Where Did Jesus Come From?

December 24, 2023 Speaker: Ben Janssen Series: Independent

Topic: Advent/Christmas Scripture: John 7:25–31

It is the job of the Christian to keep the name of Jesus in the public conversation, a difficult task to be sure. And while Christmas time may be the easiest time to do it, I’m sure many of us find it challenging to engage others in conversation about the Jesus we all at least think we are celebrating in the month of December. And once the Christmas holiday has ended and the champagne bottles are uncorked for New Year, well, there goes the Christmas carols and the Nativity scenes. At least we have Easter to look forward to as we try to talk about Jesus in public again.

‌You can talk in public about pretty much any historical figure you want. Tell your friends you have an intense interest in Aristotle or Caesar Augustus, in Abraham Lincoln or Charlemagne, and somebody will engage your interest. Tell them you want to talk about Tom Hanks or Emma Watson or Taylor Swift, and off you go. But raise the name of Jesus, and something strange will seem to settle over the conversation, if the conversation even gets off the ground.

‌In Jesus’s own day, there was a time in which he was very much a part of the public conversation. Just consider what is said about him in John 7:12. “And there was much muttering about him among the people. While some said, ‘He is a good man,’ others said, ‘No, he is leading the people astray.’” We might say today that his name was “trending”; just imagine if there had been social media in the first century!

‌By the time we arrive at the seventh chapter of John’s Gospel, Jesus has become quite the controversial figure, and he remains so to this day. In chapter 5, Jesus healed a man who had been an invalid for nearly four decades, but when he said things that made him equal with Israel’s God, he had a bounty put on his head (Jn 5:18). In chapter 6, Jesus fed five thousand people with just five barley loaves and two fish, but when he claimed to be the bread from heaven who had come to give life to the world, many of his would-be disciples had enough of him, “turned back and no longer walked with him” (Jn 6:66).

‌Just who is this Jesus? Who are we dealing with here? To answer that question, we can ask, “Where does Jesus come from?” That’s a question that lingers throughout John 7. Because in the ancient Mediterranean world, once you knew where a person came from, you were well on your way to truly knowing a person.[1] Here in John 7, we see that there are three different answers to the question, “Where does Jesus come from?” And in each instance, we learn something very important about who Jesus is.

‌Jesus of Nazareth

‌Take a look at verse 27. Some of the people begin to wonder if it is possible that Jesus is the long-awaited Jewish Messiah, the “anointed one” of Israel, the Christ. But here’s the problem, they say, with coming to that conclusion. This is Jesus of Nazareth, “we know where this man comes from, and when the Christ appears, no one will know where he comes from.”

‌The popular belief was that when the Christ appeared on the scene, he would come out of nowhere. He would largely be unknown until after he had accomplished Israel’s redemption from the Romans or whoever else held the nation under their thumbs.[2] But this was just Jesus of Nazareth, quite an ordinary fellow. John even tells us, in verse 5, that “not even his brothers believed in him.” That is, they did not believe that he was the one the world was waiting for, the promised Messiah, the Savior. After all, for all the things he seemed to be able to do, for all the people who seemed to be attracted to him, he was way too unpopular with others. He was just like you and me. Some people like us. Plenty of others don’t. Jesus was too ordinary to be anyone too extraordinary.

‌Jesus of Nazareth was far too human to keep one’s hopes alive for long. The Jesus of history, the man from Galilee who lived in the first century in ancient Israel, is sometimes depicted as nothing more than a Galilean peasant, too human to save us, to give us what we all need. Ironic, isn’t it, that we sometimes wish that God would be like us, but then, when he became like us, we despised him for it? He manifests himself in the touch of another human hand, and we don’t notice because it’s all just so ordinary.

‌Born In Bethlehem

‌With Jesus, we need to look a bit closer. There is something more to him than meets the eye.. Jesus was not only from Nazareth. He was also from somewhere else. He was born somewhere else, and this is an important part of his story. If you ask me where I’m from, I will tell you I grew up in Kansas City, but I’ll hasten to add, “I was born in Texas.” Because, as everyone knows, there is something important to a person’s story if they were born in Texas!‌

Look now at verses 41-42. You have to chuckle when you read these verses. The confusion about Jesus continues. “Is the Christ to come from Galilee? Has not the Scripture said that the Christ comes from the offspring of David, and comes from Bethlehem, the village where David was?” If you’re thinking, “Well of course! Don’t they know the Christmas story?” well, that’s exactly the point John wants to make. He’s putting us, readers of his Gospel, in a position like someone watching a Jeopardy! answer, “Although he wasn’t raised in this city, this little town in ancient Israel is where Jesus was born.” And you’re sitting there shouting out, “Bethlehem! Bethlehem!” while none of these genius contestants know the answer. (Bonus question: in which Old Testament book do we find the prophecy of where the Messiah would be born?)

‌Perhaps John wants us Bible geniuses to consider not just the answer but its implications. Jesus is from Bethlehem, occasioned by the political action of a Roman Caesar, and in fulfillment of the prophetic words of Micah. It’s not just a neat prediction that came true. It is the fulfillment of a promise, the promise that God would restore the Davidic rule in Israel, establishing it to be a kingdom of which there would be no end (Lk 1:33).

‌So if you know that Jesus was in fact born in Bethlehem, then to believe in him means you must believe that in him God has done what he promised to do throughout the Old Testament story. He has, at long last, established on earth a kingdom that can never be toppled, a kingdom that will last forever.

‌Sent By God

‌And yet, there’s more. At least in terms of what Jesus himself says in John 7, it is likely that his answer to the question, “Where are you from?” would be neither Nazareth nor Bethlehem. Take a look at verse 28. Jesus said, “You know me, and you know where I come from. But I have not come of my own accord. He who sent me is true, and him you do not know. I know him, for I come from him, and he sent me.” Where was Jesus from? He was from the one who sent him.

‌It is clear from the following verse (v. 30) that everyone knew what Jesus was here claiming about himself, and likewise, what he was claiming about those who thought they knew him. Jesus was claiming to know the God of Israel, having been sent by him into the world. But since there was uncertainty and hesitation about believing in Jesus, he was also claiming that the God of Israel was unknown by those who were not prepared to accept Jesus in his full identity.

‌To this very day, the problem persists. We come to faulty conclusions about Jesus because we have a faulty belief in God and his world. Jesus insists that if we want to know who God truly is, we have to begin with Jesus, see him in his full identity, and only then can we begin to see rightly who God is and what his world is all about.[3]

‌You see, to this very day people remain ignorant about God and the whole story of his world from Genesis to Revelation. Who is the Creator God, if there really even is one? Is he good or is he evil? Can we trust him or is he a demon? Does he love this world and is he intent on saving it or does he hate his world and is determined to destroy it?

How can we know the answers to these questions? You have to start with Jesus, and you have to keep coming back to Jesus.

‌And when you do, over and over again, you’ll begin to finally understand what it is we celebrate on this Fourth Sunday of Advent: the love of God, made manifest in Jesus of Nazareth, born in Bethlehem, sent by God. You’ll finally be able to cherish in a fresh way the words of that famous verse in scripture, that we all can recite together:

‌For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life (Jn 3:16).

‌Let us pray.


[1] Craig S. Keener, The Gospel of John: A Commentary & 2, vol. 1 (Baker Academic, 2012), 718.

[2] D. A. Carson, The Gospel According to John, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: WM. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1991), 317.

[3] Tom Wright, John for Everyone, Part 1: Chapters 1-10 (Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 2004), 102.

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