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How Confused were the Jewish People about Who Jesus was?

John 7:12–27 reflects the confusion among the people. In vv. 12,13 the crowds, made up of Judeans, Galileans, and Diaspora (scattered) Jews, expressed various opinions regarding Christ. The spectrum ranged from superficial acceptance (“He is good”) to cynical rejection (“He deceives the people”). The Jewish Talmud reveals that the latter view of deception became the predominant opinion of many Jews.

Jesus’ knowledge of Scripture was supernatural. The people “marveled” (v. 15) that someone who had never studied at any great rabbinical centers or under any great rabbis could display such profound mastery of Scripture. Both the content and manner of Jesus’ teachings were qualitatively different from those of any other teacher. And the people were surprised that, in spite of the ominous threat from the religious authorities (vv. 20, 32), Jesus boldly proclaimed His identity (v. 26).

“Do the rulers know indeed that this is truly the Christ?” they asked. The question indicates the level of confusion and uncertainty as to who Jesus was and what to do about Him. They did not really have any firm convictions regarding Jesus’ identity. They were also perplexed at the religious leaders’ failure to arrest and silence Him if He really were a fraud. Such dense confusion caused the crowd to wonder if the religious authorities in private concluded that He was indeed the Christ. Mass confusion among all groups reigned regarding Jesus.

“No one knows where He is from” (v. 27). Only information regarding the Messiah’s birthplace was revealed in Scripture (Mic. 5:2; Matt. 2:5, 6). Beyond that, a tradition had developed in Jewish circles that the Messiah would appear suddenly to the people, based on a misinterpretation of Isaiah 53:8 and Malachi 3:1. In light of this, the meaning of this phrase most likely is that the identity of the Messiah would be wholly unknown until He suddenly appeared in Israel and accomplished Israel’s redemption. In contrast, Jesus had lived His life in Nazareth and was known (at least superficially) to the people (v. 28).

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