A Commentary on the Gospel of John Seven
by Cooper Abrams
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After the events of John Chapter Five in which Jesus healed the lame man, Jesus remained in Galilee to avoid the Jewish religious leaders in Judea who sought to kill Him. (John 5:16-18) Jesus left Judea and went north to Galilee because it was safe there. After feeding the five thousand He went to Capernaum and there boldly proclaimed He was the Messiah and that salvation was through Him alone. The reaction of those that followed Him in Galilee was that they did not believe Him and they left. However in Jerusalem their response was to kill Him.
John 6:4 explains that when Jesus returned to Galilee the feast of the Passover was nigh. In John 7:2 he states it was the time of the Feast of Tabernacles. The following is from my article on the Jewish Feasts: 1
"The Feast of Tabernacles, also called Booths, comes on the fifteenth of Tishri (September-October), the seventh month according to the Jewish (biblical) calendar. This was the third feast that required a pilgrimage to Jerusalem to worship in the Temple and offer sacrifices and offering to the Lord. This feast also remembers Israel's deliverance from Egypt and their subsequent wandering in the wilderness for forty years. During this time Israel lived in tents and worshiped at the Tabernacle which was also a tent. To remember this time the Jews build small tabernacles or booths with walls of plaited branches and thatched roofs as God instructed in Leviticus 23:42. Today to fulfill the commandment, a sekhakh (booth) is still constructed. It must be made of something that grew from the ground and was cut off, such as tree branches, corn stalks, bamboo reeds, sticks, or two-by-fours and constructed so it will not blow away in the wind. The Sekhakh roof must be left loose, not tied together or tied down. Sekhakh must be placed sparsely enough that rain can get in, and preferably sparsely enough so that the stars can be seen, but not so sparsely that more than ten inches is open at any point or that there is more light than shade.
For seven days they were to live in these booths as a vivid reminder of the days in the wilderness living in tents. (Num 26:65, 32:15) Further when they came to the Temple they would be carrying an etrog, which was a citrus fruit, which symbolized the fruit of the Promised Land. The Jews also used a lulaw, which was made of the branches of palm trees, myrtles and willows tied together with a golden thread. During the celebration in the Temple these lulaw would be waved at certain times during the service."
The Passover is held on Nissan 14 of the Jewish calendar which is in March-April in our calendar. The Feast of the Tabernacles is celebrated on 15th day of Trihri which comes in September-October therefore five months had transpired between Jesus feeding the five thousand and the events of John 7.
There is a debate as to who the word "brethren" refers. Some limit it to His mother and half-brothers, and others to His family and disciples. Matthew 13:55 uses the word brethren to identify His family. "Is not this the carpenter's son? is not his mother called Mary? and his brethren, James, and Joses, and Simon, and Judas?" (Matthew 13:55) However, Matthew also calls the twelve disciples "His brethren." (Matt. 4:18, 21) It would seem reasonable that it refers to His disciples and followers who seem to have been party to wanting to make Jesus king. (John 6:15) At this point Jesus' disciples apparently did not understand the work of the Messiah. They believed on Jesus in a material sense and not spiritually. They wanted a secular redeemer who would free Israel from the Romans and bring in the promised kingdom, but did not see Him as the spiritual redeemer who would take upon Himself the sins of the world. John is clear that at this time His brethren did not spiritually believe on Him. Jerusalem in Judea was the capital of Israel and therefore this was the logical place to present Himself as Israel's deliverer. Although Jesus was performing miracles in Galilee, it was not the political center of Israel. Thus, in their zeal to make Him king, they were urging Him to go to Jerusalem and do more miracles in order that He might present Himself in a more relative place and be known to all. They could not accept that if He were the Messiah, as He proclaimed, why He did not why He did not take action in promoting Himself.
The events of Jesus' life and His redemption for the sins of man had been planned by God before the world was created. Paul revealed this truth saying, "Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began, But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel" (2 Timothy 1:9-10)
Peter in his First Epistle stated, "Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you, Who by him do believe in God, that raised him up from the dead, and gave him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God." (1 Peter 1:20-21)
Romans 5:6 says "For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly." The word for "time" refers to the "proper time, or season." It was not God's time for Christ to go to Jerusalem and be betrayed and crucified. The Feast of the Tabernacles was not the appointed time for the Messiah, the Lamb of God to be sacrificed. The predetermined time would come later on the day before the Passover, which about five months away.
The phrase "but your time is alway ready" refers to His followers who could leave and attend the Feast of the Tabernacles as faithful Jews. His brethren were in no danger from the Jew leaders because they did not oppose the false religious system of most of Israel. However, Jesus in presenting spiritual truth and true salvation, exposed their erroneous system of religion. The Jews fully understood He was condemning their religion as vain and evil, that God was displeased with their self-righteousness which would not save them. We can see the same mindset in the cults and false religions of today. Their religion is one of merited salvation by works and is bound inseparably to their self-righteous pride. They will not allow themselves to consider the truth even when clearly explained.
Grammatically, the statement "Go ye up unto this feast..." in verse 8, implies Jesus was telling them to take their own advice, but He would not accompany them. 2 His position and work would not be influenced by their lack of understanding. If Jesus had gone with His disciples who wanted to make Him king, they would have probably publicly announced Him. However, this was not the Lord's plan. Thus, Jesus remained in Galilee and let them proceed without Him.
After His brethren left for Jerusalem, Jesus then went secretly also south to the feast in Jerusalem. As stated earlier, the Feast of Tabernacles was one of three feasts the Jews were required to attend. Jesus as a faithful Jew honored the Lord's commandments and went privately to the feast to present Himself before the Lord as the law required.
Jesus had now been in Jerusalem for about eighteen months, however He was still much on the minds of the Jewish rulers. News of His works and teaching in Galilee were well known in the south. The Law required the Jews to go to Jerusalem at the Feast of the Tabernacles and so the rulers were expecting Him. They asked "Where is He?" not using His name. When Jesus was betrayed and sent to Caiaphas the High Priest for trial, Peter was in the courtyard. John 18:24-25 records that one of the men there asked Peter "Are you one of the followers of that man (Jesus)?" Even today the Jews refer to Jesus as "that man" refusing to use His name. 3
There were two groups of Jews who had different opinions as to Jesus. Among the multitudes of people in Jerusalem, one group was made of honest people who saw the miracles, message power of Jesus and found no fault in Him. These were like Pilate who stated twice later at Jesus' trial, "I find in him no fault at all." (John 18:38, 19:4) However, the other group of Jews, although they too has seen the benevolence of His miracles, yielded to their prejudices against His message, and accused Him of deceiving the people. However, the Jewish rulers were so adamantly opposed to Jesus that the people refused to openly express their thoughts, fearing retribution.
The Feast of the Tabernacles lasted for eight days. About the fourth day Jesus went to the Temple and began to teach. The temple area was enclosed in a wall which had thirteen gates. Jesus was speaking standing under one of the covered galleries that was inside the temple wall.
Because of the feast there was a great multitude of Jews and there was much activity in the courtyard. It was customary for the rabbi to use the occasion to teach. Thus Jesus began to speak and the crowd listened to His teachings. Many in the crowd probably did not know who He was. However, they recognized that Jesus' understanding and usage of the scriptures was normally reserved for scholars. Others, residents of Judea recognized Him and knew he was the son of a carpenter and therefore would not have had rabbinical training. The word "marveled" means they were greatly impressed with Jesus' knowledge of the Scriptures. The word "letters" is the Greek word "gramma" and in this context means "learning."
Jesus responded by proclaiming His teachings were not His. He was explaining that His teaching did not originate in a man or from human reasoning or intellect. Jesus affirmed that He was not taught in the rabbinic schools of the Jews, but that His doctrine was from "Him that sent me", meaning God the Father.
Jesus continued addressing their questioning of His teachings. He said if they desired or willed to know God, they would understand if what Jesus was teaching was of God or of Himself. The test, Jesus said, was simple. If a man by his teaching sought to bring glory to God then he is true and there is no unrighteousness in him. Otherwise a man who would seek to bring glory to himself was not of God. Righteousness comes from God alone and only truth comes from Him.
The Lord then sharply rebuked these unbelieving self-righteous Jews. They proudly claimed they were Moses' child and were keeping the law. Jesus stated the obvious truth - none of them were keeping the law which boasted and justified themselves, but condemned Jesus. Jesus made it clear they had perverted and distorted Moses' law. Jesus denounced them strongly saying that if they kept the law as they claimed, they would not be seeking to kill Him. The proof of His condemnation was their hatred of Jesus who was teaching the true law of Moses. What a paradox it was that they thought so highly of their zeal of the law, when in fact they did not live it, thus Jesus exposed their hypocrisy.
"The people answered and said, Thou hast a devil: who goeth about to kill thee? Jesus answered and said unto them, I have done one work, and ye all marvel." (John 7:20-21)
These Jews seemed not to be aware of the plot of the rulers to kill Jesus or they were denying it. They thought His statement showed He was delusional which was associated with demon possession. They recognized that Jesus' teaching was superior even though He has no formal training, and could not imagine anyone would be wanting to kill Him.
Jesus then reminds them of His healing the lame man and the resulting outcry of the rulers that He has violated the Sabbath. (John 5:1f)
The law of Moses required that a Jewish baby must be circumcised on the eighth day after his birth even if that day fell on the Sabbath. (Lev. 12:3) Circumcision was given to Abraham as recorded in Genesis 17:10. "This is my covenant, which ye shall keep, between me and you and thy seed after thee; Every man child among you shall be circumcised." (Genesis 17:10) Although it was not Moses who instituted circumcision, it was commanded in the law of Moses. Circumcision was instituted by the covenant that God made with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, who were the fathers of the Jews, thus it preceded the law.
Jesus explained that while they were so strict about keeping the law, if something like circumcision needed to be done, the Sabbath law was ignored in favor of the greater need. Like so, Jesus said 'why are you angry with me because I healing a lame man who had a great need on the Sabbath? Is not healing a man born lame a greater need?' Thus the principle is that one should not judge according to appearance, or letter of the law, but rather on what was right. Paul addressed this same error of the Jews. He concluded "But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God. " (Romans 2:29) This was Jesus' point. These Jews who were so pious in their supposed keeping of the Sabbath law were inwardly uncircumcised spiritually.
Many of those attending the Feast of the Tabernacles came from various areas outside of Jerusalem and the Middle East. They would not have known a great deal about Jesus. However, in the crowd were Jews from Jerusalem who were aware that the rulers were seeking to kill Him. These ordinary Jews, who were not rulers, observed that Jesus spoke boldly with authority. Matthew recorded that people were astonished at His teaching and the authority with which He spoke. (Matt. 7:29)
The way the question is phrased "Do the rulers know indeed that this is the very Christ?" shows they expected a negative response. At this point the rulers were not hindering Jesus' preaching nor seeking to apprehend Him. It could have been because at first they did not know He was in Jerusalem and teaching. After He began to teach they feared the reaction of the crowd if they were to stop Him. Their question reveals two things. One, the Jews were widely expecting the Messiah to appear at this time in history, but did not know the details of His coming. Second, they also knew the rulers were trying to kill Jesus and wondered why they were allowing Him to teach openly in the Temple. Did the rulers know that Jesus was indeed the Christ and were allowing Him to speak?
Verse 27 reveals the people did not seem to know the Old Testament passages addressing the details of the Messiah. They understood the Messiah (Christ) would come, but thought no one would know where he came from. Daniel foretold Christ's coming saying, "I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him." (Daniel 7:13) They did not understand Daniel's reference was to the Messiah's second coming, not His first. In their minds Jesus could not be the Messiah because they knew that Jesus was a carpenter's son from Nazareth. (John 6:42) Apparently they did not know of the events of His birth. The Old Testament stated plainly that the Messiah would be born a man, of a virgin in Bethlehem. (Isa. 7:14, Micah 5:2)
"Then cried Jesus in the temple as he taught, saying, Ye both know me, and ye know whence I am: and I am not come of myself, but he that sent me is true, whom ye know not. But I know him: for I am from him, and he hath sent me." (John 7:28-29)
Knowing their thoughts and lack of understanding, Jesus loudly responded explaining why they outwardly denied who He was. The word "cry" means to scream or call out loudly. He raised His voice to them and said "Yes, you know me and where I came from, but I am not come of myself." He once again repeated that He came from God the Father who was the true one. In other words Jesus said He came in the name of God the Father who had sent Him. His statement is a rebuke stating the obvious truth that they did not know Him, because they did not know the Father. They had a religious zeal, but not a spiritual foundation. He then repeated that He knew God in contrast to the Jews who did not know the Father from whom he had come and been sent. (John 5:20; 8:19, 28, 55; 12:49, 14;10) The people could have known if they wanted to, but because of their lack of spiritual faith, they were turning a blind eye to Him.
They understood He was telling them He came from God the Father. Yet, He was the son of a carpenter, a man, and in their minds had committed blasphemy by his claims. In their pious rage they sought to arrest Him and take Him before the Sanhedrin, but the time was not right for Him to be taken. It is amazing that they had seen His power in the miracles He performed and had heard His teaching and yet they were blind to who He was. The religion of self-righteousness is both blinding and a dangerous thing to oppose.
In contrast many people did believe Him, recognizing Jesus' power. Their response to those who sought to take Jesus was to challenge them saying, "When the Messiah comes will he do greater works than Jesus has done?" Their belief in Jesus further incited the Pharisees and chief priest who then sent officers to arrest Jesus. Jesus has publicly denounced these rulers by revealing that they did not know God, thus revealing their hypocrisy and lies. They saw Jesus as a threat to their position of leadership and sought to silence Him. Since the world began, evil men, zealous in their power, have murdered to keep their control over others. To gain public approval, they distorted God's word and used it to falsely condemn those that opposed them.
Jesus responded directly to the rulers saying He would only be with them for a short while, but then would return to the Father who had sent Him. He seems to be saying that their attempts to kill Him would soon be accomplished and after His death He would return to heaven. He implied that afterwards, the Jews would seek Him, but it would be too late as He would no longer be on earth. Surely that happened in 69-70 AD when the Romans lay siege to Jerusalem and destroyed the city.
Thus, ahead in Israel's immediate future was the siege and destruction of Jerusalem, followed by their captivity and dispersal as slaves over the Roman Empire. The Judaism they took such pride in would also end and they would be a humiliated and persecuted people throughout history. Under Roman oppression and in the future, the Jews would continue to seek a Messiah to deliver them, but they would not find Him, because He had come and they had rejected Him. Jesus said where He would be they could not come, meaning in heaven with the Father. Jesus was not saying they could not believe and be saved, but was referring to them as a nation.
"Then said the Jews among themselves, Whither will he go, that we shall not find him? will he go unto the dispersed among the Gentiles, and teach the Gentiles? What manner of saying is this that he said, Ye shall seek me, and shall not find me: and where I am, thither ye cannot come?" (John 7:35-36)
Clearly the Jews did not understand Jesus' statements. They did not know of the future events that loomed on the horizon. They realized He was being rejected and was in danger of being arrested and killed by the rulers. Thus they surmised that He was saying He would leave Israel and take His message to the Gentiles.
The eighth and last day of the Feast of Tabernacles was come and Jesus again cried out loudly, with great force and emotion for the Jews to believe Him. On the seventh day, sacrifices were offered for the nations of the earth, but on the eighth day the sacrifices were for Israel alone, thus to them it was more important or the "great day" 4 Robertson explains that this last day was a "holy convocation" and kept as a Sabbath day. 5 Edersheim describes the events of the last day in which a priest would take a golden pitcher and fill it with water from the pool of Siloam. This priest in a procession would enter the Temple mound through the Water Gate which got its name from this ceremony. He would then pour the water and the wine as the drink offering on the altar. 6 Like the Feast of Tabernacles, the pouring out of the water and wine reminded Israel of their forty years of wandering in the wilderness. Note that this event was being performed as Jesus spoke. Both the water and the wine are drank to satisfy one's thirst. Thus Jesus used occasion and reference to water and wine to proclaim that if they believed in Him, out of him would flow rivers of living water to fulfill one's own thirst and also the thirst of others. He referred to Isaiah 58:11, "And the LORD shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones: and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not." Therefore Jesus said if they believed in Him they would never again experience spiritual thirsting which confirms the eternal security of a believer.
Verse 39, explains that Jesus was referring to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit that be the source of the eternal spiritual nature given to all believers.
Jesus in Luke 12:51 said, "Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division" (Luke 12:51) Jesus was not talking about spiritual peace which comes from being reconciled unto God, but the peace that is temporal and does not last. Those who heard Jesus in the Temple are typical of all people on earth. Everywhere even today where Jesus Christ is preached there is division. There is a minority who recognized who Jesus is and believe, and there is the majority who reject Him. What makes the difference? Why do some receive Him and others reject Him? When Jesus spoke with Nicodemus in John 3 He stated the reason. "And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved." (John 3:19-20)
Some knew Him from whom came message and miracles. Clearly He had the power of God, thus they thought He was the promised Prophet of Deuteronomy 18:15 and others said He said Jesus was the Christ. Jesus was called "Jesus of Nazareth" and apparently they did not know of His birth in Bethlehem or that He was of the tribe of Judah, and a descendent of David. This shows that among the Jews were those who knew of the Old Testament prophecies concerning the coming of Christ. As stated earlier, although the people knew about the coming of the Messiah they did not perceive the Messiah as coming in the lowly state in which Jesus did. He did not come as a mighty secular warrior and deliverer as they expected. Jesus' claim to have come from God the Father as the promised Messiah was one of the main reasons the rulers rejected Him. He was not of their class coming from such lowly parents and from the poor city of Nazareth.
Some of those who were offended at Him wanted to immediately apprehend Him, but Jesus' life was divinely ordered. It is a dangerous thing to oppose self-righteous zealots. The hypocrite will even result to murder in order to vindicate himself and his religion. They will not tolerate anyone who interferes, questions or exposes their hypocrisy. However, regardless of their angry intent, they obviously were afraid to arrest Jesus. God would not allow them at this time to arrest the Lord Jesus. He had much work to do in the next six months until the coming Passover Feast. The chief priests and Pharisee were beside themselves in questioning why the temple officers had not taken Jesus and brought Him before them.
The affairs of the temple were carried out by hundreds of Levites, all with specific jobs. There were various classes of priests who administered not only the sacrifices, but others who were gatekeepers, janitors, singers, musicians, and guards who were subordinate to the ruling officers. 7 The guards or officers, when questioned by the chief priests and Pharisees for not doing their job, replied "Never man spake like this man." It was not a small thing to refuse to carry out the orders of the temple rulers. Jesus' preaching was so powerful that these men sent to apprehend him were powerless to do so, being overcome with might of his words and person. The Pharisees were extremely angry and belittled these officers by suggesting they had been deceived by Jesus as were many of the people. The point is clear, these temple officers should have followed their leaders and known better than let Jesus' words sway them. They belittled them by supposing that no Pharisees had believed in him. However, that was not true. Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathaea had believed, but not openly.
They implied that the reason many of the people were believing in Jesus was because they were the ordinary people who did not know the law as the rulers and thus were cursed by their ignorance. Two things are apparent in their statement. First, the Pharisees generally had contempt for the common man who they considered the lower class who did not have the wealth, education and position they enjoyed. As the superior elite of Israel they saw masses as inferior, execrable and worthy of damnation. Second, the Pharisee, chief priests and rulers believed that Jesus was threatening their lucrative position as the rulers in the temple and controller of the temple monies. Jesus warned the people of them in Matthew 12:38-40. Jesus said they loved wearing long distinctive clothing and being addressed with titles. They loved the seats of honor in the synagogues and feast rooms, and worst of all these vile rulers swallowed up the property of helpless widows while they prayed long prayers for them. If you turn on your TV to the religious channels you will see their descendants are around even today. If the people believed Jesus and followed Him, their position and income would greatly suffer. Note that these were the people who opposed Jesus Christ, accusing Him to the people.
The Pharisees had just condemned the people because they "did not know the law," but they were conveniently ignoring a principle rule of their law by condemning Jesus before letting Him defend Himself. Jesus had not appeared before the Sanhedrin and thus their condemnation of Jesus was based on second hand information. Also, many thought Jesus was a prophet and some referred to Him as "the Prophet" the one prophesied to come as mentioned earlier. Yet, no one had attempted to apply the rule of law stated in Deuteronomy 18:9-22 which God said was to be used to test if man was truly a prophet of God. These rulers were so incensed by Jesus they were letting their emotions rule their actions. Further, there was widespread belief that Jesus might be the Christ based on His miracles, claims of coming from God the Father, forgiving sin, and statement of His deity. This posed a direct threat to their biblical knowledge and leadership. Throughout the events that followed, the temple officials never followed the law and through illegal trials they condemned Jesus.
They were greatly surprised when Nicodemus, who was the Pharisee who had spoken to Jesus personally, spoke up and defended Him. (John 3) He reminded them of the law they supposedly knew and piously followed. The law of Moses provided that a man must be heard before he could be judged. Therefore their prejudicial judgment of Jesus was clearly illegal.
The Jewish rulers had an open contempt for their fellow countrymen in Galilee. The Galileans were liberal and their society was heavily influenced by Greek culture. The Judean Jews saw themselves as superior to the Galilean Jews because they lived in the city of David, the capital of Israel. Those who were condemning Jesus quickly replied with an insulting question which suggested that Nicodemus was a Galilean, even though they knew he was not. Scornfully they challenged the validity of Jesus' claims by exclaiming... "Search, look for no prophet ariseth from Galilee."
Once again the ignorance of these rulers of the scriptures was apparent. Jonah and Elijah were from Galilee and both prophets of Israel. It cannot be proved but there are others also that could have come from northern Israel including Nahum, Elisha, and Amos.
They had not made any effort to investigate the birth of Jesus or His parentage. They of course knew Micah 5:2 which stated that the Messiah would come from Bethlehem. "But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting." (Micah 5:2) (Also see Micah 4:8)
It has been suggested that they did know their error and verse 53 says they beat a hasty retreat to avoid a reply. Nothing has changed as the leaders of false churches and cults of our day react to the truth in the same way these sinful religious leaders did. False unscrupulous religious leaders are always quick to twist, ignore and distort God's word to meet their sinful ends. It is an amazing paradox that a man will lie about God's word, knowing that what he says is a lie and further they are lying about God Himself. It is difficult to believe any man could be that blind to the truth.
1 Abrams, Cooper P. III, Article "The Jewish Feasts, The Feast of Tabernacles (Booths), Sukkoth" , http:\\bible-truth.org/Feasts-Tabernacles.html,
3 Zvi, Zvi in Israel, "Israel My Glory" Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry. Zvi is a Christian Jew and Holocaust survivor who regularly witnesses to his countrymen in Jerusalem of this faith in Jesus Christ. When they find out he is a Christian the accuse him of believing in "that man" refusing to use Jesus' name.
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