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Understanding Jesus

John 7:32-36
The Pharisees heard the crowd whispering such things about him. Then the chief priests and the Pharisees sent temple guards to arrest him. Jesus said, ‘I am with you for only a short time, and then I am going to the one who sent me. You will look for me, but you will not find me; and where I am, you cannot come.’ The Jews said to one another, ‘Where does this man intend to go that we cannot find him? Will he go where our people live scattered among the Greeks, and teach the Greeks? What did he mean when he said, “You will look for me, but you will not find me,” and “Where I am, you cannot come”?’ (NIVUK)

Jesus was speaking the truth, but the crowds could not understand who He was, where He came from or where He was going.  The apparent indulgence of the religious leaders to His public ministry at the Festival of Tabernacles confused the people in Jerusalem (John 7:25-27).  Was He the Messiah or not?  His miracles and teaching clearly had divine power, but He was a carpenter (Mark 6:3) from Nazareth, which was not a respected religious town (John 1:46).  They did not know that He was born in Bethlehem (John 7:42), or understand that Jesus came from God, was going to God (John 13:3), and that He is God (John 1:18).

The religious leaders did not want to give this Messianic speculation any more room to grow.  All they knew was that He was a threat to their authority over the people, a privilege granted by the Romans provided that they maintained civil order.  If the people rebelled publicly, the Romans would impose martial law.  John 11:48 describes their fearful dilemma: “If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our temple and our nation.”  So they sent guards to arrest Him quietly before He stirred up the crowd to riot (Matthew 26:3-5); but their consciences would not let them seize Him (John 7:45-49).

The words of Jesus were unforgettable.  But what did He mean about ‘going to the One who sent me’, ‘you will look for me’, and ‘you cannot come’?  Did He mean that He would leave Jerusalem and teach the Jewish diaspora scattered widely in countries around the Mediterranean Sea?  Would He go to teach the Gentiles as well?  He was simply predicting that in a short while (the next six months) He would die, be raised from the dead and then would ascend to the Father.  When that happened, they would not be able to find Him. In fact, nobody who resists Jesus, despises His cross and refuses to serve Him can go to heaven.  But the work of preaching the gospel to the rest of the world was delegated to the Apostles and those who have followed them, like us (Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 1:8).
Many presume that after this life they will go to a 'better place', especially if they have been religiously active.  But Jesus taught that only those who submitted to Him in this life will be received into heaven. "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!" (Matthew 7:21-23).  The key to being welcomed by Jesus into His home one day is to make Him welcome in our hearts now.

Dear Lord. Thank You that You have a place in Your home for all who repent and receive Jesus. I am sorry for failing to make that clear to my friends and family, allowing them to assume that there is a 'better place' for them even though they resist the call of Jesus. Please help me to explain Your loving salvation so that they will understand and put their trust in Christ, while there is still time. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams