Sunday School Lesson
Lesson 3 (KJV)
Jesus Glorifies God
Devotional Reading: Psalm 119:113–128
Background Scripture: John 7:14–24
14 Now about the midst of the feast Jesus went up into the temple, and taught.
15 And the Jews marvelled, saying, How knoweth this man letters, having never learned?
16 Jesus answered them, and said, My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me.
17 If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.
18 He that speaketh of himself seeketh his own glory: but he that seeketh his glory that sent him, the same is true, and no unrighteousness is in him.
19 Did not Moses give you the law, and yet none of you keepeth the law? Why go ye about to kill me?
20 The people answered and said, Thou hast a devil: who goeth about to kill thee?
21 Jesus answered and said unto them, I have done one work, and ye all marvel.
22 Moses therefore gave unto you circumcision; (not because it is of Moses, but of the fathers;) and ye on the sabbath day circumcise a man.
23 If a man on the sabbath day receive circumcision, that the law of Moses should not be broken; are ye angry at me, because I have made a man every whit whole on the sabbath day?
24 Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.
He that speaketh of himself seeketh his own glory: but he that seeketh his glory that sent him, the same is true, and no unrighteousness is in him.—John 7:18
God’s Law Is Love
Unit 1: Love Completes,
Law Falls Short
After participating in this lesson, each learner will be able to:
1. Identify the origin of Jesus’ teaching.
2. Trace the cause-and-effect dynamic of right and wrong motives of teaching.
3. Suggest a safeguard against having wrong motives in teaching.
How to Say It
Mishna Shabbat (Hebrew) Mish-nuh Shab-awt.
Moses Mo-zes or Mo-zez.
A. “Raccoon” John Smith
John Smith was born in East Tennessee in 1784 and moved to Kentucky with his family as a teenager. The Smith family lived in a remote area of what was still a state full of wilderness. John did not have much formal education but adhered to the Baptist faith as a child and young man.
Although he was ordained as a preacher, John wrestled with his faith, a struggle that intensified after he lost two of his four children in a fire and his wife to illness. When he heard the preaching of Alexander Campbell, John began to understand the Scripture more clearly and began preaching based on his enhanced knowledge. People affectionately began calling him “Raccoon” John Smith because of his plainspoken style of preaching and approach to life. He never gave up farming but worked to support himself and his family. And John preached to glorify the One who sent him, not himself. His motives shone clear to those who listened.
Our lesson today finds its focus in John 7:18. As you study, consider: Do I teach for my own glory? Or am I seeking the glory of God?
B. Lesson Context
We have four Gospels in the New Testament that tell the story of Jesus. The first three Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) are very similar in their general structure. The fourth Gospel, John, is quite different from the other three. John wrote 30 or so years after those other three, and he was well acquainted with their material. For this reason he seems to avoid repeating most of their content. Instead, he chose to give new information from his wealth of eyewitness recollections (see John 21:24–25). About 90 percent of John’s material is not found in the other three Gospels.
A significant difference among the four Gospels is the way the writers choose to begin their accounts. Mark begins with the ministry of John the Baptist, without any reference to the birth or childhood of Jesus. Luke begins with the birth of John the Baptist and includes the nativity story of Jesus. Matthew begins with Jesus’ genealogy, thus pushing the story of Jesus back to the time of King David (reigned 1010–970 BC).
John the Evangelist (not John the Baptist) pushes the story back to the very beginning of creation and before. Thus John’s Gospel is an inclusive account of the entire sweep of human history. Most of this is accomplished in John 1:1–18, often referred to as the prologue of John. Today’s lesson explores the implications of the doctrine of the incarnation, especially concerning Jesus’ knowledge and teaching of Scripture and God’s will.
I. On Jesus’ Teaching
A. Question of Education (vv. 14–15)
14. Now about the midst of the feast Jesus went up into the temple, and taught.
Jesus was aware that the religious leaders were seeking to kill Him. This homicidal animosity was part of His stated reason for not being present in Jerusalem at the start of the feast of tabernacles (John 7:1–9). God instituted this feast for two reasons. First, it was a time of thanksgiving during the season of the olive and fruit harvests (the September–October time frame). Second, it was as a time to remember deliverance from slavery in Egypt (see Leviticus 23:33–44). As something of an object lesson, many who celebrated this feast would live in tents (“tabernacles”) outside the city to reenact the 40 years that the Israelites had lived in tents while wandering in the wilderness. Apparently waiting until the midst of the feast was meant to allow Jesus’ enemies time to cool their heels. This was the right time for Him to show up (contrast John 7:8).
In the meantime, the crowds watched for Jesus, divided as to whether He was a good man or a deceiver (John 7:12, not in our printed text). They had seen or heard of His signs (examples: 2:1–11; 6:2, 14), His teaching (examples: 5:17–47; 6:25–59), and of the witnesses concerning His identity and the source of His authority (example: 1:6–18). But were these things to be trusted? What did all of this really mean about Jesus? (See commentary on 7:16–17, below.)
The temple was still the center of Jewish life (examples: 2 Chronicles 6; Psalms 27:4; 66:13; Isaiah 2:3; Jeremiah 7:4, 13–14), though the Babylonian exile (beginning with its first wave in 597 BC; 2 Chronicles 36:9–10) saw the beginning of a less centralized religion. The first temple was destroyed in 586 BC during the third and final wave of exiles (36:11–20); the second temple (which stood in Jesus’ day) was dedicated in 516 BC (Ezra 6:13–18).
The building’s importance was never more evident than during a feast. Religious pilgrims came, sometimes from distant homelands, to celebrate and to learn (examples: Acts 2:8–11). Jesus was never haphazard in His actions; choosing to teach in the temple during this feast was a choice to make His message public, not keeping it a secret (Luke 19:47; John 18:20).
15. And the Jews marvelled, saying, How knoweth this man letters, having never learned?
The Jews (presumably both the pilgrim crowds and the religious leaders) marvelled at what this man was teaching and the profound knowledge He had (compare Luke 2:46–47). Their amazement likely had at least two sources. For one thing, it was known that Jesus was not a trained rabbi; He had no formal education in letters—that is, Scripture. He had not attended any rabbinical schools or been taught by a rabbi; by trade, He should have been working as a carpenter, not a teacher (Mark 6:3; compare Acts 4:13). This is no small objection, since sound knowledge is not often achieved without a sound instructor (examples: Nehemiah 8:7–9; Acts 8:30–31). However, they would have done well to remember that God sometimes chose unexpected people for His purposes (examples: Genesis 25:23; 1 Samuel 16:7–13; Amos 1:1).
For another, Jesus’ Galilean roots prejudiced people against Him. There was nothing wrong with being from Galilee per se, but as a rural place of no particular historical or cultural significance, no one expected anyone great to come out of the region (examples: John 7:41, 52). Though we do not know exactly what Jesus was teaching that elicited this response from the crowd, we could point to other examples of Jesus’ teaching that yielded similar reactions (example: Matthew 5–7).
What Do You Think?
What roadblocks to seeking wisdom might formal education create?
How can you encourage students to take their education seriously without losing sight of better sources of wisdom?
B. Answer of Origin (vv. 16–18)
16–17. Jesus answered them, and said, My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me. If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.
The people seemed to assume that Jesus taught His own thoughts on the Scripture. This would make the doctrine His own, without any authority from God, history, tradition, or any other seemingly legitimate source. Though His audience might have expected their question was rhetorical—that no answer would be provided as to the source of Jesus’ knowledge—Jesus chose to offer the answer.
His that sent me is both a proclamation of the source of Jesus’ knowledge and of Jesus’ identity. Jesus’ authority and wisdom are from God, just as Jesus’ works came from the Father (John 5:36). If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine might appropriately remind us of Jesus’ refrain, “If any man have ears to hear, let him hear” (Mark 4:23; compare Matthew 11:15; 13:15; Luke 8:8; etc.). The implication is that the heart that is prepared to hear the word of Lord will recognize it as a word from the Lord. This preparation allows a person to recognize the character and source of another’s teaching and to discern what is of God versus what is mere human ego or understanding.
Paul’s Teaching Record
Educated in the Law of Moses, Paul became a Pharisee. He actively participated in the persecution of Christians in the days after Jesus’ resurrection. He even participated in the stoning of Stephen, holding the coats of the men who stoned him (Acts 7:58; 8:1; Philippians 3:1–6).
All of that changed when Paul traveled to Damascus to seek out Christians, arrest them, and bring them back to Jerusalem for punishment. On the way, a great light shone around him, and he heard the voice of Jesus (Acts 9:1–19). This introduction to the Lord immediately changed everything in Paul’s life. He began traveling the known world, starting churches, and preaching. In 2 Corinthians 11, Paul reported persecutions he endured in the name of Jesus, including beatings, stonings, and shipwrecks.
Paul’s teaching did not come from his own understanding but from Jesus (Galatians 1:11–12). He showed this in his repentance of his prior erroneous beliefs and in his unfailing zeal for the Lord’s church. When others ask where your teaching—whether in word or action—comes from, what evidence is there that it is from God? —A. W.
18. He that speaketh of himself seeketh his own glory: but he that seeketh his glory that sent him, the same is true, and no unrighteousness is in him.
Jesus offered a sort of litmus test regarding where His own teaching came from: Whose glory was being sought? Those who speak independently do so for personal gain. They promote their ideas for their own ends, and their egos are probably involved. But those who speak what God reveals seeketh his glory, not their own. In this, the speaker acts correctly. The proclamation is not made to glorify the one who speaks but the one who gave the message. In short, the reason Jesus taught with such knowledge and authority is because He only taught what He received from the Lord, and He only sought to glorify God.
What Do You Think?
When do you experience the impulse to glorify yourself?
How does seeking God’s glory keep your ego in check?
“The Lotto Angel”
Barbara lived an average life, working in a hospital caring for sick people. That did not change when she won more than ten million dollars. She and her husband, Ray, began looking for ways to use their winnings to help others in their community. They gave some to charities, hospitals, and cancer research. They paid for inner-city children to attend theater productions and veterans to travel to reunions. They funded enough local projects that Barbara was dubbed “The Lotto Angel.”
Barbara’s humble attitude extended to her understanding of the benefit she received from giving. She loved to see the joy that money well-spent brought to others. Barbara’s care showed her heart in the way she used her winnings for others and not for her own glory. Jesus preached the gospel for God’s glory, not His own. How do you know that your words and actions are for God’s glory, not yours? —A. W.
II. On Moses’ Law
A. Questions of Intent (v. 19)
19a. Did not Moses give you the law, and yet none of you keepeth the law?
The law was the content of what the scribes and the Pharisees studied and taught (Acts 22:3), along with their own traditions (example: Matthew 15:1–9). The law was referred to more broadly as “letters” above in John 7:15. Moses is analogous (though not equal) to God in this question. What Moses gave, the people studied but failed to put into daily practice. Their knowledge without their actions was useless (James 1:22–25). From this lesser example, Jesus’ question implies that the people were receiving instruction from God but were not putting this wisdom into action. Some didn’t even recognize the source of Jesus’ teaching, so how could they possibly keep His teaching?
19b. Why go ye about to kill me?
At first glance, this question has little to do with the previous. However, closer inspection shows the connection. Jesus’ teaching was from God; therefore, His teaching was to be absorbed, hearts yielded, and lives changed. However, the spiritual deafness of some in the crowd to Jesus’ message prevented them from obeying the Lord. Thus they sought to kill Jesus (see John 7:14, above), on the grounds of blasphemy (Leviticus 24:13–16; see John 10:31–33). But because Jesus came from God and taught only what God gave Him to teach, killing Him was not an apt punishment of sin. There was no sin in Him! Instead, the scribes and Pharisees’ desire was a violation of the command “thou shalt not kill” (Exodus 20:13; compare Acts 2:22–23). If the only law they followed was from Moses, they still would sin by wanting to execute Jesus because His words were recognized as being from God—by those who were able to recognize it.
B. Question of Possession (v. 20)
20. The people answered and said, Thou hast a devil: who goeth about to kill thee?
The people were ignorant of the schemes of the Pharisees and the scribes (see John 7:1). It made more sense to them that Jesus was possessed by a devil that made His thinking paranoid. But, as the following verses reveal, Jesus knew who goeth about to kill Him. And His execution would be irrefutable proof of a plot to kill Him (19:6, 17–21).
What Do You Think?
How do you respond to others’ inaccurate assessments of you?
When might it be best to address the issue? to let it pass without direct refutation?
C. How to Answer (vv. 21–24)
21. Jesus answered and said unto them, I have done one work, and ye all marvel.
The one work Jesus had done was the healing of the lame man at the pool of Bethesda. While in Jerusalem for a feast, Jesus visited this pool where many sick people gathered for medical care. There He met a man who had been lame for 38 years. To the great surprise of the crowd—and especially to the surprise of the man himself—Jesus healed him (John 5:1–16).
The authorities objected because Jesus worked on the Sabbath (John 5:16) and told the man to work by carrying his mat (5:10). Sabbath was the weekly day of rest when Jews were not permitted to work (5:9; see Exodus 31:15). Some Jewish authorities who believed that carrying cots and healing were works prohibited on the Sabbath confronted the man and learned what Jesus had done. So in this case, it is clear that marvel does not have a positive connotation.
22. Moses therefore gave unto you circumcision; (not because it is of Moses, but of the fathers;) and ye on the sabbath day circumcise a man.
Jesus’ answer might not seem to address whether He was paranoid for believing some wanted Him to be killed (John 7:20, above). But in fact, Jesus’ response reveals both the motivation for the Jewish leaders’ wanting to kill Him and the hypocrisy of their desire (5:18). Their fury came from Jesus’ apparent flouting of Sabbath laws according to His own whims (as they thought). But they also broke Sabbath to circumcise a man. All male children born in Israel were to be circumcised “in the eighth day” (Leviticus 12:3).
Though this is the law given by Moses, the command predated him, coming from Abraham (here referred to with Isaac and Jacob as the fathers; see Genesis 17:9–14). Moses himself faced near-fatal consequence when he failed to have his infant son circumcised (Exodus 4:24–26). Oral law developed over the years regarding circumcision and other intricacies. These were compiled in written form around AD 200 by Rabbi Yehudah ha-Nasi. This non-biblical document, called the Mishna, codified that the circumcision should still go forward regardless of the Sabbath (see the Mishna Shabbat 19.2).
23a. If a man on the sabbath day receive circumcision, that the law of Moses should not be broken.
Jesus pushed the knowledge and authority issue further. The word if introduces a fact that should inform the answer to Jesus’ question. The facts laid out in verse 22 lead to this justification of healing on the sabbath day. Moses gave the law regarding circumcision. Still, the covenant predated the ordinance and went back to the time of Abraham (Genesis 17:10). So, it seems that circumcision took precedence over the law about working on the Sabbath. Keeping the law by circumcising on the Sabbath could be considered a legal infraction. But it was not. The religious leaders for generations had simply acknowledged that the two laws seemed to collide at times, and in those instances, the law of circumcision would supersede the law of Sabbath.
23b. Are ye angry at me, because I have made a man every whit whole on the sabbath day?
Considering this priority, Jesus challenged His audience regarding the validity of their anger after He made a man every whit whole on the sabbath. Jesus’ actions were not only justifiable but completely appropriate on the Sabbath. The people had missed something fundamental about what the Sabbath was actually for. The concept went together with God’s promised peace—more than a break in violence but an end in violence that allowed for human thriving (see Leviticus 26:1–13). Elsewhere, Jesus justified His disciples’ picking corn to eat on the Sabbath by reiterating that the Sabbath was created for human benefit (Mark 2:27).
The primary reason for observing Sabbath was God’s own rest after creating the world. The secondary reason flowed from the first—namely, that God desired all people to be given rest from their own work (Exodus 20:10–11). The Sabbath rest was given by God as a gift for the wellbeing of His people. Following the letter of the law—doing no work—did not honor the spirit of the law—enabling people to thrive rather than only survive.
What Do You Think?
Do you have any Sabbath-keeping practices? Why or why not?
How do Jesus’ actions and teachings about Sabbath challenge your own Sabbath activities?
24. Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.
By appearance, Jesus’ work on the Sabbath was in violation of the law. But by righteous judgment, discerning the order of priority based on knowledge of God and His will, Jesus had rightly chosen what was more important. A proper assessment of Jesus’ actions would conclude that He was fulfilling the moral obligation of the law. Jesus’ argument about circumcision not violating the Sabbath showed that the religious leaders themselves acknowledged that some laws were to be held in higher esteem than literalistic Sabbath-keeping.
Jesus’ own actions were in line with His summary of the Law (and the Prophets): “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Matthew 22:37–39; see Deuteronomy 6:5; Leviticus 19:18). The law to love the Lord and demonstrate that love in care for others fulfills the Sabbath.
What Do You Think?
How do you guard against judging others by appearance?
What acts of repentance are appropriate if you have judged by appearance?
A. Whose Glory?
The beginning of this lesson asked: Do you teach for your own glory? Or are you seeking Someone else’s glory?
Answering these questions is not a matter of numbering your years of knowledge, listing your formal Christian education, or quantifying the results of your witness. Instead, it is a heart matter. When you spread the gospel, do you primarily hope to gain something for yourself? Or do you hope to glorify Christ and His heavenly Father?
Our success or failure as disciples is not measured by how people react to us. Time and again, we see that Jesus’ own audiences did not like what they heard Him say. They did not always judge His words correctly. The same will happen to us. As with Jesus, so with us: our success is measured in our intention to glorify the Lord. When we speak the truth and live it to the best of our ability—helped by the Holy Spirit—we succeed.
Lord, teach us to glorify You in all that we do. Diminish our desires to make a name or a fortune for ourselves and increase our desire to bring glory to Your Name. May we rely on the Holy Spirit to guide our thoughts, words, and actions. Thank You for the example we have in Christ. It is in His name we pray. Amen.
C. Thought to Remember Choose: your glory, or His?
Standard Publishing. KJV Standard Lesson Commentary® 2023-2024 (pp. 85-103). David C Cook. Kindle Edition.