Speculating about the Christ
“Some of the people of Jerusalem therefore said, ‘Is not this the man whom they seek to kill? And here he is, speaking openly, and they say nothing to him! Can it be that the authorities really know that this is the Christ?’ ” (vv. 25–26).- John 7:25–31
All four Gospels agree that Jesus’ practice of healing people on the Sabbath was the object of the religious leaders’ condemnation. Whether we are talking about the healing of the man with the withered hand or the healing of the paralyzed man at Bethesda, the Jewish leaders saw His Sabbath healings and His teaching about their lawfulness as a claim of His equality with God (Matt. 12:9–13; Mark 3:1–6; Luke 6:6–11; John 5:1–18).
This might seem strange since the Jewish leaders of the time allowed for the doing of good on the Sabbath, including rescuing animals and circumcising infants when the eighth day after birth was a Sabbath (Matt. 12:11; John 7:22–23). However, their anger makes sense when we consider that the religious authorities of the first century agreed that such works were acceptable only when they were strictly necessary. A healing of a lifelong condition, presumably, could have been postponed one more day, for if the person had suffered for so long, delaying the healing twenty-four hours would not be a big deal. In other words, a healing on the Sabbath was not strictly necessary. In freely healing on the Sabbath even when it was not a necessity, Jesus was claiming that the religious authorities’ interpretation of the law was wrong and that it is always lawful to restore health and do good on the Sabbath. He was claiming to be the final interpreter of Sabbath law, a role reserved only for God.
The claim was not lost on the people whom Jesus taught in the temple as recorded in John 7. So, they speculated that He might be the Christ, that is, the Messiah, and this speculation was fueled by the fact that the leaders who were supposed to oppose false Messiahs were not countering His teaching (vv. 25–26). But they could not believe He was the Messiah because they knew where He came from, from Mary and Joseph in Galilee (v. 27; see 6:42). It was a popular belief among the Jews at the time that the Messiah would grow up in obscurity and would appear suddenly, with no one having known Him before. Since they knew Jesus’ background, they thought He could not be the Messiah.
Truthfully, however, the crowd of people did not know where Jesus was from. Jesus could say that they knew, but He meant that they knew of His origins only in a limited sense. They did not know the whole story, namely, that Jesus came from God, for they did not know God. And this accusation incensed them even more (7:28–31).
God made the Sabbath for our sake (Mark 2:27), which means we should not hesitate to do what is good and what produces health on the Lord’s Day. Although the Lord’s Day is a day of rest and worship, it is also a day for doing good to others and showing mercy.
Passages for Further Study