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The Words In Red – John 7:25-52

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.

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Now some of them from Jerusalem said, “Is this not He whom they seek to kill? But look! He speaks boldly, and they say nothing to Him. Do the rulers know indeed that this is truly the Christ? However, we know where this Man is from; but when the Christ comes, no one knows where He is from.”

When reading the Gospel of John, there are many points where it becomes a bit confusing. It seems that Jesus is talking about one thing, and then suddenly, we are on a different topic as we hear the response among the people. These passages out of John 7 are a good example. The people are murmuring among themselves about the identity of Jesus. In the next verse, Jesus makes a declaration from within the temple.

Then Jesus cried out, as He taught in the temple, saying, “You both know Me, and you know where I am from; and I have not come of Myself, but He who sent Me is true, whom you do not know. But I know Him, for I am from Him, and He sent Me.”

At first, it seems that this cry from Jesus directly responds to the murmurs among the people, except for what follows. The next verse talks about how they tried to take Him because of what He said in the temple.

Therefore they sought to take Him; but no one laid a hand on Him, because His hour had not yet come. And many of the people believed in Him, and said, “When the Christ comes, will He do more signs than these which this Man has done?”

Next, the religious leaders, the Pharisees, respond to this growing perception among the people.

The Pharisees heard the crowd murmuring these things concerning Him, and the Pharisees and the chief priests sent officers to take Him.

And Jesus responds again:

Then Jesus said to them, “I shall be with you a little while longer, and then I go to Him who sent Me. You will seek Me and not find Me, and where I am you cannot come.”

At this point, the story seems to work its way off the rails, and it is hard to follow for the rest of the chapter. The crowds and the religious leaders begin wondering where Jesus is going to go that they can’t follow. Is He talking about the dispersion, which means the large population of Jews who lived among the Gentile world outside of Israel?

Jesus responds:

On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.

What does that have to do with the questions they are asking? Even worse, the people’s response to Jesus’s words appears to completely ignore what He just said about the Holy Spirit. They are still talking about where He is from, what the Bible says about the Messiah, and whether Jesus fits the Biblical description or not.

Therefore many from the crowd, when they heard this saying, said, “Truly this is the Prophet.” Others said, “This is the Christ.” But some said, “Will the Christ come out of Galilee? Has not the Scripture said that the Christ comes from the seed of David and from the town of Bethlehem, where David was?” So there was a division among the people because of Him. Now some of them wanted to take Him, but no one laid hands on Him.

These portions of the story in chapter 7, which often happens throughout the gospel, do not seem to fit and flow together.

Then the officers came to the chief priests and Pharisees, who said to them, “Why have you not brought Him?” The officers answered, “No man ever spoke like this Man!” Then the Pharisees answered them, “Are you also deceived? Have any of the rulers or the Pharisees believed in Him? But this crowd that does not know the law is accursed.” Nicodemus (he who came to Jesus by night, being one of them) said to them “Does our law judge a man before it hears him and knows what he is doing?” They answered and said to him, “Are you also from Galilee? Search and look, for no prophet has arisen out of Galilee.”

Words In Red vs. Words In Black

The story makes better sense when we break it into two pieces. Many Bibles feature the words spoken by Jesus in red ink, while everything else is in black ink. It is a little easier to follow when we break these passages into that distinction. The Words of Jesus flow in one continuous stream of thought, easy to follow and comprehend, while the words and happenings among the people are also easier to follow and comprehend.

Look at all the words of Jesus in this passage, the words in red. If you are following along in your Bible, these are verses 28-29, 33-34, and 37-38.

“You both know Me, and you know where I am from; and I have not come of Myself, but He who sent Me is true, whom you do not know. But I know Him, for I am from Him, and He sent Me. I shall be with you a little while longer, and then I go to Him who sent Me. You will seek Me and not find Me, and where I am you cannot come. If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”  

Pretty easy to follow, isn’t it? Jesus is drawing the people to Him. He is announcing there is a short window of time that He will be with them. God sent him, and He will satisfy those thirsty for real life with rivers of living water that arise from within them. These are powerful and beautiful words.

But the people appear to miss all of it. They are caught up in debates about who He is, where did He come from, what is their interpretation of the scripture, what does Jesus mean by these things. The second story playing out, the words in black, are the confusing and chaotic tumult Jesus operated within. He did not bend to it. He did and spoke what God instructed Him to do and speak. The words in black, the events and debates all around in, could easily have disrupted and corrupted His purposes and intent if He began to bow to them. But he didn’t.

The flow of the gospel is confusing because we are seeing Jesus operate on one plane of purpose and intent (the words in red) while the world around Him operated on another (the words in black).

How often is our own life filled with confusion, chaos, tumult, and incoherence because we are trying to synchronize the words in red (the voice of God) to the words in black (the noise of our environment)? Frequently that tumult is disguised as the inner voice of our assumptions, opinions, politics, and other noise sourced from our environment, just like the questions and responses of the crowd to Jesus in John 7.

The pathway for single-minded purpose and strength is through Christ. Our development to maturity is tightly linked to our ability to turn our attention from the world around us and hear and obey the voice of God in speaking in our hearts.

Subscribe to the blog as we continue our walk through the book of John tomorrow.

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JB Shreve

JB Shreve is the host of the JB Shreve podcast and the End of History podcast channels. He is the author of multiple books.

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