach the Greeks! 36 What does he mean when he says, ‘You will search for me but not find me,’ and ‘You cannot go where I am going’?”
This passage illustrates two different kinds of approaches to what happens in life and in the world. In the first case the people looked at the facts. They saw all the things Jesus was doing and said, “Contrary to your presupposition that He could not be the Messiah, what more would the Messiah do that Jesus is not already doing?” Their conclusion was He had to be the One sent by God because He was doing the work of God! They thought logically.
What we see from the leaders however is an even deeper obstinance. They refused to conclude that Jesus is the Messiah. They had already made up their mind. Jesus did not fit their presupposition of what the Messiah would be. As a result, they misread everything else. They were completely confused by the words of Jesus.
Some of the saddest words are “You will search for me but not find me’ and ‘You cannot go where I am going.” As long as this wall of unbelief remains there is no way for these leaders to be saved.
These rulers were the Bible Scholars of the day. They should have been the first to recognize and respond to Christ. But they were not. Instead, because of their close-mindedness, they were unable to see the truth. They were blind.
Our presuppositions color everything we see, hear, and believe. For example, we may believe someone is a very nice person and conclude they would never lead us astray. So, even though there are warning signs of problems, we will ignore these signs because we trust the nice person. As a result, we may follow a leader or a belief that takes us in the wrong direction.
Good Christian people suffer from many common presuppositions.
· Newer is Better (in the style of worship, in the music we sing, in the ideas we revere)
· The old way cannot be improved on (since we’ve never done it that way before we shouldn’t do it now).
· Even though the Bible says no one knows when the Lord will return, I think I have it figured out!
· If your conscience is OK with something, it means God is OK with it. (Even though the Bible says we can sear our conscience).
· A true Christian will see things the way I do.
· A person who has done what I have done can never be saved.
· A true believer will never have doubts.
· If I heard something about someone in church, it must be true.
· Our group (or church) is superior to all other groups.
· People I don’t like can’t be godly (Afterall, I have the gift of discernment)
You and I are undoubtedly guilty of presuppositions in our belief system. Some are correct, some are way off base. How do we tell the difference?
First, we must be aware that everyone is trying to shape our bias (or presupposition). Professors in schools, television programs, news commentators, politicians, authors of the books we read, and even our friends are trying to convince us of their presuppositions. They have a cultural bias (or worldview) that they are promoting (consciously or unconsciously). Every commercial and ad is trying to influence your thinking so you will have a bias for their product.
Of course, this is also true among Christians. Every sermon (including this one), every theological textbook, and even every song has a bias, a presupposition. Some of them are accurate and true. Some are not. We must learn to ask a very important question: what are they trying to get me to believe? And then we must ask, “Does what they say is true, coincide with what the Bible says is true?”
The problem is: this demands some effort. We must truly listen to the Word of God rather than searching the Word of God for verses that support our bias. We must listen and work hard to hear what is being said in God’s Word.
Second, we must confront our own presuppositions. Again, as we read the Word of God, we need to continually ask ourselves if what I believe or am embracing is something that is outside the Word of God? You see, it doesn’t matter how fervently you believe something. What matters is whether or not what you believe is true. Is it what the Bible REALLY teaches?
We must get good at asking ourselves, “Why do I believe this to be true?” You will be surprised at how many times your answer will be: “Because I believe it to be true!” or “Because I like this . . . it ‘makes sense to me.” Lots of things “make sense to people” that are not true.
Third, we need to be part of a group of believers that is willing to ask questions and is unafraid to ask, “Why?” or “Where do you find this in the Bible?” Do not assume that your beliefs are wrong simply because someone disagrees with you or ridicules you. Make people prove their position. Ask for explanations. Weigh everything by the Word of God and the testimony of the Holy Spirit. But be careful! We can conclude the Holy Spirit is speaking to us when in reality we are hearing exactly what we want to hear.
Fourth, prepare your minds for action! We are becoming a culture that often only repeats soundbites. If we hear something enough times, we start to believe it must be true. If pleasant images can be combined with powerful slogans, we find more quickly believe what was said. This even happens in many churches. Slick presentations, charismatic speakers, and a growing congregation (numerically) and people conclude God is blessing the church. However, if the truth of Scripture is being replaced with pop psychology and a pandering to the selfishness of people, you can grow a church that is leading people away from God rather than to Him!! We must engage our minds! We must put aside the emotions and ask, “Is this true, is it Biblical?”
One of the most common slogans we hear is: truth is relative! In other words, it is not the same for everyone. Now think about this one! If truth is not the same for everyone . . . can it really be true? What would happen if the measurement of one foot (12 inches) was different for everyone? The concept of “a foot” would then be meaningless. Those who say there is no such thing as absolute truth, are, of course, assuming you will take what they say, as absolute truth! In fact, they are giving you what they believe is an absolute truth!
There is too much at stake. Our relationship with God is at stake, our eternity is on the line, and our enjoyment of God in this life is at the mercy of our presuppositions. When we stop using the mind God has given us, we will, according to the Romans 1, find God, giving us over to a depraved mind to engage in all kinds of wickedness. When we stop thinking clearly, we lose that which makes us most uniquely human and moves a step closer to simply being animals.
This is a simple Biblical account, but the application of what we see is of the highest importance. May God guide us by His word and guard us from presuppositions that lead us away from Him while all the while feeling quite superior inside.
 Richard D. Phillips, John, ed. Richard D. Phillips, Philip Graham Ryken, and Daniel M. Doriani, 1st ed., vol. 1, Reformed Expository Commentary (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2014), 472.