(Read John 7:10-18)
Last post from the book of John we saw how Jesus’ brothers didn’t get him. They goaded Jesus and tried to provoke him into traveling with them to Jerusalem for the Feast of Booths. (see previous post 3 Things To Do When Your Family Doesn’t Get You: John 7:1-9)
The Crowd Reacts To Jesus
Later, sometime after his brothers–and probably most of the Jews in and around Galilee–go up to Jerusalem for the Feast of Booths, Jesus goes by himself, privately. During the feast, all the Jews were looking for Jesus. He was the hot topic of discussion all over Jerusalem. Some said he’s good. And others said, he’s leading people astray. But no one spoke of him openly for fear that they would incur the disapproval of the Jewish leadership.
About the middle of the feast Jesus went into the temple and began to teach. The Jews marveled at his words and asked: How can he teach this way without a formal education?
Most of the children in the region during Jesus’ time couldn’t afford even an elementary school level education. But most Palestinian Jewish kids would be taught to read and recite the Jewish scriptures. So what the crowd was referring to when they say he hasn’t studied, is Jesus’ lack of a formal education in the scriptures under an advanced teacher. (Keener)
In spite of this, Jesus’ words are amazing. When Jesus hears them talking about his brilliance he says,
“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 is 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.”
Choosing A Church
I’m not particularly smart, but I am naturally curious. It’s just a part of my personality. So the primary thing I used to look for in a church was one with a well educated teacher who could satisfy my curiosity, teach me something new every week, and who was entertaining enough to stave off boredom.
I don’t look for that anymore.
What I realize now is that, as Jesus says in our text, “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.” So now when I look for a church, primarily, I look for people who love God so much they live to do his will. Great teaching is important, but not as important as finding a group who loves Jesus with all their hearts, minds, souls, and strengths. Finding a church like that is like finding hidden treasure.
Who To Listen To
Our text also brings up the point about formal education. One of the reasons people couldn’t figure out Jesus, was because he had no formal religious training. That confounded some in the crowd. Today some people say you and I should go to a church where the pastor has his Doctorate in Divinity from a school accredited by the Association of Theological Schools. Is that right? Or is the guy who has the Holy Spirit but no formal training the one I should listen to on Sundays?
Here’s the deal. I have no problem with formal education. Most of my favorite Christian authors (who are also pastors) hold a degree in Theology or Divinity. And most of my favorite pastors I’ve heard teach from the pulpit also have formal religious training. But it’s undeniable that some of the most effective Christian leaders and teachers I know do not have formal religious training. They just love Jesus so much they can’t help but study him and share him with others.
So sharing God, and even leading, without a formal education is perfectly valid. Jesus is the ultimate example. His disciples are examples of such men too. They were fishermen, not theologians. But they had a heart for Jesus and His will.
In more recent times, relatively speaking, one of the most prominent examples of a teacher without formal education was D. L. Moody. One of the first Christian meetings he led was in a shack that had been abandoned by a saloon owner. Moody was so uneducated that while he was reading Jesus’ parable about the prodigal son he had to skip words he didn’t know. But within a year this group grew to 650 people, and 60 volunteers from area churches worked there as teachers. Word spread quickly about how God was using Moody. So much so that on November 25, 1860 President Abraham Lincoln visited, and spoke, at one of his Sunday School meetings. Of course Moody went on to become one of the greatest evangelists ever. (Wiki)
So I don’t think the question of who to listen to is a matter of education one way or the other.
I think the question is,
How much does the man love Jesus, and are his words his own, or is his teaching not his own, but his who sent him? In other words, is his teaching his own? Or is his teaching from God and Christ and the Holy Spirit?
And does he seek his own glory, or does he seek to glorify Jesus?
References and Resources
Craig S. Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament, InterVarsity Press, 1993
Dwight L. Moody biography from Wikipedia
Image via Godspeak Calvary Chapel – Labeled for reuse on Google Images