“No one ever spoke the way this man does,” the guards replied.
Jesus Christ was revolutionary. He came, he spoke, and all were amazed. He spoke not like Moses – who represented the Israelites and was representative of the Jewish law, not like David, who was annointed over the Israelites and sang praises about the Lord. He spoke not like Solomon, the wisest man and king nor like the prophets nor John the Baptist, who paved the way for him. We were not there when Jesus taught, but he likely spoke with the wisdom of Solomon, with authority like Moses, with love for the people like David, and in the speech of the future like the prophets or John the Baptist. On many occasions the Bible recorded that the people were amazed by the gospel of Christ – at times through the preaching of Jesus, and later on through the teachings of the apostle. Why were they amazed? And in this particular case, were the guards amazed, or were they more confused? In this study, we will examine the context of this verse to find out why they were inclined to say – no one ever spoke the way this man does – and what does it mean to someone who has never heard God’s truth before.
At the Sermon of the Mount, when Jesus spoke perhaps the lengthiest sermon recorded in the four gospels, the crowds were amazed at his teaching [Matthew 7:28]. Why? Because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law [Matthew 7:29]. The people were not new to the teachings of law. The people were not new to God – this was the God of their forefathers, and they were probably taught about the law when they were still in their mothers’ womb! They must have heard plenty of rabbis and teachers speak about God before, and yet the sermon made by Christ astounded them. It is apparent that there is a notable difference between the way Jesus taught and the way their rabbis taught. It is also apparent that there is a notable difference between the things that Jesus taught about and the things that their rabbis taught about. Because they were listening attentively, they caught these two differences – in manner and in content – and they were amazed, because Jesus was the greatest teacher with the greatest message ever.
Jesus taught as one who had authority. He didn’t teach simply because he had grown up studying the law and knew everything there is to know about them. He didn’t teach simply because he was able to keep all the laws – while all these ordinary folk couldn’t. No, he taught out of authority, and his teaching is for everyone – sinners, saints, the lost, the doubting, the confused, the helpless. He taught not on law but on grace. What was the Sermon of the Mount begin with? The Beatitudes. Blessings for the impoverished and the marginalised. What was Jesus teaching about when the temple guards were sent to seize him? He prophesied about the aftermath of the crucifixion, he prophesied about the Holy Spirit, he spoke of his identity of the Son of Man. These were things that the Jews were unable to understand at that point in time. Of course, they knew nothing of the Holy Spirit as they had yet to receive it, and they understood not of his prophetic statements.
The guards in John 7 were not Roman soldiers, but temple guards. I imagine that they would have heard great leaders of the Jewish synagogues speak before, I imagine they would have heard high priests and rabbis and big-name Pharisees teach before. Yet the preaching of Jesus was new to them. It was refreshing – but at the same time confusing – to them. They were sent by the Pharisees and the chief priests in verse 32 – The Pharisees heard the crowd whispering such things about him. Then the chief priests and the Pharisees sent temple guards to arrest him [John 7:32], and from verse 32 till when they reported back to the Chief priests and the Pharisees, the things that Jesus spoke on specifically were perhaps not meant for these guards to understand. In fact, there were likely nobody who heard him and truly understood what he meant when he said, I am with you for only a short time, and then I am going to the one who sent me.You will look for me, but you will not find me; and where I am, you cannot come [John 7:33-34]. The guards were confused – the guesses and speculations made by the public certainly didn’t help them make up their minds. Yet despite not truly understanding Jesus and his message, they could feel that he was different.
When they reported back to the Pharisees and the Chief Priests, they told the truth – they were confused because no-one spoke like this man does, and they didn’t know if they should catch him anymore. They could have came up with excuses. They could have spun lies to cover up their mistakes. But they spoke the truth, and the Pharisees reprimanded them for being deceived.
There is cause to be concerned if you hear somebody preaching about something never heard of before. Certainly. Jesus was a revolutionary. It can be expected that not everyone would simply listen and believe. People who insist on their old ways will not even believe when they see, instead choosing to come up with logical explanations for each and every miracle. Yet when you truly listen to Jesus speaking, you will be amazed. The content will astound you – for it is the greatest message; the way Jesus speaks will amaze you, for he is the greatest teacher. We can’t hear Jesus speaking on stage to us today, but the greatest message is still here with us. Are you amazed? When you leave your old ways and your old perspectives and embrace the word of God, it is an amazing experience. If we are not amazed, let us check ourselves and our hearts and adopt the correct attitude in reading the word of God.