John 7:14-16 (NIV)
14Not until halfway through the Feast did Jesus go up to the temple courts and begin to teach. 15The Jews were amazed and asked, “How did this man get such learning without having studied?”
16Jesus answered, “My teaching is not my own. It comes from him who sent me.
Many commentators (this one, for example) have addressed the significance of this exchange between Jesus and the contemporary Jewish religious leaders. They remark that Jesus hasn’t “studied”—learned the religious discipline from an established rabbi—but they cannot help but be amazed at His understanding. Jesus replies that His understanding of God comes from God Himself!
Christians who are properly instructed in the doctrine of the Holy Spirit would not normally find this statement unusual. But to these Pharisees and leaders, this statement must have seemed not only astounding, but the height of blasphemy. Indeed, they tried to seize Jesus when He repeated this incredible claim about Himself; that the Almighty, Eternal God is His Teacher! The Pharisees sent guards to arrest Him, but they came back empty-handed, too astonished at His words to carry out their orders.
What’s the problem here? In Matthew 9:16-17, Jesus talks about old and new things—a parable about fabric and wineskins. The old is reaching the end of its purpose, and the New has arrived. John hints later in 7:39 at exactly what is coming. Not everyone is ready.
It is almost possible to partially understand the dilemma faced by the practitioners of the old ways. In the Old Testament, the Presence of God was a mighty and terrible power, often afflicting or killing those who affront the Most Holy, like Nadab and Abihu and Uzziah. Only one person, selected from the elite of the descendants of Aaron, could enter the Holiest Place where the Ark of the Covenant and God’s very Presence resided, and only on the Day of Antonement prescribed by God. That priest made careful preparations, lest he offend God’s Presence and die there. Tradition says that he went in with a rope around his ankle, so his body could be removed if he made a mistake—no one else dared to enter there to remove the uncleaness of a corpse.
The Holy Spirit empowered select individuals to fulfill His Purpose, like Moses, Bezalel and Oholiab, Sampson, David, Jeremiah, Isaiah, and other judges and prophets. Everyone else had to wait for the prophets and selected leaders to reveal God’s intentions to them, even the Kings. Most of the ordinary people could not even approach the precinct of the Sanctuary without special permission.
But the Prophets, for those who were listening, were already telling of what God had in store for us. Isaiah (11:1-2) says of Jesus:
1 A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. 2 The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him— the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,the Spirit of counsel and of power, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD –
Jeremiah (31:31-34) proclaims God’s New Covenant, saying:
31 “The time is coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah.32 It will not be like the covenantI made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them,” declares the LORD.
33 “This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time,” declares the LORD. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts.I will be their God, and they will be my people.
34 No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the LORD. “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”
The New Covenant is Jesus, the Christ, the Law placed in our minds and written on our hearts by His Holy Spirit. God proclaims that under the new Way, we will all know Him directly, as His Spirit resides with each of us.
Isaiah (54:13) likewise says:
13 All your sons will be taught by the LORD, and great will be your children’s peace.
Somehow the leadership, steeped in the old ways and their traditions, missed the most revolutionary change in human history, in spite of centuries of God’s preparation and instruction to bring us to His Christ, the New Covenant.
Jesus later makes even more astounding statements about these momentous changes.
14He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you. 15All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you.
As if His ultimate Sacrifice on our behalf to save us from our sins wasn’t enough, Jesus proclaims that He will share with us His rights as God’s Son:
26But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.
The Holy Spirit writes God’s Word on our hearts, recreates us according to His Ways, provides a deposit to confirm for us our coming inheritance in God’s Kingdom, finally gives us real power over the sins and lusts that torment us, and so much more.
There is a recurring “rationalism”about all of this, especially in the Baptist Churches with which I am familiar. It’s as if many of us are actually afraid that someone who begins to talk about these things might suddenly start waving his hands in the air or do something else embarrassing. Others in the Church, especially the more technically or scientifically minded, seem to find the subject too “supernatural”—some actually think that Christianity can be lived and practiced without it!
Make no mistake about this. There is a serious problem with “natural” things—they are imperfect, and they die. Unless you gain the power to transcend the “natural”, so will you. We must never set aside this “other” Gift, bought for us by the priceless Sacrifice of Jesus Christ:
14Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens,[e] Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. 15For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. 16Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
This is the confidence that allows us to press on toward the Purpose God has set for us, even though we fail, in spite of everything in Hell and on Earth set up against us:
12Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
37No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.