Can a person know too much Scripture? In John 7 Jesus was in Jerusalem for the Feastival of the Tabernacles. On the last day, the great day of the feast Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.’ By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.” When the people heard what Jesus said, some said, “Surely this man is the prophet.” Others said, “He is the Messiah.” But others couldn’t understand how he could be the messiah when they knew the messiah was to be born of the descendants of David in the city of Bethlehem and as far as they knew Jesus was born in Nazareth in Galilee.
The people were divided. Some wanted to seize him but no one laid hands on him. Then the chief priests and the Pharisees sent the temple guards to arrest him. They returned empty handed. When the religious leaders saw them they asked, “Why didn’t you bring him in?” Their response was, “No one ever spoke the way this man does.” Listen to the response of the Pharisees. “You mean he has deceived you also. Have any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed in him? No! But this mob that knows nothing of the law – there is a curse on them.”
Notice two things in this whole segment. The people who didn’t know all the facts thought they did. They were sure that the prophesies of God was that the messiah would be born as a descendant of David and would be born in Bethlehem. But, they didn’t take the time to look beyond what they had heard to learn where Jesus was really born or that his mother and step dad were both descendants of David. It is amazing how much a person can assume to be true just because they know something. They knew he was from Nazareth where he had grown up but not where he was born or his family background.
But the second example is even stronger. The Pharisees and Chief Priest were shocked that the temple guards hadn’t arrested Jesus. When they saw the guards had actually been moved by the message of Jesus, instead of trying to show them a different way of seeing it, they chose the method of belittling the guards. These who knew nothing of the law who had a curse believed in him. Those so certain of their knowledge of the Law of God couldn’t even fathom the idea that they might be wrong. They certainly couldn’t believe that ordinary people could be right on a spiritual matter and the professionals wrong.
They knew the Scriptures well, at least they knew lots of it. Their understanding of it was as wrong as you could get. They had missed the point of more laws and promises than they had understood. Knowing lots of Bible hadn’t made them more submissive to God or closer to God. It hadn’t led them to be more submissive to the Holy Spirit’s guidance in their lives. They had become worshipers of the Law or their understanding of the Law instead of God who gave it.
There are some huge lessons that need to be gained from this Scripture in John 7. It certainly doesn’t teach us that it isn’t important to know the Scriptures. Everyone should long to know God’s word better all the time. If we have such a longing we are constantly reading, studying and re-studying the things the Bible says. We are also constantly questioning our understanding of how to apply those Scriptures we learn or already know. Nothing is harder for us to see than that the very verses we know best and can quote easiest may teach something different than what we have always thought or said.
A second lesson, is that those who seem to know the least may actually understand the most. It was the guards and the ordinary folks who saw that He was really the Messiah. It is often the case that the least elite or trained in Scripture see the truth best when they read it.
A third lesson is that it is dangerous when we become so sure we are right we can’t see truth when presented by someone we don’t consider a scholar trained by those like us, we are in deep danger of becoming arrogant and missing the very thing we need most to understand. The religious leaders who were best trained and had all the right education missed the single greatest truth of all, that Jesus was the Christ, the Savior of the world.