“So there was a division among the people because of him.”
~ John 7:43
What are we to do with Jesus? This was the question that troubled many in Christ’s day. In the time of our text, many said of Him, “Of a truth this is the Prophet. Others said, This is the Christ. But some said, Shall Christ come out of Galilee?” (John 7:40-41). They first sought to understand or define who Jesus was and, though they were not agreed about who He was, they next had to figure out what to do with Him. “And some of them would have taken him; but no man laid hands on him” (John 7:44). On both accounts, “there was a division among the people because of him.” Regardless of the diverse opinions of the people, one thing was clear—they could not ignore Him.
The division over Jesus was not limited to a few crusty old Jewish theologians. The questions about Jesus touched the whole community—the poor, the rich, the sick, the healthy, the powerful, and the oppressed. None were spared from facing this question. Everywhere He went the common people would flock to Him and this drew criticisms from the upper class, “Behold a man gluttonous, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners” (Matthew 11:19). So, wherever He went, “there was a division among the people because of him.”
The division over Jesus was not limited to His own public life. After His ascension, His church began to spread throughout the known world, taking the message of Jesus with them. Not surprisingly, they found “there was a division among the people because of him.” Paul told the Corinthians, “But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness” (1 Corinthians 1:23). Paul explained the division of the people: “For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom” (1 Corinthians 1:22). Even then, there were also those who were called who found Jesus “the power of God, and the wisdom of God” (1 Corinthians 1:24).
It is amazing to think that the Jews could not find signs sufficient enough in Christ. Had there ever lived a man who did the quantity and quality of miracles that Christ did. With only a portion of His career available to us today, we certainly could not find any to compare to Him. John wrote in his Gospel, “And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written” (John 21:25). The world could not contain the books that would be required to record the things He did and yet “the Jews require a sign.”
It is also amazing to think that the Greeks could not find sufficient wisdom in Jesus Christ—“the Ancient of day” (Daniel 9:7). On many occasions, the people were put to amazement when they heard Him speak. “The people were astonished at his doctrine” (Matthew 28:8). “And all bare him witness, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth” (Luke 4:22). “Then said some of them of Jerusalem, Is not this he, whom they seek to kill? But, lo, he speaketh boldly, and they say nothing unto him. Do the rulers know indeed that this is the very Christ?” (John 7:25-26). “The officers answered, Never man spake like this man” (John 7:46). Christ testified of the queen of the south who “came from the uttermost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and, behold, a greater than Solomon is here” (Matthew 12:42). The world had never known greater wisdom than Jesus had. Jesus Christ possessed the deep riches of the wisdom of God and yet the Greeks rejected Him and sought “after wisdom.”
Evidently, the world at large fared no better in settling the question of Jesus in the first century than did those of Palestine during His life. Some would perhaps like to think that Jesus would receive a better hearing in the world today because we are more civil and progressive. However, even today, there is “division among the people because of him.” Jesus is no more receivable today than He has been throughout history.
Just as the Jews and Greeks of the first century, many modern people have not found what they would like in Jesus Christ. They just cannot make the Christ of God to fit in their mold and so, significant revision is needed before their minds will rest from the question. And, there is no end of liberal theologians and scholars who work tirelessly to revise and upgrade Jesus to suit the tastes of modern man.
No matter how hard you might try, you just cannot ignore Him. However, we do not define Jesus and we do not put Him into any sort of a mold. He defines us and puts us into His mold. “And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder” (Matthew 21:44).
The question of who Jesus is, is not decided, it is revealed: “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God . . . flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 16:16-17). “No man knoweth who the Son is, but the Father; and who the Father is, but the Son, and he to whom the Son will reveal him” (Luke 10:22). “But when it pleased God . . . To reveal his Son in me” (Galatians 1:15-16).
The question of what to do with Jesus is not decided, it is commanded: “This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent” (John 6:29). “Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel” (Mark 1:14-15). “Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink” (John 7:37).