After 6 chapters of John's gospel you are surely beginning to see that much of his book is really a dialogue between Jesus and others in different locations:
- Jesus and the people in general
- Jesus and the crowds that continually followed Him
- Jesus and His disciples
- Jesus and His Apostles
- Jesus and individuals like Nicodemus or the Samaritan woman
- Jesus and His enemies, the Jewish leadership
- Jesus and disbelievers
- Jesus and those who come to Him for healing.
John recounts these dialogues as they took place in Jerusalem, on the way to Jerusalem, or in the northern part of the country like Galilee and the towns around the lake.
We now begin chapter 7 and we see a rare dialogue between Jesus and His own family concerning His ministry; then the dialogue between the people themselves concerning Jesus.
I. Dialogue between Jesus and His brothers – 7:1-8
We know from other passages (Matthew 12:46-47; Mark 6:3) that Jesus had both brothers and sisters, Mark even names the brothers (James, Joses, Judas, Simon). John gives us a rare glimpse of what things were like for Jesus at home.
Vs. 1-2 – After these things Jesus was walking in Galilee, for He was unwilling to walk in Judea because the Jews were seeking to kill Him.2Now the feast of the Jews,the Feast of Booths, was near.
It had become dangerous for Him to be in Jerusalem, He had already been branded as a trouble maker and risked being arrested if He went to the capital city.
The feast of booths, sometimes called tabernacles, was celebrated in October. It was a time of celebration for the season's harvest of grain, fruit and wine. It was also a commemorative feast remembering the escape from Egypt. The men were required to attend, and for the week-long festival, thousands of booths or “tents" were erected outside the walls of the city of Jerusalem where the people would stay.
Vs. 3-5 – 3Therefore His brothers said to Him, “Leave here and go into Judea, so that Your disciples also may see Your works which You are doing.4For no one does anything in secret when he himself seeks to be known publicly. If You do these things, show Yourself to the world."5For not even His brothers were believing in Him.
John recounts a very personal moment between Jesus and His earthly brothers. The key here, of course, is that the brothers did not believe in Jesus so their comments have to be taken in this light. Note also the cycle of belief and disbelief showing up here.
Even though these men (James, Jude, Joses and Simon) did not believe in Him as the Messiah, they were quick to point out how He should conduct His ministry. Their point makes sense: if you want to be known, why waste your time and energy around here; Galilee was scarcely populated and not important. Go where the action is: Jerusalem, especially while the crowds are there for the feast.
Note that they say, “If you do these things." They had not even bothered to go to any of His public meetings; they had not witnessed any of His miracles; they had only heard about Him.
They do not believe, will not make the effort to find out but they give Him advice on how He should conduct His ministry. Perhaps they thought that if, on a longshot, He turned out to be the great savior and king the Jews believed the Messiah would be, they wanted to be on His good side.
We learn later that they were converted after Jesus' resurrection. James became an elder and leader of the Jerusalem congregation; he also wrote the epistle of James. Historians tell us that he was thrown from the city walls and stoned to death as a Christian martyr. Jude went on to write the epistle of Jude.
Vs. 6-9 – 6So Jesus said to them,“My time is not yet here, but your time is always opportune.7The world cannot hate you, but it hates Me because I testify of it, that its deeds are evil.8Go up to the feast yourselves; I do not go up to this feast becauseMy time has not yet fully come." 9Having said these things to them, He stayed in Galilee.
Jesus explains that the “time" to do what they want Him to do (manifest or show Himself as the Messiah), is not at hand. They think that going among the crowds to do miracles is the way to do this. Jesus knows that dying on the cross and resurrecting, this is how He will manifest Himself and the “time" to do this is not yet at hand.
Their “time", however, is always ready because they have no set mission. They are free to go to the festival. They are free to return and go back to their jobs. They are free to believe.
They can do these things because they are not under restriction nor are they under attack. Jesus' movements are limited because He is hated by those He denounces of sin. His time is controlled by God because of His mission. They have no such restrictions.
So He encourages them to go but tells them that He will not go for the purposes they suggested. It does not meat He will not go, just that He will not go with their plan or motives.
Vs. 10-13 – 10But when His brothers had gone up to the feast, then He Himself also went up, not publicly, but as if, in secret. 11So the Jews were seeking Him at the feast and were saying, “Where is He?" 12There was much grumbling among the crowds concerning Him; some were saying, “He is a good man"; others were saying, “No, on the contrary, He leads the people astray." 13Yet no one was speaking openly of Him for fear of the Jews.
The scene now changes to Jerusalem where there is no lack of controversy over Jesus and His claims. John shows that the people were divided in their opinion of Him but were united in their common fear of the leadership and their opposition to Jesus.
With Jesus now gone to Jerusalem, not with a triumphal, miraculous entry as His brothers had suggested, but a secret one among the people, the scene is set for another dialogue.
II. Dialogue between Jesus and the crowd
Now to set the stage for this you have to go back to verse 7 where Jesus gives the real reason for His opposition: He reveals the sins of the people and they do not like it.
In His dialogue with the people and the leaders He will do this very thing, reveal the sin and hypocrisy of the crowd and the Jewish leaders. He does this by responding to their various charges.
1. They charge Him with being incompetent
Vs. 14-15 – 14But when it was now the midst of the feast Jesus went up into the temple, and began to teach. 15The Jews then were astonished, saying, “How has this man become learned, having never been educated?"
They are impressed with His teaching but question His credentials. IF He could not show proper credentials in having been trained in one of the rabbinical schools, how credible could His teaching be? The Jewish leaders ask the crowd this “rhetorical" question in an effort to discredit Jesus publicly.
Vs. 16-19 – 16So Jesus answered them and said, “My teaching is not Mine, but His who sent Me. 17If anyone is willing to do His will, he will know of the teaching, whether it is of God or whether I speak from Myself. 18He who speaks from himself seeks his own glory; but He who is seeking the glory of the One who sent Him, He is true, and there is no unrighteousness in Him.19“Did not Moses give you the Law, and yet none of you carries out the Law? Why do you seek to kill Me?"
Jesus comes right back at these leaders with 3 points:
- The teaching He gives is not His own, it is the teaching of God who sent Him.
- Anyone who claims to know God will do God's will and by this will be proven to be legitimate. “You fail this test because you misinterpret God's will (given to you by Moses); and you are trying to kill Me."
- Those who speak by their own authority seek their own glory, those who speak with God's authority seek to glorify Him. The implication on this one is that it was evident who received the glory from His ministry and who received the glory and honor when the Jewish leaders taught and practiced their religion.
“Compare Me to them and you will see who is credible!"
2. They charge Him with being demon possessed
Vs. 20 – The crowd answered, “You have a demon! Who seeks to kill You?"
This time it is the crowd who voices an opinion about Jesus' accusation of the Jewish leaders. In effect they are saying, “You are crazy, how can you say that our leaders are trying to kill you?"
Do not forget, most of these people are pilgrims in Jerusalem for the feast. They are not aware of all that has gone on, they have mostly heard of Jesus. They are having a hard time believing that their religious leaders would actually do this to Jesus.
Vs. 21-24 – 21Jesus answered them, “I did one deed, and you all marvel. 22For 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. 23If a man receives circumcision on the Sabbath so that the Law of Moses will not be broken, are you angry with Me because I made an entire man well on the Sabbath? 24Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment."
The Lord does not even address their charge but shows by His unfailing insight that He is not crazy or possessed at all. He explains the charge that He had made against the leaders in His previous statement.
His reference to a miracle is the one where He healed the lame man on the Sabbath and was then accused of sinning because He healed on the Sabbath. This was also the cause of the great anger and violence directed toward Him by the Jewish leaders.
In effect He shows how His miracle is in perfect accord with Moses, even when done on the Sabbath. He says that the Law on circumcision, given by Moses but originated long before Moses through Abraham, commanded that each male child be circumcised on the 8th day after his birth. This was to be done even if the 8th day fell on a Sabbath. Since circumcision was the sign that this person was blessed by God by being included as part of the chosen people (not by birth but by obedience to circumcision), this ritual of blessing did not violate the Sabbath even when it was performed then.
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 only God could give. Even if it was done on the Sabbath it was acceptable because, like circumcision, a person was being blessed by God. This was not a “work" of man, it was a blessing from God and He chose to give it on the Sabbath.
Jesus encourages them to judge correctly, to see the utter rightness of what happened, that it did not in any way violate God's Law of Sabbath. The “appearance" was what the Jewish leaders were trying to make out of it, He is saying judge it for what it really is, God's will being done on the Sabbath.
3. They charge Him with being a pretender
Vs. 25-27 – 25So some of the people of Jerusalem were saying, “Is this not the man whom they are seeking to kill? 26Look, He is speaking publicly, and they are saying nothing to Him. The rulers do not really know that this is the Christ, do they? 27However, we know where this man is from; but whenever the Christ may come, no one knows where He is from."
Jesus was speaking to the pilgrims, the out-of-towners, but now the very citizens of Jerusalem speak up testifying of their own, more authoritative, inside information about Jesus.
They have, they feel, more concrete reasons for denying Him and casting Him as a mere pretender:
A. The rulers, the leaders do not believe Him. He says they want to kill Him, but here He is speaking openly. He thinks too highly of Himself.
B. We know that the Scriptures teach that the Messiah will come from this area, our area, Bethlehem which is near Jerusalem in the district of Judea, not from some hick town in the north of Galilee.
They dismiss the pilgrims as being without proper information and Jesus as being from the wrong place. This is their reason for disbelieving. They, of course, have completely discounted His great miracle. Like the elephant in the room nobody wants to acknowledge.
4. Jesus declares their ignorance
Vs. 28-29 – 28Then 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. 29I know Him, because I am from Him, and He sent Me."
This is a play on words here. In modern speech He would be saying, “So you think you know Me? So you think you know where I am from? You do not even know what you think you know. I am from God, I know this because I know Him and you do not know this because you do not know Him."
5. The citizens, the pilgrims, the leaders are divided.
Vs. 30-32 – 30So they were seeking to seize Him; and no man laid his hand on Him, because His hour had not yet come. 31But many of the crowd believed in Him; and they were saying, “When the Christ comes, He will not perform more signs than those which this man has, will He?"
32The Pharisees heard the crowd muttering these things about Him, and the chief priests and the Pharisees sent officers to seize Him.
They are upset and now even the citizens are siding with the leaders in wanting to seize Him but their confusion prevents any action. This is because God will not allow any action against the Lord before the appointed time.
The crowds and pilgrims assess the situation and realize that they cannot dismiss the great miracle Jesus has done, no matter what the others think. The Pharisees, seeing the situation begin to unravel join forces with their natural antagonists, the priests, in order to stop the momentum that is beginning to form behind Jesus. They give official orders to have Jesus arrested by the temple guard. They just cannot go in and haul Him away, this might cause further trouble. They are to seek an opportunity.
6. Jesus responds to the leaders
Vs. 33-34 – 33Therefore Jesus said, “For a little while longer I am with you, then I go to Him who sent Me. 34You will seek Me, and will not find Me; and where I am, you cannot come.
Knowing the end is near (6 months), Jesus looks ahead and declares that He will soon return to where He came from. He came from God, to God He will return. This is in response to the efforts of the Jews to find and seize Him. Soon He will be in a place they will not be able to follow. This is because as disbelievers they will not be able to come to the right hand of God.
Vs. 35-36 – 35The 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? 36What is this statement that He said, 'You will seek Me, and will not find Me; and where I am, you cannot come'?
Now they are really confused. They think He is afraid of capture and will perhaps escape to continue His preaching to Jews who live outside the country in other nations (diaspora). By their answer and speculation they prove that they do not understand at all the words He has spoken and they have quoted. Bottom line, they still do not get it!
7. Jesus makes a final plea
Vs. 37-39 – 37Now 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. 38He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, 'From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.'" 39But 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.
Before, Jesus made the plea to believe in Him in terms of 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) will enable a person of never being thirsty again because the source to quench thirst will become part of the person, i.e. a river inside you.
In context Jesus promises those who believe in Him will not suffer from the spiritual ignorance and blindness that these people demonstrate because the Holy Spirit who reveals God will become part of them.
In verse 39 John makes an editorial note for the reader to explain when this promise would be fulfilled (Acts 2:38) at Pentecost.
8. The people's reaction to Jesus' appearance in Jerusalem at the Feast of Booths
John summarizes this episode by describing the various reactions of the people who attended the feast that week in Jerusalem.
A. The crowds
Vs. 40-44 – 40Some of the people therefore, when they heard these words, were saying, “This certainly is the Prophet." 41Others were saying, “This is the Christ." Still others were saying, “Surely the Christ is not going to come from Galilee, is He? 42Has not the Scripture said that the Christ comes from the descendants of David, and from Bethlehem, the village where David was?" 43So a division occurred in the crowd because of Him. 44Some of them wanted to seize Him, but no one laid hands on Him.
The crowds were divided, some believed because of the miracles, some doubted because of what the citizens said about His birth place.
B. The temple guards
Vs. 45-46 – 45The officers then came to the chief priests and Pharisees, and they said to them, “Why did you not bring Him?" 46The officers answered, “Never has a man spoken the way this man speaks."
They failed to arrest Him being dazzled by His teaching and not finding any opening to seize Him.
C. The Pharisees and leaders
Vs. 47-53 – 47The Pharisees then answered them, “You have not also been led astray, have you? 48No one of the rulers or Pharisees has believed in Him, has he? 49But this crowd which does not know the Law is accursed." 50Nicodemus (he who came to Him before, being one of them) *said to them, 51“Our Law does not judge a man unless it first hears from him and knows what he is doing, does it?" 52They answered him, “You are not also from Galilee, are you? Search, and see that no prophet arises out of Galilee." 53Everyone went to his home.
The Pharisees were Jesus' fiercest enemies because it was their teachings and hypocrisies that Jesus denounced. They dismiss the guards and crowds as ignorant and uninformed.
Note the cycles still going, belief and disbelief.