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The Jewish Festival of Sukkoth just finished yesterday. This is a harvest festival where the Jewish people celebrate God’s presence with them in the 40 years of wandering in the wilderness.

When Jewish people celebrate this feast, they build a booth or tabernacle, a tented area, like an outdoor eating and living space, in their backyard. Here they will eat meals, and some people even sleeping outside. Sukkoth is the most festive celebration of the year.

Jews still celebrate Sukkoth in Jerusalem. The culmination is the night called Simchat Torah which means, “Rejoicing in the Law,” and is a celebration of God giving the Law to Moses. The Temple area will be lit and there will be parades and dancing.

Now, we remember Jesus is in Jerusalem for the Sukkoth festival. It is now the end of the festival and Jesus has been teaching. In today’s passage, Jesus is at the Temple Treasury which is at the entrance located in the Court of Women. It is called that, because men and women are separated for worship and this is as far as women could go. Both men and women are there, just the boundary for women, as it were.

Here people give their offering. This its also a place of prominence for the Sukkoth Festival. In this replica of the Temple, notice the four big lights in the Treasury area. Each candelabra had four branches, and at the top of every branch there was a large bowl. Four young men bearing 10 gallon pitchers of oil would climb ladders to fill the four golden bowls on each candelabra. And then the oil in those bowls was ignited.

So picture sixteen beautiful blazes leaping toward the sky from these golden lamps. Remember that the Temple was on a hill above the rest of the city, so the glorious glow was a sight for the entire city to see. In addition to the light, musicians played their harps, lyres, cymbals and trumpets to make joyful music to the Lord. What a glorious celebration! The light was to remind the people of how God’s Shekinah glory had once filled His Temple. But in the person of Jesus, God’s glory was once again present in that Temple. And He used that celebration to announce that very fact. He was teaching right here at Simchat Torah time, maybe standing right next to those magnificent candelabras when He declares to all who were gathered there,

“I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.”

ME

Read about Sukkoth and watch some travelogue clips of the festival in Jerusalem.

Then Nicodemus, the leader who had met with Jesus earlier, spoke up. “Is it legal to convict a man before he is given a hearing?” he asked.

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They replied, “Are you from Galilee, too? Search the Scriptures and see for yourself—no prophet ever comes from Galilee!”

Nicodemus is the Pharisee who visited Jesus at night to ask him questions. When Jesus told him, “You must be born again…”

Now, Nicodemus is showing integrity because he does know the law and is calling the way the other Pharisees are attacking Jesus into question. Here we see the case where someone sympathetic to Jesus and his teachings is willing to give him an opportunity to support his claims.

But the Pharisees are resorting to ridicule and sarcasm again.

“Are you from Galilee, too?”

Of course they know where Nicodemus is from, he is a key Jewish leader.

Then they use a blatant lie.

Search the Scriptures and see for yourself—no prophet ever comes from Galilee!”

This is the worst offense. These guys have memorized the whole Bible. Of course prophets come from Galilee. Like Jonah. Or Hosea. They are just boldly lying to Nicodemus’ face, except that he is also a Pharisee and he knows that they know they are lying!

When you seek the truth it takes courage. There is always the chance you will be attacked, ridiculed, and held in contempt. But the truth will not be stopped.

To be a Christian, however, also means you have consideration for others who oppose the truth. You don’t use the same weapons of attack, ridicule and contempt. These are people created in the image of God and precious in his sight. And you don’t need to use false and disrespectful ways, anyway. The truth always wins out, when it comes from Jesus.

The Pharisees seem to know what is right, they just don’t want to lose the upper hand. They don’t want to lose their power. They are threatened by Jesus, because many of the people are starting to listen to him and some are believing in him.

But, we know that other Pharisees and leaders of the Jewish people will eventually be persuaded and courageous after Jesus raises from the dead. After all, the earliest Christians all come out of Judaism!

Jesus doesn’t need us to defend him, he calls us to live his life. We are never surprised when people try to use logical fallacies to oppose Jesus. We are not shocked when ridicule and lying are used against us. When you worship Jesus and you follow him, the only person’s opinion about you that really matters is, “What does Jesus think about me?”

He thinks you are someone unbelievably special…

ME

Jesus is always watching you. When, especially does he have a smile on his face when he is watching you?

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John 7

“Have you been led astray, too?” the Pharisees mocked.

“Is there a single one of us rulers or Pharisees who believes in him?

This foolish crowd follows him, but they are ignorant of the law. God’s curse is on them!”

The Pharisees are using three classic examples of false logic to try to gain advantage.

The first logical fallacy is the ad hominem attack.

This means attacking the person rather than their position. Using sarcasm and ridicule to attack the motive and character of the person, rather than showing the weakness of their argument. If your position has strong enough evidence and support, it shouldn’t be necessary for you to use sarcasm and ridicule. When you resort to cleverness to try to gain power over another’s thinking, it is generally a sign that your position is weak, or at least that’s what you think.

The second logical fallacy is called an appeal to the masses.

If the majority of people think the position is correct, then it is valid. The Pharisees are saying since so all of us are opposed to Jesus and his teaching, he must not be legitimate.

This is wrong on two levels. First, as the Pharisees will soon find out, many Jewish leaders do believe in Jesus. But, second, even if no one believes in Jesus, he might still be telling the truth.

The third logical fallacy is appeal to authority or expertise.

The Pharisees are saying they have the academic credentials and so their opinion is more valid that those who aren’t educated in the proper schools.

No, it doesn’t matter how much education you have or what schools you went to, your position must support itself. And someone who doesn’t have as much education as you may be more knowledgable.

ME

What are ways Christians experience ad hominem attack?

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John 7

When the Temple guards returned without having arrested Jesus, the leading priests and Pharisees demanded, “Why didn’t you bring him in?”

“We have never heard anyone speak like this!” the guards responded.

Good for the guards!

The Temple guards are open to analyzing the teachings of Jesus for themselves. If you study the teachings of Jesus and apply logic and reason, you can make a case for his teachings being accurate. No one has ever understood the human condition and reflected reality so clearly.

If you try to honestly live out his teachings in your life, any of his teachings, you will know he is right. It will make sense.

In our country, for example, people from all political persuasion, all walks of life- whatever terms you use- conservative, liberal, right, left- most people actually do claim the teachings of Jesus and his followers as their own. How can I say that?

Because from the right to the left people admire the teachings of Jesus, it’s just they don’t know or they ignore it comes from him.

  • Be honest in all you say and do.
  • Care for the needs of all people, not just your own clan.
  • Men and women have equal worth.
  • Have a special sense of compassion for the poor and children.
  • Work against violence and revenge and toward what is good, even for those who are your enemy.
  • Have compassion for those in prison.
  • Give people another chance.
  • Care for all of creation.

Well, if the teaching of Jesus are so admired, why isn’t everyone a Christian, or at least admiring of Christians?

One reason is whenever atheists or other skeptics are critical of the teachings of Jesus, they are generally misinformed or simplistic in their understanding of the Gospels, or they haven’t carefully examined them at all. They haven’t made the connection that Jesus is the source of some of their most cherished beliefs.

Another reason is we Christians are fallen, like everyone else, and we aren’t pure models for Jesus. We aren’t always good ambassadors.

But, even when we do follow the beautiful model of Jesus, those who don’t follow are fallen people, too, and they will choose not to see it. They will underemphasize the good or try to explain it away and overemphasize our fallenness.

The real sorrow of those who deny Jesus is they are influenced by the devil who is helping to hide the good.

And God wants us to freely trust in him and so God allows us to deceive ourselves.

ME

Look for examples of people who deny Jesus but admire his teaching.

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John 7

“Surely this man is the Prophet we’ve been expecting.”

Others said, “He is the Messiah.”

Still others said, “But he can’t be! Will the Messiah come from Galilee?

For the Scriptures clearly state that the Messiah will be born of the royal line of David, in Bethlehem, the village where King David was born.”

So the crowd was divided about him.

Some even wanted him arrested, but no one laid a hand on him.

In the First Century, during the time of Jesus, when you asked, “Who is Jesus?” here is how you might answer.

Some say, he is the prophet of God.

Yes, he is the prophet of God that you read about in Deuteronomy 18, but he is so much more than that.

Some say he Messiah.

Yes, he is the Messiah.

Some say is not the Messiah, because he is not from Bethlehem.

Yes, he is the Messiah and he was born in Bethlehem, he just moved back to Galilee. You simply aren’t aware of this.

Some, just want him arrested.

In this case, you may or may not think Jesus is the Messiah.

If you think he is the Messiah, but you want him arrested anyway, you are probably corrupt and don’t want Jesus to take away your power and prestige.

If you don’t think he is the Messiah, you probably want him arrested because he could be a troublemaker to the Romans and you don’t want the Romans to go ballistic.

In the 21st Century when we think of this same question, “Who is Jesus?” we get similar responses.

Some say he is a great teacher, he is just not the Savior of the world.

People of many faith families, like Judaism or Islam, or even respectful atheists, might say this.

Some say he the Savior.

About half the world says this and would identify with Jesus as Savior.

Some say he is not the Savior, because he doesn’t fit what you think the Savior should be. You have no proof.

This would be some Jewish people and some skeptics of a variety of worldviews.

Some say he is bad influence and his teachings should be forbidden and his followers silenced!

You are probably a person of ill will who is afraid your power is being threatened by his followers.

It seems everyone has an opinion about Jesus. But, God doesn’t just leave us with opinions, God gives us brains to think and logic and reason to help our thinking. This is why if you have ever given the Gospels a careful, straightforward reading you generally come away amazed.

ME

Who do you say Jesus is?

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John 7

10 But after his brothers left for the festival, Jesus also went, though secretly, staying out of public view. 11 The Jewish leaders tried to find him at the festival and kept asking if anyone had seen him.

Last week, we heard Jesus say this: “I’m not going to this festival.” The text for today says he did go. So, what gives? Is Jesus wishy washy or is he lying? Is John, the writer, confused? No, to all of this. The Greek word used by John for “not” also means “not yet.” Some of the earliest Bible translations use, “not yet.” OK, what next?

Jesus is concerned about the Jewish leaders wanting to kill him. He goes to the big Feast of Booths festival in Jerusalem secretly. The last time Jesus was in Jerusalem for a festival, he healed the man who couldn’t walk, at the pool of Bethsaida, the one who took up his mat and walked where everyone could see him. The Jewish leaders are upset and they accuse Jesus of breaking the Jewish sabbath law. He is a threat to their power and their understanding of God’s ways. Prior to this we read, ”Jesus (He) wanted to stay out of Judea, where the Jewish leaders were plotting his death.”

Well, now that he has decided to go secretly to Jerusalem we can see why he ought to be concerned. The Jewish leaders are, indeed, looking for him. With an estimated 1-3 million people in Jerusalem during festival time, I don’t know how they plan on finding him! But, they are not going to let it go. He is that much of a threat.

ME

Have you ever sensed the idea you are a threat to others because you follow Jesus?

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John 7

16 So Jesus told them, “My message is not my own; it comes from God who sent me.17 Anyone who wants to do the will of God will know whether my teaching is from God or is merely my own. 18 Those who speak for themselves want glory only for themselves, but a person who seeks to honor the one who sent him speaks truth, not lies.

In the final analysis, what is the life being led by the person who is following a model and set of teachings? God makes it possible for us to know which way to go. We see this as we look to Jesus.

If I say I am a Christian, but am angry and vindictive, for instance, it isn’t Jesus who is at fault for my attitude and actions. It is only if I want to do the will of God that I am seeking the truth. If I know my anger and vindictiveness are ungodly and repent of them, knowing the struggle is real, then I will invite the Spirit of God to cleanse me and seek forgiveness from those whom I wrong. We can follow Jesus without being jerks about it, after all.

Instead we are wise to seek to be more Christlike in the way we live our lives. What is the alternative? It may look like we can cut corners and follow what we want out of life, but we are fooling ourselves. As Jesus said, ‘We can gain all that the world thinks is important and lose our souls.’

Lose that which connects us most to God. Lose his truth.

If we want what Jesus wants for us, this is what life looks like.

Matthew 7:7 “Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you.”

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14 Then, midway through the festival, Jesus went up to the Temple and began to teach. 15 The people were surprised when they heard him. “How does he know so much when he hasn’t been trained?” they asked.

Jesus decides to go public on his terms. He teaches directly at the Temple where the Jewish religious teachers, the rabbis, would teach. Rabbis of his day would choose their own students, but some would also share their teachings outside the Temple at a special area by the entrance steps.

Rabbis were always students of rabbis. In the days of Jesus, the best and the brightest young men were chosen to be students by their rabbi. Jesus didn’t have an earthly rabbi. He had the teaching and model of God the Father. Who does he think he is?

We notice this same attitude today. To be considered wise you are a university professor. These are the people who get interviewed on TV. Or an author. Usually they are one and the same.

I don’t trust someone with a credential without testing what they are teaching. You can have all the degrees in the world and be as dumb as a bag of hammers.

You have to remember the savior we follow is the most brilliant man who ever lived. So, I especially have issues with an intellectual who is speaking on ultimate issues of life and reality, whose teachings don’t match those of Jesus. I don’t care what university you went to, you are not a man or woman of wisdom.

Jesus went right to the source.

ME

Pray for wisdom when you are facing difficult problems at work or school. Bring you concerns to Jesus.

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John 7

13 But no one had the courage to speak favorably about him in public, for they were afraid of getting in trouble with the Jewish leaders.

Christians throughout the world are actually being killed because of their faith in Jesus. When you consider it, this is is a sign of weakness as well as evil in those who oppose Jesus.

When you think it through logically, there is a weakness with your own viewpoint if you are attempting to silence someone who thinks differently. Christians are encouraged to test out our faith compared to others. In fact, this is where the whole concept of freedom of speech comes from, originally. Out of the biblical  teaching of testing the spirits. 1 Thessalonians 5:21, for instance.

21 but test everything that is said. Hold on to what is good.

This is a key strength of Christianity at its best. When you take the model and teachings of Jesus and the best practices of those who follow him, and then lay it on the table compared to any other religion or philosophy at their best, Christianity is clearly the strongest view of reality.

Christians at their best will never force, brow beat or manipulate others to try to get them to follow Jesus. It isn’t necessary. We simply share the compassion of Jesus with everyone, and share his teaching with those who are receptive. This includes something as simple as sharing why we personally follow Jesus.

ME

Do you follow Jesus? Why? Write your answer down, memorize it, and be prepared to share it.  

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64 But some of you do not believe me.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning which ones didn’t believe, and he knew who would betray him.)

65 Then he said, “That is why I said that people can’t come to me unless the Father gives them to me.”

If you have faith that Jesus can do what he says he can do, this faith itself comes from God. You can’t come to God any other way than by Jesus. You can’t come to God through human effort. You can’t come to God through your intellect alone or your spiritually, how in tune you are to the mystery, you can’t come to God through your emotional experience. You come to God through Jesus. Then with confidence in Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, God comes to you.  God reveals himself in your intellect, your spirituality and your emotion.

This is not for everyone. Not everyone is open to Jesus. Once again, if you invite Jesus into your life, you accept his teaching. And one of his teachings is you can’t do faith alone.

We are called to follow Jesus as a community of those who follow Jesus. 

ME

“I am spiritual; I am just not religious.”  What does this mean to you?