In 2002, more than 10 years after the launch of the Gulf War, Donald Rumsfeld, the Secretary of Defense under President George W. Bush, was asked by a journalist at a U.S. Department of Defense press briefing about mounting reports of a lack of evidence linking Saddam Hussein with supplying terrorists groups with weapons of mass destruction. Mr. Rumsfeld responded to the journalist’s question by saying.
Reports that say that something hasn’t happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns — the ones we don’t know we don’t know. And if one looks throughout the history of our country and other free countries, it is the latter category that tends to be the difficult ones. (Donald Rumsfeld)
At first, Mr. Rumsfeld’s remarks sounds like linguistic gymnastics. Nothing more than lots of twists and turns, too many “knowns” and “unknowns” to keep track. It’s the kind of talk that we are used to hearing come from our politicians. Mr. Rumsfeld was addressing the situation that took place leading up to the Gulf War, but when you stop and slowly go through his words you will discover his words contain real truth, not just about military information, but about every area of life. Let’s take just a minute and walk through what he said as it pertains to life in general.
First, there are “known knowns.” These are the things that we know we know. We know that at this very moment we are alive. We know that water is composed of 2 hydrogen atoms and 1 oxygen atom. We know that 2+2=4. We know these things to be true. We could go on and on with the lists of things that we know.
Secondly, there are “known unknowns.” These are the things that we know we do not know. Even though we know that we are alive at this very moment, we have no idea if we will be alive at this time tomorrow. Scientists don’t know what makes up 95% of the Universe. They know that 5% of the Universe is composed of atoms, but the other 95%, which they call “dark matter” and “dark energy,” they are clueless about. Another “known unknown” that I wrestle with almost on a daily basis is, “Where did I put my keys?!” Oh, that one drives me crazy!
Third, there are “unknown unknowns.” These are the things that we don’t have any idea that we don’t know. This would have to be the longest list of all wouldn’t it? These are things that never even enter our minds. They aren’t even on the radar of our thought processes. We can start with God. We know what God has revealed to us. We know that He is omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, forgiving, merciful, and full of grace, but I have a sneaking suspicion that what we know about God is miniscule compared to those things we will learn when we get to heaven. I have a feeling that when we know God as we are known that we will say, “Wow! I never even thought about that!” Paul wrote,
12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. (1 Corinthians 13:12 ESV)
On that day when we see Him face-to-face the unknown will become known. What an incredible day that will be!
Donald Rumsfeld mentioned three categories, but Slavoj Zizek, the Slovenian Marxist philosopher, says there is a fourth category, the “unknown known.” These are the things that we know, but we intentionally refuse to acknowledge that we know. An intentional refusal to acknowledge the truth. Doesn’t that sound a lot like what we’ve been reading about during the past few weeks as we’ve witnessed the religious authorities of the day refuting, rebutting, denouncing, and scheming against Jesus? Jesus put His finger on the problem in John 5 when He said,
39 You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life. (John 5:39-40 ESV)
In our Scripture for today found in John 7:25-36 we will find that the people who had gathered in Jerusalem for the Feast of Tabernacles thought they knew everything there was to know about Jesus, but they didn’t even begin to know. Let’s take a look at Scripture and see what we can learn.
25 At that point some of the people of Jerusalem began to ask, “Isn’t this the man they are trying to kill? 26 Here he is, speaking publicly, and they are not saying a word to him. Have the authorities really concluded that he is the Messiah? 27 But we know where this man is from; when the Messiah comes, no one will know where he is from.” 28 Then Jesus, still teaching in the temple courts, cried out, “Yes, you know me, and you know where I am from. I am not here on my own authority, but he who sent me is true. You do not know him, 29 but I know him because I am from him and he sent me.” 30 At this they tried to seize him, but no one laid a hand on him, because his hour had not yet come. 31 Still, many in the crowd believed in him. They said, “When the Messiah comes, will he perform more signs than this man?” 32 The Pharisees heard the crowd whispering such things about him. Then the chief priests and the Pharisees sent temple guards to arrest him. 33 Jesus said, “I am with you for only a short time, and then I am going to the one who sent me. 34 You will look for me, but you will not find me; and where I am, you cannot come.” 35 The Jews said to one another, “Where does this man intend to go that we cannot find him? Will he go where our people live scattered among the Greeks, and teach the Greeks? 36 What did he mean when he said, ‘You will look for me, but you will not find me,’ and ‘Where I am, you cannot come’?” (John 7:25-36 NIV)
A Questioning Crowd
John tells us that some of the people of Jerusalem began to ask questions. There are three questions contained in the verses that we are looking at this morning. The first one is found in verse 25 where the people ask, “Isn’t this the man they are trying to kill? The answer to the question is, “Absolutely! He’s the One!” The second question is found in verse 26 where the people are puzzled by the silence of the authorities who were listening to Jesus. The people ask, “Have the authorities really concluded that he is the Messiah?” Have they been swayed? Are they now believers? The answer to the question is, “Absolutely not!” James Montgomery Boice writes,
The answer was, ‘No, they have not’—and that is because they did not wish to know. This answer exposes the truly lost condition of men and women, for none are so blind as those who will not see, or deaf, who will not hear. (Boice, James Montgomery. The Gospel of John: Volume 2. pg. 572.)
The third and final question is found in 31 and it is asked by a different group of people. The question doesn’t come from the general population of those from Jerusalem who were attending the Feast of Tabernacles, but it came from those who were already believers in Jesus. Read John 7:31 with me.
31 Still, many in the crowd believed in him. They said, “When the Messiah comes, will he perform more signs than this man?” (John 7:31 NIV)
It was a rhetorical question which assumed that everyone in the crowd knew the answer. These folks were convinced that Jesus was the Messiah because of the signs that He did. They arrived at their conclusion based on the same Scriptures that the religious authorities relied upon, but they refused to connect them with Jesus. They were convinced because they had witnessed the miracles of Jesus, miracles that the Jews knew would be a sign of the Messiah’s arrival.
When John the Baptist was put in prison he had questions. He knew that things would change when the Messiah arrived and yet he found himself in prison for speaking God’s truth to Herod Antipas. Obedient yet suffering…that’s a combination that still confuses us today doesn’t it? John sent some of his followers to ask Jesus, “Are you the One?” Turn with me to Matthew 11:2-6 and I want us to pay special attention to the answer Jesus sends back to John.
2 When John, who was in prison, heard about the deeds of the Messiah, he sent his disciples 3 to ask him, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?” 4 Jesus replied, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: 5 The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. 6 Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.” (Matthew 11:2-6 NIV)
Jesus said, “Tell John what you hear and see.” And what did they hear and see? Jesus gave them a list: “The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor.” Do you remember the very first time Jesus went public with His ministry, when He was in the synagogue at Nazareth? When He stood up to read from the Word of God, He found the exact Scripture He was looking for, one of the great prophecies of the coming Messiah, and then He read. Luke tells us that Jesus read from the prophet Isaiah. Listen to this.
16 He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, 17 and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: 18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4:16-19 NIV)
Jesus did the very things that were prophesied about the coming Messiah. He proclaimed good news to the poor, He proclaimed freedom for the prisoners, recovery of sight for the blind, and those who were oppressed He set free. “When the Messiah comes, will he perform more signs than this man?” When the question was asked in the crowd that day I wish someone would have shouted at the top of their lungs, “No way! No how! There’s not a chance because He who stands before you this very day is He, Jesus is the Messiah!”
Mr. Know It All
There were questions being asked that day in Jerusalem, but there were also those present who had all of the answers. In John 7:27, among the questions being raised, we read,
27 But we know where this man is from; when the Messiah comes, no one will know where he is from.” (John 7:27 NIV)
Those in Jerusalem who thought they had all of the answers just knew that they knew everything there was to know about Jesus. The thought that He could possibly be the Messiah was preposterous, an absurdity that bordered on blasphemy. There were popular beliefs about the coming Messiah that were widely held in Jesus’ day. Jesus’ bio and resume just didn’t add up to what they all believed. One of the widely held beliefs of the Jews was that the Messiah would be born of flesh and blood, but would remain hidden in some out of the way place until God raised Him up to defeat Israel’s enemies and bring about the redemption of Israel. The people said, “…we know where this man is from;” The people had seen Jesus for quite some time. They had watched Him, listened to Him, and even knew His family. To the crowd He was “Jesus of Nazareth,” but in actuality He was born in Bethlehem. Matthew and Luke both agree that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, but grew up in Nazareth.
Just this past week I was reading an article about the Messiah being born in Bethlehem on the Jews for Judaism website. I was surprised to find the author, Gerald Sigal, mention Jesus. He wrote,
Except for the birth references found in Matthew and Luke, all indications, even in the writings of these two evangelists, point to the fact that Jesus was from Nazareth. In any case, being born in Bethlehem is of dubious value in establishing messianic credentials for Jesus. Jesus did not fulfill so many essential messianic qualities, as found in the Prophets, that having been born in Bethlehem would be of no consequence whatsoever. (Gerald Sigal. Jews for Judaism website.)
Being born in Bethlehem…no consequence whatsoever. Doing the miracles that everyone expected the Messiah to perform…no consequence whatsoever. Teaching like no other teacher had ever taught before…no consequence whatsoever. Claiming to have been sent from God…no consequence whatsoever.
You Don’t Know
Jesus knew what was being said about Him. He heard the mumbling and grumbling going on among those who had traveled to Jerusalem from far and wide, He listened in to the citizens of Jerusalem as they debated His relevance and significance, and He watched the religious leaders to see what their next move would be. Then He spoke up. Turn to John 7:28-29 and let’s read together.
28 Then Jesus, still teaching in the temple courts, cried out, “Yes, you know me, and you know where I am from. I am not here on my own authority, but he who sent me is true. You do not know him, 29 but I know him because I am from him and he sent me.” (John 7:28-29 NIV)
All of the major translations of the Bible make verse 28 out to be a statement by Jesus. “Yes, you know me, and you know where I am from.” This could be an accurate translation, but if it is then it’s a tongue-in-cheek statement made by Jesus because He goes on to show them that they don’t know the first thing about where He’s from or who He is. Also, in the very next chapter of John’s Gospel, Jesus couldn’t have been more clear when He answered the question of the Pharisees, “Where is your father?” Read John 8:19 with me.
19 Then they asked him, “Where is your father?” “You do not know me or my Father,” Jesus replied. “If you knew me, you would know my Father also.” (John 8:19 NIV)
The sentence could also be read as a question. “You know me? You know where I’m from? You don’t know the first thing about Me!” Jesus went on to make it clear to everyone where He was from—He had been sent from God. Then He says, “You don’t know Him…” It’s ironic isn’t it? Those who knew God’s Word, who worshiped at the Temple, who were Covenant people of God, who prayed beautiful, long prayers, who were steeped in theology, soteriology, and prophecy—Jesus said, “You don’t know Him…”
Do You Know Him?
I think God intends this as a cautionary pause for you and me. Do you know the Lord? Please, before you answer that question, stop and let the question sink in. Please don’t say, “I’ve been in church my whole life.” Please don’t say, “I grew up in a Christian home.” Please don’t say, “My daddy, grandfather, and uncles were preachers.” Please don’t say, “Of course, I’m a member of such and such church.” I would encourage you to even refrain from saying things like, “I read the Bible most every day.” Or, “I’ve sung in the choir for years.” Or, “I was baptized when I was a kid.” There is nothing wrong with any of those activities or facts about you, but they don’t answer the question, “Do you know the Lord? Is Jesus your Lord and Savior? Have you been justified, pronounced forgiven, by the Righteous Judge of all creation who gave His Son as payment for your sin? Is His sanctifying work taking place in your life, getting rid of the old sin nature by which we lived every moment of every day before we came to know Jesus? Is His sanctifying work taking place in your life as He works to put on your new self, clothed in Christ, for the purpose of serving as His ambassador in this dark, lost world? “Knowing the Lord” is not the establishment of religious rituals throughout our week. “Knowing the Lord” happens when we embrace our abject poverty of spirit, admit to our depraved heart that wants nothing to do with God, cry out to Jesus to save us, allow Him to begin to transform us through His Word and His Spirit, and allow Him to become our one consuming passion in each and every day.
I want to share with you one more thing that I’ve learned this past week before we leave here today. Let’s read together from John 7:33-36.
33 Jesus said, “I am with you for only a short time, and then I am going to the one who sent me. 34 You will look for me, but you will not find me; and where I am, you cannot come.” 35 The Jews said to one another, “Where does this man intend to go that we cannot find him? Will he go where our people live scattered among the Greeks, and teach the Greeks? 36 What did he mean when he said, ‘You will look for me, but you will not find me,’ and ‘Where I am, you cannot come’?” (John 7:33-36 NIV)
What was Jesus talking about? Did He really believe that there was some place that He could go where they couldn’t find Him? Why, the nerve! How arrogant can one man be! Where will He go and what will He do? Was Jesus planning on leaving Jerusalem and heading off to a far country? Was He planning a missionary journey to the diaspora Jews, those Jews who had been dispersed to other countries and were living among the Greeks? Could He possibly be going to those pagan Gentiles? Surely not the Gentiles!
Once again, those who thought they knew everything there was to know about Jesus were clueless. Yet, there was some truth to what they said even though what they thought proved to be totally different than the reality that emerged. Just six months later, when Jesus came back to Jerusalem for the Passover, some Greeks had traveled to Jerusalem to worship. Greeks, can you believe that?! Turn with me to John 12:20-21 and let’s read together.
20 Now there were some Greeks among those who went up to worship at the festival. 21 They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, with a request. “Sir,” they said, “we would like to see Jesus.” (John 12:20-21 NIV)
“We would like to see Jesus.” Those who were despised, ridiculed, and looked down upon by others wanted to see Jesus while those who were God’s Chosen People, the Covenant people, the possessors of the very words of God…rejected Him.
After Jesus was crucified and rose from the grave, victorious over sin, death, and the grave, He huddled up with His followers and gave them instructions on what they were to do. Jesus said,
18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20 NIV)
And they went to all the nations. And because they went and shared the Gospel we are here this morning. One person told another who believed, who in turn shared the Gospel with his friend who believed, who told her friend who believed, and then someone told you. This morning I’ve come here to share the Good News with you in hopes that you will believe as well.
I don’t pretend to know all of the answers. I’m not sure about the “known unknowns” or the “unknown unknowns,” but there is one thing I know…I once was lost and now I’m found. I tried everything under the sun to quiet the voices in my heart and soul that condemned me, but I never was able to quiet them for long. When Jesus came into my heart He set me free and gave me a peace that surpasses all understanding. I want you to know that peace. I want you to know Jesus. Won’t you invite Him in?
Britton Christian Church
922 NW 91st
OKC, OK. 73114
October 12, 2014