In this episode, we continue to explore the function of biblical prophecy. Too often, prophecy is repackaged for a specific agenda rather than the truth for which it was designed. The Pharisees misinterpreted the prophetic literature about Jesus. How can we learn from their mistakes? Our agendas of interpretation and desire for control can become obstacles for seeing the true message of prophecy. True prophetic interpretation is our ability to see past what we want the prophecy to say in order to see what it was intended to say.
Some got it
Let’s keep going here. John 7:40. Therefore many from the crowd, when they heard this saying, said, “Truly this is the Prophet.”
We’re going to have this difference of opinion in the next several verses we’re going to look at. The first group of people said this is the prophet. What do they mean by the prophet?
The prophet that would be like unto Moses.
They’re looking for another Moses. Deuteronomy 18:18. I will raise up for them a Prophet like you from among their brethren—talking about Moses.
They’re looking for a prophet, and they said, “This is him!” And they’re saying that on the basis of, what? Can you just look back up a few verses there? It’s basically on the basis of what he’s saying. And as we go through here, it’s going to be on the basis of what he’s doing.
But some said, “Will the Christ come out of Galilee?”
Now where did they know that the Christ was going to be from?
Bethlehem. Do they have that right or wrong?
They had it right. They knew he was coming out of Bethlehem.
Now what are they missing? What do we know they’re missing here? They’re missing at least two things.
Out of Egypt I have called my son.
OK. Out of Egypt I have called my son. Meaning what?
Meaning that’s why they went into exile in Egypt and returned
They also missed that they didn’t know that he was born in Bethlehem.
They didn’t bother to go check the facts out and find out that he actually was born in Bethlehem. They didn’t bother to check that out, right? They just made assumptions.
Do you ever hear people making assumptions? “I didn’t mean to make you mad.” They didn’t mean to chase people away, right?
I think the reason why they associated him with the prophet was because of the few statements Yeshua made up here that said, “You will seek me and cannot find me,” and “Where you go, I cannot come,” and he reiterates in a second place because the Jewish Talmud even at this time said the Messiah will reveal himself and then hide himself for a time like Moses was revealed to the children of Israel when he slew the Egyptian and then went to Midian for a time. And so they were expecting this type of thing from the Messiah as well.
OK. But here they’re saying, you didn’t come—who’s coming out of Galilee? They’re missing a prophecy, though. Do you remember what prophecy they’re missing?
I wasn’t thinking about that one. There’s another one that’s in Handel’s Messiah—that you Zebulun and Naphtali shall have seen a great light. Then the people “shall see a great light!” That’s a prophecy that they missed.
But they already had their system down. You see it? They had an expectation of what the Messiah was going to look like, and he wasn’t fitting this.
You’ve got one group of people saying, “Well, listen to what he’s saying! Look at what he’s doing!” And the experts are saying, “Hmm. No, he doesn’t fit. When we have somebody that fits, then we’ll think about that.”
Let’s keep on going in chapter 7. The officers, they’re supposed to go arrest him, and he said, “No man ever spoke like this Man.”
Then the Pharisees answered them, “Are you also deceived?
Have any of the rulers or the Pharisees believed in Him? But this crowd that does not know the law is accursed.”
Nicodemus (he who came to Jesus by night, being one of them) said to them, “Does our law judge a man before it hears him and knows what he is doing?”
We haven’t even checked to see where the guy was born. We don’t know what he’s doing.
They answered and said to him, “Are you also from Galilee? Search and look, for no prophet has arisen out of Galilee.”
He doesn’t fit our system!
Let’s go to John 9:16. Therefore some of the Pharisees said, “This Man is not from God, because He does not keep the Sabbath.”
Others said, “How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?”
See, what one group of people is saying is, “Well, if he’s a sinner, how’s he healing people?” Other people are saying, “Yeah, he’s not fitting in our system. He’s not keeping the Sabbath.”
Let’s look at John 9:29. We know that God spoke to Moses; as for this fellow, we do not know where He is from.”
Well, they could have gone and checked, right? They weren’t trying to find out. What they were trying to do was circle the wagons around their system.
Because the one who testified for him was a sinner
“Why, this is a marvelous thing, that you do not know where He is from; yet He has opened my eyes! This is the blind guy that got healed.
Here we have this wonderful parallel. You’ve got a blind guy who can see talking to guys who can see that are blind. This is such a rich passage.
“—you do not know where He is from; yet He has opened my eyes!
Now we know that God does not hear sinners; but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does His will, He hears him.
Since the world began it has been unheard of that anyone opened the eyes of one who was born blind.
If this Man were not from God, He could do nothing.”
They answered and said to him, “You were completely born in sins, and are you teaching us?” And they cast him out.
Why would they say he was completely born in sins? Because he was born blind. And their theology was he deserved it because he was a sinner, or his parents or someone else; and this is God’s judgment on something they’d done, and so you can’t listen to this guy. So they cast him out.
You see where knowing the scriptures and building a system has the potential to miss the point. There’s nothing wrong with having a framework for understanding. All of us have that. Let’s just have it not be an end unto itself.
The scriptures are not an end unto themselves. The scriptures are a means to know Jesus.
Let’s go back to 8:13. The Pharisees therefore said to Him, “You bear witness of Yourself; Your witness is not true.”
Because he is challenging rabbinical precedent
In the rabbinic system, someone would stand up and say, “You have heard it said, but I say…” You’ve heard that in the scriptures, right? Jesus did it in the Sermon on the Mount.
But what they would do is say, “You’ve heard it said…” and they’re resting on that authority, and then they would add something to that authority.
Jesus just spoke out and said, “This is the way it is.” And people said, “This man speaks like he has authority.”
What are they saying? He’s not referring to legal precedent which was the rabbinical norm. He’s just speaking like he actually knows. They’re saying, “Well, you’re not following our system!”
If you’re a Pharisee and your whole system’s built up with this rabbinical precedent, and someone’s just throwing it overboard, what are you going to think? Heretic. Why? Because you’re violating the orthodoxy. And what is that threatening? The whole establishment. Who’s the beneficiary of the establishment? Them, right? Establishment people typically defend the establishment because it benefits the establishment.
Jesus says in verse 15, You judge according to the flesh; I judge no one.
Boy, that’s a fascinating verse, isn’t it?
And then he goes on and says, And yet if I do judge, My judgment is true;
He’s going to judge the whole world. But not yet.
Paul tells us “Judge everything in time.” I don’t even judge myself, Paul says. That doesn’t mean I’m off the hook. It just means the judgment’s in the future, and all things are going to be put right. Don’t try to make it right yourself.
I think people tend to use prophecy to judge other people, and that’s not the point either. There will be judgment. Nobody’s going to get away with a thing. It’ll all be paid for one way or the other. Thankfully, Jesus has already paid for it all. That’s what I’m hoping will be my case. I don’t want to embrace any condemnation.
So let’s look at John 9:28. Then they reviled him and said, “You are His disciple, but we are Moses’ disciples. We know that God spoke to Moses; as for this fellow, we do not know where He is from.”
What do you see here? You see some repeating of a narrative. This is the way politicians do it. They kick a narrative, and they just repeat it over and over again.
There’s a great quote from Lenin that says, “A lie told often enough becomes the truth.” This is the way you do it in politics. You just pound a narrative away, and it becomes a defense in and of itself.
Let’s go to chapter 10:33. The Jews answered Him, saying, “For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy, and because You, being a Man, make Yourself God.”
In this case they had ruled out one possibility, which was what? That the Messiah would be God. That the Messiah would be deity. They’d ruled that out.
On what basis did they rule that out? We’re not really told. They did not have that as a possibility.
What does that tell us about the way we ought to think about prophetic future? Don’t rule out possibilities unless you’re specifically told to rule out the possibility.
The concept is in Jewish texts from those times, however, it’s obvious from these texts that this group of people didn’t believe that.
Some did. This group of people did not. They had already had in mind— And, again, we’re not focusing—A lot of people did believe— We’re focusing on the people who rejected; and they were the people who knew the scriptures the best.
Don’t miss the main point
The point here is let’s not do prophetic interpretation like this. Let’s don’t miss the point; the point is Jesus. Let’s don’t make assumptions. Let’s don’t just defend a particular system that we happened to have bought into. And let’s don’t make assumptions about what’s not possible.
Some things we’ll never know.
As a matter of fact, it’s common for us Greek-culture people that start with the premise that we will someday know. That’s the whole basis of Greek philosophy. If we just spend long enough, we’ll understand everything.
There’s a premise from that that when we all get to heaven, we’ll all know everything. Which would mean what if that was true? We’ll be God.
What actually will happen is that we will become more cognizant of infinity. We, being finite—because we all have a beginning—the more you understand what infinity is, is it going to get bigger or smaller? It’s going to get bigger!
As our actual knowledge expands exponentially, and we know more and more and more and more and more, what are we going to be aware of? That we’re getting behind! It’s becoming a smaller and smaller percentage of what we’re aware is out there. Is that going to be exciting or boring? It’s exciting! James will always be able to teach PetroSource classes. Well, maybe not PetroSource. But some kind of classes! I mean, there’s always going to be something else to know.
One of the things God tells us he is is our father, our parent. So you’re now raising a child. Are you trying to tell him as much as possible about the pains and difficulties of life right now? You’re just trying to get him to stand up, right? And get out of diapers. That would be the first big thing, right? Get out of diapers.
And, as your trying to help him get out of diapers, are you going to try to help him understand the immense pain associated with intestinal difficulties?
No! It’s just not time, right? It’s just one thing at a time as you grow up. And if you tried to get too much at once, it’s just overwhelming. You wouldn’t have anywhere to go.
Have you noticed in your life that God tends to let you see your own faults a little at a time? Can you imagine if you had gotten them all at once?
We kind of know what that’s like from Isaiah. Isaiah went into the presence of the Lord. What did he do? He just fell down on his face. What did he say? I’m unclean. And we see that.
John comes in the presence of Jesus, and he says, “I’m unclean. I’m an unclean man.”
Don’t you think a lot of what we’re talking about is the problem with humans is our pride. And the understanding of prophecy is not really in the pursuit of understanding, it’s in pursuit of our own pride. And Jesus tells us, you know, come to him like a little child. And the little children didn’t understand prophecy. They understood the main point.
I think we’re done. No, that’s very well said. I just think that’s it. We’re children, and God’s trying to tell us something; so let’s listen to what he’s telling us. All the other stuff—we can enjoy that too. But that’s not the main point. The main point is the main point.
The Jewish leaders didn’t want to lose control
So a couple more things.
Let’s look at John 11:47. This kind of shows the hardness of our pride when we actually start to—
Then the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered a council and said, “What shall we do? For this Man works many miracles.
If we let Him alone like this, everyone will believe in Him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and nation.”
What’s their motivation? Self-preservation. That’s pride. Their motive is to entrench. Here they are. Listen to the words they’re saying. “Gah! This guy’s doing all kinds of miracles. If we don’t stop him, everyone’s going to believe in him!”
And what would be wrong with that?
The conclusion they were drawing is that he would make himself a king and overthrow the Herodian system and then Rome would come in and crush them.
Yeah, so that’s a good point. We can substitute in things and say we have to control current circumstances or else things are going to go badly. Which is to say—who’s in control of the future?
God is in control
And one of the great things we can get from prophecy is God is in control. We may not like from here to there. It may be very painful. I mean, life is kind of painful, isn’t it? Have you experienced any pain in your life? There may be stuff that happens that we don’t like. But God is in control.
They should have understood because of what Jesus did
Last thing. What I was intending to talk about was Lazarus being raised from the dead. When Lazarus is raised from the dead, many believed because Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead.
So you’ve got this situation where maybe they understand exactly where he came from. Maybe they don’t understand how certain prophecies fit in. Maybe they have people saying, “This theology may not be right,” and they look and say, “I know power when I see it. I know God when I see it. I know righteousness when I see it. I’m going to follow that.”
And that’s kind of the point too, right? It’s not our pride we’re trying to build up. It’s us trying to follow righteousness, God’s way.
To wrap up: Prophecy is God talking about stuff. When God talks about stuff, he’s leading us in the right way for our own benefit. And if we’ll listen and hit the main point, we can benefit from it. And we’ll see him, and we’ll see righteousness. We’ll see a benefit. Life. We’ll have our life be better as we follow that.
If we try to manipulate it to make ourselves feel like we’re in control, we’re just going to get messed up worse.