V. An Unbelieving Response (vv. 40-52)
a. Ignorant Unbelief (vv. 40-44)
Upon hearing Jesus’ message the majority of people remained unbelieving. Some wrongly thought that He was just a prophet. Some did believe that He was the Christ. But the majority of people ignorantly rejected Jesus and His message. Again the crowds pointed to where Jesus came from to discredit Him. This time they did so quite ignorantly. They claimed that Jesus could not be the Messiah because He was from Galilee not Bethlehem. They were right in asserting the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem. However, what they did not know is the Jesus was born in Bethlehem. If they simply would have taken the time to judge with right judgment, as Jesus had commanded them to do, then they would have know that Jesus was born in Bethlehem. However, because of their unbelief they did not even bother to look at the facts. In their hearts they were biased against Jesus. This same bias exists in the hearts of men today. So many people reject Jesus on the basis of their own biased perceptions of Jesus; they refuse to submit to what God’s revealed will (the Bible) says about Him. As a result, they reject Jesus just as the massed did in these verses.
b. Hostile Unbelief (vv. 45-52)
In addition to this ignorant unbelief, John also tells us of the hostile unbelief of Jesus’ enemies. In verse 45 the officers sent to wait for Jesus to slip up came back empty handed. Their response reveals why they failed to arrest Jesus. Simply put, “No one ever spoke like this man!” The officers were simply unable to trap Jesus in anything that He said. How ironic that these trained officers were unable to trap the teacher who had “never studied.”
The failure of these officers incensed the Pharisees. They proceeded to “chew out” the officers and belittle those in the crowd who were sympathetic toward Jesus. Their response reveals their character. They viewed themselves as the final authority. In their minds Jesus could not have been the Messiah because they had not accepted Him as the Messiah. Additionally, they viewed themselves as the final authority on the interpretation of the Law. The crowd could not be right about the Law, because the crowd disagreed with them. These remarkable statements are illustrative of the pride that existed in the hearts of these Pharisees. What is so ironic is that they were so quick to judge Jesus that they ignored their own legal process. Nicodemus points this very thing out when he says, “Does our law judge a man without first giving him a hearing and learning what he does?” To this the Pharisees quickly replied, “Are you from Galilee too? Search the Scriptures and see that no prophet arises from Galilee.” In other words, they wanted nothing to do with what Nicodemus had to say. They did not believe in Jesus, and nothing was going to change their minds. They were the final authorities; if a teacher was going to come from anywhere it would be from them not Galilee. Again, in their haste to reject Jesus the Pharisees made another foolish statement. They failed to remember that Jonah, the prophet, was from Galilee. Their hearts were so hard, and their unbelief so biased that they could not see the truth.
There are two things that are very clear in John chapter 7. First, Jesus is the Messiah. This is verified by the fact that He sought the glory of the Father rather than Himself (v. 17-18); that He was sent by the Father (vv. 28-29); and finally because He is the giver of salvation (vv. 37-38)
Second, unbelief is a very dangerous thing. The heart of man is biased and inclined toward unbelief. If you don’t believe the claims that Jesus has made then you will be like the Pharisees, and you will ultimately face judgment. However, Jesus’ invitation is for you to come and drink – to believe in Him. If you already have believed in Jesus then you still must be careful to avoid unbelief. Unbelief can creep into our hearts in many ways, and lead us into all kinds of sins. Our prayer must be the same as man in Mark 9:24 who cried out to Jesus “I do believe; help my unbelief.”