Noted as one of the best starting places in the Bible, the Gospel of John is a first-hand account of the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ from one of his most trusted friends and disciples. This book is necessary reading for the believer as its detail and insight is beyond anything one might cross as they seek out knowledge of this good Word. For this reason, I have decided to embark on a multi-part study on the Gospel of John to give not only in-depth analysis of the entire book; but, also background on it's creation and the man that wrote it. Today we continue into part six of this series as we focus in on John Chapter Seven!
We know from other biblical writings (Matthew 12:46-47; Mark 6:3) that Jesus had earthly brothers and sisters. Mark names the brothers as: James, Joses (or Joseph), Judas (or Jude) and Simon.
John gives us a rare glimpse of what things were like for Jesus at home.
John 7:1-2: "After this, Jesus traveled around Galilee. He wanted to stay out of Judea, where the Jewish leaders were plotting his death. But soon it was time for the Jewish Festival of Shelters,"
It had become dangerous for Jesus to be in Jerusalem. He had already been branded as a troublemaker and risked being arrested if He went into the capital city. Now, the Festival of Shelters (some translations call it the Feast of Booths or Feast of Tabernacles) was celebrated in the month of October. It was a time of celebration for the season’s harvest of grain (a harvest festival of sorts). It was also a commemorative feast to honor the escape from Egypt and to remind them of the time that they were surviving in tents and were without a harvest. For the Festival or Feast, the men were required to attend and for the week long festival, thousands of tents or booths were erected outside the walls of Jerusalem where people would stay.
John 7:3-5: "and Jesus’ brothers said to him, “Leave here and go to Judea, where your followers can see your miracles! You can’t become famous if you hide like this! If you can do such wonderful things, show yourself to the world!” For even his brothers didn’t believe in him."
John recounts this very personal encounter between Jesus and His brothers. The key here is that the brothers did not believe in Jesus ( so their comments must be taken as such). Notice the cycle of belief and disbelief here. Even through these brothers did not believe in Him as the Messiah, they were quick to point out how he should conduct His ministry (and their point actually makes sense from an earthly perspective). They are basically saying, “If you want to be known, why waste your time around here, in the small town of Galilee, when you can be where the action is, especially during the Feast when many people will be there?" Isn’t it interesting that that non-believers always “know” how you should live? We learn later that His brothers were converted after Jesus’ resurrection. James and Jude wrote the epistles of their same names.
John 7:6-9: "Jesus replied, “Now is not the right time for me to go, but you can go anytime.7 The world can’t hate you, but it does hate me because I accuse it of doing evil. You go on. I’m not going to this festival, because my time has not yet come.” After saying these things, Jesus remained in Galilee."
Jesus explains that the time to do what they want Him to do (to manifest and a show Himself in Jerusalem) is not yet at hand. He will do it, but just not yet. Jesus knows that dying on the cross and resurrecting will be His manifestation, but it has not come yet. For them, the time is always now, because they have no mission and they are free to go to the festival or believe or do what they want. Jesus’ movements are limited at the moment because those He denounced now hate Him. He’s not just telling them He will not go, He is saying He will not go for the reasons they say He should go for (to do miracles).
John 7:10-13: "But after his brothers left for the festival, Jesus also went, though secretly, staying out of public view. The Jewish leaders tried to find him at the festival and kept asking if anyone had seen him. There was a lot of grumbling about him among the crowds. Some argued, “He’s a good man,” but others said, “He’s nothing but a fraud who deceives the people.” But no one had the courage to speak favorably about him in public, for they were afraid of getting in trouble with the Jewish leaders."
The scene changes to Jerusalem where there is no lack of controversy over Jesus and His claims. John shows that people were divided in their opinion of Him, but they were united in their fear of the leadership and the opposition of Jesus. This is a difficult situation. Jesus has a secret entry into Jerusalem, which sets the scene for another dialogue between Himself and individuals.
The Crowd: 7:14-53
Jesus Responds to Charges of:
John 7:14-15: "Then, midway through the festival, Jesus went up to the Temple and began to teach. The people were surprised when they heard him. “How does he know so much when he hasn’t been trained?” they asked."
They were impressed with His teaching but they questioned His credentials. If He couldn’t show proper credentials of having been trained in one of the formal Levitical schools, how accurate and good could His teaching be? The Jewish leaders asked this rhetorical question to the crowd to instill public doubt in Jesus.
John 7:16-19: "So Jesus told them, “My message is not my own; it comes from God who sent me. Anyone who wants to do the will of God will know whether my teaching is from God or is merely my own. Those who speak for themselves want glory only for themselves, but a person who seeks to honor the one who sent him speaks truth, not lies. Moses gave you the law, but none of you obeys it! In fact, you are trying to kill me.”
Jesus gives them three points in answer: His teaching is not His own, its the teaching of God. Anyone who claims to know God, will do God’s Will and will be proven to be legitimate. Now, He charges them. He says “you failed this test because you misinterpret God’s will.”
John 7:20: "The crowd replied, “You’re demon possessed! Who’s trying to kill you?”
John 7:21-24: "Jesus replied, “I did one miracle on the Sabbath, and you were amazed. But you work on the Sabbath, too, when you obey Moses’ law of circumcision. (Actually, this tradition of circumcision began with the patriarchs, long before the law of Moses.) For if the correct time for circumcising your son falls on the Sabbath, you go ahead and do it so as not to break the law of Moses. So why should you be angry with me for healing a man on the Sabbath? Look beneath the surface so you can judge correctly.”
He does not even address their charge that He is demon possessed, but He shows by His unfailing insights that He is not crazy or out of His mind. Here He explains the charge He makes against the leaders in the previous passages. In reference to a miracle, the miracle is the one where He healed the lame man on the Sabbath and was accused of sinning because He healed on the Sabbath. This is why the Jewish leaders hated Him (breaking the Sabbath Law). He explains that the Law on circumcision given by Moses (but originated long before with Abraham) commanded that each male child be circumcised on the 8th day after his birth. This was done even if the 8th day fell on the Sabbath day. So, since the circumcision was a sign of the blessings of God by being included in the chosen people, not by birth but by obedience to the Law, it was not seen as breaking the Sabbath even when done on the Sabbath because God was blessing you. If God wants to bless you, even on the Sabbath day, He is not violating His own law. Jesus says, in the same way, the healing of the man which was done on the Sabbath, was not wrong because he was receiving a special blessing that only God could give (no man could do it).
John 7:25-27: "Some of the people who lived in Jerusalem started to ask each other, “Isn’t this the man they are trying to kill? But here he is, speaking in public, and they say nothing to him. Could our leaders possibly believe that he is the Messiah? But how could he be? For we know where this man comes from. When the Messiah comes, he will simply appear; no one will know where he comes from.”
Jesus is speaking to the “pilgrims” the out-of-towners, but now the citizens of Jerusalem speak up. Testifying of their own more authoritative knowledge and opinion of Him. They have, they feel, a more concrete reason to cast Him as a mere pretender. For example: the leadership does not believe Him (they want to kill Him, in fact) yet He’s speaking openly, so He must be a pretender. They also say that the scriptures say that the Messiah was to come from the area near Jerusalem, while Jesus lives up in Galilee (although He was born in Bethlehem). They dismiss the pilgrims as having inadequate information and they dismiss Jesus as being from the wrong place. The miracle here is the problem. They are trying to answer the miracle with the fact that he is from the wrong place so He cannot be the Messiah.
John 7:28-29: "While Jesus was teaching in the Temple, he called out, “Yes, you know me, and you know where I come from. But I’m not here on my own. The one who sent me is true, and you don’t know him. But I know him because I come from him, and he sent me to you.”
There's a play on words here. In modern speech, He would be saying “You think you know me? You think you know where I’m from? You don’t even know what you think you know! I’m from God, I know this because I know Him, but you do not know God!” The citizens, leaders, and pilgrims are divided now.
John 7:30-32: "Then the leaders tried to arrest him; but no one laid a hand on him, because his time had not yet come. Many among the crowds at the Temple believed in him. “After all,” they said, “would you expect the Messiah to do more miraculous signs than this man has done?” When the Pharisees heard that the crowds were whispering such things, they and the leading priests sent Temple guards to arrest Jesus."
The crowd is upset, even the citizens want Him to be seized, but their confusion prevents this. This is because God will not allow any action against the Lord until the appointed time. The crowd and the pilgrims assess the situation, they realize they cannot dismiss the miracles He has done regardless of what people think. The Pharisees, seeing the situation beginning to unravel, join forces with their natural antagonists (the priests) and order the soldiers to arrest Him. They can’t just go in and haul Him away, for this might cause further trouble. So they will now seek an opportunity (tell the guards to basically follow Him).
John 7:33-36: "But Jesus told them, “I will be with you only a little longer. Then I will return to the one who sent me. You will search for me but not find me. And you cannot go where I am going.” The Jewish leaders were puzzled by this statement. “Where is he planning to go?” they asked. “Is he thinking of leaving the country and going to the Jews in other lands? Maybe he will even teach the Greeks! What does he mean when he says, ‘You will search for me but not find me,’ and ‘You cannot go where I am going’?”
Knowing that the end is near (6 months to go), Jesus looks ahead and declares He will soon return from where He came from. He came from God and to God He will return. This is in response to the efforts to find and seize Him. They will not be able to find Him, however, because as disbelievers they will not be able to come to the right hand of God. He’s pronouncing judgement here. Now they are really confused. They think He is afraid of capture and that He is going to escape to continue His preaching to the Jewish people outside of the country, in other nations. By their speculation, they prove they do not understand the words He has spoken. They still don’t get it.
John 7:37-39: "On the last day, the climax of the festival, Jesus stood and shouted to the crowds, “Anyone who is thirsty may come to me! Anyone who believes in me may come and drink! For the Scriptures declare, ‘Rivers of living water will flow from his heart.’” (When he said “living water,” he was speaking of the Spirit, who would be given to everyone believing in him. But the Spirit had not yet been given, because Jesus had not yet entered into his glory.)"
Before, Jesus made the plea to believe in Him by eating His flesh and drinking His blood. Now He changes the imagery to offer yet another benefit of faith, the permanent indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Drinking of Him = Believing in Him. Jesus promises, in essence, the people that believe in Him will not suffer the same spiritual blindness as these people who are unbelieving demonstrate. John makes an editorial note in verse 39 for the reader, to explain when this promise would be fulfilled.
The Peoples’ Reaction to Jesus’ Appearance in Jerusalem at the Feast of Booths:
John 7:40-44: "When the crowds heard him say this, some of them declared, “Surely this man is the Prophet we’ve been expecting.” Others said, “He is the Messiah.” Still others said, “But he can’t be! Will the Messiah come from Galilee? For the Scriptures clearly state that the Messiah will be born of the royal line of David, in Bethlehem, the village where King David was born.” So the crowd was divided about him. Some even wanted him arrested, but no one laid a hand on him."
The crowd was divide. Some believed, some doubted because of what the citizens said of His birth place. (Why didn’t they just ask Jesus himself?)
John 7:45-46: "When the Temple guards returned without having arrested Jesus, the leading priests and Pharisees demanded, “Why didn’t you bring him in?”“We have never heard anyone speak like this!” the guards responded."
The temple guards followed Him but did not arrest Him because they were dazzled by His teachings and they found no opening to seize Him.
John 7:47-49: “Have you been led astray, too?” the Pharisees mocked. “Is there a single one of us rulers or Pharisees who believes in him? This foolish crowd follows him, but they are ignorant of the law. God’s curse is on them!”
The Pharisees, they were Jesus’ fiercest enemies because their teachings were what Jesus denounced. They dismissed the crowds and guards as ignorant and uninformed.
John 7:50-53: " Then Nicodemus, the leader who had met with Jesus earlier, spoke up. “Is it legal to convict a man before he is given a hearing?” he asked.
They replied, “Are you from Galilee, too? Search the Scriptures and see for yourself—no prophet ever comes from Galilee!”
[The most ancient Greek manuscripts do not include John 7:53–8:11.]
Then the meeting broke up, and everybody went home."
Here the cycle of belief and disbelief is continuing.
Review of Chapter 7:
The people charge Jesus with incompetency and demon possession
Jesus’ response causes division.
Jesus pleads for belief and the people are divided
His arrest is ordered by the Jewish leaders.