Whispers! — John 7:11-18
By Pastor Lee Hemen
March 1, 2015
Have you ever had a vicious rumor spread about you or someone you know that was not true? I have. Gossip, like whispers in today’s passage, can be like a burning fire and consume everything and anyone in its path. The Bible relates that “The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to a man’s inmost parts. (Proverbs 18:8 NIV)” In other words gossip can seem satisfying at first, but in reality it is like poison and affects those who participate in it and those who it is often about. It is like digested food, retained and remembered.
When folks gossip it says a lot about their character and what they value. How we handle gossip says a lot about who we are and our character as well. Jesus faced those who wanted to whisper or gossip about him and how he handled himself and those who wanted to spread rumors speaks volumes about Jesus’ character and who he was. Let’s find out what Jesus did about the whispers or gossip concerning him…
Some folks make gossip a game. Douglas Adams, who wrote “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’ quipped that “Nothing travels faster than light, with the possible exception of bad news, which follows its own rules.” Someone once wrote that “The Puritan’s idea of hell is a place where everybody has to mind his own business.” This could be said of the folks of Jesus’ day as well. We discover that…
I. Whispers can fill the sails of speculation! (Vv. 11-14)
Now at the Feast the Jews were watching for him and asking, “Where is that man?” Among the crowds there was widespread whispering about him. Some said, “He is a good man.” Others replied, “No, he deceives the people.” But no one would say anything publicly about him for fear of the Jews. Not until halfway through the Feast did Jesus go up to the temple courts and begin to teach.
1. The Jews, meaning the Scribes, Pharisees, Teachers of the Law and other enemies of Jesus expected him to be at one of the biggest Jewish festivals and so they “were watching for him and asking, ‘Where is that man?'” The wording here denotes their disdain for Jesus and also their view of who they actually saw him as, a mere man and not the Messiah. Some surely wanted to find him and kill him, while others wanted to test his teaching or see some miracles. I believe some deliberately refused to name him publically because of their contempt. Certainly there are those who think they might have been afraid of the Jewish leadership, but that does not make complete sense with the word usage and how we just learned they desired to kill him. It is easy to dismiss someone or gossip about them when one uses non-descriptive terminology rather than a personal name. Whatever the reason, we discover that “whisperers were divided as to who Jesus might be, “Some said, ‘He is a good man.’ Others replied, ‘No, he deceives the people.'” Both whispers were erroneous because Jesus is more than just a good man and he certainly was no deceiver. However, the gossip had already begun its dirty work. The people were in fear of the Jewish leadership and this is why “no one would say anything publicly about him.” Among the crowds there was widespread whispering about him.” Interestingly, we also learn from John that it was “Not until halfway through the Feast did Jesus go up to the temple courts and begin to teach.” It is then, at just the right time that Jesus begins to confront the whisperers. The gospel goes against the gossip. This is exactly what one has to do when confronted by gossip, teach the good news through our responses, attitude, and actions. Remember, whispers can fill the sails of speculation!
EXAMPLE: Those who love to foster the sinister speculation of others do not like to face those they whisper about. Whisperers love to remain in the shadows of “she said, he said” “some say” or “it has been said.” Twain said that “A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.” When met with gossip Jesus confronted it with the gospel and we should as well. Jesus discovered that whispers can fill the sails of speculation!
When we talk frequently with God, we will speak the words we have heard. When we spend our time in speculation, we will discuss the lies we think we know. Again, we discover here in John’s gospel that…
II. Whispers’ winds are calmed by the truth! (Vv. 15-18)
The Jews were amazed and asked, “How did this man get such learning without having studied?” Jesus answered, “My teaching is not my own. It comes from him who sent me. If anyone chooses to do God’s will, he will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own. He who speaks on his own does so to gain honor for himself, but he who works for the honor of the one who sent him is a man of truth; there is nothing false about him.
1. When Jesus begins to confront his gossips with the gospel, “The Jews were amazed and asked, ‘How did this man get such learning without having studied?'” My grandmother would say, “Ignorant folks think those they talk about are just as dumb as they are.” This was the case here with the Jewish leadership and Jesus. They just could not believe this hayseed from Galilee could be so spiritually smart. As Jesus taught he did not teach as others did, he taught with authority and the truth. Jesus was not like those who wanted to garner other men’s praise, he desired that his listeners only know and understand the words of God. They were surprised at Jesus’ knowledge of the Scriptures; that he should be familiar with them; to be able to intelligently interpret them and give them sense and meaning in a clear concise manner as he did! Jesus answers his gossiping critics, “My teaching is not my own. It comes from him who sent me.” He only taught what he learned from God. How much better would the world be if this were the case today in many of our lives as well. In fact if his listeners wanted to make sure what Jesus taught was the truth or not, all they had to do was the wil of God. He relates, “If anyone chooses to do God’s will, he will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own.” Later on in John’s gospel Jesus would confront his skeptics by telling them, “For I did not speak of my own accord, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and how to say it. I know that his command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say. (John 12:49-50 NIV)” Jesus knew where their problem was, it found in their pride. The Jewish leadership thought they were the keepers of God’s words, his law, and now they were being confronted with the truth. This is why he continued by telling them, ” He who speaks on his own does so to gain honor for himself, but he who works for the honor of the one who sent him is a man of truth; there is nothing false about him.” The true goal of anyone should be to glorify God! In a sense, Jesus is exactly what we were meant to be! We were meant to be holy and teach the truth of God to others! When others began to gossip about Jesus, he confronted them with the truth! Whispers’ winds are calmed by the truth!
EXAMPLE: I like what Dennis DeHaan wrote concerning telling the truth, “How prone we are to lying! With a stroke of exaggeration here, an omitted detail there, or a misleading silence we distort the truth. Yet truth is the foundation and superstructure of all relationships. Remove the girders of truth, and society crumbles in on itself. This moral absolute is so self-evident that even criminals punish their own who lie to them. The ninth commandment forbids purposeful deceit against our neighbor and underscores the sacredness of truth in all our dealings. The two Hebrew words used for “false” in Exodus 20:16 and in Deuteronomy 5:20 mean “untrue” and “insincere.” Any expression of insincerity and untruthfulness, therefore, is bearing false witness against our neighbor. This commandment also exposes two underlying motives that God hates—malice and pride. When we lie, it is usually to cast a person in a bad light or to place ourselves in a good light. The first springs from malice, the second from pride. Jesus said, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. (John. 14:6 NIV)’ The closer we are to Him, the more truthful we will become with ourselves and with others. The question is, ‘Are we followers of Him who is the truth?'” Whispers’ winds are calmed by the truth!
Whispers can fill the sails of speculation! Whispers’ winds are calmed by the truth!
This article is copyrighted © 2015 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.