Limitations of Human Greatness
John 7:1-18
After these things Jesus walked in Galilee: for he would not walk in Jewry, because the Jews sought to kill him.…

1. Those who believe in the Divinity of Christ may wonder that He should be under the limitations of time. It was not until the time appointed that He was born, nor could He die till His hour was come. The Redeemer is put under sharper restrictions than are His disciples, for their time was alway.

2. Here was a focal centre to which preparatory events converged. The promise in the garden; the words of prophecy, the symbolism of ancient days — all were knit into the Redemption's plan. But why was salvation so circuitous? Why wait so long?

3. We cannot comprehend the secrets of the Infinite Mind, nor argue a priori in the matter. We must move from our standpoint upward. Consider the limitations of human greatness and, by inference, those of Omnipotence itself.

I. INCREASE OF POWER DOES NOT INCREASE THE RANGE OF FREEDOM FROM LAW. It rather hinders. Power can do some things, and some things it cannot do. To weld iron to iron, a man needs a blacksmith's arm and muscle. To instruct a child's intellect or develop its moral nature, physical power is not counted.

1. We cannot argue from the almightiness of God, seen in the material creation, that He will force men into heaven. The order of things is a narrowing condition. For example, an act of parliament cannot banish the plague. The disciples would have called down fire from heaven and have honoured God by destroying His enemies. This spirit established the Inquisition. It would break through the order of the universe to accomplish a subsidiary end. But God does not propose to outrage man's faculties in man's salvation.

2. Increasing power puts under restraint, by making needful the hiding of power. The crowd would proclaim Christ king. He checked them. So, again and again, He said to those on whom He had wrought miracles, "Tell it to no man," knowing that the blazing abroad of it at: that time would precipitate His conflict with the civil power. He also guarded these miraculous energies, so as not to paralyze human responsibility. Thousands of hungry ones were fed. Their horizon is opened and they thought, perhaps, that no more labour would be needful, now that the granaries of heaven were open by Divine power. "Gather up the fragments!" How strange, when there is such a power to create supplies! So, too, there was danger of becoming estranged from the practical duties of life, as in the case of Peter, who wished to abide on the mount. This was rebuked by Christ. He kept in the realm of humanity. He laboured to prove Himself human. Men were already convinced that He was Divine.

3. This necessary control and restriction of increasing power is seen among men. A little boat in the river moves hither and thither as its rower pleases, but the huge ocean steamer, with its vast momentum, must be guarded in its movements, lest its iron weight and onward speed send it crashing into other craft, like some blind Polyphemus to devour and destroy. A child's movements may not affect anything outside its home, but a Napoleon is watched by the nations with fear. How much more the tremendous power of God and His responsibility as related to the order and harmony of the universe!


1. The child sees no significance in the congeries of forces about him. He moves about freely. He plays with water, and knows not that each drop is a universe, and that every motion of his finger is felt in Sirius. Higher knowledge puts us under sense of higher responsibility.

2. The power and use of speech is another field of illustration. As childhood ripens into manhood, this trust is more appreciated. Christ's use of parables is a solemn rebuke to those who, had they fully known the truth, would have abused it — would have "held down the truth in unrighteousness" (Romans 1:18). Throw pearls to swine, and they will rend you. Fools rush in where angels dare not tread. Knowledge dwarfs our self esteem. The more wisdom the more modesty. The ignorant look at the sky and see but specks of light, and fancy this globe great. The astronomer reveals a gigantic system. We shrink abashed before the Father of lights, and fear to despise His mercy or trifle away our probation.


1. The wicked have "no bands in their death," and in life they often revel in unlicensed liberty; but men like Paul deny themselves meat if it cause a brother to fall. Christ says, "For their sakes I sanctify Myself." The good man separates himself from luxury and ease, and from all that hinders his work.

2. The man obtuse through sin or self-will shuts his eyes and ears to the suffering. The good man is sensitive. "If any suffer, I suffer; if any is weak, I am weak."

3. A pure heart, too, is pained by sin, as a cultured ear is pained by the discords of music. The man who is destitute of musical sensibility is unaffected. Holiness, essentially, is a separating process. A Brahmin cannot touch food or drink prepared by one of lower caste. The shadow of such a one pollutes the air. He must therefore assume the burden of furnishing himself with food.Conclusion:

1. As obedient to the Father's will, Christ the Holy One was under restrictions the most exacting. Step by step He fulfilled His course. Christ could not wander a vagrant. He steered between those who, on the one hand, said, "Show Thyself," and those who, like Peter, cried, "Far be it from Thee," and kept to the lines appointed him. When the clock of the universe pointed to the hour, He must be put upon the cross.

2. Gaze into the heavens where stars are wheeling in courses, the delicacy and exactness of whose curves it takes pages of figures to compute. The safety of worlds depend on their perfect harmony of movement. The astronomer calculates, centuries in advance, their various intersections. But in the moral world there is the same exactness. Jerusalem had her "day of visitation." You and I have our day of mercy. The hour hastens when it will be said, "It is the last time." God will not then move back the index on the dial plate.

(J. B. Thomas, D. D.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: After these things Jesus walked in Galilee: for he would not walk in Jewry, because the Jews sought to kill him.

WEB: After these things, Jesus was walking in Galilee, for he wouldn't walk in Judea, because the Jews sought to kill him.

Jesus and His Brethren
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