Live or Let Die! — John 7:19-24
By Pastor Lee Hemen
March 8, 2015
In the song “Live and Let Die” written by Paul McCartney he sings, ” When you were young and your heart was an open book, you used to say live and let live (you know you did, you know you did you know you did). But if this ever changing world in which we’re living, makes you give in and cry, say, “Live and let die!” In other words, go ahead and do what you want to do or believe whatever you want to in the first place and let everything that disagrees with your current philosophy die. Ignore it and them.
Jesus confronts his accusers with kind of the same argument in that he tells them they needed to let their own corrupted view of God’s commands die. He then gives them a specific example. While his detractors wanted to kill him for his truthful teaching concerning the gospel, he rebuts them by telling them to let their own false notions of God’s commands die the death they needed. They needed to make the right judgments and live or let die! Let’s discover what Jesus tells them…
Jesus tells them…
I. Don’t kill the messenger! (Vv. 19-20)
Has not Moses given you the law? Yet not one of you keeps the law. Why are you trying to kill me?” “You are demon-possessed,” the crowd answered. “Who is trying to kill you?”
1. The Jews of Jesus’ day lived and died by their faith in Moses and the commandments of God, they ruled every aspect of their lives and while God had intended them to be a guide for righteous living, he never intended them to be a rule book that they interpreted and decided what was righteous or not. So, Jesus bluntly reminds them, “Has not Moses given you the law?” And, of course the answer was “Yes, Moses had given them the law they lived by.” Yet the startling truth was the fact that they were hypocrites. Jesus pokes them in their pious posteriors by stating, “Yet not one of you keeps the law.” Of course he meant those who were trying to murder him for his actions and teachings, because if they truly kept the law of Moses they would have seen instantly who he truly was and praised God! This is why Jesus sarcastically asks, “Why are you trying to kill me?” If they indeed kept the law they claimed, then why would they want to murder the Messiah God sent? In fact we discover in Mark’s gospel Jesus remarks, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written: ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.’ You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men. (Mark 7:6-8 NIV)” What a boot in the buns! They knew it too and try to get the edge by rebutting, “You are demon-possessed! Who is trying to kill you?” They knew who was trying to kill Jesus, they were! However, if you can’t win an argument with logic or the truth, then you resort to innuendo and or name calling. And tacitly, they do both. You see anyone, including John the Baptist or Jesus, who did not agree with their convoluted keeping of the law of Moses, they instantly claimed was demon-possessed! In fact, they were more than willing to kill the messenger of God in order to keep things the way they liked. In the very next chapter of John, Jesus ratcheted it up a notch and rebukes them by telling them, “You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. (John 8:44 NIV)” Wow! Here he is telling them don’t kill the messenger!
EXAMPLE: It has been said that we often want to kill that which we do not understand, however, we want to be careful in making such a broad statement. Liberals would have you believe that one has to acquiesce one’s morals and accept perversion as reasonable and normal. Jesus wasn’t asking his listeners to accept that which was immoral nor was he wanting them to give up their faith in God. What he desired is that they open their hearts to the truth of God’s plan being finished in him as the Messiah of the world. Yet, they could not wrap them spiritually narrow minds around such a concept even after seeing and experiencing Jesus’ teaching and his miracles. No one else had done the things Jesus did and none had taught as he had, yet they were willing to kill him. Jesus is trying to save them. He is trying to tell them and us today, “Don’t kill the messenger.”
Jesus then tells them…
II. Make the right judgment! (Vv. 21-24)
Jesus said to them, “I did one miracle, and you are all astonished. Yet, because Moses gave you circumcision (though actually it did not come from Moses, but from the patriarchs), you circumcise a child on the Sabbath. Now if a child can be circumcised on the Sabbath so that the law of Moses may not be broken, why are you angry with me for healing the whole man on the Sabbath? Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment.”
1. The Jewish leadership’s spiritual corruption could be seen for what it was and Jesus confronts it head on, he tells them, “I did one miracle, and you are all astonished.” Of course we discover he is not speaking about the loaves and fishes, but the healing of the man at the pool. Remember, he was in Jerusalem. The authorities were all dismayed because he healed the man at the pool and told him to take up his mat and walk on the Sabbath, a day of rest according to the law of Moses. So, Jesus exposes their hypocrisy by reminding them, “Yet, because Moses gave you circumcision (though actually it did not come from Moses, but from the patriarchs), you circumcise a child on the Sabbath.” And isn’t a person a person no matter how old or young they are? And doesn’t a loving God care about all his children no matter what their age is? And doesn’t the law cover all people of every age or condition? And of course the answer is “yes.” You see, this is the corner Jesus is painting them into. This is why he counters, “Now if a child can be circumcised on the Sabbath so that the law of Moses may not be broken, why are you angry with me for healing the whole man on the Sabbath?” What a bunch of hypocrites, they were more concerned for a foreskin than a whole person! Yet, we too can just as guilty when we piously stick our spiritual noses in the air, get offended when our feelings get hurt and ignore the grace of God. We all want God to be gracious to us, and we often demand that other believers treat us with respect and grace as well, yet far too often we hypocritically turn a blind eye to our own judgmental attitudes just as the Jewish leadership did with Jesus. What would Jesus say to us? Perhaps exactly what he told his listeners, “Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment.” In other words, stop making pontifications thinking you’re fooling God and holding him in high regard when in actuality you are making the wrong judgment in the wrong way. They thought that by appearing to uphold the law of Moses they would be seen as righteous, kind of like some of our heavenly-minded, but no earthly good brethren. Jesus is telling them and us, “make the right judgment.”
EXAMPLE: When we have faulty logic, we will make faulty assumptions that lead to error. Kind of like those GPS devices that do not have all the information they need to lead us in the right direction! The Jewish leadership clung to their ill-conceived and faulty notions of who they thought God was and how they thought God should act. They forgot that God’s ways are not their ways and his thoughts not their thoughts. God is not like a mere man, and yet he humbled himself and became obedient and came in the form of a man and willingly died for our sins. How amazing is it that here is the one who was willing to die for their sins and they were just interested in preserving their status quo. In their ignorant-induced fog they could never make the correct decision and here is Jesus passionately trying to convince them to make the right judgment.
He is trying to tell them and us today, “Don’t kill the messenger.” And, Jesus is telling them and us, “make the right judgment.”
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.