A Perplexed Opposition
“Jesus then said, ‘I will be with you a little longer, and then I am going to him who sent me. You will seek me and you will not find me. Where I am you cannot come’ ” (vv. 33–34).- John 7:32–36
When Jesus taught people during His earthly ministry, the result, not infrequently, was that His hearers were perplexed. For instance, Mark’s gospel makes it plain that our Lord’s closest disciples sometimes misunderstood His teaching (6:52; 9:32). If those who spent the most time with Jesus had trouble figuring Him out, then it should come as no surprise that those who heard Him less often misunderstood His teaching. And thus far in our study of the gospel of John, we have seen many occasions on which people found Jesus’ teaching difficult. Nicodemus was perplexed by Jesus’ insistence that he needed to be born again (3:1–15). The crowd whom He fed by multiplying loaves and fishes did not understand how Christ could give them His flesh to eat (6:52). And the Jews to whom He spoke during the final Feast of Booths before His death were puzzled about His identity, thinking that He might be the Messiah but uncertain about it since the religious authorities were not speaking against His claims or His teaching (7:25–26).
Today’s passage indicates that this messianic speculation proved too much for the religious authorities, who sent “officers” (the temple guard) to arrest Him (v. 32). They could not abide the risk of the crowd declaring Him Messiah because that might invite Roman reprisal. The Romans at this time were very wary of any messianic pretentions among the Jews because they often ended in outright revolt. Furthermore, although the crowd of Jesus’ listeners was still perplexed, many of them had come to believe in Him (v. 31). They had to act before He drew too many followers and further diminished their authority.
Despite the renewed attempts to arrest Jesus, it is clear that these efforts would prove to be in vain. It was not yet the moment for Jesus to be arrested and tried; that would happen at the time of His choosing. He would be going where the people would not be able to find Him (vv. 32–34). The reference here is obviously to Jesus’ ascension to heaven after His resurrection (Acts 1:6–11). True, our Lord would eventually be handed over to the authorities and killed, but He would finally escape them by rising from the dead on the third day and returning to His heavenly Father. But the people had no idea what He was talking about (John 7:35–36). They could not fathom that He spoke of returning to His Father in heaven because they did not yet realize that He was more than a mere man, that He was God incarnate who would determine the time of His departure.
It is important for us to be concerned with making good arguments and sound defenses of the Christian faith. But if we do this thinking that our work is sufficient to convince people, we are fooling ourselves. The Spirit must convince people if they are to believe. Thus, we must pray for those with whom we speak, asking God to open their hearts and minds to His truth.
Passages for Further Study