Judging a Book by the Cover You Gave It

Dr. Kevin DeYoung, Senior Pastor

John 7:1-24 | November 11 - Sunday Morning,

Sunday Morning,
November 11
Judging a Book by the Cover You Gave It | John 7:1-24
Dr. Kevin DeYoung, Senior Pastor

Let’s pray. A voice says cry, and I said what shall I cry? All flesh is grass and all its beauty is like the flower of the field. The grass withers and the flower fades when the breath of the Lord blows on it. Surely the people are grass. The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever. This life is temporary, O Lord, Your Word is forever. Speak for Your people are listening. In Jesus we pray. Amen.

Our text this morning comes from John’s Gospel, chapter 7. I invite you to turn their in your Bibles. John, chapter 7, verses 1 through 24. Follow along in your Bibles as I read from John chapter 7, beginning at verse 1.

“After this Jesus went about in Galilee. He would not go about in Judea, because the Jews were seeking to kill him. Now the Jews’ Feast of Booths was at hand. So His brothers said to him, ‘Leave here and go to Judea, that your disciples also may see the works you are doing. For no one works in secret if he seeks to be known openly. If you do these things, show yourself to the world.’ For not even His brothers believed in Him. Jesus said to them, ‘My time has not yet come, but your time is always here. The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify about it that its works are evil. You go up to the feast. I am not going up to this feast, for my time has not yet fully come. 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.”

“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 Father), 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.'”

You’ve heard the saying before, “don’t judge a book by its cover.” Well, the saying is doubly true if you judge a book by the cover you gave it. It’s bad enough if you judge someone without really getting to know the person. It’s even worse if you already determine by all your prejudices or by all your conclusions to define the person no matter what they try to say or do, you already have them figured out and anything they do only confirms your own confirmation bias.

I’m reminded of that famous scene from that classic movie Monty Python and the Holy Grail where they want to burn the witch and they bring the woman to them to burn the witch and the, the knight is there, the man who will be a knight, and said, “well, how do you know she’s a witch?” “Well, she’s dressed like a witch.” And she says “you dressed me like this.” He says, “well, look at her nose.” And it’s a long pointy nose. She said “you put this on me.” He said “did you dress her up?” “Well, a bit.” And then that famous line, “Well, why else do we know she’s a witch?” And a man says “She turned me into a newt,” and he’s looking there completely in his right mind, just like a normal man, everyone’s wondering, and he says “well, I got better.” Oh, yes, you got better. You see, and then they go to an elaborate scene of how to determine whether or not she’s really a witch because you burn wood like you burn witches and so if she is the same weight as a piece of wood, then she must be a witch, and what else floats, well, ducks, and so they weigh her with a duck and sure enough she weighs the same as a duck and so they are going to go and.. So okay, now you gotta go look it up on YouTube later. [laughter]

From the ridiculous to the sublime.

Sometimes you have it all figured out in your head who somebody already is. And there’s nothing that they can do, because you determined from the second they set foot in your living room what those in-laws were going to be like, or what those son-in-law or future daughter-in-law was going to be like, or your pastor, or parishioner, or whomever. You have already judged the book by its cover and not only that, you gave the book its own cover and there’s nothing they can do to get a different cover. That’s sort of what they’ve done with Jesus.

You see Jesus bring home His point in verse 24, “Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.” His brothers already know what sort of messiah they want Him to be, and the Jewish leaders already know what sort of false teacher they’re sure that He is, and to they’re content, like many of us, to judge by appearances instead of making a right judgment. That’s the heart of the matter.

You see in that last verse there’s a form of the word “judge” three times in that verse: Do not judge, but judge with a right judgment. It’s clearly the central theme. How to make a right judgment, because everyone who comes in contact with Jesus has rendered a judgment on Him. And that includes everyone in this room. You have all come in contact with Jesus. You’ve heard something about Him. Many of you have heard lots of things about Him, even if you’re in church for the very first time. By the time this service is over, you will know something about Jesus, and everyone who has ever come in contact with Jesus renders some kind of judgment. You have to. You can’t escape Him. You may conclude that He’s a fraud, or simply conclude that He’s not worth much of your time. That is a kind of judgment, because many people think, “Well, I’ve never made a judgment on Jesus. I heard about Him.” Well, yeah, you heard about Him and you moved on. He wasn’t worth your time, certainly wasn’t the person that some of your friends made Him seem to be, and so you’ve made a determination of this Jesus: He’s a fraud, He’s not worth your time, or perhaps He is something more, maybe something much, much more.

You’ve all heard of Jesus. Every one of you has heard of Jesus and you have reached a verdict about Jesus. Is it the right verdict? Is it a right judgment or is based on mere appearances?

Well, here in chapter 7, they are making their judgment on appearances. Let me give you three reasons that the people in Jesus’ day misjudged Him, and you may just find in these three reasons some exposition of your own heart and why you or someone you love may have misjudged Jesus.

Here’s reason number one: They misjudged Jesus because they do not know where He is really from. They didn’t know where Jesus was really from. You look up at verse 1, so here’s the setting. It says “after this,” so it follows on the heels of chapter 6. It’s not an exact chronological marker, it’s probably five or six months later because in chapter 6, verse 4, we were dealing with the Passover, and now in chapter 7, verse 2, we are dealing with the Feast of Tabernacles, or the Feast of Booths, Sukkot in the Hebrew, and this would be five or six months later. This feast lasted for seven days, from the 15th to the 21st of the seventh Jewish month of Tishrei, roughly in September or October. It was a harvest feast. And on the eighth day there would then be a solemn assembly. It was the most popular, according to Josephus, of the three main Jewish pilgrimage feasts, and it’s going to from a backdrop for chapter 7. We’ll see why that’s important more so next week.

So “after this,” so several months later, now at the Feast of Tabernacles, we pick up the story. Jesus, it says, continued to go about in Galilee because as we’ll see He knows that in Judea, Galilee in the north, Judea in the south, things are going to be too hot for Him there. At the capital is in Judea, that’s Jerusalem, and many of the Jews, in particular the Jewish leaders, are intent on trying to kill Him.

Sometimes it’s said “well, they wanted to kill Jesus because He was so wonderfully inclusive and He was just throwing open the floodgates of God’s mercy and love,” and there’s an element of truth to that. He was certainly more welcoming than they wanted Him to be. But the central reason, as we’ll see, that they wanted to kill Him is because He violated their traditions and because He made Himself equal with God. They hated Him theologically. They hated Him because of His own purported identity. And so Jesus knows it is going to be dangerous “if I go down in the midst of this feast to Jerusalem.”

You’ll notice there’s an apparent contradiction between verse 8 and verse 10. Verse 8 He tells His brothers “you go up to the feast, I’m not going,” and then verse 10 “but after His brothers had gone up, He also went up.” So, which is it, Jesus? You’re not going or you are going? We’ll come back to that in just a moment.

But I want to direct your attention to here in verse 14, where He’s at the feast, in the middle of feast, shows up in the temple, and He begins to teach. And they marvel. And they say, in verse 15, the statement that many a young student here wishes would be said of them: “How is it this man has learning when He has never studied?”

Jesus is the exception that proves the rule. It worked for Jesus, He’s God. The rest of you, you need to study and turn in your homework. Jesus, however, they go, “How is this happening?”

You need to understand what they understood to be authoritative, rabbinical teaching. Rabbinical teaching in the first century was an intricate study of quoting your ancestors. It was sort of like case law with various precedents. This rabbi says this versus this rabbi says that, and so you can read through something like the Mishnah which collects some of the rabbinical tradition from these first centuries and you can see Rabbi ben Eleazar says this about the Sabbath, and Rabbi ben Elijah says this, and it’s the constant quoting of rabbis.

You know, if you were a Presbyterian rabbi, it would be the sort of person who can say, “ah, but Calvin says this,” “oh, but, but Hodge says this and Bavinck says this and Berkhof says this,” “Yeah, but did you know what Turretin says?” and you go back and forth and my, you’re very impressed with their learning.

And here comes Jesus and He doesn’t do any of that. And yet He certainly knows His Bible, and He certainly speaks with authority. His aim was not simply to quote authorities, because He was the authority. In fact, He’s quick to explain that His authority actually comes from a higher source. So Jesus doesn’t just say “Well, just take my word for it,” actually He ramps it up even farther. Verse 16, “My teaching is not mine.” Okay, I may not be quoting from all of your rabbis, I may not have had the traditional rabbinical schooling like you’re used to, but He’s going to show them and tell them “I have an authority far greater than any of your schools or traditions.” He says “My teaching comes from the One who sent Me.”

And then in verses 17 and 18 He makes these remarkable statements: Verse 17, He says if you seek to do the will of God, you’re going to see that My teaching comes from God and that I do not speak of My own authority. I mean, talk about stacking the deck. You wonder where I get this teaching, Jesus says, you wonder how I can speak without ever having been to the proper schools? Well, I’ll tell you: If you’re really interested in God’s will, if you’re really interested in doing what God says, you’re going to recognize that I speak from Him.

The implication is if you don’t recognize that I speak from God and for God, then you’re not really interested in following God.

You have to put yourself in the mind of a first century Jew, why He was so unbelievably controversial, because He, He’s making this wedge, this divide, so wide. “Okay, you’re, you’re with Me, or Your against God. Which is it? Because if you’re with God, you’re going to be with Me.”

And then in verse 18 He says “look, I do not seek My own glory, but the glory of the One who sent Me and everything He says is true.” In other words, you can count on everything I’m saying because I’m not saying it for My glory, I’m saying it for My Father’s glory, and He only speaks what is true, and I am only speaking what He gives Me to say to you.

And yet they did not know where He really came from. Remember in the last chapter they’re marveling “well, we know His mom and His dad, brothers.” We just encountered His brothers at the beginning of the chapter. “Look, He’s got siblings. He looks like us. He’s got a name like us. He speaks the same language as us. There’s no halo. There’s no golden aura about Him. He’s just a normal Jew. Maybe He’s got some powers, but how dare He speak like this.” They do not know where He’s really come from.

Kids. Hey, kids, there’s some kids here, okay? You’re listening. Doesn’t it make all the difference when you have to give a message to your brothers and sisters if that message comes from your dad? And what happens usually when you go upstairs and say “hey, brothers, sisters, dad told me that you need to come downstairs right now.” What are they going to say? Do they usually say “oh, thank you for giving us dad’s message. We will obey this herald immediately.” [laughter] No, they say “you’re not dad!” [laughter] “You’re not the boss of me!”

It makes all the difference, doesn’t it, if you have a message from mom or from dad, or if you’ve just come in there on your own authority. “Hey, everybody, get off the phone. Come downstairs, now! Shine my shoes.” Okay, that message is not going to go over well. And see, do you see what happens, kids, when you have to tell your brothers and sisters something from mom or dad? It’s a matter of faith. Because they, in that moment, they have to believe, are you really speaking? Did this really happen? Did dad really give you this message, we really need to get in the car right now? Do I really need to go outside and weed the garden? Do I really need to come downstairs and set the table? Do I believe that you are a real messenger from the father?

It happens in our families. It happened there in this Jewish family. It happens all the time. Do we really believe that Jesus was sent from the Father? It’s a matter of faith.

They did not really know where He was from, and so many of them listened, just as you would listen to your, uh, your sibling who’s gotten a little too uppity, coming into your room, telling you what to do, claiming to be something. And kids, now imagine if your brother comes into the room and says “not only do I have a message from My Father, but I and the Father are one.” [laughter] Powwfff. “Get out of my room! [laughter] Liar. You’re nuts.”

Now you can understand a little bit of the Jews. Who is this man?

Sometimes we can be too much like these religious leaders. We want to see a degree, we want to see academic learning, we want to see the right schools. And look, I’m, I’m in, I tell my kids, I’m in 24th grade, so I, I believe in schools, and degrees, and the right education, but only, only if it helps us to speak for God. Not if it enables to speak in our own strength and reliance upon our own traditions. That’s not what we’re interested in.

And so they don’t really know where Jesus is from. Do you? Who He really is? Where He really came from? Makes all the difference, whether you believe Him, whether you listen to Him, whether He’s a crazy man or He’s the Christ. They didn’t know where He was from.

Here’s the second thing: They didn’t know where he was going. They didn’t know where He was from and they didn’t know where He was going.

Go back up to verse 3, with His brothers, they say to Him “why don’t you go straight away to Jerusalem for the feast?” Now here’s what they’re thinking. Remember we left off, verse 66, chapter 6, “after this many of His disciples turned back an no longer walked with Him.” So we just had a sifting, and some of the crowds have dissipated. Some of the people said “I, I don’t know about this, Jesus, the things you say are hard, the things you do are hard, I don’t understands them, I don’t like it,” and so they’re leaving.

And so now His brothers, these are his, his physical half-siblings, they have an idea. “Jesus, don’t you want to salvage your failing career? Like half of your, your followers on Twitter just unfollowed you. But listen, we have an idea. Go to Jerusalem, it’s the start of the feast. You know, this is the big one. And Jerusalem’s the capital, it’s the religious center. Okay? And everyone’s doing to be there. It’s going to be the biggest conference of the year. And we want you to go there, Jesus, and why don’t you do some of your miracles?”

You see that, verse 4? “So leave here, let me see what you’re doing, for no one works in secret if he seeks to be known openly. If you do these things, show yourself to the world. These will be the biggest crowds of your life, Jesus. Take your talents down to South Beach in Jerusalem.”

Now notice what it says in verse 5. “For not even His brothers believed in Him.” They wanted a rabbi of their own making. They wanted their kind of messiah. They wanted a wonder-working prophet to wow the crowds, build His brand, expand His platform. And notice the Bible does not say “well, that’s a kind of belief.” The Bible calls that unbelief.

Jesus was not going off their script. Even His own flesh and blood did not know where He had come from, they did not know understand where He was going. They’re still thinking, “You can get a crowd, you can be the one, you can draw a following, do some of your stuff. ‘Judea’s Got Talent,’ go there. Come on, they’re gonna love it.” That’s not what He’s meaning to do.

Which explains this apparent discrepancy between verse 8 and verse 10. Verse 8 is Jesus saying “okay, no, you go up, it’s not my time to go up to this feast, not now, not in your way. I’m not going to the feast in your way and for your reasons. I’m not gonna go and parade myself around and say ‘here I am, the feast is beginning, you’re all looking for me, and pull rabbits out of hats.'” Verse 10 He does go in the middle of the feast, not to put on a show, but to teach. So there’s not a real contradiction because He says “it’s not My time to go now, at the beginning in your way for your reasons,” but later He does go, for His own reasons in His own time.

Notice He goes not to do what they want, to put on a show, but to do what He has come to do, and that is to teach. There is never an example in the Gospels of Jesus going into a town with the purpose of healing or casting out demons. Now He does a lot of both, to show Himself and His true identity and because He has compassion on the crowds, but He never goes to set up a healing tent. He never goes to say “now stand in line and I’ll cast out your demons.” In fact, we read just the opposite in Mark 1:38—He says “for this is why I came out, to preach.” His particular mission and His method was proclamation. So He said “no, I’m not going here to do your, your show and your pizzazz and your lightning bolts and your shock and awe. I’m here to teach.”

Because He knew that it was not yet His time. He was going to die, but not now. That time was drawing near. This will be His third and last trip to Jerusalem before the triumphal entry, and we’ll see that He’s going to stay in Jerusalem for two months because He will stay until the Feast of Dedication in chapter 10. We’re only in chapter 7 of John’s Gospel out of 21 chapters, but already His public ministry is approaching and end. And it won’t be long before we are already into the final week of His life, because Jesus, unlike a traditional biography, the point of Jesus’ life is ultimately Jesus’ death.

And they don’t understand where He’s going. You think they’re offended now? What ’til they understand that the Messiah will die. They did not understand His ultimate purpose, fulfilling the Father’s plan would mean dying a criminal’s death, and they don’t get it. Notice not even His brothers. One commentator made the astute observation, you know, many a person has been buoyed up in the midst of suffering by having their closest friends and family there to support them in their noble cause, but Jesus doesn’t have even that. He has a bumbling group of disciples who will soon enough scatter on their own. Here His own half-siblings, in their unbelief, would send Him to an early grave and they have no idea the grave that He must inhabit.

“This is the book we’ve written for you, now go fulfill it.” That was the plan for His brothers. “We’ve got a wonderful plan for your life.”

And if we’re honest, how often do we demand the same thing of Jesus? “Jesus, here’s what I would do if I were you… Jesus, I’ve written out a plan. I got a great idea, Jesus, what You should do. I’ve got a plan for what you should do here in my church, I’ve got a plan for what you should do in my life, a plan for you what you need to do with my kids right now. I’ve got, I’ve got a lot of plans, Jesus. Why aren’t you filling out my plans? I’ve written the book for you.”

Of course, Jesus writes the book for us. We don’t write the book for Him. But many of us act as if it’s just the opposite.

“Go to Jerusalem. Do just as we say. You’ll be a superstar!” And His brothers in that moment were absolutely convinced they knew what was the right thing for Jesus to do, just like so many of us. We are absolutely convinced if Jesus would just listen to us for a change! “Jesus, would you just, would you just do…. We got it figured out down here. You’re not going about this the right way. You’re plans don’t make sense to us. Look, You could go, You could do miracles, You could fix this thing.”

And Jesus, as is so often the case, has His own timing and His own way. And it’s the right timing and the right way.

But at this point they do not know where He’s from and they do not know where He’s really going.

And then there’s one other thing they don’t understand. Third, they don’t like what He has to say. They don’t know where He’s from, they don’t know where He’s going, and they don’t like what He has to say.

Go back up to verse 7. This is a hard word. And notice He is saying this to His brothers, to His own flesh and blood, people He grew up with. Not to strangers, but to His brothers. He says, verse 7, “the world cannot hate you, it hates me, but it cannot hate you.”

Do you see what He’s saying? “My time has not yet come, your time will always be here. That’s why you can go up to the feast. You don’t understand. If I go to the feast and I do it in your time and in your way, I’m liable to be killed because so many people hate me. You can go up to the feast anytime you want, do whatever you want, because nobody hates you there.”

Now just think about that. That, of all the, the hard, cutting things Jesus has to say, this is right toward the top of that list, to say to your own brothers, “The world cannot hate you.” And what’s the implication? The world cannot hate you because you belong to the world.

Let me ask you a question. Does the world have any reason to hate you? Some of us, though we wouldn’t put it in these terms, we go through our whole life with that singular objective that no one in the world would ever hate us. And we’ll conduct ourselves in business that way and we’ll shape our beliefs that way and we’ll form our opinions that way. Whatever we have to do, so that the world will love us. Jesus says you have nothing to fear because the world can’t hate you.

The world hated Jesus. And if we’re truly His followers, there will be occasion for the world to hate us.

And then you read there, in the second half of verse 7, why did it hate Jesus? And let’s, let’s not get an inappropriate kind of martyr complex, you know, well, there’s a fine line between being persecuted and just being a jerk, just being strange for the sake of being strange. No, it hated Him because “I testify about it that its works are evil.”

Yeah, that’s a way to, uh, lose friends and not influence people.

Does the world have any reason to hate you? Because of what you believe about sexual immorality? Or sensuality? Or the kind of things you won’t watch online? Or the kind of language you won’t speak? Or because your views on what constitutes biblical or unbiblical divorce and remarriage? Does the world hate you because you refuse to violate the fifth commandment? Even if Americans say it’s a divine right of passage, to rebel against your parents. The world hates you because you won’t fall in step with racial prejudice, economic class prejudice? Does the world hate you because you won’t bow down to the idols of greed? Or covetousness? Or narcissism? Or simple pride?

Calvin says even among the vices of men, the chief and most dangerous is pride and arrogance.

Make no mistake. Verse 7 ought to stop all of us in our tracks a little. It does for me. What a, what a, what a sad thing for Jesus to say to a people. “The world has no reason to hate you. Of course you’re going to go through this world, just pats on the back, just applause. You do everything the world loves.”

Calvin says peace with the world can only be purchased by a wicked consent to vices and to every kind of wickedness.

Later, in John 15, Jesus will make clear the world loves its own. That’s the point He’s making with His own brothers. He said “you’re part of the unbelieving masses. Of course the world won’t hate you. Of course you can do whatever you want in your time with the feast. The world loves you, the world loves its own people, and you belong to the world.”

And then the controversy surrounding Jesus intensifies even more when He does travel down to Jerusalem.

We’ll pick things up in verse 19. He introduces Moses and the law. Of course, a great source of pride for all of the Jewish leaders, they received the law of Moses. He brings up the subject, however, to expose their intentions, or at least the intentions that some of them have, to violate the Mosaic law by murdering Him because last time Jesus checked, the sixth commandment was still a commandment. So He is saying “you who love the law of Moses are intent in your heart to violate the sixth commandment and kill Me.” And then they say to Him, “uh, Jesus,” verse 20, “you have a demon who’s seeking to kill you.” Probably not a literal accusation of demon possession, but it’s their way of saying in the first century, “you’re nuts, you’ve lost your mind, you’re cra-cra,” as my kids say.

And so He reminds them of how angry they were after He healed the paralyzed man. That’s what He means when He talks about the “one work that I did.” Go back to chapter 5, verse 18. Remember He heals the man at the pool? The paralyzed man, after 38 years, and He heals him on the Sabbath. And then finally we read at the conclusion of that episode in verse 18, “This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill Him.” And those two reasons: Because not only was He breaking the Sabbath, their traditions around the Sabbath, but even He was calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God.

So yes, some of them were intent on killing Him. “How could you do this? You healed a man on the Sabbath? Aren’t there perfectly other good days? He’s been sick for decades. You couldn’t wait ’til the next day instead of healing him on the sabbath? And you think that you’re equal with God.”

Well, Jesus, back in chapter 7, is going to make a familiar rabbinical argument from the lesser to the greater. He says, essentially, “you allow for an eight-day-old infant to be made well in his male member on the Sabbath, so why can’t I make this man’s whole body well on the Sabbath?”

See, infant boys were to be circumcised on the eighth day, and if the eighth day happened to fall on a Sabbath day, they could be circumcised on the Sabbath day. One of their rabbis would later say “great is circumcision which overrides even the rigor of the Sabbath.” It wasn’t that they were breaking the Sabbath, per se, but they understood as we all should when reading the Bible, that some principles take precedence over other principles.

And so here it was not a violation of the Sabbath to circumcise a boy on the Sabbath, and Jesus says “well, if he can be made well ritually on the Sabbath, why can’t I make an entire man well on the Sabbath?” He’s exposing their own pretentions. He has reckoned them to be evil, sanctimonious, self-deceived, hypocritical law breakers, at least the worst of them.

And so it’s no wonder He finally says, in verse 24, “do not judge by appearances, but judge with a right judgment.”

And so here’s the question for us, or questions, really: How are you judging Jesus? Every one of us has made a verdict on Jesus. You have. And even if you joined the church some years ago, you daily are making a judgment on this Jesus? Is He someone you really need to listen to? Is He someone who really calls the shots in your life? Is He someone who is really worth living for? Worth dying for? Are you prepared to let Jesus surprise you every now and then? I don’t care how long you’ve been walking with Jesus. If you’re really walking with Him, you’re going to learn new things. You’re going to have surprises. Because you can be married for 50, 60 years and you think you know everything, and you learn new things. And you still experience new things. And so it is as you walk with Jesus. Are you judging Him with a right judgment? Or have you already mapped it out and put the nose on and put the glasses and put the wig and “that’s what Jesus looks like, He always looks like that because those are the clothes I dressed Him up in.”

Are you willing to let Jesus be Himself on His own terms? When is the last time you’ve learned something new or experienced something new about Christ?

So let me just speak to two different kinds of people in this room. First, to the not Christians. This is some of you in this room. You know you’re not Christians. You may know you’re not a Christian and nobody else around knows that you know you’re not a Christian. But you know. You know you’re here and you know you come, but you know what’s really in your heart, and not. Are you making a right judgment about Jesus? Do you know where He has come from? Do you know where He is going? Do you know that He is coming back to judge the living and the dead? If you’ve determined that He’s not worth your time, if you’ve determined that this is all a fake or a phony or a fraud, then at least come clean with that understanding. Don’t make the mistake of just waffling in the middle, pretending to be something you’re not, acting as if you’ve based your life on something you don’t really believe. Make a right judgment about this Jesus.

And then to the second group, no doubt the larger group in this room, those of you who are Christians. Is it possible that you have not really reckoned with all the hard things Jesus might have to say to you? And to me? Have we made Him too nice of a Jesus? Become too comfortable with this Jesus? He never shocks us, never surprises us, never offends us. It would be a tragic thing to be like His brothers in this text. They were close to Him, they knew Him, they were impressed by Him, they were interested in Him, they probably liked Him, and ultimately, Jesus says, they were on the side of the world.

In the end, are you going to be counted among the saints? Who allow Jesus to call the shots, who follow Him wherever He will lead? Or will we be among those who have judged a book by the cover that we gave it?

Let’s pray. Our gracious heavenly Father, we want to know Jesus, and follow Jesus, love this Jesus, worship this Jesus. Be counted among those saints who through rest and warfare always follow this Jesus, among that triumphant host who will stream in with this Jesus on that last day. So we pray that You might work into each of our hearts, to know who He really is and who we really are, and so to really follow Him. We pray in His name. Amen.