There are those who are convinced that there is no relation between the Old Testament and the New, nor between the Old Testament prophecies concerning Israel’s Messiah and the coming of our Lord Jesus as described in the Gospels. I think they are exactly the kind of person John hoped would read his Gospel. In the first chapter of John’s Gospel, he introduces Jesus as “the Word,” the One whose origin is not to be traced to a manger in Bethlehem, but One who is Himself the origin, the Creator of this world. Through Him, the world was spoken into existence. In the course of time, “the Word” became flesh and dwelt among us. Jesus was born of a woman, fully God as much as He was fully man. If Jesus is the “Creator” in John chapter 1
, and in chapter 2
(when He turns the water into wine), He is also the “Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (1:29, 36), and the greater “temple” (2:13-22). He is foreshadowed by the bronze serpent, lifted up by Moses in the wilderness (3:14-15), and the One who is greater than Jacob, offering men and women “living water” (4:10-14). In fact, He is the ladder Jacob saw in his vision on his way from Beersheba to Haran (Genesis 28:10-17; John 1:51). He is the Messiah (4:21-26), the healer of the sick on the Sabbath, who claims the right to do so because He is God (5:1-18). Jesus is the “true bread” from heaven (6:22-71), who gives eternal life to men (much better than the manna that God gave Israel in the wilderness). He is the One who is greater than Moses (1:17; 5:43-47; 6:30-33; 9:27-33). John is telling his Jewish readers that Jesus is the fulfillment of everything in the Old Testament (including all the feasts, festivals and sabbaths) which looks forward to the coming of Messiah.
I’ve said before in the gospel of John, there’s a very real connection between the various feasts and festivals of Israel in the life of our Lord. John is not accidental in doing that. For example, in John 5
, we saw that it centered on the Sabbath and in violation, in their minds, of the Sabbath law. Jesus didn’t violate the Sabbath but human traditions concerning it.
was organized around the Passover. The idea then of the Passover, the bread and the wine imagery were there of the body of Christ and particularly because of the healing of the multitudes. You recall He said, this is the true manna, which comes down out of heaven. (John 6:58 a) He was then talking about His body and of course that divided Himself from the crowds and even many of His own disciples weren’t following Him anymore. It was a hard statement.
John 7 concerns Tabernacles. There were Tabernacles that the male Jews needed to go to on an annual basis.
The first one of these was Passover. That was associated with the idea of the beginning of the grain harvest in the spring.
The second Tabernacle was Pentecost seven weeks later. Pentecost was a celebration at the end of grain harvest in the summer.
More festivals came in the fall. Actually four of Israel’s feasts were associated with the spring and three with the fall. In the fall, Tabernacles was the third of these festivals that every male Jew was required to attend. It was also called Booths or Ingathering because it was associated with the autumn harvest especially of trees and vines. During that time in the autumn you had to protect that crop and thus they established these succoths or booths that were temporary shelters in the fields. Theologically it would also remind them of the temporary shelters they had during their wilderness experience.
For these festivals then, it was necessary for the people to come up-at least that was the theory. We don’t know how it worked in practice. Jesus and His family because of their fidelity to Jewish law and worship would “go up” to Jerusalem.
I’m mentioning this because you cannot understand John 7 without understanding the Tabernacles.
There are two things I want you to associate with Tabernacles- one is light and the other is water. The association with light is because at this time of the year, it coincided with the autumn equinox. Equinox is where the length of the day is the same as the night. Then from that point on the length of the night would continue to get longer relative to the length of the day. In the spring equinox it switches that around. It was a Jewish ritual practice, which they described as the dying of the sun. There were festival ceremonies of light-the hallmark of the passing of seasons. Light was associated with this.
Water was also associated with Tabernacles because the idea that you had the early and then the latter rains. We’ve all heard that expression-the latter rains. The early rains would come in the spring and then the latter rains were necessary in the fall to restore the parched ground. The ground couldn’t be renewed without water. It was another set of symbols. There was a prayer that was always associated with Tabernacles for the water to come, the latter rain to replenish the country. There is a spiritual symbolism as replenishing it spiritually as well. It would certainly be a sign as it is used here as well – a symbol of the Spirit of God. There is a connection with all of that.
You have this teaching structure around the feasts. In John 7:1-13, you discover it takes place at the beginning of the feasts. That feast was a seven-day feast. It was a ritual of agriculture. It would blend the images from agriculture and climate to theological history reminding them of their desert wandering.
In the middle is John 7:14-24.
Then the last day of the feast is mentioned in John 7:37 and goes on into John 8. You want to connect that chapter with this imagery as well with the claim of light. When Jesus makes the claim that He is the light of the world it is no accident that He refers to it at that point. When Jesus offers Himself as the water, the living water, at the end of John 7 it is not an accident either. The image of water and light is definitely connected in His offer. He’s deliberately doing something that may be under the surface and the Jews might not understand the point.
Threaded throughout this document are a series of questions that are presented as opposed to Jesus as well as a number of reactions to Jesus as we’ll see- the Jews and different groups of people who question Jesus about these things. In fact it turns out there were three groups of people that were going on.
One of these groups is the Jews. That is John’s term for the religious leaders, not all Jews. It’s one of the reasons people suppose John might be anti-Semitic which is bizarre since he’s Jewish and he talks about a Jewish Messiah. The point is the Jews he’s referring to are not all the Jews but they were specifically the Jewish leaders. They were opposed to Jesus.
Secondly, there was the multitude, the crowd. It mentions them in several places. The crowd would come to the feast. They weren’t aware that anyone wanted to kill Jesus. They weren’t from that area. There would be thousands of extra people coming up for the feast so Jerusalem would be flooded with extra people like it was during Passover and the Pentecost because the people had to go up at that time.
The third group was the people of Jerusalem. They were aware of that tension going on.
This also is the last period in Jesus’ life because in the following spring, He knew that He’d be in Judea and that’s where His hour would come. He would be offered up. It would be associated not with the Feast of Tabernacles but with the Feast of the Passover. After John 7, He never goes back up to Galilee. He stays in this area of Judea. He stays hidden and kind of under radar because of the mounting opposition which is incredible, as we’ll see. I’m going to mention a few of the verses, which describe this kind of thing.
In understanding this then, the Temple area was illuminated at night, which was a reminder of the pillar of fire at night. The Tabernacles were also an anticipation of the coming kingdom of the Messiah Himself.
Let’s consider the opposition. John 7:1 b, “the Jews were seeking to kill Him.” The Jews were the religious leaders. John 7:19 b, “Why do you seek to kill Me?” John 7:25b, “Is this not the man whom they are seeking to kill?” John 7:30a, “So they were seeking to seize Him.” John 732b, “sent officers to seize Him.” John 7:44a, “Some of them wanted to seize Him.” That’s a lot of repetition of that theme. This is not some trivial thing. People are out for blood and they’re waiting for their opportune moment to do so. We see this intensification of opposition and their desire to eliminate Him and it was the religious leaders who wanted to because He so challenged their ideas about what they should be and challenged their whole system.
If we go back to our text here we look at verse 3. “Therefore His brothers said to Him, “Leave here and go into Judea, so that Your disciples also may see Your works which You are doing.” You see it says after these things Jesus was walking in Galilee because He was unwilling to walk in Judea because the Jews were seeking to kill Him, which is exactly what is happening there in chapter 6.
John 7:2-5, “Now the feast of the Jews, the Feast of Booths, was near. Therefore His brothers said to Him, “Leave here and go into Judea, so that Your disciples also may see Your works which You are doing. For no one does anything in secret when he himself seeks to be known publicly. If You do these things, show Yourself to the world.” For not even His brothers were believing in Him.” They were basically saying that Jesus could go ahead, if You want to make Yourself this Messiah then go ahead and show Yourself. This is a good time to do it. There’s a kind of skepticism here. In spite of all that close contact with Jesus, they were still unbelievers. The reality is that a prophet is not welcome in his own hometown. We often find that kind of reception among people we were raised with. His brothers were basically saying from the world’s perspective, “You want to get a following, here’s the way to do it.” There’s an earthly wisdom versus a divine wisdom that they’re talking about here.
James 3:14-17 discusses two kinds of wisdom- the wisdom that comes from above and the wisdom that comes from below. The wisdom that comes from above is peaceable, righteous and bears good fruit. The wisdom that comes from below is a shrewd kind of craftiness, guile, a cunning approach and that form of earthly wisdom though is natural, earthy and demonic. He’s saying that kind of wisdom doesn’t come from God. What we see in this world here is that you have two different sets of rules we can play by- the earthly versus the divine. The difference between seeking the applause of the crowd as a celebrity and the true success of servant hood is a parallel here with the temptation in Matthew 4. Satan said, Go ahead and show yourself- throw yourself off the Temple- all the kingdoms of the world were shown before Him. Remember that idea there. Satan said if You will bow down before me, You will be worshipped and have all of this. It’s the way that we’re all going to be tempted from time to time- to compromise our convictions.
Our Lord, then, clearly knew that His time had not yet come. He knew that He’d come not to be served but to serve and to give His life away as a ransom for many. Let’s take a look then. He was sensitive to the Father’s timetable. Listen to these verses. In John 2:4b, Jesus said,” My hour has not yet come.” In John 7:6, we hear it again, “My time is not yet here, but your time is always opportune.” John 7:8, “My time has not fully come.” John 7:30, “His hour had not yet come. John 8:20, “His hour had not yet come.” So they weren’t able to seize Him.
But by contrast if you jump over to John 12:23 you hear this word. “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.” So now the hour has come. In John 13:1, “Jesus knowing that His hour had come, that He would depart out of this world to the Father.” Finally, John 17:1, “Father the hour has come.” So Jesus was exceedingly sensitive to His Father’s timetable.
I fear that most people I work with and myself included is that our timetable is not the same as God’s. I don’t know if you’ve noticed yet but our timetable is always some how different from His. We have different ideas than God does about what we want to see happen. It’s always He’s later than we want Him to be. It almost never happens that He shows up sooner. He may surprise us in various ways. He’ll do things differently than what we had in mind as well. It always seems that way. Just when you think you had this big vision then He takes it away and says it’s not really what it was. There’s something else. Actually it will be better at the end but often we don’t see that. We get stuck in our ways.
Remember the paralytic in John 5? Jesus says, “Do you want to get well?” Do you really understand the implications of that? If you really do get well, you can no longer come and expect to be receiving the welfare and the gifts of people and depend upon it. You’ve crafted an identity based upon that.
The poet, W.H. Oden, put it this way, “We would rather be ruined than changed. We would rather die in our dread than climb the cross of the moment and let our illusions die.” It’s a good couplet, a good four lines from Oden. It’s very perceptive. We would rather be ruined than changed. Isn’t that an interesting idea? I think people are terrified of change. That’s really what He’s after. I think that’s one of the main reasons people resist coming to Christ. In fact if we look at John 7, it’s a paradigm of the fact that people are in a rebellion against God’s purposes and the various responses to God’s Son illustrates that. It would be naïve to suppose that if you present the gospel clearly that people will respond. That’s not the case. There is a need for this supernatural breakthrough. So Oden said we’d rather be ruined than changed. We would rather die in our dread than climb the cross of the moment. He’s saying that there’s a cross of the moment if you wish to be made well. We then climb the cross of the moment and let our illusions die. So when Christ asks, “Do you want to be made well?” He’s also saying do you prefer your pain to the possibility of change? Some people prefer their pain to the possibility of change because they’re afraid of change.
Where you seek meaning, are you willing to be changed by that meaning? Where you seek understanding, do you really want to find the truth behind the understanding? When you look for help, are you willing to receive instruction as well as the help? When you seek healing, are you willing to be transformed?
It doesn’t come so easy. What we want is a quick fix and God says that’s not the way I work. I have something more profound than that in mind for you. You must respond to that. It’s exactly the same thing we see here each time He presents Himself. There’s a radical implication. I don’t think that our true response comes out until there’s a risk involved. For example, the idea of truly responding to Jesus will involve the risk of public affirmation of Him in spite of the fact that there can be some real conditions where we can be rejected or spurned or hurt by our friends for standing firm in our commitment to Christ. It’s always going to be against the culture. Everybody wants to homogenize everything and say all religions are equally true in spite of the fact that other religions don’t even agree with that. The idea here is that religions aren’t equally true.
I want us to see the need there is for change and the price we’ll be paying for being committed to this truth. It’s not going to be something popular. It’d be a lot easier to say everything is equally good and everybody is going to make it in the end and everybody is going to be happy. That’s not an option we have speaking biblically if we’re going to be faithful to the truth. There’s going to be some real impact that it has on our lives. If we continue on then what we see from His brother’s perspective then is that they were offering the world’s perspective.
John 7:7, “The world cannot hate you, but it hates Me because I testify of it, that its deeds are evil.” That’s why the world hates Me.
John 7:8, “Go up to the feast yourselves; I do not go up to this feast because My time has not yet fully come.” He’s using an interesting word there. There’s an ambiguity. The word “to go up” is a word that can also mean His ascension. So there’s anticipation of the fact that that when He goes up to Jerusalem it will be associated when He fully manifests Himself with the completion of His death, burial, resurrection and ascension. When the Son is glorified, now the Son is glorified- He’s associating that with the cross but also beyond that with the resurrection and ultimately the ascension. He’s using it in that way.
Misunderstanding often takes place in this gospel. We see a misunderstanding becomes a typical Johannine theme to express how Jesus’ self-disclosure is really beyond the way people can imagine. It’s beyond human imagination. We often have as we’ve seen before, Jesus communicating one thing on one level and people are perceiving Him on a literal level and not grasping what He really has to say.
There are three questions that pop up in the middle of the festival as we move on in v.14 and following.
The first one is- where did Jesus go to school? (v.15). In other words, how has this man become learned having never been educated? So Jesus answers them- heaven. He says His teaching is not Mine but His who sent Me. (v.16) He says, I picked it up from another source, not an earthly source.
The second question they’re going to ask Him in verses 25-27 is, where did You come from? Is not this the man whom they are seeking to kill? Look! He’s speaking publicly and they’re saying nothing to Him. However, we know where this man is from; but whenever the Christ may come, no one knows where He is from. Jesus says, actually, I’ve come forth from God and so He cries out and says, I know where I’ve come from and I have not come of Myself but He who sent Me. (v.28) So again His answer to the question- Where do you come from? – Is answered.
The third question, as we’ll see, is in verse 35 where these people are going to be saying- where is He going? When He said, where I am, you cannot come- they wondered where is He going to be going? His answer is going to be the same answer He gave before. It’s going to be heaven. He does not fit their categories at all. They ask these questions and they cannot really grasp fully what He’s talking about.
The Jews question His authority. So they were seeking Him at the feast and saying, “Where is He?” There was much grumbling among the crowds concerning Him. Some were saying, “He’s a good man.” Others were saying, “No, on the contrary He leads people astray.” No one was speaking openly of Him for fear of the Jews. So because of the fear of the Jewish leaders, they had to be private and quiet about this. The point is they were looking at contrary opinions. They were divided over this matter. Some said He was a good man and some said He led the people astray. The debate initially centered on Jesus’ character. Was He a good man or a deceiver?
The debate then shifts to doctrine. In v.14 in the middle of the feast, He begins to teach. He goes up into the temple. In v.15, the Jews were astonished and they asked, “How has this man become learned, having never been educated?” In other words, what’s Your qualification? Have You been ordained? Did You go to rabbinic school? What’s Your authority for Your teaching? You must understand concerning the word, rashooth that was the idea of authority. No one possessed inherent authority. It was always secondary and indirect. That’s where authority came from. It was passed down and conferred from Rabbi to Rabbi at ordination. The concept would be then that it would be secondary and indirect. Jesus is claiming a different kind of authority. He’s claiming a rashooth from heaven. He’s claiming to be a prophet. He’s claiming to have a direct understanding from God that does not need the rabbinic tradition. He didn’t need to go through that process in order to have this kind of authority. So they challenged Him. His answer was, “My teaching is not Mine but His who sent Me.”(v.16) “If anyone is willing to do His will He will know of the teaching, whether it is from God or whether I speak for Myself.”(v.17)
Now this is a very important verse because Jesus is saying there is a moral and spiritual prerequisite to entering into spiritual knowledge. You don’t enter into spiritual knowledge like the way you’d enter into historical or mathematical or scientific knowledge. You don’t do it that way. You could study a textbook. I remember studying differential equations and now I go back to my notes and I can’t follow them any more. I haven’t used them much lately. I can remember studying those and there was no moral or spiritual preliminary to learning that. You either did the work or you didn’t. It’s the same with physics, history, art, music or anything like that. There’s a matter of learning the material and disciplining yourself to learn it. But when it comes to spiritual truth, that’s another question entirely.
You don’t approach spiritual truth like you approach intellectual truth or some kind of a textbook. There is a moral willingness to receive. There are two key words here- humility and honesty. They are absolutely essential for gaining spiritual truth. You must be moving in this direction of grasping your true condition in this world and then honestly dealing with it. That is to say to be willing to receive God’s word for us and to be honest about our condition and then to be open to the truth that we would receive. If we come to the truth with the humility of willingness, that is to say if anyone is willing to do His will, He’s referring to His Father’s will, then he will know of the teaching, whether it is of God or whether I speak from Myself. (v.17) You see He’s saying then that this willingness is a critical issue. If I am willing, if I say, Lord, I believe, help my unbelief, which is that great line, at least you’re expressing an openness and willingness. You don’t understand it all. That’s not the requirement. You’re not going to understand it all. But if you’re willing to move in His direction, then you will know the truth and the Father will bear witness to it and then you will understand so that idea is a reciprocal relationship between knowledge and obedience.
Let me read Colossians 1:9-10 to illustrate that idea. In Colossians 1 is one of these great prayers that I encourage you to pray, one of these four life-changing prayers that Paul has offered. The others are found in Ephesians 1 and 3 and in Philippians1. Paul says, “For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.”
So you have this idea of knowledge but this knowledge that he’s referring to is not an ordinary form of knowledge. It’s a form of experiential or relational knowledge. This experiential knowledge will actually affect your very walk. It goes back to the idea of being pleasing to God. What we’re seeing here is a reciprocal relationship between knowledge and obedience, between our attitude and our actions, between belief and behavior. We see here we must experience the authority of truth by personal commitment to it. You’ve got to be committed to Jesus as your source of truth and then you can go from there. I promise you that pure skepticism will never open up the way. There comes a point where I have to, in humility, acknowledge my limitations, my weakness and then to say, Jesus, I don’t understand all that You’re offering but I want to know You. So in humility and openness I wish to receive that gift of the life that You give me and approach You in that way, as a little child I come then in that kind of trust.
John 7:19, “Did not Moses give you the Law, and yet non of you carries out the Law? Why do you seek to kill Me?” He’s putting Himself in the position that He’ll be comparing Himself to the new Moses who offers you something more than the Law. But even here with the Law, you cannot keep it.
John 7:20, “The crowd answered, “You have a demon! Who seeks to kill You?” Now this is the crowd, this is the multitude; it specifically calls it the multitudes of crowds, not the Jewish leaders at this point. They’ve come up to the feast. They have no idea about what was going on about the Jewish leaders wanting to kill Him. So they say, you’re nuts, in other words, You have a demon and the man’s crazy to think that. He must be paranoid.
John 7:21-22, “Jesus answered them, “I did one deed, and you all marvel. For this reason Moses has given you circumcision (not because it is from Moses, but from the fathers), and on the Sabbath you circumcise a man.” He’s referring to John 5 and the healing they wanted to get Him for doing because He healed the man on the Sabbath. Jesus then uses the argument of the lesser to the greater. In other words the actual law was this even though it’s a Sabbath, the circumcision is a higher thing. On the eighth day, you would circumcise the male child and if that happened to fall on the Sabbath, so be it. Jesus is using this analysis in verse 23. In other words if there is a partial healing that goes on here, why would you be objecting to a full healing that I did also on the Sabbath? He argues there from the lesser to the greater.
John 7:24, “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.” Jesus is saying that He is using the very Law of Moses to refute His accusers. He knew that they wouldn’t listen because they’re going to use the wrong standard of judgment. It always comes down to this. People, by our nature, judge on the basis of outward appearances. Do we not? We judge in accordance with appearances. We cannot always know the hearts and motives of people. We think we know. In fact, we think we know it real well. I’m guilty of this as well as anyone else. I’m often in danger of attributing bad motives to people that they may not really have. I don’t even know my own motives. Paul says in I Corinthians 4, “How can I judge the motives of another?” He’s right. The fact is only Jesus knows our full motives and that will be revealed on the day of Christ. It would be well for us to realize though that we can judge and make wrong conclusions based on surface appearance, God knows the heart.
That’s why what appears to be secular work becomes spiritual if the focus of your heart is the eternal. Consider what your work might be- an architect, a teacher, an accountant, engaged in some specific craft, whatever your activity, your arena of influence-if you’re doing it to be serving and pleasing to God then it is as pleasing to Him as if a sermon or teacher does a good job before God. Do you see my point? That’s as spiritual as going to church is. So it’s not your work that’s the issue, it’s the focus of you heart and the audience to whom you play. That’s the issue.
Now by contrast what appears to be spiritual can be secular when the focus of your heart is the temporal. For example, if a person is ambitious and wants to let’s say become the biggest in his arena of influence- whether that be education, his denomination, his mission organization-guess what just happened? He appeared to be doing spiritual work didn’t he? After all, he’s in the ministry and yet actually what appeared to be spiritual just became secular because the focus of his heart was the temporal.
Now here’s the problem. You and I don’t see that. You see this guy and he’s a man of the cloth, he’s one who is in ministry- then here’s another person who is a person working in a factory and we naturally suppose- Oh, this one’s spiritual and this one is secular. Guess what? That has nothing to do with it. It’s the focus of your heart that makes the difference. We judge on the wrong appearances. Similarly, we hear a person say some things and we sometimes say, you know, I don’t believe I would’ve said that or we feel like this guy needs to grow and become more mature but the real issue before God is where he is with what he knows, not how much he knows. God’s more interested that you respond to what you know than He is in how much you do know. You see the difference again. So one person who knows a great deal may be less obedient than a person who knows a lot less but is good in application.
That’s why Rahab, the harlot, was included in the hall of faith in Hebrews 11. I promise you, Rahab didn’t know a lot but what little she knew she applied. The Pharisees, they knew a lot but they weren’t good by the way of application. Here’s another example of how this woman, Rahab, this Gentile woman, who had formerly been a harlot actually is more pleasing to the heart of God than a person who is a religious leader who knows 10 times as much spiritually. The issue is what are you doing with what you know rather than how much you know. Appearances can be deceptive.
They don’t really care how much you know until they know how much you care. I think it was Dwight Moody who said that but I’m not sure. It’s certainly that idea. It’s not a question of how much you know. That’s why Paul says knowledge puffs up but love builds up. He’s not against knowledge. In fact, his desire is that we grow in the real knowledge. His point is that knowledge without love is going to lead to arrogance. Love without knowledge can lead to sentimental slush. You want to have a combination of both not either or. You don’t want to be all head and no heart or all heart and no head. There’s a third one- all hands. I’ve seen images of all three. I’ve done this before but this is an illustration I’m fond of. Here’s a picture of a man with a big head and almost no body- they’re all cerebral. They’re like a cognitive machine. Then there are some people with a little pinhead but they’ve got this giant heart. Some people are really strong in the heart. Then there are other people who have these massive hands. My view is that it’s good to have all three there although some of us will naturally have a disposition toward one or the other. Even so, it’s good. That’s why you need the body of Christ because there are going to be people attracted to doing, being and to knowing. There’s a knowing element, there’s a being element and there’s a doing element. All three are there and there’s a purpose. We don’t want to go to extremes. There’s a balance going on. I’m suggesting then that you need to have the commitment to the authority of truth. Let me continue where we left off.
So Jesus then uses the Law of Moses to actually refute His accusers. In other words they’re saying- we know where He comes from- Jesus of Nazareth- we know. The assumption was that when the Messiah comes He will come surprisingly and we won’t know whom He is.
John 7:27-28, “However, we know where this man is from; but whenever the Christ may come, no one knows where He is from. Then Jesus cried out in the temple, teaching and saying, “You both know Me and know where I am from; and I have not come of Myself, but He who sent Me is true, whom you do not know.” In other words, He says, I know Him because I am from Him. He sent Me. It’s My answer to where do I comes from. It’s heaven. I came from the Father.
John 7:30, “So they were seeking to seize Him; and no man laid his hand on Him, because His hour had not yet come.” That’s the second time His hour is mentioned in this chapter.
John 7:31a, “But many of the crowd believed in Him.” This is an interesting image here. We have this conflict, a division, within their ranks. There were some who believed and some who did not. It’s a division we see throughout the gospel. Some express openness to Jesus where as others express a tremendous hostility. They either deny Him or hold Him at arm’s length. In the end, you cannot be completely indifferent towards this One.
John 7:31b, “”When the Christ comes, He will not perform more signs than those which this man has, will He?” You had the opposite of extremes- those seeking to kill Him or to say if the Christ comes, will He do more than this Man did?
John 7:32, “The Pharisees heard the crowd muttering these things about Him, and the chief priests and the Pharisees sent officers to seize Him.” If you look in John 7:44-45, you will see they heard Him speak before they were supposed to seize Him and they actually left empty-handed. This doesn’t happen. There must’ve been a power, an authority, in Him and they saw it as stated in verse 46.
John 7:33-34, “Therefore Jesus said, “For a little while longer I am with you, then I go to Him who sent Me. You will seek Me, and not find Me; and where I am, you cannot come.”
John 7:35, “The Jews then said to one another, “Where does this man intend to go that we will not find Him? He is not intending to go to the Dispersion among the Greeks, and teach the Greeks, is He?” That’s the one place where the Jews would not go. They would not be among the Greeks especially if they were orthodox Jews. They figured that the one place where He could go where they can’t go is there. He’s saying again, it’s that misunderstanding, an illustration, that unaided human understanding cannot grasp the mystery that He’s revealing.
John 7:36, “What is this statement that He said, “You will seek Me, and will not find Me; and where I am, you cannot come?” The idea here is that Jesus would answer that the one place that I can come is going to be in fact, to My heavenly Father. It’s interesting that He said, “ Where I go, you cannot come.” What does He say to His men later on in chapter 14? I go to prepare a place so that where I am there you may be also. These people however who are unwilling to respond to Him will never be able to go where He goes. If a person wishes to know Him then He will prepare a place. There’s that contrast again. It comes down to the heart’s desire.
John 7:37, “Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink.” The last day is the seventh day of the feast. During the Feast of the Tabernacles, each day they would carry water and there was the Gihon Spring, which flowed into the spring of Salom. A priest would go to that pool and fill a golden pitcher of water and then chant Isaiah 12:3, “With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.” Then that water would be carried up the hill to the watergate. They’d be followed by crowds and the crowds would have in their right hands tree branches that were reminiscent of the desert booth and in their left hand they would hold citrus branches that were reminiscent of the harvest. They would then shake them and sing psalms, 113 to 118. Those psalms were the Psalms of the Ascent. When the procession arrived at the temple where it would end, the priest would climb the altar steps and he’d pour the water on the altar. The crowd would encircle him and continue to sing. Now on the seventh day, the last day, where we are right now, they wouldn’t do this just one time but they’d do it seven times- seven processionals like this.
Judaism saw the water ceremony on several levels. On the one hand it was a plea to God to send rain, the latter rain. It was also a source of symbolism. After all, where did God get water in the wilderness? What’s one of the most dramatic moments? They got water from the rock. Paul later tells the Corinthians that the rock is Christ. That’s why; remember Moses was told to strike the rock. The second time, Moses was told not to strike but to speak to the rock because only one sacrifice is needful. Here, water was flowing from the sacrificial altar of the Temple and the imagery from Zachariah and Ezekiel would be water going out from the Temple and forming a river. We have this imagery here that you’ve got to keep in mind.
Ezekiel describes a temple in the kingdom of God and it’s a different temple than the ones we had in the first and second temples and even the third temple, in my view this is the fourth temple. There’s a wall outside and it measures the temple. In fact the details are so great in Ezekiel 40-48 that you can actually do an architectural rendering of this. But if you look at chapter 47 there is water flowing from under the threshold of the house toward the east- this is the Temple- the house faced the east and water was flowing down from under the right side of the house from the south of the altar. Similar is the idea of the water being poured on the altar.
Ezekiel 47:2-5, “He brought me out by way of the north gate and led me around on the outside to the outer gate by way of the gate that faces east. And behold, water was trickling from the south side. When the man went out toward the east with a line in his hand, he measured a thousand cubits, and he led me through the water, water reaching the ankles. Again he measured a thousand and led me through the water, water reaching the knees. Again he measured a thousand and led me through the water, water reaching the loins. Again he measured a thousand; and it was a river that I could not ford, for the water had risen, enough water to swim in, a river that could not be forded.”
You have this picture of this bank of the river in Ezekiel 47:7, “Now when I had returned, behold, on the bank of the river there were very many trees on the one side and on the other.” Does that sound familiar to you? It ought to because if you go ahead it goes on to describe it one more time. Ezekiel 47:12, “By the river on its bank, on one side and on the other, will grow all kinds of trees for food. Their leaves will not wither and their fruit will not fail. They will bear every month because their water flows from the sanctuary, and their fruit will be for food and their leaves for healing.” Now turn to the last chapter of the bible. Revelation 22:1-2, “Then he showed me a river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb, in the middle of its street. On either side of the river was the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.” See how that is taken directly from that imagery in Ezekiel 47 and it’s also related to the imagery of what they’d do at Tabernacles.
Here’s the point. When the final day takes place, as the seven water processions are taking place and as they’re pouring the water at the foot of the Temple to symbolize all of this, Jesus makes His proclamation, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink.” This is no accident.
John 7:38, “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, “From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.” The image of water coming from the throne is water that’s alive. In fact it turns the Dead Sea into a fresh water body of water so that now fish can be there. People can actually fish there. You sure can’t do it now. This imagery of living water is like an artesian well. It keeps bubbling up and moving. Living water is water that keeps moving and is not stagnant. So He’s saying from his innermost being will flow rivers of living water. But that water is used of the Spirit.
John 7:39,” But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.” The Spirit would be given after Jesus was glorified having ascended to the Father after His death, burial and resurrection. Then it was needful for Him to ascend to the Father and then 10 days later what would happen? Pentecost. So then fifty days after Passover, Pentecost would take place. The gift of the Holy Spirit would be sent and it was necessary for Christ to ascend to the Father so the Spirit could come thus fulfilling the symbolism in these feasts. Do you see this beautiful picture of how from the very innermost being this water will come?
John 7:40-41a, “Some of the people therefore, when they heard these words, were saying, “This certainly is the Prophet.” Others were saying, “This is the Christ.” Those are on the positive side. On the negative side- John 7:41b, “Still others were saying, “Surely the Christ is not going to come from Galilee, is He?” That’s based on a misunderstanding. The supposition is that the Messiah was going to come from Bethlehem and because it was Jesus of Nazareth they didn’t understand or were not aware of the fact that He actually was born in Bethlehem. We have this picture here of how He really does fulfill it but they didn’t understand it.
John 7:42-43, “Has not the Scripture said that the Christ comes from the descendants of David, and from Bethlehem, the village where David was?” So a division occurred in the crowd because of Him.” That division was based in part because of their ignorance.
John 7:44-47, “Some of them wanted to seize Him, but no one laid hands on Him. The officers then came to the chief priests and Pharisees, and they said to them, “Why did you not bring Him?” The officers answered, “Never has a man spoken the way this man speaks.” The Pharisees then answered them, “You have not also been led astray, have you?”
John 7:48, “No one of the rulers or Pharisees has believed in Him, has he?” There’s arrogance here. If they were really educated and knowledgeable, they would understand. These people are just a bunch of country bumpkins!
John 7:49-52, “But this crowd which does not know the Law is accursed.” Nicodemus (he who came to Him before, being one of them) said to them. “Our Law does not judge a man unless it first hears from him and knows what he is doing does it?” They answered him, “You are not also from Galilee, are you? Search and see that no prophet arises out of Galilee.”
Actually it turns out that prophets did arrive out of Galilee. There were two- Jonah and Naaum. They did come from Galilee. The search should’ve been on their part.
It reminds me of Jesus when He says, “You search the scriptures (in chapter 5) and you think you have eternal life.” What you hear in these verses is the argument that important people did not believe in Him which is the same pressure today. The desire for social, academic and religious respectability causes many to stumble. Matthew makes it very clear.
One of my very favorite texts in all the bible is Matthew 11:25-27, “At that time Jesus said, “I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants. Yes, Father, for this way was well-pleasing in Your sight. All things have been handed over to Me by My Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.” This is exactly what Jesus was saying in John 6 where He was saying, look, if my Father has called you, you will come to Me, but you cannot come to Me unless My Father draws you.” There’s this understanding that you do not have the power to come to the Father unless the Father first draws you. Similarly here, unless you come to Him as a little child and that only if it’s been granted then. No one can know the Father except the Son and anyone whom the Son wills to reveal Him. Now you have this two-sided coin, which we cannot fully grasp- namely on the one hand it’s needful for us to be responsive and open and humble before Him but on the other hand we also must be drawn. There is a mystery of how those go together.
Then Jesus says these great words. Matthew 11:28, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” In other words, the person who comes to the understanding of their desperate need and know of their need for rest and of healing- then they will take His yoke upon them and learn from Him and discover the rest for their souls.
As this text concludes then we see that the rejection was one where they overlooked the claims of this One who is right before them. It’s so easy for this to happen. You can have this reality of people rejecting the very One who comes to them, even the religious leaders. I wonder in our own churches-it’d be interesting to see the degree to which we’d be more abiding by our traditions and our experiences than we would if Jesus came and challenged us again. It’s easy for us to judge at a distance. But you wonder- if Jesus really came, you know He’d be radical- you know He’d be different from what you’re accustomed to. We have a way of wanting to reduce Him down to categories. I’m simply saying this- it’s needful in our own lives as we respond to His movements in our life to be walking in humility, child-like openness and basic trust and to be willing to do His will because as we walk in obedience to Him then the way of knowing Him is enhanced.
There’s a bit of a danger- I’ve actually seen people witness out of pride. Some people witness out of guilt. But some people want to have more spiritual notches on their bible. There’s a danger here in thinking that they’re doing it. All we do is show up and we participate in a mysterious process. We are totally impotent to make any outcome unless the Spirit of God is at work. We can witness. We can communicate. We can share. But it is God who must do the work. Our arguments won’t work either. Our life should be a consistent life and it should be consistent with the message. At the end of it all, I’ve got to depend on God.
Remember I’ve talked about three things, the intellectual barrier, the emotional barrier and the volitional barrier. The way you overcome the intellectual barrier is by helping them think through some misconceptions and turning objections into opportunities to sharing the gospel. The way you overcome the emotional barrier is by building a relationship with people. Do you know the only way you’re going to overcome the volitional barrier is prayer? Only the Spirit of God can break through that. There’s a radical dependence. I can’t even change myself, let alone another human being. How am I going to raise them from the dead? That’s what the idea of conversion is. It’s more miraculous for a person to come to faith in Christ than for a person to be physically raised from the dead, if I understand the gospel correctly.
That’s why I say I don’t really know what a person’s motive will be and there’s all kinds of unique situations to them and their temperaments, experience and background. I may not understand but He knows the heart. He judges according to the heart, not according to outside appearances. We judge according to appearances but God knows the heart.
It may rub me wrong but in fully understanding that and that’s where I have to be careful because it’s easy for me to project and say well, now I know where he is but I don’t always know where he is. There’s this idea of pride that often enters in and keeps us really from receiving truth. There’s a complexity to this. In our lives, there are all kinds of things that can keep us away. God knows that. Frankly, it’s our pride or unwillingness to change. Again and again there can be an intellectual understanding or there can finally be the point where the issue is not intellectual at all, it’s volitional. I’ve had both cases where people said if someone could show where Jesus rose from the dead would they then believe? They would answer no. Now you’re dealing with more than an intellectual rejection. There’s always more to it. Human beings are exceedingly complex. You know this. You don’t even understand yourself. It’s the will. The most important thing about you is your will. This is your greatest source of power apart from the Spirit. Apart from the divine, your greatest power is the power to choose. That is your greatest source of power that you have in this world. Apart from God’s power that is the thing and your life will be shaped by the choices you make in the large and small arenas. In fact your large choices will generally be composed of the results of the small choices you’ve made. With this I’ll close- If any man is willing to do His will, he will know the truth and if he’s not willing to do His will, he will not know the truth. It comes down to the issues of the heart.
This chapter tells about what different people thought about Jesus. Some didn’t want to believe in Him. Some were blinded by their own ideas that didn’t agree with Jesus’ teaching. Some hated Him because He preached against the bad things they did.
At this time Jesus’ own brothers did not believe that He was the Messiah. Later they did. Many of Jesus’ enemies were converted after His resurrection. Some of those who are enemies of the gospel now may accept Jesus if we pray for them. Jesus told his followers to love their enemies and to pray for them.
Jesus at the Feast of Tabernacles
Seven verses in this chapter tell us that Jesus was in danger. Read verses 1, 13, 19, 25, 30, 32, and 44. In spite of the danger, He kept on teaching and went to a religious celebration in Jerusalem. Many of Jesus’ followers are in danger now. We should pray that God will give them courage to keep on teaching, preaching, or witnessing.
Jesus’ teaching surprised the leaders. They knew that He had not attended the schools of higher education. The truths He taught came from God.
Read verse 17. If we are willing to do what God wants us to do, He will let us know the truth. Many persons who don’t believe the gospel have this problem: they can’t recognize the truth because they aren’t willing to obey God. Even persons who didn’t believe there was a God have found Him by praying sincerely: “God, if there is a God, please reveal Yourself to me. Let me know the truth and I will follow You.”
Some were still complaining that Jesus had healed sick people on the Sabbath. One law sometimes seems to be against another. When this happens, Jesus taught that we should obey the most important one. For example, the law said that no work was to be done on the Sabbath; it said also that every male child was to be circumcised on the eighth day. If the eighth day was a Sabbath, the people broke the law of the Sabbath in order to keep the law of circumcision. Jesus taught that the law of kindness was more important than the law of the Sabbath.
The people were surprised to see Jesus teaching in the temple because they knew that the religious leaders were trying to kill Him. But they could not kill Him until it was God’s time for Him to die. Jesus knew that God had sent Him and that God would help Him finish His work. So He kept on teaching right in the temple. Because He had the courage to do what God wanted Him to, many more persons believed in Him and were saved from their sins.
Guards Are Sent to Arrest Jesus
The fact that more people were believing on Jesus made the Pharisees more determined than ever to kill Him. Jesus knew that they were going to have Him killed. He had come to earth in order to die for our sins. He talked about His death as going away where they could not follow Him. His work would be over then. He would go back to heaven to be with God, His Father. Those who follow Jesus will go to heaven when they die.
Jesus said, “Whoever is thirsty should come to me and drink.” We have already learned that Jesus compared salvation to the water of life. But verse 39 makes it clear that here the water was being compared to the Holy Spirit, who would be given to believers after they were saved. After a person is saved from his sins, he should desire to be filled with the Holy Spirit. In the book of Acts, we see that believers were filled with the Holy Spirit after they received Jesus as their Savior.
Division Among the People
People had different opinions about Jesus then, just as they do today. Those were right who said He was the Prophet that God had promised, the Messiah, the Son of God.
Jesus lived in the province of Galilee, but He had been born in Bethlehem. Both Luke and Matthew give us the list of Jesus’ ancestors, showing that He was a descendant of David. He fulfilled the prophecies about the Messiah.
The Unbelief of the Jewish Leaders
The Pharisees wanted to have Jesus arrested. One of the guards said, “Nobody has ever talked the way this man does!” No one could speak as Jesus did because no one else was God. We should learn what Jesus says about things and put His teachings above whatever anyone else says.
Father, we thank You for this time and we pray that we would be willing and I pray that by Your grace, You would give us a willing heart and spirit to respond to Your overtures in our lives to respond to the next stage in our journey and to be on a daily basis to be ready to listen and to receive that which You have for us each day. We pray in Christ’s name.
Now please answer a few questions on what you just read.
1. Why was Jesus’ teaching so great?
a) Because He attended schools of higher education.
b) Because the priests and the Pharisees were His teachers.
c) Because His teaching was from God.
2. What did the leaders want to do to Jesus?
a) worship Him
b) stop Him from preaching
c) kill Him
3. Who had sent Jesus?
b) John the Baptist
c) the Priests
4. Is it always easy to do what God wants you to do?
5. Who will take care of you?
a) other Christians
c) your family
6. How do we know Jesus had enemies?
a) The chief priests wanted to kill Him.
b) The Roman governor sent to have Him arrested.
c) The crowds all wanted to kill Him.
7. When Jesus said, “Whoever is thirsty should come to me and drink,” what was He talking about?
a) About salvation which He called the water of life.
b) About the Holy Spirit who would be given to believers after they were saved.
c) About the water from the Jordan River.
8. Where did the people say the Messiah would be born?
9. Where was Jesus born?
10. Was Jesus a descendant of David?
11. What did one of the guards testify about Jesus?
a) “Nobody has ever talked the way this man does!”
b) “No prophet ever comes from Galilee.”
c) “How does this man know so much when he as never been to school?”