This post is part of an ongoing series in the study of John we are doing during January. Subscribe to the blog for daily updates in the Bible Study posts. Subscribe to the podcasts to hear our discussion of the book of John throughout this month. Join us in your daily devotions as we travel through this fascinating account of the life of Christ.
After His brothers had gone up to the festival, then He also went up, not openly but secretly. The Jews were looking for Him at the festival and saying, “Where is He?” And there was a lot of discussion about Him among the crowds. Some were saying, “He’s a good man.” Others were saying, “No, on the contrary, He’s deceiving the people.” Still, nobody was talking publicly about Him because they feared the Jews. When the festival was already half over, Jesus went up into the temple complex and began to teach. Then the Jews were amazed and said, “How does He know the Scriptures, since He hasn’t been trained?” Jesus answered them, “My teaching isn’t Mine but is from the One who sent Me. If anyone wants to do His will, he will understand whether the teaching is from God or if I am speaking on My own. The one who speaks for himself seeks his own glory. But He who seeks the glory of the One who sent Him is true, and there is no unrighteousness in Him. Didn’t Moses give you the law? Yet none of you keeps the law! Why do you want to kill Me?” “You have a demon!” the crowd responded. “Who wants to kill You?” “I did one work, and you are all amazed,” Jesus answered. “Consider this: Moses has given you circumcision — not that it comes from Moses but from the fathers — and you circumcise a man on the Sabbath. If a man receives circumcision on the Sabbath so that the law of Moses won’t be broken, are you angry at Me because I made a man entirely well on the Sabbath? 24 Stop judging according to outward appearances; rather judge according to righteous judgment.” John 7:10-24 (HCSB)
The most widely known verse of scripture is Matthew 7:1 – Judge not, lest ye be judged. If you were to poll a hundred heathens who have no desire or interest in seeking out the ways of God, I bet 99 of them would know this verse. They would even be able to quote it in King James English. In a society where freedom and liberty are motives for glorifying self-will, it is no wonder that such a verse would be so renowned. People assume it gives a Biblical basis to do as they please, free from the judgment of others. But a fuller understanding of Matthew 7:1 reveals that Christ never directed people not to judge. He directed them toward a standard of righteous judgment. That same standard is made explicit in verse 24 of John 7:
Stop judging according to outward appearances; rather judge according to righteous judgment.”
We all must have the discernment and capacity to judge and determine right from wrong, true from false. The secret is not in refraining from judgment but judging correctly with righteous judgment. I like the way this verse is translated in the Phillips Translation:
You must not judge by the appearance of things but by the reality!
Undeterred by the rampant and polarized speculation that swirled throughout Jerusalem concerning Him, Jesus marched directly into the belly of the beast, into the temple itself, and began to teach. Each of the gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) makes note of how Jesus’s teaching amazed the people. He did not learn to teach in a high-brow school or apprenticed under an esteemed religious leader of the day. He spoke with the authority of the voice of God itself. That authority shot straight to the hearts of the people. Some were convicted. Others became angry. Jesus explained to them that their ability to judge Him, His words, and the ways of God correctly was essential for them to respond correctly.
In response to Jesus, many from the crowd (not the religious leaders but the crowd) accused Jesus of being demon-possessed. Consider that for a moment! They misjudged so terribly that they perceived a demon-possessed man when the Son of God spoke.
Jesus’s call to judge correctly and righteously was a response to this blind and ignorant response to Him from the people. They claimed to know the Word of God but did not understand common sense realities about God’s Word.
History has shown that the human mind is easily manipulated. It responds readily to categories, code words, and social nuances. That is why it is so dangerous to allow any influence of this world, even good things, to hold the dominant sway over our thinking. The religious leaders kept many of these people confused and led them astray. People with good intentions made wicked judgments and went the wrong way.
We must become people of the Word, familiar with the ways and thinking of God, open to His movement, and constantly seeking His preferences. When we judge, our judgment should not be based upon anything in this dark and degenerate world – no matter how good it seems. Our judgment should come from the Word of God and His Spirit.