“But we know where this man comes from, and when the Christ appears, no one will know where he comes from.” So Jesus proclaimed, as he taught in the temple, “You know me, and you know where I come from. But I have not come of my own accord. He who sent me is true, and him you do not know. I know him, for I come from him, and he sent me.” (John 7:27-29)
What does it mean to “know?” Within today’s text, the Apostle John uses two Greek words for our one English word “know.” The two Greek words respectively are “οἶδα (oida) and γινώσκω (ginosko). On a personal note, the Greek word γινώσκω; ginosko is the first Greek word, and definition, I learned as a Bible college student in 1977.
Both Greek words mean to possess information, to understand, to remember and to acknowledge. There seems to be no discernible difference between the two words. John uses them interchangeably, much as we might use the words “I Know” or “I understand” or even the slang expression “I get it.”
However, the significant irony within the text is not so much the number of words used to mean “to know” but the absence of knowledge and understanding by the people speaking and using the words for knowledge and understanding.
The people speaking are people from Jerusalem who are celebrating the Feast of the Tabernacles (John 7:2, 25). Immediately following their statement that Jesus could be the Christ (John 7:25-26), they deny that this could be possible because they know where Jesus comes from, presumably Nazareth. Their reasoning is that the presumption was that nobody would know from where the Messiah would come.
Dr. R. C. Sproul comments, “But they could not believe He was the Messiah because they knew where He came from, from Mary and Joseph in Galilee (v. 27; see 6:42). It was a popular belief among the Jews at the time that the Messiah would grow up in obscurity and would appear suddenly, with no one having known Him before. Since they knew Jesus’ background, they thought He could not be the Messiah. Truthfully, however, the crowd of people did not know where Jesus was from. Jesus could say that they knew, but He meant that they knew of His origins only in a limited sense. They did not know the whole story, namely, that Jesus came from God, for they did not know God. And this accusation incensed them even more (7:28–31).”
Jesus acknowledges this lack of ultimate understanding on the people’s part when He responds, ““You know me, and you know where I come from. But I have not come of my own accord. He who sent me is true, and him you do not know. I know him, for I come from him, and he sent me.” The people may have thought Jesus ultimately came from Galilee but Jesus indicated that His true origination was heaven and from the Father; of whom they did not know.
Dr. John MacArthur explains, “These words stand in antithesis to John 8:19 where Jesus told his enemies that they neither knew him nor the Father, thus indicating a deep irony and sarcasm on Jesus’ part here. Jesus’ point is that contrary to what they thought, they really had no true understanding of who he was. They knew him in the earthly sense, but not in the spiritual sense, because they didn’t know God either. Although they thought that they were acutely perceptive and spiritually oriented, their rejection of Jesus revealed their spiritual bankruptcy (Rom. 2:17–19).”
Recently on Social Media, I read a statement by someone asking people, “Who is Jesus to you?” The question troubled me because it seems to indicate that the identity of Jesus is ultimately up to us. It’s as if we can originate our own existential meaning of who Jesus really is. You have your Jesus and I have mine. No harm, no foul. Everybody wins! We all have our own truth claims with no ultimate and universal truth claim.
On the contrary, the ultimate identity of Jesus Christ is solely contained in the Word of God. Our foundational reference point to truth in general, and truth related to the identity of Jesus Christ in particular, is to be found solely in the Scriptures. His identity is revealed not only by Jesus Himself (John 6; 8; 9; 10; 11; 14; 15), but also by the writers of Scripture. For example, see John 1:1-14. Any identification as to who Jesus is, void of a biblical source, is dangerous ground upon which to stand.
The better, or more accurate, question is “who is Jesus?”
Soli deo Gloria!