Whenever I prepare a message or devotional one of the first question I try to answer is “What is the theme or point of the text?” Once this is determined I begin to structure it around the theme and then determine how it applies to us today. Sometimes the theme/point is blatantly obvious, other times I need to dig for it because it just isn’t there. When I am faced with this dilemma I come to a crossroad where I have to decide (prayerfully)… Do I still write about the text and pray the Holy Spirit speaks to individuals or do I skip it and go on to the next portion where the theme/point is apparent? Today’s text is one of those passages where the theme seems to be non-existent. After struggling through this passage I feel as though I need to write through this difficult passage and rely on the Spirit to reveal the theme. I mention all this at the beginning to let you know there will be a lot of information and very little (if any) personal application.
Read John 7:1 - 23
Verse 1: “After this…” A time after Jesus’ talk about the bread of life. This doesn’t mean it is directly after (i.e. the very next day) but it is an undetermined time after Jesus’ feeding of the multitudes (some have suggested as much as 6 months after the feeding of the multitude). He remained in Galilee (A large region in N. Israel) because he did not want to go down to the southern mountainous part of Israel called Judea (Jerusalem was located in Judea) because some of the Jewish leaders were seeking to kill him (probably because of his controversial teaching and for healing on the Sabbath).
Verse 2: “Feast of Booths” or “Feast of Tabernacles” or called today “Sukkot” – One of seven Festivals/Holy Days the Jews celebrated. Description of Feast is found in Leviticus 23:33-44. This celebration happens in late Sept. to late October. It is an seven day festival that commemorates the Israelites dwelling in the desert for 40 years and recognition of God provisions for them. It is also a celebration of the final harvest. For seven days the Israelites would dwell or live in booths (or as they are called today Sukkahs). These booths become the primary living quarters of ones home and all meals are eaten in them and many sleep in them as well. On the first and the eighth day of the Festival there are sacred assemblies where no work is to be done. After gathering the produce of the land they were to celebrate and give offerings to the Lord throughout the week. It is/was believed to be one of the more popular of the three feasts and drew large crowds of people who came to Jerusalem.
Verse 3: Jesus’ brothers try and talk Jesus into going to Jerusalem with them and show the multitudes in this largely populated area his miracles and deeds. The NET Bible suggests maybe his brothers were trying to convince Jesus to win back the followers he lost when he talked about being the bread of life. It also suggests (which I believe is more likely) they were encouraging Jesus to come with them because if He is making these claims to being the Son, bread, water etc. He should be trying to win over the crowds in populated areas. Why would he be wasting his time in remote areas when he could be reaching more people in the capital city?
Verses 4, 5: They’re logic made sense. If you are trying to go public with your claims why wouldn’t you go to populated areas like Jerusalem instead of the remote areas of Galilee? It is only logical to gain followers you need to be in populated areas. You’re not going to get anywhere by keeping who you are secret. Isn’t that one of the laws of real estate… Location, location, location? They, like many of Jesus’ opponents were not believers (yet) so they could not see God’s designs for Jesus. Logically this would have been the best thing for him to do but as we will see in the next verse God is not necessarily on our time table.
Verse 6: Jesus responds that his time has not yet come to validate. The NIV reads best, “The right time for me has not come, for you anytime is right.” Jesus says God determines when it is his time. As much sense as his brothers logic made it wasn’t up to them to determine when and what he should be doing. It is only determined by God the Father. For the brothers now was the time to move; but Jesus wasn’t following their schedule.
Verse 7: The world Jesus speaks of is the world system. They belong to the world system and the system cannot and does not hate its own. They are not believers hence they are of the world and the world system embraces those who are opposed to God.
The world does hate Jesus… Why? Because he opposes and exposes the entire world system represents. He exposes the evil deeds the world promotes. This is something we as Christians can expect. As Jesus will mention later on, the world will hate his followers not because of who we are but because who we belong to. We should expect the worldly people to jeer, poke fun at or even persecute us because we do not belong to the world but because we belong to Jesus. F.B. Meyer writes, “Not to be hated by the world; to be loved and flattered and caressed by the world – is one of the most terrible positions in which a Christian can find himself.”
Verse 10: At another undisclosed time after his brothers left Jesus secretly goes to Jerusalem to the Feast of Tabernacles. The only reason we can assume Jesus goes is because God signals him to go in one way or another. We can also assume Jesus didn’t go with his brothers because their motivation was for Jesus to go and prove himself by miracles. Yet Jesus’ time for public acceptance of worship had not come. So he did eventually go to Jerusalem but not for the reasons his brothers wanted him to go.
Verse 11 - 13: The Jews expected to see Jesus at during the Feast. There was a lot of secret talk about him going around. They were mixed thoughts as some were saying he was a good man while others felt he was a deceitful man who had a demon. There was much talk about him but of course none of it was spoken publicly.
Verses 14 - 15: Jesus goes to the temple in the middle of the week and begins to teach openly. They were amazed with his teaching since he was not a student of the law nor a Jewish leader. However he spoke with authority and power and this amazes the listeners.
Verses 16, 17: His words are not his own but are the words of the Father. One must have a faith commitment to God in order to understand His will. It is through faith one will know that His words are from the Father. One cannot discern this in their own power since his teachings defy logic in many cases.
Verse 18: The litmus test for authentic preaching/teaching. One who is doing it in his own power and for his own glory speak to be recognized by others for their intellect, wise sayings and thought provoking words. In other words they are seeking recognition, praise and to be held in high regard. The one who does it for the honor and glory of God is the one who is trustworthy. There is no hidden agenda and they seek no self fulfillment.
Verse 19: According to D.A. Carson, “The reference to Moses stems from two needs: 1) The need to develop more thoroughly what ‘God’s will’ is. For both Jesus and his interlocutors (those he is in conversation with), the will of God is revealed in the law. 2) The need to give substance to the argument the reason why people do not find out that Jesus’ teaching comes from God is that they have not chosen to do God’s will, i.e. to obey the law. Jesus is about to mention specific elements of the law that Jesus’ opponents do not keep. Put differently, Jesus needs to demonstrate that his opponents do not share the purity of motives that characterizes his own service for the Father.” He is exposing their hypocrisy. They are seeking to kill him because he healed on the Sabbath (supposedly breaking the law of the Sabbath) yet they break the Sabbath all the time through circumcision on the Sabbath.
Verse 20: Instead of defending themselves they do what most do when they have no reasonable response. They claim he is a lunatic, crazy or mad. How often do we see this happen? When people hear of various Christian teachings people don’t like and instead of having a calm and cordial discussion they resort to name calling.
Verses 21 – 23: Jesus defends himself and uses the law to show what he did is no different than what they are doing currently. “The one thing” spoken of in verse 21 is the miracle or healing of the crippled man on the Sabbath. By Jesus healing and then telling the former handicapped man to take up his mat was breaking the sacred law of the Sabbath. They regularly broke the Sabbath (the law of Moses) to circumcise in order that the law of circumcision (the covenant of Abraham) wouldn’t be broken. A child must be circumcised on the eighth day and when the eighth day fell on a Sabbath the authorities broke the Sabbath. They did this regularly and Jesus did this once. His response is why are you so upset with me… I healed a man and made him whole on the Sabbath and you criticize me for this? You do no different when you perform circumcision on the Sabbath so you don’t break the law of circumcision.
Some final thoughts…
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I currently live on the Gulf Coast of Florida with my beautiful family. The Lord has blessed me with over 25 years of full time ministry. He is and has been faithful.