John 7


In chapters 7 through 9 we see how Jesus is the truth that can make men free. The truth that He speaks is the only truth that can set us free from sin.

This begins the fourth phase of Jesus’ teaching, soon, John will enter the last week with Jesus, and John demonstrates great selectivity.

Jesus Goes to the Festival of Tabernacles

‘After this, Jesus went around in Galilee. He did not want to go about in Judea because the Jewish leaders there were looking for a way to kill him. But when the Jewish Festival of Tabernacles was near, Jesus’ brothers said to him, “Leave Galilee and go to Judea, so that your disciples there may see the works you do. No one who wants to become a public figure acts in secret. Since you are doing these things, show yourself to the world.” For even his own brothers did not believe in him. Therefore, Jesus told them, “My time is not yet here; for you any time will do. The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify that its works are evil. You go to the festival. I am not going up to this festival, because my time has not yet fully come.” After he had said this, he stayed in Galilee. However, after his brothers had left for the festival, he went also, not publicly, but in secret. Now at the festival the Jewish leaders were watching for Jesus and asking, “Where is he?” Among the crowds there was widespread whispering about him. Some said, “He is a good man.” Others replied, “No, he deceives the people.” But no one would say anything publicly about him for fear of the leaders.’ John 7:1-13

The feast mentioned here in chapter 7 shows that a year has gone by between chapter 5 and now, for we are back with the feast of tabernacles, or ingathering, or booths.

When John uses the term ‘went around in Galilee’, John 7:1, he is covering 6 months of Jesus’ teaching. It’s not John’s purpose to give a comprehensive account of Jesus’ life but to present evidence as to His claims and authority. The majority of people don’t believe the evidence because they have a fixed image already in their minds.

John says we’re ready to fight for claims of Jesus and the weapon we use is the Word of God wielded in love.

Two of the great themes of John is Jesus teaching on two subjects.

1. My hour ‘hora’.

2. The last day.

The final Passover is only 6 months away and here we find the fifth discourse, the life-giving Spirit, John 7:1-52.

All of the six months ‘retirement ministry’ of Christ, a detailed account of which is given in the Gospels, is mentioned in this verse. John is primarily concerned with Jerusalem and Judea.

This includes the works described in Mark 7-9. Opposition to Jesus was now growing, and as Jesus’ time had not yet come, He had to keep away from Judea because of the Jewish leaders who were seeking to kill him, John 7:1.

The feast of the Tabernacles or booths was approaching, this feast was instituted in Numbers 29 and Leviticus 23:33-44. It commemorated the harvest as well as the divine guidance granted to the Jewish forefathers during their desert wanderings.

It lasted one week and began on the 15th day of the 7th month, ‘tishra’, the people camped in booths, ‘tabernacles’, in Jerusalem.

Rabbinical law required that each male Jew within a twenty-mile radius should attend, but in fact, some Jews came from much farther. It was a very joyful and happy affair following hard on the heels of the day of Atonement, thus allowing granted redemption to feature prominently. It was considered a vital feast.

In John 7:3-5 we see that Jesus’ brothers don’t yet believe He is the Christ. Jesus brothers, Matthew 13:55-56 / Mark 6:13, James, Joseph, Judas, Simon. This may seem a little odd, as their mother Mary must have known after the events surrounding His birth.

However, it’s clear they were being a little sarcastic in this event. The brothers make a fair point, Jesus did need the publicity as does some public figure.

The statement must be understood in the light of their attitude towards him, Jesus had many disciples in Judea, John 2:23 / John 4:1. He left there because of the jealousy of the Pharisees, John 4:1-3.

So, his brothers are saying, ‘if you are the Messiah you should publicly prove it at Jerusalem, not hide away in Galilee’. After His resurrection, His brothers are reported to be among the most vigorous of His followers, Acts 1:14.

However, the more important priority was that His time ‘had not yet come’ and He needed to wait for the correct time to arrive, John 7:6-9.

Jesus doesn’t argue with His brothers but explains that it is not yet time for Him to go up. He isn’t saying that it is not yet time for Him to be offered up, as this would be inconsistent with the fact that He did eventually go.

He often spoke of His time, or hour, John 2:4 / John 12:27 / John 17:1, but here in John 7:5-8, He uses a different word. He spoke of a fixed time, ‘hora’ for His death and manifestation, here He uses the word, ‘kairos’, opportune, suitable, or appropriate time, the right time, Galatians 4:4.

Jesus knows the worlds hates him because He testifies of it’s evilness, John 7:7. It was not yet time for Him to travel to Judea, John 7:7-9, ensuring that the Sanhedrin did not have time to plan an early death for Him.

He wasn’t unwilling to die, that is why He came, Matthew 20:28 / Mark 10:45 / John 13:1-17, but not yet, it would be the time that God decided not man.

Notice in John 7:10 Jesus didn’t say He wasn’t going to the feast, but ‘not yet’, John 7:8. The time for His departure arrives and Jesus goes up quietly or in secret so as not to attract attention to Himself. Not publicly but privately, it was the custom for large groups of families and friends to travel together to the feasts, Luke 2:44-45.

He didn’t go with a group but travelled as if He didn’t want to be seen, John 7:10. The Jews were looking for Him, perhaps they expected, like His brothers, that He would perform some more miracles for them, Matthew 12:38.

He didn’t intend to go as His brothers suggested, nor in the manner, that they expected, they wanted Him to do some great signs, to prove His claims, He would go at the opportune time, and so saying He remained in Galilee, John 7:10.

In John 7:11, we read ‘the Jews were watching for him’. This group of people are the same as those wanting to kill Him, John 7:1. Jesus is obviously expected to put in an appearance at the feast, and His arrival is eagerly awaited, John 7:11.

A very obvious difference of opinion is seen among the Jews, some are for Him, believing Him to be a good man and others oppose Him, waiting to say He is an impostor and a trickster, John 7:12-13.

The Greek emphasises that the difference between the two groups was a very sharp one. This difference is clearly still very obvious today, with many people believing Him to be anything but Christ.

It is sad to see that the Jews so opposed Jesus, that they didn’t even allow public debate on Him as any supporting Him were liable to be tossed out of the temple.

It seems as if Jesus was very topical at the time, the whispers and rumours for and against Jesus form a background to the whole feast and the whereabouts and character of Jesus were the centres of public interest. The two opposite estimates of Jesus, He is a good man and He is leading the people astray, John 7:12-13.

Note that many did not confess Jesus because of fear, John 7:43 / John 9:16 / John 10:19. The man born blind is threatened with being cut off from the temple worship by the Jewish religious leaders, John 9:22 John 12:42-43.

Jesus Teaches at the Festival

‘Not until halfway through the festival did Jesus go up to the temple courts and begin to teach. The Jews there were amazed and asked, “How did this man get such learning without having been taught?” Jesus answered, “My teaching is not my own. It comes from the one who sent me. Anyone who chooses to do the will of God will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own. Whoever speaks on their own does so to gain personal glory, but he who seeks the glory of the one who sent him is a man of truth; there is nothing false about him. Has not Moses given you the law? Yet not one of you keeps the law. Why are you trying to kill me?” “You are demon possessed,” the crowd answered. “Who is trying to kill you?” Jesus said to them, “I did one miracle, and you are all amazed. Yet, because Moses gave you circumcision (though actually it did not come from Moses, but from the patriarchs), you circumcise a boy on the Sabbath. Now if a boy can be circumcised on the Sabbath so that the law of Moses may not be broken, why are you angry with me for healing a man’s whole body on the Sabbath? Stop judging by mere appearances, but instead judge correctly.” John 7:14-24

Four different categories of men are involved in this part

1. The Jewish leaders. The Sadducee’s rulers, Annas, Caiaphas.

2. The people from outside Jerusalem who didn’t know the plot against Him.

3. The ordinary people of Jerusalem, didn’t know of the plot to kill Him.

4. The Pharisees who wanted Him killed.

Jesus arrives and starts, publicly to teach and He makes no attempt to hide Himself but gets on with the work at hand. He did go to the temple and finds himself a space, sits down and starts to teach in accordance with the common practice of current-day teachers, John 7:14.

Jesus’ teaching soon attracts a large crowd of people. The group of learned men known as ‘the Jews’ are present and attack Him for His lack of rabbinical studying as He didn’t study in any recognised school, John 7:15. This was a reference to the great school of Hillel and Gamaliel, Acts 22:3.

Jesus wasn’t an accredited ‘rabbi’ but in the eyes of the Jews a ‘Shammai’, that is a self-taught enthusiast, not a ‘grammata’ a man of letters, like going to Eton and speaking on equal terms on specialised subjects using the same words and understanding.

His appearing and teaching in the temple fulfilled Malachi 3:1, which the Jews believed to be a Messianic prophecy. The quality of the teaching was such as to attract amazement from the Jews and so, a series of questions and answers start.

They ask, ‘where did you study?’ John 7:15, and Jesus answers by stating My teaching comes from the one who sent me, God, John 7:16.

Jesus then goes into a discussion similar to the one held after the healing at the pool, John 5:19-24, when He accuses the Jews of not knowing the Law or obeying it, John 7:17-18. A condition to knowing the truth regarding the Messiah is to be prepared to seek and do the will of God, Luke 18:15 / 2 Thessalonians 2:10.

His critics had a vast knowledge of the scriptures, they studied them constantly and minutely, yet they hadn’t learned nor understood their meaning, the truth about the Messiah.

Gamaliel in Acts 5:18, implies that they didn’t lack knowledge they lacked love. If you don’t have a foundation of love, your knowledge is useless, John 5:39-42.

In John 7:19, Jesus now asks two questions, ‘has not Moses given you the Law?’ The answer to this question is obvious to all and doesn’t need answering.

then He asks, ‘why are you trying to kill me?’ and we find the answer in John 7:20. The crowd, not the Jews answer this one, they don’t know of any plans to kill Jesus, so they think He is mad to suggest it. No one wants to be seen to be agreeing with Jesus, so they put on an aggressively anti-Jesus posture, and answer the question by asking another.

notice when they ask, ‘who is trying to kill you?’ Jesus doesn’t answer the question directly, as that accusation would bring no profit, John 7:21-24. He defends the Sabbath healing that originally gave cause to the desire to kill Him. The Law allows, even demands circumcision of the Sabbath, this requires and represents healing, John 7:22-23.

If Moses heals on the Sabbath, why not Jesus? Jesus then urges those present to look deeper before making rash judgements, John 7:24, and alludes to 1 Samuel 16:7 which says, ‘Man looks at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart’.

‘At that point some of the people of Jerusalem began to ask, “Isn’t this the man they are trying to kill? Here he is, speaking publicly, and they are not saying a word to him. Have the authorities really concluded that he is the Messiah? But we know where this man is from; when the Messiah comes, no one will know where he is from.” 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, but I know him because I am from him and he sent me.’ John 7:25-29

In John 7:25-27 we find some of the crowd now recognise that Jesus is the man that the Jews are trying to kill, making the question in John 7:20 illegitimate. They notice that He is speaking publicly not hiding away to prevent possible capture, John 7:26.

The people appear confused at the ‘official’ reaction to Jesus and even wonder if the religious authorities have accepted Him as the Christ, whilst others negate this possibility pointing out that none will know where the Christ will originate from, John 7:26-27.

Some taught that He would reveal himself to the nation by dropping out of the sky, Matthew 4:5-6, others taught that He would suddenly appear and be anointed by Elijah but Jesus was aware of their ignorance.

This group of people speaking is recorded as ‘the people of Jerusalem’, as opposed to the crowd in general who represented people from all over the land and who were more open to teachings and didn’t know of the death sentence against Him.

Jesus hears the argument against Him and interjects declaring again His divinity, John 7:28-29. The first declaration isn’t agreeing with the people of Jerusalem. This is ridiculing them for even proposing the possibility that they have any idea of the origin of Christ.

He goes on declaring Himself from God and His Own Deity. He uses the term ‘I AM’ and all who are present know exactly what He is saying and declaring.

‘At this they tried to seize him, but no one laid a hand on him, because his hour had not yet come. Still, many in the crowd believed in him. They said, “When the Messiah comes, will he perform more signs than this man?” The Pharisees heard the crowd whispering such things about him. Then the chief priests and the Pharisees sent temple guards to arrest him. 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.” 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? 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 7:30-36

The people Jesus was talking to were eager to seize Him but were unable to do so.

There are various possibilities as to why not.

1. Jesus was good at evading people and managed to hide.

2. The people of Jerusalem were afraid of the crowd being sympathetic to Jesus and His cause.

3. Some divine intervention occurred preventing His capture

4. It was simply against God’s will for Him to be brought to trial at this time.

Nevertheless, some in the crowd now put their faith in Jesus, John 7:30-31. This could indicate some miraculous intervention in the prevention of His capture as those believing believe because of the miracles He does and they recognise the miracles to be a sign, and the signs to be from God.

The Pharisees hear of more people putting their faith in Jesus and decide to arrest Him with the help of the chief priests before more damage is done to their own position, John 7:32. Note that the Pharisees were the popular, religious teachers, and the chief priests were mainly Sadducees, who dominated the Sanhedrin.

Normally they were enemies, Acts 23:6, but here they combine their strength against a common cause, they wish to oppose Jesus, ‘they’ send for the temple police to arrest Jesus.

They may also have been afraid of the Romans who watched proceedings in the temple from the adjacent Castle of Antonia. If a large disturbance occurred in the temple, the Roman soldiers would come in and break up the disturbance.

The temple would then be desecrated if they came further than the Gentile court, and the feast would certainly be disrupted. The temple had its own small Jewish garrison and these men were sent to arrest Jesus.

We read in John 7:33-36, that even though Jesus is now sought by those wishing to arrest Him, He calmly announces His intended departure. He is referring at the time, to His death, resurrection and subsequent ascension which shall take place in 6 months.

John 7:34, could be a prophecy relating to the failure of the large majority of Jews to recognise Him. Once again, the Jews don’t understand what Jesus is saying and they suppose He may be going to the Greek Jews and believers, but general confusion about Jesus’ plan is the order of the day, John 7:35.

They are puzzled so they ask if He is going to visit those of the ‘diaspora’ those who were displaced at the time of Alexander the Great, those living outside Palestine, was He going to teach Jews and non-Jews, John 7:36 / James 1:1-2 / 1 Peter 1:1-2.

The Jews of the dispersion, Acts 2:5-11. The Jews were good stable business people, so they were often used and encouraged by the government of the day to move to somewhere or even be resettled by force.

‘On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified. On hearing his words, some of the people said, “Surely this man is the Prophet.” Others said, “He is the Messiah.” Still others asked, “How can the Messiah come from Galilee? Does not Scripture say that the Messiah will come from David’s descendants and from Bethlehem, the town where David lived?” Thus, the people were divided because of Jesus. Some wanted to seize him, but no one laid a hand on him.’ John 7:37-44

On the last day of the feast of Tabernacles, the seven days’ feast was usually followed by a day of holiday and thanksgiving, Leviticus 23:36.

It’s possible that Jesus who had been sitting teaching, stood upon this eighth day as the procession passed, and cried allowed, is anyone thirsts let him come and drink of Me, John 7:37. Or it’s possible that He made this announcement on the eight-day because that would be the day expected for something to happen.

Whatever His reason for standing then, it is clear that He wants them to understand that the Holy Spirit has come to satisfy the spiritual thirst of believers, the believer is to have rivers of living water constantly flowing from Him, like garden ponds and a fountain, John 4:14.

The water symbolises the Holy Spirit, indwelling the believer, Acts 2:38 / Romans 8:9-15 / 1 Corinthians 3:16 1 Corinthians 6:19 / 1 Corinthians 12:13 / Ephesians 3:15-17 / Galatians 4:5-6 Galatians 5:22-23.

As is well known the Spirit came to the believers at Pentecost and all who subsequently believe and obey receive the Spirit as described in Acts 2 after Peter’s first sermon, Acts 3:38. Isaiah 44:3 connects the pouring out of the water with the giving of the Spirit but as yet the Spirit had not been given for Jesus hadn’t been glorified, John 7:39.

It was the norm to pour a huge pot of water over the altar of the temple to signify the bounty and goodness of God. This was a golden pot, and water was ceremoniously poured over the altar, 1 Kings 18:33-40, and it was always done on the last day of the feast and could well have been in progress when Jesus speaks. It may have reference to the provision of water in the desert as recorded in Deuteronomy 8:15.

The ‘rivers of living water’, John 7:38, mentioned by Jesus were originally referred to by Isaiah, Isaiah 44:4 / Isaiah 55:1 / Isaiah 58:11.

The Old Testament says this living water will be given through the Messiah. It was previously mentioned by Jesus to the Samaritan woman, John 4:13-14.

The idea behind the message here is clearly that not only do those who choose to drink from the fountain, that is Jesus, receive everlasting life, full and free, John 3:37, but that communicates itself to others.

So, the one who is blessed and drinks, in turn, shared the abundant supply with others who also drink, receive the blessing of eternal life and communicate it to yet more.

John 7:40-44 depicts the confusion that the declarations of the Lord caused. The objections raised about Christ being Jesus are the same here as in previous passages, John 6:42 / John 7:27.

Note they didn’t direct their objections to Jesus but discussed them among themselves, John 7:40-44. If Jesus had been asked, He would have cleared the problems up. The prophecy of the Messiah being born in Bethlehem was correct, Micah 5:1-2, but Jesus’ true birthplace wasn’t known by the people.

Unbelief of the Jewish Leaders

‘Finally, the temple guards went back to the chief priests and the Pharisees, who asked them, “Why didn’t you bring him in?” “No one ever spoke the way this man does,” the guards replied. “You mean he has deceived you also?” the Pharisees retorted. “Have any of the rulers or the Pharisees believed in him? No! But this mob that knows nothing of the law—there is a curse on them.” Nicodemus, who had gone to Jesus earlier and who was one of their own number, asked, “Does our law condemn a man without first hearing him to find out what he has been doing?” They replied, “Are you from Galilee, too? Look into it, and you will find that a prophet does not come out of Galilee.” Then they all went home.’ John 7:45-53

The guards sent to arrest Jesus return empty-handed much to the disgust of the Pharisees. The guards had been totally overawed by the remarks made by Jesus, such was His authority, we see the men had the courage to admit this to the Pharisees, John 7:45-46.

The guards may have seen that a large number of people believed Jesus and were supporting Him. If Jesus had been arrested, it could have resulted in some ugly scenes and so the decision not to arrest Him may well have been the best, and the only one that would keep the watching Romans out of the temple.

The Pharisees didn’t see any merit in this decision and the impression given by the Scripture is that they were most upset and angry at this decision, John 7:47.

The Pharisees immediately turn Jesus’ message into one of deception and proclaim themselves the only ones qualified to judge the identity of the one claiming Messiahship, John 7:48-50. The basic idea of the Pharisees was that they were learned and thus pious while the crowd was wicked and ignorant.

Nicodemus the Pharisee who met Jesus at night in John 3:1-21, now speaks in His defence and those who were only moments ago, declaring themselves the learned men, now have it pointed out that they are also in error as the Law demands fair trial stating a man innocent until proven guilty, John 7:50-51.

And so, the division has now occurred in their own quarters. No longer is the entire movement anti-Jesus, but one is perhaps sitting a little too close to the fence for comfort. The balance of the Pharisees come down on him with vigour, ignoring their own error and pointing out a common error at the time, that Jesus was not born in Bethlehem, John 7:52.

They say no prophet comes out of Galilee but in their haste, they forget Jonah, who came from ‘Gath hepher’ a town in the area later to be called Galilee, 2 Kings 14:25. It could also be noted that many of the other prophets don’t tell us of their origin, so this argument is invalid.

It’s not surprising that everyone went home after these heated discussions, John 7:53.

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