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Reactions to the Claims of Jesus
Good Morning, from the Voices of Hope Evangelistic Team, to all who are reading this message, I welcome each of you gathering today by way of the internet. Once again, it’s a blessing to be able to share from God’s Word and I praise God as we are able to share His Word all over the world.
The title of my message is “Reactions to the Claims of Jesus” and the scripture is found in John 7:37-52 which we’ll be reading as we go through the message; if you wish to turn there you can follow along.
This message is in many ways the summation of the whole presentation of the gospel throughout history as it catalogs for us the different reactions that people have made and do make to the claims of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ as usual in chapter 7 is still making astounding claims. We’ll see Him conclude His discourse at the Feast of Tabernacles in Jerusalem. Then we’re going to see how the people reacted to His claims. We’ll see those reactions catalogued and they become the universal pattern for all kinds of reactions throughout all ages, including today.
The absolute ultimate question, the question beyond every other question, the most profound, penetrating, soul-searching question ever asked was asked by Pilate the question that every man must answer, “What then shall I do with Jesus who is called the Christ?” Matthew 27:22. And the mob without hesitation cried, “Crucify Him, crucify Him.” Today some of you are in that mob because by your rejection of Jesus Christ, you are guilty of crucifying Him afresh and putting Him to an open shame. What will you do with Jesus Christ? You must do something with Him, in fact, you are doing something with Him.
This same haunting question faced Israel. What are you going to do with this Jesus? It faces every man today because Christ lays that claim at the door of every man, “I’m God, I’m the dividing line between life and death, both here and now and eternally.” But perhaps it never faced anybody any more starkly than it faced the city of Jerusalem. They had been confronted with the living personal Jesus Christ. They had heard from His own lips His claims unequaled, unparalleled and they had to do something and do something they did.
As we come to our text, we meet Jerusalem face-to-face with Jesus. And we see how they reacted to His claims. He comes to present Himself and to plead with His beloved Israel to receive their Messiah, their Savior before it’s too late. He has been warning them, He’s been telling them who He is and saying, “Receive Me before it’s too late.” He wrapped up the discourse in verse 36 by saying, “Because you’re going to seek Me some day and not find Me and where I am you won’t be able to come.”
You see, unbelief forever removes a man from the presence of Jesus Christ and unbelief forever removes Jesus Christ from the presence of that man. You contrast that with John 14:5 where Jesus said, “I’m going away.” And Thomas says, “Lord, we don’t know where You’re going, how can we find out how to get there?” And Jesus said to Thomas, “Thomas, I am the way.” Oh how different for the one who knows and loves Jesus Christ, when Christ goes away, that’s nothing because I’m going to go where He is. But for the one who doesn’t know Jesus Christ, when Christ goes away he has no hope of ever going there.
Today we’re going to see four groups responding to this question. Four groups who responded to the claims of Christ and these four groups form the universal pattern for reactions to Christ. Before we look at the four groups, we’re going to look at the claims of Christ.
He makes these claims in verses 37–39 reiterating in a different metaphor the same claims that He has made before. In effect, I’m God, I’m here, I came to redeem you, believe in Me, you can be redeemed. Reject Me, and you’ve sentenced yourself for time and eternity. In fact He makes a great invitation to the whole city of Jerusalem, and then we’ll see how these four groups responded to Jesus Christ and His invitation.
Verse 37, “In the last day that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out.” He yelled at them again. He did it one other time in anger. This time He does it in invitation. He yells, “If any man thirst let him come unto Me and drink.” He’s yelling because He wants men to hear. This is a public invitation. He announces that He is water for the thirsty soul.
That’s not anything new because if you remember the story of John 4, you remember the Samaritan woman and Jesus; He said to her, “Your water’s okay, but the water that I give you, if you drink it you’ll never thirst again.” And He talked to her about living water. He was saying, in effect, I can quench the thirst of your soul.
Now get the picture. It says in 37, “In the last day that great day of the feast.” The whole dramatic ceremony became even more dramatic on the last day as the whole group was marching around the altar and they marched around it seven times … coming to a climax when then the priests poured the water on the Altar. They were symbolically remembering Jericho, all a part of the wilderness wanderings. And then the water was poured out.
Jesus Christ stood up and His voice rang out like thunder and He said, “If any man thirsts, let him come unto Me and drink.” The last day, the great day of the feast, everybody’s praising God. In fact, they were even praying for rain as they were thanking God for the water in the wilderness. Remember how the water came through the rock? They were all thanking God for the water, praying for rain, pouring out water and Jesus says, “If any man thirsts, let him come unto Me and drink.”
In effect He was saying, you’re all thanking God for physical water, if any of your souls thirst, here I am, come and drink. Come to Me for the water that quenches the thirst of your soul. In all their minds they understood what He was saying. In that statement, “If any man thirsts let him come unto Me and drink,” that is the whole gospel.
Three words, the first word is thirst, that’s the idea of a recognized need. You’re not going to come if you don’t feel thirsty. Nobody needs to tell you when you’re thirsty. When a man knows his soul is thirsty, he knows. There’s a craving, there’s a soul-thirst that’s as real as body thirst. When a man longs for forgiveness, when he longs for hope, for love, for meaning, for peace, for liberty, for salvation, that’s nothing more than spiritual thirst and Jesus says, “Here I am, come and drink.” But it’s got to start with a thirst. So Jesus said, “If you’re thirsty;” If you’re not thirsty you won’t come.
Second word, come. That signifies the action of the will. Move toward Christ. It’s the same thing you do with your heart that you do with your feet. If Jesus was over there and said “Come here,” and you walked over there, it’s just taking yourself over to where Jesus Christ is. It’s expressing the action of the will. It’s moving toward Christ. It’s beginning to turn your back on the world. It’s beginning to abandon your self-confidence. It’s the point of real thirst where you’re ready to grab whatever you can. You come to the point where all you can do is drag your thirsty soul over to the feet of Jesus Christ. Jesus says if you’re really thirsty, come, here’s where the water is, come.
But you can’t just come; you’ve got to drink, to appropriate Christ. If you have a river flowing through a valley where people are dying of thirst, it doesn’t do them any good if they don’t drink it. Jesus says if you feel thirsty come, but you can’t stop there, you’ve got to take it and drink.
So, Christ says if your soul is parched and thirsty, come to Me and take Me into yourself. John 4:14, fabulous truth, “Whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst, but the water that I shall give him shall be a well of water springing up unto everlasting life.” Take Jesus Christ and you will never thirst again.
Jesus Christ can quench the thirsty soul. That’s only the beginning of what He does though. Verse 38 takes another dimension. He didn’t just save us to fill us full of living water. No, verse 38, “He that believeth on Me, as the Scripture hath said, out of His heart shall flow rivers of living water.” When you come to Jesus Christ initially, that’s not the end that is the beginning. Not only do we drink and have our own thirst quenched, but we become the supplier of living water to the world. That’s the real key to this. We are channeled for living water to reach the world. Out of our hearts should flow rivers. Most of us can’t even say, “Out of my heart drips living water,” because we’ve become stagnant storage tanks instead of rivers of living water.
So Jesus says not only will you be quenched and blessed, you’ll become a fountain that gushes out rivers to the world. Wow, can you say, that’s me as a Christian?
Verse 38 “He that believeth” is present tense. But “shall flow” is future. So you can believe now, Jesus says to those people, but the flowing is still in the future. Verse 39 describes it. “But this spoke He of the Holy Spirit that they believe on Him should receive for the Holy Spirit was not yet given because Jesus was not yet glorified.”
John is literally saying, you will flow with rivers of living water, but not until you get the resource for rivers of living water which is the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Christ. They could receive that living water right there that day in Jerusalem through faith in Jesus Christ. But it would be seven and a half months until Jesus was dead, risen and ascended and the Holy Spirit came and then the living water would start to flow.
If you look at the gospel account you’ll find that before the resurrection the disciples really couldn’t exercise the truth of being rivers of living water, they sort of gathered around Christ and just got their own thirst quenched. But when the Spirit of God came in Acts 2, from then on the story of the church is a story of gushing rivers of living water. That’s what Jesus meant in Acts 1:8 when He said, “You shall receive power after the Holy Spirit is come upon you and you shall be My witnesses.” That river doesn’t flow apart from the Spirit of God.
The early church in the book of Acts just gushed all over everywhere. They were drowning people in the living water. And that’s the story of the church, rivers of blessing; first most to witness, but it’s another thing, too. It’s that living water by which we as believers bless other believers, the gifts of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit gives us gifts to minister one to another.
He says in verse 39, only the Holy Spirit can make it happen. Only the Holy Spirit can turn loose the living water. “But this spoke He of the Spirit whom they that believe on Him should receive.” Who receives the Holy Spirit, they that believe on Christ. Romans 8:9 it says, “If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His.” Turn that around. If you belong to Him, you have His Spirit. Jesus says, “You will flow with living water because of the Holy Spirit.” It’s not a command, it’s a fact.
Now let’s see the four groups that reacted to His claims. Verse 40 and 41a show us the first group. “Many of the people therefore when they heard this saying said, ‘Of a truth this is the prophet,” they’re convinced. Then at the first of verse 41, “This is the Christ, anointed, Messiah,” they received the truth. They took His claims, they believed. The word “of a truth,” truly, genuinely, honestly, for sure this is the prophet, no doubt. They don’t have any doubts at all.
Again, “What does THE prophet mean?” Remember we talked about that earlier in John; back in Deuteronomy 18 Moses had promised that there was coming a prophet like unto Him. And Moses had told the children of Israel the Lord thy God will raise up unto thee a prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren like unto Me, Him shall thou hearken unto. And all through Israel’s history they had been looking for that prophet.
These that believed are God’s remnant in Israel. Even though the mass of them do not believe, these did.
Now the second group, the contrary, they reject the truth. Verse 41, “But some said, ‘Shall Christ come out of Galilee?” He’s not coming out of Galilee? You think Messiah comes from Galilee? It’s a statement of mockery. They knew that Micah 5:2 said, “But thou Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, out of thee shall He come forth to be ruler over My people Israel who was from old, from everlasting.” They knew Micah said He’d come out of Bethlehem.
Verse 42, “Hath not the Scripture said that Christ cometh of the seed of David and out of the town of Bethlehem where David was?” What’s the matter with you convinced people. Don’t you know the facts?
They assumed that Jesus was born in Nazareth. All they had to do was ask and He would have told them He was born in Bethlehem. But, you know, unbelief is smug, it’s always that way. Self-satisfied, willful, ignorant, unbelief just says, “My mind is made up, don’t confuse me with the facts.” So many people today are contrary to Christ and they don’t even want to hear about Him. Don’t bother me with that stuff. They’re smug, self-satisfied. They’ve got it all compartmentalized and Jesus doesn’t fit.
If a man doesn’t want to know the truth, he won’t know the truth. It’s interesting to me that these are religious people that knew all about the Scripture but didn’t know anything about what it meant. They knew the Old Testament but didn’t know who it applied to. A lot of good it did them. So we meet the contrary.
Now we come to the most exciting verse in this whole passage. Verse 43, “So there was a division among the people because of Him.” That just blesses me because it means that the convinced ones stayed convinced. Praise the Lord the division remained. Isn’t it amazing how powerful faith is? Don’t bother to assail me with your intellectual arguments.
Isn’t that what Christ always does? Christ divides. Let me read you something in Luke 12:51. “Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth the first time, I tell you nay, but rather division.” That’s what He says. “For from henceforth there shall be five in one house divided, three against two and two against three. The father be divided against the son, the son against the father, the mother against a daughter, the daughter against the mother, the mother-in-law against the daughter-in-law, the daughter-in-law against the mother-in-law.” Jesus says I’m going to come and just fraction your families all up because some of you are going to believe and some of you aren’t. And so there was a division because of Him.
So we meet the convinced and the contrary, now let’s meet the confused, the ones that are just kind of wrestling with it. They wrestle with the problem, kind of hassling the whole thing in their mind. And here we meet our old friends, the temple police.
We first met the temple police back in verse 32 when they were commissioned to go arrest Jesus. Now they return with their report, verse 45, the chief priests and Pharisees said unto them, ‘Why have you not brought Him? They went to get Jesus and they come back without Him. And they’re really just baffled, they’re confused and I don’t think they understood even why they didn’t get Him.
The chief priests and Pharisees, “Go get Jesus.”
Might as well tell them to go turn out the sun. They couldn’t go get Jesus. So they come back empty handed and they say, verse 46, “Never a man spoke like this man.” They don’t know what’s going on. They don’t say “we believe,” they don’t say “we don’t believe,” they just say “We never heard anything like this; they are confused. There are a lot of people like that. Jesus says, “Take Me and drink.” Satan says, “Take Him and kill Him.” Jesus says, “Believe Me.” Satan says, “Arrest Him.” And they wrestle with it, the pressure of the adversary, and the pressure of the power of the person of Christ.
They just stand there bewildered. Indecision can be tragic because these Jewish leaders pick up on this indecision and they drive home a pretty hard point, verse 47, “Then answered them are you also deceived?” I mean, have you gone along with this crowd? You haven’t, have you?
Watch the next verse, “Have any of the rulers or the Pharisees believed on Him? But this people who know it’s not the Law are cursed.” They’re really mad at the people. They’re cursing them.
Look at their logic with these guys. “Are you going to go along with the cursed, common people?” “Have any of us rulers and us wise leaders believed in Him?” See what they’re doing? They’re appealing to their desire for prestige. They’re appealing to their ego. And they’re appealing to their economic status. In effect, they’re saying, “We are the ones who decide. The stupid, ignorant, cursed people know zero, we decide.” As if to say the people in verse 49 don’t know the Law, they’re not academically qualified to determine who Messiah is. We’ll tell you who Messiah is; we’re the spiritual qualified ones. So they try to make the officers look stupid and try to identify them with the ignorant common people. And it very often works with the confused mind. A man who is trying to decide between Jesus Christ and his prestige, or his honor among his men, or his money, or whatever he wants to stand between him and Christ, this is where the confusion comes. And so the officials say, “You can’t decide anything, we will decide, we are the authoritative ones.”
This is always the character of false religion, set up a lot of big wheels at the top who make all the decisions and the common people know zero. Keep the people ignorant and the leaders informed and the people will have to follow. This is what was going on in Israel. So they were trying to get these officers to reject Christ, on the basis of prestige and honor and identification so that they would not be identified with the common, cursed people.
If you’re struggling with whether you ought to give your life to Jesus Christ or whether you’re afraid you might lose a little prestige, or your ego might drop in the eyes of your contemporaries, if you’re fighting that battle, you’re going to decide which way you go. Some people just wrestle with the truth.
Okay, we’ve seen the convinced, the contrary, and the confused. Now I want us to meet the thoughtful. He researches the truth. This is the one who says, “Well, it looks like it might be something, think I’ll dig into this thing.” His name was Nicodemus. Verse 50, “Nicodemus saith unto them… he’s had a conversation with Jesus before and it’s ringing in his head; he’s contemplating it, he’s researching the truth. You know what happens to somebody who researches the truth, who honestly searchers, he’ll know the truth. Nicodemus says to them, verse 51, “Does our Law judge any man before it hear him and know what he doeth?” Let’s use the research method, let’s listen to what He says and see what He does. Let’s not run off half cocked and judge Him. Let’s think this thing through.
What did we say last week? God told Israel through Moses, “If you seek Me with all your heart, you shall surely find Me.” The thoughtful, honest searcher, Christ commits Himself to that man.
So we meet the convinced, they receive Christ. The contrary reject, open unbelief. The confused, kind of wrestling with it. And the contemplative, the one who researches, moving step by step willingly openly toward the truth of Jesus Christ. Where are you? I ask you the same question that rings in my mind that Pilate asked two thousand years ago, what will you do with Jesus Christ?
Our Father, we thank You, this morning, for Your Word to us. Lord, we know we’re all doing something with Jesus Christ right now. Father, may we be careful to see what we’re doing with Him. May we consider carefully the eternal consequences. We pray that if we’ve already received Christ and we stand with the convinced we might really allow the rivers of living water to flow out of us, unrestricted, unbounded to the world of men who are contrary, confused or contemplating Jesus Christ. These things we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.