The officers then came to the chief priests and Pharisees, who said to them, “Why did you not bring him?” The officers answered, “No one ever spoke like this man!” The Pharisees answered them, “Have you also been deceived? Have any of the authorities or the Pharisees believed in him? But this crowd that does not know the law is accursed.” (John 7:45-49)
The officers mentioned in today’s text were first mentioned in John 7:32. “The Pharisees heard the crowd muttering these things about him, and the chief priests and Pharisees sent officers to arrest him.” The Sadducees and Pharisees did not want Jesus’ influence upon the people to increase. Therefore, they sent the Temple guards to arrest Jesus.
When the guards returned to the religious leaders they did not have Jesus in their custody. They had not arrested Him. The chief priests (Sadducees) and Pharisees wanted to know why. They said, “Why did you not bring him?” We can sense from the tone of their question that these religious leaders were not happy at the failure of the Temple police to carry out their orders.
What was the officers’ response? The officers answered, “No one ever spoke like this man!” With an emphatic statement, the officers stated that Jesus was unique. When they confronted His person and powerful preaching, they were cut to their hearts. They were convicted and presumably convinced that Jesus spoke the truth.
The religious leaders were incredulous. They responded, ““Have you also been deceived? Have any of the authorities or the Pharisees believed in him? But this crowd that does not know the law is accursed.” They not only mocked the officers but also the crowd who had begun to believe in Jesus (John 7:31).
As Pastor Burk Parsons explains, “It is doubtful that the officers had true faith in Jesus, at least at the time John 7 describes. More likely, they realized that it would not go well for them if they took into custody One with such evident authority (see Matt. 7:28–29). But the authorities who sent the officers to arrest Jesus did not share their fear. Today’s passage tells us that upon hearing of the officers’ failure, the Pharisees said Jesus had bewitched them (John 7:47). Most of the religious authorities who interacted with Jesus considered Him a fraud (see, for example, Matt. 12:22–32), and they thought He had tricked the officers.”
Pastor Parsons continues by stating, “The Pharisees, in particular, viewed themselves alone as those who truly knew the law of God. That explains their question in John 7:48. If these leaders had not believed in Jesus, surely He could not be the Christ. Moreover, we see in verse 49 their disdain for the common people. First-century rabbis tended to have a low view of anyone who was not educated in the law and the oral traditions, and the leaders we read about in today’s passage saw the crowd’s acceptance of Jesus as flowing from their ignorance and resulting in a curse on them. Yet, the common people actually knew the law better than the Pharisees did, for they followed the One to whom the law points (5:46–47).”
Augustine of Hippo also points out the irony in the Pharisees’ accusation in a sermon on today’s passage: He explains that, “The Pharisees, the teachers of the law, were made blind, and the people that knew not the law, and yet believed on the author of the law, were enlightened.” This same irony will also be evidenced in the account of Jesus’ healing of the man born blind in John 9.
I Corinthians 8:1-3 says, “Now concerning food offered to idols: we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up. If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. But if anyone loves God, he is known by God.”
Much like many of today’s politicians, these first century Jewish religious leaders were arrogant of their knowledge and position. They were convinced that they knew all the answers and that others were woefully ignorant. Consequently, they proved that they truly did not know God. They lacked one thing a true believer possesses: love. This is love for God and love for other people. Those who love God are not only ones who know God, but they are the ones God knows as His own.
Pastor Parsons concludes by saying, “Gaining knowledge is a wonderful thing, provided that we do not allow it to make us proud, that we do not puff ourselves up with our education (1 Cor. 8:1). The opponents of Jesus were highly educated men, but because they did not put their knowledge to use in serving God, they did not recognize Jesus for who He was. As we seek to increase our knowledge, especially with respect to the things of God, we must do so with the intent to serve Him.”
God calls us to serve, rather than to be served. Let us always remember this.
Soli deo Gloria!