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Gems in the Gospel of John



Part 31 – John 7:24

Decision time



“Stop judging by mere appearances, but instead judge correctly,” said Jesus. Or perhaps approximately ‘make up your mind – follow me or don’t follow me!’

Our acquaintance with decision-making will vary enormously according to where we live. I remember visiting our son and his family in a Central Asian city. They wanted to buy a small bicycle for their son. Eventually they found one after a long search. There was no decision to make – it was this or nothing. I also remember a grown woman who had been living in an African city telling us that she had come home to the UK, gone into a supermarket, burst into tears and rushed out. The degree of choice was too overwhelming for her to take.

You are going to have to listen to, or read, what follows very much according to your background. Jesus was telling his hearers to decide whether what he was saying and doing made sense, in which case they should follow him, or not, in which case they should not. That was, and is, the biggest decision anyone ever has to make for it determines the whole course of one’s life from there on forever.

Rather strangely this is most difficult for those of us who live in a part of the world where there is a huge choice in the supermarkets. We are too used to making decisions and then changing them for another one next week. We live in a consumer society so we too easily act as consumers over everything, including whether or not we should follow Jesus. Then, if it doesn’t suit us because the church meets at the time we want to play football – or something, next week we will give up on following Jesus and do something else.

It may well be that our life is a chaos of conflicting events. But then so is this chapter. It is easily the most chaotic chapter in this Gospel so far. Jesus starts off in Galilee, goes up to Jerusalem late for the festival, has to dodge the authorities, and then challenges his hearers over his latest miracle in Jerusalem. That is: when he healed the man at the pool of Bethesda on a Sabbath. It was that last event which lead to this direct challenge to decide whether what he did, and the way he justified what he did, meant that they should not judge him on the basis of the rules and regulations but on the basis of the effects of what he did. Effects which included not just an infringement of the rules but accepting that he stood above the rules because he was the Messiah, the chosen one of God.

In a way this seems a lot to base on this one incident, but no doubt they would have heard something of what he had been doing in Galilee, both the miracles that John has recorded and the many healings he had carried out that the other Gospels tell us more about.

Jesus tells us not to judge by mere appearances, but to think carefully what we are doing first so that we make good decisions. That is good advice for anything and everything we have to decide about. Unfortunately it is not the way we tend to act. The whole advertising industry relies on our inability to make wise choices, but to go by appearances.

What about you? And what about your decisions for or against Jesus? Those decisions are fundamentally different from all the others you can ever make in life because they are two-way decisions. The Holy Spirit comes into them as well. In his goodness and his graciousness the Lord God has allowed us to think that we make the decision to follow Jesus, in much the same way as we decide all the other things of life. But hidden behind our decision is the work of God the Holy Spirit calling us to follow Jesus. As we have noticed before those two things don’t logically add up but they are nonetheless real for that.

Have you decided to follow Jesus? Or, should I rather ask whether the Holy Spirit has called you to follow Jesus?


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