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  • Writer's picturePastor Brett

No Trolling

Please read John 7:10-24 in your Bible. I used the NLT to prepare these remarks.

A few weeks ago, I explained the term “brownie points” and our discussion got into a mythical creature, an elf that does good deeds then disappears. Today we’ll do something similar to explore “trolling.” And what more appropriate place to search for information about an internet term than the internet encyclopedia “Wikipedia.”

The Wikipedia entry for “Internet Troll” begins with a historical note on the word troll: “The English noun ‘troll’ in the standard sense of ugly dwarf or giant dates to 1610 and comes from the Old Norse word ‘troll,’ meaning giant or demon. The word evokes the trolls of Scandinavian folklore and children's tales: antisocial, quarrelsome and slow-witted creatures which make life difficult for travelers. Trolls have existed in folklore and fantasy literature for centuries, and online trolling has been around for as long as the internet has existed.”

Take that historical definition and make it digital: “In internet slang, a troll is a person who posts inflammatory, insincere, digressive, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community with the intent of provoking readers into displaying emotional responses or manipulating others' perception. This is typically for the troll's amusement, or to achieve a specific result. Internet trolling can also be defined as purposefully causing confusion or harm to other users online, for no reason at all.”

Not surprisingly, this kind of behavior was not invented for the Internet. It has been a part of human nature as long as there has been human nature (you can argue Adam and Eve were guilty of it in Genesis 3). Last week we saw Jesus’ half-brothers guilty of trolling and we’ll observe Jesus reaction when the people of Jerusalem trolled Him.

1. Voice of the trolls #1: “He’s nothing but a fraud who deceives people.” (12)

Others vilified Him: “HE’S NOTHING BUT A FRAUD WHO DECEIVES THE PEOPLE.” I suspect these were people who wanted a political messiah, a deliverer who would free them from Roman tyranny and restore the Jewish kingdom. Verse thirteen makes it apparent the JEWISH LEADERS were doing more than just asking for Jesus’ whereabouts; they were intimidating Jesus’ supporters into silence.

2. Voice of the trolls #2: “How does he know so much when he hasn’t been trained?” (15)

The FESTIVAL OF SHELTERS lasted seven days. Jesus waited until the third or fourth day to make His first public appearance. He went directly to the temple and there BEGAN TO TEACH (14). The people who heard Jesus’ teaching were SURPRISED and made a rather trollish comment about His lack of education (15). Since they couldn’t find fault with His conduct or doctrine, these trolls found fault with His lack of credentials.

In Matthew 7:29 the people were also surprised at Jesus’ teaching. In that case, it was because He taught as one having authority, quite unlike their usual instructors (the scribes and Pharisees). What this likely meant was that their usual instructors often relied upon the authority of their teachers to buttress their arguments. What passed for teaching in their case was quoting others. Jesus did not have formal training with a rabbi and did not quote famous rabbis as He interpreted the Scriptures. What the people in Matthew 7 saw as a strength, the people in John 7 decried as a fault.

Apparently, they said this to Jesus’ face. In His reply Jesus explained His teaching carried authority because it came from God (16-19). Authoritative teaching is still based on God’s self-revelation. Jesus obviously enjoyed a greater degree of direct revelation from God and was the greatest of all biblical prophets. Prophecy, experience, tradition, nature, reason, and experience are all means of God the Father revealing Himself and His words to us, but they are all subject to Scripture, His most objective means of revelation. All claims to speak for God must be tested against Scripture with support of the inner witness of the Holy Spirit.

3. Voice of the trolls #3: “You’re demon possessed!” (20)

The people who were listening to Jesus were also surprised to hear Him say they were trying to KILL Him. They responded in trollish fashion, accusing Jesus of being DEMON POSSESSED (20). It’s interesting to me how they skipped right over more typical, more reasonable explanations for Jesus’ saying this. For example, wouldn’t you expect them to say He was mistaken, He was lying, or He was paranoid before going all the way to DEMON POSSESSED. To my way of thinking, this is another bit of evidence that shows the people were being influenced by the JEWISH LEADERS to discredit and dislike Jesus.

In His response, Jesus exposed their hypocrisy about observing the Sabbath (21-23). He noted what must’ve been a fairly common occurrence: the date of circumcision falling on a Sabbath. Leviticus 12:3 commands that male children be circumcised on the eighth day following birth. It stands to reason that the required date of circumcision would fall on a Sabbath. Circumcision might otherwise be considered work, which was prohibited on Sabbath days. In this case, a pious Jew had to choose whether to obey the Law regarding circumcision or Sabbath observance. Jesus implied that they always chose to violate the Sabbath law in order to keep the law to circumcise.

In Matthew 12:9-12, Luke 13:15, and 14:5, Jesus made use of different examples to show the hypocrisy of the legalists who insisted on the Sabbath. He referred their to acts of animal husbandry - chores - that were obviously work and were always done on Sabbath days as they were the other days of the week. This inconsistency demonstrated their routine violations of the Sabbath and thereby their utter lack of standing on any moral high ground where Sabbath observance was concerned.

Verse 24 sums up the moral of this story: “LOOK BENEATH THE SURFACE SO YOU CAN JUDGE FAIRLY.” This echoes Jesus’ teaching on judgmentalism in Matthew 7:1-5. Legalists rely on surface issues and superficiality for their judgmental attitudes. But being fair and being true requires more work than that. For instance, a person must look under the “sheep’s clothing” to find some “wolves.” The virtue of justice is sometimes depicted as being blindfolded for this very reason - to be just one must look deeper, BENEATH THE SURFACE.

Being critical doesn’t prove you know the truth nor does it change the facts.

It is a fact that we encounter people with a critical spirit. It is a fact that with its promise of anonymity or at least personal distance from other users, the Internet enables the expression of criticism and removes the normal inhibitions against its use.

These are facts of life that require us to be prepared to face criticism and deal with it constructively. What example has Jesus’ set for us in this passage? We conclude with four strategies Jesus employed in John 7.

#1 - Accept criticism as an offering of free information that may have some value for you. In response to His brother’s picking on Him, Jesus recognized what they said about showing Himself to the world was true. He rejected their bad advice and went to Jerusalem in secret and kept Himself from public view until an appropriate time presented itself. Even then, He did not do miracles as they suggested, but taught in the temple instead.

#2 - Redirect the conversation to God. This will not only help silence caustic critics, but it will also give you a more authoritative place to stand. When the crowds said Jesus was “untrained,” He turned the conversation to God the Father. He explained that His teaching had authority that was not based on intellect or training, but was profound because it came directly from God. Jesus gave glory to God the Father and honestly spoke only what the Father commanded Him to speak.

#3 - Don’t allow anyone to criticize you unfairly. Jesus knew the Jewish leaders hated Him because He healed a man on the Sabbath in a very public act of disobedience of their rules on observing the Sabbath. He exposed their making an issue of that as an act of hypocrisy, demonstrating an example of how they broke t Sabbath themselves.

#4 - Turn it into a “teachable moment.” In v. 24 Jesus instructed them to stop being so superficial and to really think about things. This would allow them to make better decisions about what’s important.

There are other strategies for dealing with critical people, but these are the four illustrated by Jesus Himself. This is a good place for us to start in our own dealings with trolls.

RESOURCES: (Retrieved on 29 October 2021.)

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