Sermon: John 7:10-24: Why do people reject Jesus? (Part 2)


Remember that this is part two of a two part sermon on John 7:1-24. I had hoped to cover all 24 verses last week in a single sermon but simply ran out of time. That’s why I decided to break our consideration of this passage into two sermons. You might be thinking to yourself, why not simply preach two sermons? Why say that they are parts one and two? The answer is this: it seems to me that a single theme runs throughout these 24 verses, therefore I think it is best to keep them together.

The theme is this: We are told of men and women who reject Jesus. Many do not believe in him – they will not identify with him, or trust in his name. Notice that verses 1-24 not only reveal that this is true, the text also has something to say about why this is true.  The question why? was our focus last week, and it will remain our question this week. Why do people reject or deny Christ? That is the thing that this passage addresses, I think.

Here is what is revealed in this text:

Jesus’ own siblings did not believe. Why? Because they were in love, not with God, but with the things of the world!

The crowds, as we will see, also refused to openly identify with Jesus. Why? Because they were in love with the approval, not of God, but of others.

And the Jews also (that is to say, the leaders of the Jews) did not believe. Why? Because they loved bringing glory, not to God, but to themselves.

And why did John reveal these things? On one level we might say that he simply wanted to report the facts of what happened. The Jew’s, the crowds, and even Jesus’ own siblings did not believe – it’s a fact! But I’m sure there was deeper reason as to why John told us of these things. Remember, and do not forget, that John’s objective is to persuade us to believe! And so as he records for us these facts, they are not bare facts. No, John is seeking to persuade us to not make the same mistakes that the Jews, the crowds, and even Jesus’ own brothers made as they engaged with Jesus.

I made much of this point last Sunday, and I think it right that I make much of it again today: the answer that this passage gives to the question why do people reject Jesus? is this: Men and women reject Jesus from the heart. I am not speaking of that ball of flesh that beats within our chest, but rather the soul of man. I’m talking about our intellect, our will, our affections. The heart – that which is at the core of man – is what drives us to do what we do.

If we were to answer the question, why? – Why do people come to Christ or reject him? Why do people choose to sin or to refrain from sin? – If we are to answer that question we must first know something basic about the nature of man. Men and women do what their hearts lead them to do. We make choices from the heart. The condition of our heart is what leads us to do what we do.

I do hope that you are able to see, even now in the introduction to this sermon, why this is an important thing for us to talk about. This isn’t about reading John 7:1-24 and making some cute observations about the text. No, this is about recognizing something fundamental and essential concerning the way we work as human beings.

Let me prove how practical and useful this is before we even get into the text for today.

Think back to before you believed in Christ. For some of you this is impossible given that you were raised in the faith and grew up knowing him (you will have to use your imaginations). But some of you can remember a time when you did not believe. Perhaps you had heard the gospel, but it seemed foolish to you. You were living a life of unrepentant sin. Why? The answer would have to be this: you loved the world supremely, and you did not love God.  When your saw the things of this world – money, possession, power, the approval of man, and many other things associated with the sinful flesh – you were drawn to them. Those things were appealing to you,  and Christ seemed most unappealing. But then God transformed your what? Your heart! What once was dead to the things of God, was now alive. What once was dark was filled with light. And for the first time, Christ and his gospel appealed to you.  Your mind was enlightened, your affections altered, you will renewed, and so you believed in Christ, really and truly, and from the heart – a heart that had been transformed by the grace of God.

But understand that these truths are not only useful for thinking about the past and understanding how God drew us to himself.  These principles are also practical for the day to day life of the believer. The simple truth is this: we do what we do from the heart. And this helps us to understand why we do the things that we do, even in the Christian life.

Have you ever thought about that? Have you ever asked the question why do I do the things that I do? I’m sure you have! The Christian despises his sin and wants nothing more than to do what is right and pleasing before God, but we find ourselves doing the things that we say we do not want to do, and failing to do what we say that we want to do (see Romans 7)! Why is it this way? The simple answer is this: though we have been ushered into a state of grace by the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit, we are not in a state of perfection. That is reserved for the age to come. In this age we struggle against sin. Their are remaining corruptions in our flesh. The world presses in upon us and tempts us to sin. And the Evil one himself seeks to do us harm. We are in a state of grace, but not glory; renewed but not perfected. We are a work in progresses.

To state things most simply, this principle still applies: it is the condition of the heart or soul which determines how it is that we live.

We were drawn to Christ initially because our hearts were renewed by the power of the Holy Spirit.

And we will walk faithfully now only so long as our hearts and souls are kept pure.

This is my exhortation to you, Church: keep your heart. I know that application is typically made at the end of the sermon, but I will front load it here. Do you hope to walk faithfully before the Lord? Then keep your heart – keep your soul. Tend to it, care for it, nurture it, feed it, weed it, fill it with God’s word and cry out that God would purify you to the core by his Spirit. The heart does not keep itself anymore than garden keeps itself. It must be kept.

The scriptures everywhere exhort us to this:

Deuteronomy 4:9: “Only take care, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things that your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life…”

Proverbs 4:23: “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.”

Luke 6:43–45: “For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit, for each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thornbushes, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.”

Your mind has been enlightened, your affections transformed, your will renewed, it is true! Keep your heart.

Men and women, in their fallenness, love the things of this world more than God. (vs. 1-9)

Last week we considered verses 1-9 of chapter 7. There we learned of Jesus’ interaction with his own siblings. I will not rehash all that we learned. The main point was this: Jesus’ brothers, though they believed in him, did not believe in him truly, because their hearts and minds and wills were in fact worldly. They loved the things of this world more than God. They were ruled by worldly appetites. They desired power, privilege, and prestige. Their goals for Jesus were that he would go to Jerusalem and succeed, but their definition of success was worldly and self seeking. Their love for the the things of the world is what kept them from seeing, believing, and obeying Jesus in a way that was true and authentic. That, and more, was presented last week.

And what was the application? That we would search our own hearts and ask, have I have again fallen in love with the things of this world? Or is God my true love? 

Men and women, in their fallenness, love the approval of man more than the approval of God. (vs. 10-14)

Let’s read verses 10-14 together where we will see that some reject Christ because they, in their fallenness, love the approval of man, more than the approval of God. Verse 10:

“After saying this, he remained in Galilee. But after his brothers had gone up to the feast, then he also went up, not publicly but in private. The Jews were looking for him at the feast, and saying, ‘Where is he?’ And there was much muttering about him among the people. While some said, ‘He is a good man,’ others said, ‘No, he is leading the people astray.’ Yet for fear of the Jews no one spoke openly of him.” (John 7:10-14, ESV)

I suppose I should first say a word about the difficulty of this text. Jesus told his brothers in verse 8, “You go up to the feast. I am not going up to this feast, for my time has not yet fully come.” And now we read in verse 10, “But after his brothers had gone up to the feast, then he also went up, not publicly but in private.” Did Jesus lie to his brothers? That is the question.

No Jesus did not lie. Those who are troubled by this text fail to recognize two things. One, Jesus was not willing to go up to Jerusalem with his brothers at that time. If you remember, the preceding passage made much of the fact that Jesus was driven by God’s agenda – his hour had not yet come – it was not time for him to go to Jerusalem because it was not the Father’s timing. The brothers, on the other hand, were driven by their own agenda. Remember verse 6: “Jesus said to them, ‘My time has not yet come, but your time is always here.’” (John 7:6, ESV) Two, remember that Jesus was not wiling to go up with his brothers in their way. They were worldly in their ways, seeking worldly things. Jesus would not go up with them according to their timetable nor in their way. His actions were driven, not by the ways and opinions of man, but by the will of God. Jesus did not say, ‘I am not going, and will never go up.’  The thought instead is this: ’I’m not going with you; not at this time nor in this way.’

But when the time was right he did go. He went to Jerusalem, not publicly – not with the masses, not with much pomp and circumstance – but in private. We are not to think of Jesus sneaking into Jerusalem in disguise, but simply going quietly, without drawing attention to himself.

Evidently he was successful in his attempt to remain in secret. The Jews, we are told, were looking for him. We should know by now that their motives for finding him were less than pure. We have witnessed the tension between Jesus and the Jewish elite rise from chapter 5 onward. We also know where this is heading. The tension will eventually come to a culmination at the crucifixion. They were looking for Jesus at the feast, but he was nowhere to be found.

“The people” in verse 12 refers to the crowd or the multitude – the common people who were gathered in Jerusalem to celebrate the feast. The people, we are told, were of a divided opinion concerning Jesus. Some thought of him as a “good man”; others believed that he was “leading the people astray” by teaching things contrary to the law of God.

But notice that none of them spoke openly about Jesus because they feared the Jews. They “muttered,” the text says. That word can mean that they complained against Jesus, but the context leads us to take the meaning that they spoke very quietly about Jesus. They would not speak openly about him. And when they did speak, they spoke in whispers.

Do you see how the fear of man can hinder a person from identifying with Christ? If our hearts are ruled by a desire to be well liked by others we will struggle to follow Christ sincerely. If we are afraid of man, and what man might do to us, or say about us, we will not walk with Christ truly. Some from within the crowd who were gathered in Jerusalem during the Feasts of Booths considered Jesus to be a good man, but they did not openly identify with him because they feared the religious elite and powerful figures who stood in their midsts.

We all struggle with the fear of man.

Peter, that great apostle and leader of the church denied Christ three times? Why? Because he feared man.

Paul, that great apostle and evangelist of the early Church wrote these words,  “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” (Romans 1:16, ESV) Why would he write, “for I am not ashamed”? Was it not because he himself was tempted to be ashamed and to whisper about Jesus instead of boldly proclaiming him?

And Jesus, knowing our frailty in this regard, warned us with these words: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26, ESV) Jesus knew our propensity to give him lip service while in fact refusing to follow him truly because our great love for the approval of mother and father, wife and children, brothers and sisters.

Jesus address the same issue from a different vantage point when he said, “So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven. Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 10:26–39, ESV)

Consider this Proverb: “The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe.” (Proverbs 29:25, ESV)

And finally listen to God’s word to us through Isaiah the prophet:  “Listen to me, you who know righteousness, the people in whose heart is my law; fear not the reproach of man, nor be dismayed at their revilings. For the moth will eat them up like a garment, and the worm will eat them like wool; but my righteousness will be forever, and my salvation to all generations.” (Isaiah 51:7–8, ESV)

The fear of man is obviously a powerful, and rather common, deterrent to a faithful walk with God. Look at how often the scriptures address it! Not only that, but look at how many stumble in this area. So many refuse to follow Jesus because they fear others.

And what do we fear?

We fear their opinions. “What will they think of me?”, we say.

We fear their words. “What will they say about me either to may face or behind my back?”

We fear their actions. “What will the do to me? Will they cut my hours, kick me out, abandon me, or do me harm?”

And so what do we do?

We murmur about Christ.  We speak in whispers. And when we do speak of him, we, like the crowd, tend to speak in the most general and undogmatic way possible. “Yes, Jesus was a good man”, we say. When what ought to confess is that Jesus is the Christ, the eternalSon of God, in whom is life everlasting. 

The first question was this, is your heart ruled by a love for things of this world – money, power, prestige, comfort, security, pleasure? The second question is this: is your heart ruled by the fear of man? Do you love the approval of others (whoever they may be) more than the approval of God? If either is true it is no wonder that you are finding it difficult to walk with Christ, for out of the heart “flow the springs of life.” (Proverbs 4:23)

Men and women, in their fallenness, love getting the glory more than giving the glory to God. (vs. 15-24)

Let us now briefly consider verse 15-24 where we will see that some will deny Christ because, in their fallenness, they love getting the glory more than giving the glory to God. Verse 15:

“About the middle of the feast Jesus went up into the temple and began teaching. The Jews therefore marveled, saying, ‘How is it that this man has learning, when he has never studied?’ So Jesus answered them, ‘My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me. If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority. The one who speaks on his own authority seeks his own glory; but the one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and in him there is no falsehood. Has not Moses given you the law? Yet none of you keeps the law. Why do you seek to kill me?’ The crowd answered, ‘You have a demon! Who is seeking to kill you?’ Jesus answered them, ‘I did one work, and you all marvel at it. Moses gave you circumcision (not that it is from Moses, but from the fathers), and you circumcise a man on the Sabbath. If on the Sabbath a man receives circumcision, so that the law of Moses may not be broken, are you angry with me because on the Sabbath I made a man’s whole body well? Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.’” (John 7:15-24, ESV)

There is much than can be said about this passage. I will make some brief comments before getting the to the heart of the issue.

One, notice that Jesus was no longer concerned to remain in secret. In the middle of the feast he appeared in the temple and began to teach.

Two, notice that the Jews marvel at his learning. They were amazed that a man could have such a command of the scriptures though he had never formally studied under one of the great Rabbis.

Three, notice that Jesus insists that his teaching was not his own.  This may sound strange to us at first, but know that in Jesus’ day Rabbis were considered to be good, and even great, if they were able to teach the scriptures according to the customs and traditions of the fathers who had gone before. They would teach therefor, by quoting great thinkers from ages past. Jesus did not teach in this way,  “for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes.” (Matthew 7:29, ESV) Jesus did not teach like other men who taught by citing the opinions of others. No, he spoke as one who had complete authority. Were a normal man to teach in this way we would think of him as arrogant. And perhaps that is what those who listened to Jesus were beginning to think – who does this guy think he is? And that is why Jesus emphasized this point: “My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me.” (John 7:16, ESV) In other words, I am not being novel or creative here. I am simply proclaiming that which the heavenly Father has sent me to proclaim! Notice also that Jesus will mention the law of Moses. His point is that his teaching is not his own; it is not something that he has made up; it is the Father’s teaching, which is also the true teaching of Moses.

Four, notice that the conflict between Jesus and the Jews will come to center upon the Sabbath command. They were upset with Jesus because he healed a man on the Sabbath (John 5). His reply to them: don’t you circumcise on the Sabbath in order to keep the law of Moses? I think the point is this: obviously the Sabbath command was not given with the intention of forbidding all activity on the Sabbath day. Even the Pharisees would do some things on the Sabbath that they deemed holy and in line with the law of God! If they could cut away a small piece of flesh on the Sabbath then why on earth would they criticize Jesus for mercifully making a man’s whole body well by saying, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk”? (John 5:8, ESV)

They were judging Jesus superficially and by appearances, but not with right and true judgement.

But verses 17-18 seem to be at heart of this text. Jesus says, “If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority. The one who speaks on his own authority seeks his own glory; but the one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and in him there is no falsehood.” (John 7:17–18, ESV)

You see there were two types of people listening to Jesus that day.  There were some who were truly desiring to do God’s will, and there were those seeking to accomplish their own will. Jesus came to accomplish the will of the Father. And all who were of the same mind – concerned to accomplish the will of God – would recognize that Jesus’ teaching was indeed from the Father. Connected to that, there were those who were supremely concerned to bring glory to God, and those who were concerned to bring glory to themselves. Jesus came to glorify the Father. And all who shared the same passion would indeed walk according to the truth.

And just as there were two types of people listening to Jesus on that day, there are two types of people living upon the earth even today – those driven by the will of God, who live to bring glory to God, and those concerned with accomplishing their own will and bringing glory to themselves. It is a matter of the heart!

The truth is that God is infinitely glorious. He is full of splendor and majesty. He alone is worthy of all praise! When we speak of bringing glory to God we are not claiming to add anything to him, as if we have the power to improve God, or to fulfill him in some way. No, to give glory to God is to acknowledge him as God and to confess that we are not. To bring glory to God is to worship him.

Listen to our confession in chapter 2 paragraph 2:

“God, having all life, glory, goodness, blessedness, in and of himself, is alone in and unto himself all-sufficient, not standing in need of any creature which he hath made, nor deriving any glory from them, but only manifesting his own glory in, by, unto, and upon them; he is the alone fountain of all being, of whom, through whom, and to whom are all things, and he hath most sovereign dominion over all creatures, to do by them, for them, or upon them, whatsoever himself pleaseth; in his sight all things are open and manifest, his knowledge is infinite, infallible, and independent upon the creature, so as nothing is to him contingent or uncertain; he is most holy in all his counsels, in all his works, and in all his commands; to him is due from angels and men, whatsoever worship, service, or obedience, as creatures they owe unto the Creator, and whatever he is further pleased to require of them.”

This really is the difference between the believer are the non-believer. The one lives for the will of God, the other their own will. The one lives for the glory of God, the other for the glory of someone else (probably self). The one calls Jesus Lord and bows before God in worship, the other disregards Jesus and therefore proceeds to worship someone or something other than the God who made him.


Tell me Christian, what is the condition of your heart? Has the garden of your soul been overcome by the weeds of this world? Are you in love with the things of this world? Are you driven by the opinions of others? Are you consumed with selfish ambition wanting to nothing more than to make a name for yourself? Or are you supremely in love with God? Be reminded that only he can satisfy. Only he should be feared – his opinion is the only one that really matters. And only he deserves the glory. “I am the Lord; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols.” (Isaiah 42:8, ESV)

Keep your heart, Christian, “for from it flow the springs of life.” (Proverbs 4:23, ESV)

So how do we do this?

We must partake of the Word of God.

We must partake of the Lord’s Supper.

We must pray.

“Pray then like this: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.’” (Matthew 6:9–13, ESV)

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