So there was a division among the people over him. John 7:43 ESV.
Who is Jesus? What did he come to earth to do? Or did he even come to earth? Might he have been just a good man? What did he actually teach?
People are sharply divided over all these questions. They always have been, even since the days when Jesus lived.
In John 7, people couldn’t agree about Jesus’ identity. Who was this man? The Prophet? The Christ? An imposter? A charlatan? The word in the original language that is translated as “division” in our text above is the root for our word “schism.” The people didn’t have a friendly disagreement. It was an acerbic difference. Their conclusions about Jesus — some right, some wrong — caused a deep rift in Jewish society. Some wanted to crown him; others, to crucify him.
Our Lord and Savior knew that division would come because of him. Yes, he came for the purpose of reuniting us to God and bringing us all together in God’s family. He also knew, however, that one result of his witnessing to the truth would be to throw people against each other. He said,
Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. … Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household, Matthew 10:21, 22, 34-36.
Now that’s some serious opposition right there, not only against Jesus, but against his followers.
How do these divisions look today?
- Like the Jews, they come from people who reject Jesus as the Messiah and the Son of God. Atheists and religionists alike persecute Christ’s faithful followers.
- There are also people who claim to be Christians, but refuse to obey the gospel. They are also capable of strong division. One of our preachers even had a bomb planted inside his pulpit. (By God’s will it didn’t go off.)
- And then there are people among us, who rise up and decide it’s time for something new and different. (Rebels and scoundrels always think they’re doing something original.)
The New Testament is full of warnings about them. For example,
- In his beautiful Sermon on the Mount, Jesus warned about false prophets (teachers) who were wolves in sheep’s clothing, Matthew 7:15-19.
- Paul used Jesus’ language about “fierce wolves” coming into the church and told the Ephesian elders that “from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them,” Acts 20:29, 30.
- Peter also alerted his readers that “there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction,” 2 Peter 2:1.
Since those warnings were given, the situation has only grown worse. Nothing has improved! We may sound like inventors of conspiracies, but adulterers, truth-deniers, world-accomodators, and contestants for popularity are determined to drive the church off the cliff into hell.
Jesus wants to give us peace, but some are determined to wage war. We do not stoop to fight like the dividers, for “the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds,” 2 Corinthians 10.4. Ours is a battle for the victory of “the knowledge of God,” v. 5. And we do not shrink from this battle, for our very souls are at stake.
So then let us commend ourselves “by the open statement of the truth,” 2 Corinthians 4:2. Because by the factions that occur, as they did in Corinth, they arise “in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized,” 1 Corinthians 11:19.