Pharisees Critical Debate Over Jesus’ Claims

The Pharisees Are Angry That Their Officers Did Not Take Him, and Rebuke Nicodemus For Taking His Part



The officers who had been sent by the chief priests and Pharisees to take Jesus into custody returned empty-handed, and they faced some hard questions.
Chief Priest and Pharisees: Where is Jesus? Why didn’t you capture Him?
Officers: We listened to Him. Never has a man spoken like this man.

John 7:45-46 (VOICE)


In John 7:32, the chief priests and Pharisees had sent officers to arrest Jesus. It seems that Jesus was in the midst of the people addressing them, and that the officers happened to come at the very time when he was speaking. They were so impressed and awed with what he said that they dared not take him. There have been few instances of eloquence like this. His speaking had so much evidence of truth, so much proof that he was from God, and was so impressive and persuasive, that they were convinced of his innocence, and they dared not touch him to execute their commission. We have here,


  1. A remarkable testimony to the commanding eloquence of Jesus.
  2. Wicked men may be awed and restrained by the presence of a good man, and by the evidence that he speaks that which is true.
  3. God can preserve his friends. Here were men sent for a particular purpose. They were armed with power. The highest authority of the nation commissioned them. On the other hand, Jesus was without arms or armies, and without external protection. Yet, in a manner, which the officers and the high priests would have little expected, he was preserved. So, in ways, which we little expect, God will defend and deliver us when in the midst of danger.
  4. No prophet, apostle, or minister has ever spoken the truth with as much power, grace, and beauty as Jesus. It should be ours, therefore, to listen to his words, and to sit at his feet and learn heavenly wisdom.


The temple officers returned to the Jewish council meeting empty-handed. It certainly should have been relatively easy for them to arrest Jesus, yet they failed to do so.


What stopped them?


“Never man spoke like this Man!” was their defense. In other words, “This Jesus is more than a man! No mere man speaks as He does!” They were “arrested” by the Word of God, spoken by the Son of God.


Again, the leaders refused to face facts honestly but passed judgment on the basis of their prejudices and their superficial examination of the facts. It is much easier to label people (and defame people!) than to listen to the facts they present. “So some of the people have believed on Jesus! So what? These common people know nothing about the Law anyway! Have any important people—like us—believed on Him? Of course not!” They would use a similar argument to try to discredit the witness of the blind man that Jesus healed (John 9:34).


We should not be surprised when “the intellectuals” refuses to trust Jesus Christ, or when religious leaders reject Him. God has hidden His truth from “the wise and prudent” and revealed it to “spiritual babes,” the humble people who will yield to Him (Matt. 11:25-27). Paul was a very intelligent rabbi when God saved him, yet he had to be “knocked down” before he would acknowledge that Jesus Christ was the resurrected Son of God. Read 1 Corinthians 1:26-31 to learn Paul’s explanation for the difficulty of winning “smart religious people” to the Savior.


The Pharisees said to them, Are you also deluded and led astray? [Are you also swept off your feet?]

John 7:47 (AMP)



The worst thing about deception is that if you are deceived, you don’t know it. Therefore, the accusation of deception is hard for many people to confront. Only very secure people can persist when they are accused of being deceived.


Notice the use of the word “also.” The Pharisees thought they were “above” the average person. The average Joe wasn’t as smart as they were. They were accusing these officers of being ignorant like the crowd. It is always a sign of hypocrisy to think you are smarter than everyone else.


Has any of the authorities or of the Pharisees believed in Him?

John 7:48 (AMP)


The answer to this question is yes. Nicodemus believed on Jesus (John 3:1-21 and 19:39). I’m sure others believed, too, but they wouldn’t admit it for fear of reprisal (John 12:42).


This foolish crowd follows him, but they are ignorant of the law. God’s curse is on them!”

John 7:49 (NLT)


This is an argument as old as time. Claiming to have superior knowledge or information presents the one making that claim as above everyone else. Most of the time, this is nothing but manipulation, which only insecure people fall for. We see this same manipulation still operating in politics and even the church today.


Nicodemus, the Pharisee who approached Jesus under the cloak of darkness, was present when the officers returned empty-handed. He addressed the leaders.


Nicodemus: Does our law condemn someone without first giving him a fair hearing and learning something about him?

John 7:50-51 (VOICE)


No doubt the rulers would have sent the guard out again, but Nicodemus spoke up. This man is found three times in John’s Gospel, and each time he is identified as the one “who came to Jesus by night” (see John 3:1-2; 19:39). No doubt Nicodemus had been doing a great deal of thinking and studying since that first interview with Jesus, and he was not afraid to take his stand for truth.


Nicodemus was sure that the council was not giving Jesus an honest hearing. The rulers had already passed judgment and were trying to arrest Him before He had even been given a fair and lawful trial!


What did Nicodemus want them to consider about Jesus?


His Word and His works. It was Jesus the Teacher and the miracle worker who had attracted Nicodemus’ interest in the first place (John 3:2). In fact, Jesus had pointed to His works as proof of His deity (John 5:32); and He repeatedly urged the people to pay attention to His words. The two go together, for the miracles point to the messages, and the messages interpret the spiritual meaning of the miracles.


They answered him, Are you too from Galilee? Search [the Scriptures yourself], and you will see that no prophet comes (will rise to prominence) from Galilee.

John 7:52 (AMP)


You can hear the sarcasm and disdain in the reply of the rulers:


“Are you a lowly and despised Galilean too?”


They refused to admit that Nicodemus was right in asking for a fair trial, but the only way they could answer him was by means of ridicule. This is an ancient debate trick: when you cannot answer the argument, attack the speaker.


They challenged Nicodemus to search the prophecies to see if he could find any statement that a prophet would come out of Galilee. The Scripture does say that the Christ was to be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2), which Jesus was. But they also say that the Messiah would minister in the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, which is the area of Galilee (Isaiah 9:1-2).


You cannot help but feel sorry for the people described in this chapter, people who responded to Jesus in the wrong ways. His half brothers responded with disbelief; various people responded with debate; and the result was division. Had they willingly received the truth, and had they acted with sincere obedience, they would have ended up at the feet of Jesus, confessing Him as Messiah and Son of God.


But people today commit the same blunder and permit their prejudices and superficial evaluations to blind them to the truth.


Don’t let it happen to you!



Andrew Wommack’s Living Commentary
Bible Exposition Commentary – Be Alive
Notes on the New Testament Explanatory and Practical



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