Many of the people therefore, when they heard this saying, said, Of a truth this is the Prophet. Others said, This is the Christ. But some said, Shall Christ come out of Galilee? Hath not the scripture said, That Christ cometh of the seed of David, and out of the town of Bethlehem, where David was? So there was a division among the people because of him. And some of them would have taken him; but no man laid hands on him. Then came the officers to the chief priests and Pharisees; and they said unto them, Why have ye not brought him? The officers answered, Never man spake like this man. Then answered them the Pharisees, Are ye also deceived? Have any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed on him? But this people who knoweth not the law are cursed. Nicodemus saith unto them, (he that came to Jesus by night, being one of them,) Doth our law judge any man, before it hear him, and know what he doeth? They answered and said unto him, Art thou also of Galilee? Search, and look: for out of Galilee ariseth no prophet. And every man went unto his own house.
In the previous address we considered our Lord’s wonderful declaration concerning the coming of the Holy Spirit when He cried on the last day of the feast of tabernacles, “If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink” (v. 37). And then He added, “He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water” (v. 38). The Evangelist explained the meaning of the living water when He said, “But this spake he of the Spirit which they that believe on him should receive” (v. 39). The people who heard our Lord Jesus speaking in this way of the living water naturally connected the Old Testament passages that told of the living water with the day of the Messiah, for they knew from the prophecies of Jeremiah and Isaiah that it was in His day when the gift of the living water would be given. So they at once jumped to the conclusion that our Lord was declaring His Messiahship, and indeed He was. Yet He knew that the time had not arrived when all this blessing should come to the nation of Israel, but the blessing that they refused was to go out to the Gentiles and was to be enjoyed by a remnant of Israel who would put their trust in Him.
Those who were listening to the Lord turned one to another and some said, “Of a truth this is the Prophet” (v. 40). What did they mean by “the Prophet”? They were thinking of the words of Moses in Deuteronomy 18. There, beginning with verse 15, we hear Moses speaking to the people of Israel as they were gathered about him on the plains of Moab before they entered the land of Canaan. He said, “The LORD thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken; according to all that thou desiredst of the LORD thy God in Horeb in the day of the assembly, saying, Let me not hear again the voice of the LORD my God, neither let me see this great fire any more, that I die not. And the LORD said unto me, They have well spoken that which they have spoken. I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him. And it shall come to pass, that whosoever will not hearken unto my words which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him” (vv. 15-19).
These words referred to our Lord Jesus Christ. In the book of the Acts when the apostle Peter was addressing the people, we read, “For Moses truly said unto the fathers, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you. And it shall come to pass, that every soul, which will not hear that prophet, shall be destroyed from among the people” (3:22-23). So these Jews who were listening to the teaching of our Lord Jesus by putting various things together that they had heard and thinking of the marvelous signs He had performed among them, said, “This must be the One for whom we have waited.” You see, He was to come from among themselves. God will “raise up unto you of your brethren.” They were terrified when God spoke in flaming fire in Mount Sinai and said, “Moses, you speak to us, but not God, lest we die” (Exod. 20:19, author’s paraphrase). And God said, “Well, I will raise up a Prophet like unto Moses. He will be My messenger to them, but whosoever will not hear that Prophet I will require it of him,” or “he shall be destroyed.”
They were not quite sure, but they thought this must be He. And others said, “This is the Christ”—that is, “This is the Anointed One.” They knew from their Bibles that the day would come when God’s Anointed One should appear to them. That is why the Jews called Him the Messiah, for Messiah means the “Anointed One.” In Psalm 2 we read: “Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against his anointed, saying, Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us” (vv. 1-3). A little farther down in that same Psalm, in verse 6, it reads, “Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion.” “I have anointed My King upon My holy hill of Zion.” The Lord Jesus Christ is God’s Anointed. He is the One whom God Himself has anointed by the Spirit and sent into the world to be the Redeemer of lost mankind.
But some curled the lip and asked sarcastically, “Shall Christ come out of Galilee?” (John 7:41). These men of Judea despised the more ignorant and less religious folk of Galilee, and it was unthinkable to them that one who came from there could really be the Anointed One of God. Later on, in verse 52, we find them making a very false declaration about Galilee.
“Hath not the scripture said, That Christ cometh of the seed of David, and out of the town of Bethlehem, where David was?” (v. 42). Yes, the Scripture said that. The prophet Micah plainly declared it, and his prophecy was quoted at the birth of the Lord: “Thou Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, art not the least among the princes of Judah: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel” (Matt. 2:6). They knew that; it was in their Bibles. They knew Christ was to be born in Bethlehem. But they blundered now because they had never learned that He was born in Bethlehem, and that He did come from David through Mary, who was of the lineage of David. The birth of the Lord was a fulfillment, in all points, of prophecy. He was born of a virgin, He was born in Bethlehem, and He was born of David’s line, but they did not take the trouble to find out if these things were true or not.
When God gives His Word, ignorance of that Word does not excuse anyone. Many today are vastly ignorant of this Book, and perhaps imagine that in the day of judgment they can plead ignorance of it as an excuse for not understanding His will. But, remember, if you are ignorant of the Word of God, you are willfully ignorant. You have the Bible in your homes. If you do not study your Bibles, then you are responsible if you do not learn the mind of God. Jesus says, “Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life” (John 5:39). Oh, that there might come a great awakening of our responsibility to this! I am afraid there are thousands who rarely open their Bibles from one weekend to the other. They depend upon an occasional message from the pulpit or in the Sunday school, and, God knows, very often they get very little there. But there is no excuse, for you have the Bible, and you can read for yourselves. I am sure of this, if there would come a real sense of responsibility as to this and Christians would begin to read and study this Book to become familiar with the mind of God, we would soon have a great revival among the people of God and a great awakening among the Christless.
Sometime ago a dear missionary in England was telling us that he had left his station in India because of ill-health. He read us a letter from one of the native elders in the church in India. He was telling how much they missed him, and, yet, he went on to say, during his absence they were doing a great deal more praying and reading the Word. In fact, they were having a real “re-Bible.” And that missionary, when he read it to us, said, “I think what my Indian brother said is right, where we have ‘re-Bible’ we will have revival.” “Man [does] not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4). But when people do not take the trouble to know, they will be held responsible for their ignorance.
We read that “there was a division among the people because of him” (John 7:43). There is still a division because of Him. Some said, “Is not this the Christ?” (4:29). There were others who said, “Will the Messiah come out of Galilee. No, we cannot accept Him.” So there are the two classes today. There are those who look up in faith and say, “We recognize in Him our Savior and Redeemer,” and there are those who spurn and refuse Him. But God has told us that there is no other name given among men whereby we must be saved. If we will not accept God’s testimony concerning Him, if we go on refusing to receive Him as Savior and Lord, then His own solemn words will be fulfilled, “Whither I go you cannot come, for except you believe that I am He, ye shall die in your sins.”
Yes, there is a division because of Him today. May I ask you tenderly now, On which side are you? Are you among those who have trusted in Him and received Him, or are you numbered among those who have spurned Him and rejected His grace? Thank God, if you are among the latter, it is not too late to come to Him in repentance and to take Him as your Savior.
There was a division among the people because of Him. Some would have taken and arrested Him, but no man laid hands on Him. The hour was not come when He was to be offered up. The Pharisees had sent certain officers to Him to arrest Him and bring Him before the Sanhedrin, but we are told in verse 45 that they came back empty handed. The chief priest said, “Why have ye not brought him?” “Why did you not arrest Him?” And the officers gave this wonderful answer, “Never man spake like this man” (v. 46). Yes, there was something about Jesus, something about His very message, His manner of speaking, and the matter of His instruction that stirred the hearts of these officers—hard, ruthless men—so that they found themselves absolutely helpless and paralyzed, and they did not dare arrest Him. They went away baffled and amazed. Who is this One who speaks with such power? “Never man spake like this man.”
And as they answered the chief priests and Pharisees like this, they thought these officers must have been persuaded of the Messiahship of Jesus. They said, “Are ye also deceived?” (v. 47). They meant, “Are you also deceived so that you are not able to weigh things carefully and thoughtfully?” Then they asked, “Have any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed on him?” (v. 48). The great ones, as a rule, are not given to believing on Him. But God has chosen the poor of this world, the people that are despised. He uses the things that are not to bring to nought things that are. The great ones seldom get in. But yet, on the other hand, there have always been those even in the higher ranks of life who have discerned the beauty and blessedness of our Lord Jesus, and so among the outstanding saints of God have been men and women even in royal or important families. God has saints even among wealthy people, and that is a great thing, you know.
They asked, “Have any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed on him?” They declared that these people who know not the law are given up to judgment because they do not understand. This was the opportunity for Nicodemus to show where he stood. He was one of the Pharisees, one of the doctors of the law, an authority on the Scriptures. Nicodemus spoke right up, “(he that came to Jesus by night, being one of them), Doth our law judge any man before it hear him, and know what he doeth?” (vv. 50-51). As much as to say, “Have you heard Him yourself? Have you seen His works of power? If you have not, then why do you pass judgment? Why do you say He is a deceiver?” In other words, Nicodemus is saying, “Investigate before you judge.” And we would say that today to all those who try to refute the claims of the Lord Jesus Christ, “Investigate before you judge.” If you are an agnostic or infidel, and you say, “I can’t believe the story of Jesus Christ. I can’t believe He was the Son of God, born of a virgin,” let me ask you what investigation of the records have you made?
I think almost all well-educated ministers of the gospel have read scores of books by men who reject the Bible and refuse the testimony of the Lord Jesus Christ. I can say that I have read literally hundreds of such books written by unbelievers. “Have they not shaken your faith in the Bible?” you ask. No, they only show me the folly of unbelief. But having said that, let me say this, I have never met an infidel yet who has ever read one serious book on Christian evidences. Now there may be some, but I have never met one who has. Men read the arguments from the other side, but the average objector does not take the trouble to read the books written in defense of the truth of God.
I knew a lawyer who was an infidel by his own confession for years. Finally, someone said, “But you haven’t read the other side.” “I have made up my mind,” was the reply. “Yes, but you have never read the other side. There is an old book—it is called Nelson on Infidelity—suppose you read it.” “Well,” he said, “I presume I ought to.” He read it. Before he finished he was a Christian. There are many such books, as Dr. A. T. Pierson’s Many Infallible Proofs, and others one might speak of. The trouble is with the enemies of the cross of Christ, they are not willing to investigate because they do not want to give up some sin that the Bible condemns. They know that to become Christians would mean turning from sin and yielding their wills to Christ.
Nicodemus throws down the challenge and says, “Doth our law judge any man, before it hear him, and know what he doeth?” Do they answer him? Oh, not at all. They answer, it is true, but their answer is an evasion. They said, “Art thou also of Galilee? Search, and look: for out of Galilee ariseth no prophet” (v. 52). And again they showed their ignorance. They thought they knew it all, these dignified doctors. They thought that “all scholars were agreed” with them, and when one of their own number comes out to speak for Him they say, “Art thou also of Galilee?” “Are you also going to join that crowd? No prophet ever came out of Galilee.” They had not been reading their Bibles very carefully. They forgot that Jonah was from Gath-Hepher, a town in Galilee (see 2 Kings 14:25). Then, too, it is generally believed that Nahum was a Galilean. So at least one prophet had come out of Galilee, perhaps two, and it was not impossible that another should. But they said, “Look: for out of Galilee ariseth no prophet.” That is the way men do away with the truth of God today. Oh, dear friends, do not be unfair to your own souls. If you have never yet investigated the claims of the Lord Jesus Christ, I beg of you to do so. It is the height of folly to assume that His claims are false, when you have never weighed the evidence.
But now let us come back to those words used by the officers. They said of Him, “Never man spake like this man,” and I want you think of those words as indicating the wonderful character of our Lord Jesus Christ. His words were words of power. It was not merely the lovely similes and beautiful illustrations that led them to speak like that. They said, “Never man spake like this man.” Think of some of His sayings. If He declares, “Now in the law it is written so and so, but I say unto you.” Surely never man spake like this Man!
Think of the power of His words! When the people in distress came to Him. The blind man said, “Lord, that I may receive my sight” (Luke 18:41). He put His hands upon his eyes and said, “Be opened,” and the blind man saw. Look at the poor leper, so unclean and polluted and denied. “If thou wilt, thou canst make me clean,” he said (Matt. 8:2). Jesus put forth His hand and touched him and said, “I will; be thou clean” (v. 3). As that leper looked at his clean flesh wonderingly, his heart said, “Never man spake like this man!” And then when Jesus stood by the dead or by the grave, as when He went into the house where the little daughter of Jairus was, and took her by the hand said, “[Little girl], I say unto thee, arise,” and she arose (Mark 5:41). Her parents must have thought, “Never man spake like this man.” At the grave of Lazarus, when they had rolled the stone away, He cried, “Lazarus, come forth. And he that was dead came forth” (John 11:43-44). I imagine that crowd must have said in their hearts, “Never man spake like this man.”
And oh, dear friends, when He hung upon the cross and He prayed for the transgressors and cried, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34), and then He exclaimed in triumph a little later, “It is finished” (John 19:30)—surely “never man spake like this man!” When He came forth in resurrection and met His disciples and said, “All hail!” (Matt. 28:9), and later appeared among them and said, “As my Father hath sent me, even so send I you” (John 20:21)—surely they must have gone away saying to themselves, “Never man spake like this man.” And now He has gone up to the glory of God and is sitting on the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. But in a little while He is coming back, and He will call the dead from the tomb and cause the living to be changed.
When He exclaims, “Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away” (Song 2:13), we will rise and go singing our way through the air crying, “Never man spake like this man.” And when at last the ages of time have run their course and the Great White Throne is set, and the dead are called from their tombs and they stand before Him for judgment and look into the face of the One who walked the shores of Galilee, the One who spoke so tenderly to the troubled and distressed, when they see Him on the throne and they stand before Him to give account for their sins, and above all else, for the sin of rejecting His grace, and hear Him say (How I hope you will never have to hear Him say it!), “Depart from me, ye cursed, into the everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matt. 25:41), they will turn away wringing their hands and crying, “Never man spake like this man.” “Oh, if we had only accepted His testimony when He called in grace and said, ‘Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden (Matt. 11:28), and we would have never had to hear Him say, ‘Depart from me.’”
Today He speaks, and He says, “Come unto me…and I will give you rest.” “Today, if ye will hear his voice, harden not your heart, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness” (Ps. 95:7-8). He speaks to you who are in your sins and He promises you deliverance if you but trust Him. Let your hearts cry out: “Never man spake like this man!” Say, “I will take Him now as my Savior.”