< What I Learned Teaching Sunday School: John 7:1-36

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

John 7:1-36

John 7:1-9 After this, Jesus went around in Galilee. He did not want to go about in Judea because the Jewish leaders there were looking for a way to kill him. 2 But when the Jewish Festival of Tabernacles was near, 3 Jesus’ brothers said to him, “Leave Galilee and go to Judea, so that your disciples there may see the works you do. 4 No one who wants to become a public figure acts in secret. Since you are doing these things, show yourself to the world.” 5 For even his own brothers did not believe in him.

6 Therefore Jesus told them, “My time is not yet here; for you any time will do. 7 The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify that its works are evil. 8 You go to the festival. I am not going up to this festival, because my time has not yet fully come.” 9 After he had said this, he stayed in Galilee.

John 7 reveals an atmosphere of open controversy and confused thinking about the person and authority of Jesus. He moved and taught amid a stormy climate of heckling interruptions, accusations and constant danger of arrest and death. This chapter reveals the thinking and emotional attitudes of many groups of people. We hear a controversy between Jesus and His brothers. And that’s just the first group!

What we’ll see when reading this is – the human heart has not changed. We have the same conflicting tendencies, questions and fears of being in the minority. We waver between faith and unbelief. We experience similar attempts to stifle Jesus’ message when we worry about what that group might think of us as His followers. 

As we go through the chapter, try to picture yourself in one of the groups that fits. For instance, are you like His brothers who want Him to show His powers so other people will see how great your guy is? Do you want Jesus to show Himself to the Muslims and atheists today – to prove you are right in your beliefs? And they are wrong?

In this passage, Jesus stayed away from Jerusalem because He knew the religious leaders had determined to kill Him, but His time hadn’t come yet. This was the Feast of Tabernacles, one of the three festivals of Mosaic Law requiring Jewish men to attend. And His brothers presumed He would go and questioned Him about His delay. 

*side note about His brothers. In Matthew we learn His brothers’ names: James, Joseph, Simon and Judas. It also mentions sisters, but without their names.

James became the second leader of the church in Jerusalem after Jesus’ ascension and the beheading of the apostle James. It is Jesus’ brother that wrote the book of James.

His brother Judas – is Jude, the writer of the book of Jude.

But at this time, they didn’t believe in Him. That seems strange because they had grown up with Him – wouldn’t they have seen how perfect He was? And surely Mary and Joseph had talked about His birth (?) They knew about His miracles and most likely heard Him teach. Maybe they were too close!
Or maybe the reason shows up in their trying to get Him to go to Jerusalem to show His power. He wasn’t living up to their expectations. Why wasn’t he doing spectacular acts everywhere, all the time? Overwhelming the Jewish and Roman authorities.

Instead He healed the sick. He spoke God’s truth to ordinary people. And in His life of ministry he set the model of a Christian’s way of life. Followers of Jesus do not seek glory for themselves. They humbly, yet boldly love God. Love others and share God’s Word.

He wasn’t trying to be a public figure. He didn’t have to be. He was (is!) God! And He was committed to an eternal purpose for which there was a definite and divine timetable. And He told His brothers to go without Him. His “time had not yet come.” (We’ll see shortly that He does go to Jerusalem in the middle of the festival and teaches openly in the temple.)  Jesus followed God’s plan step by step.

The Feast of the Tabernacles was the most popular festival of the year. For 7 days in autumn, booths or “tabernacles” made from the branches of trees, lined the city streets and the roads leading to Jerusalem. Staying in these shelters reminded the Jews of God’s presence with them after they left Egypt and traveled toward the Promised Land. 

Every morning in the temple, the priests poured out water in memory of the water God provided for His people through Moses from the rock at Massah and Meribah. Every evening there were two great candelabra representing the pillar of fire by which God led Israel at night. The feast celebrated God’s grace in rescuing the nation and also looked forward to future joy in the time of the Messiah.

John 7:10-13 However, after his brothers had left for the festival, he went also, not publicly, but in secret. 11 Now at the festival the Jewish leaders were watching for Jesus and asking, “Where is he?”
12 Among the crowds there was widespread whispering about him. Some said, “He is a good man.”
Others replied, “No, he deceives the people.” 13 But no one would say anything publicly about him for fear of the leaders.

John describes 3 reactions to Jesus among the crowds at the feast.

First the hostile leaders searched for Him. They had planned to kill Him since He healed the man at the Pool of Bethseda on a Sabbath. The expected Him to be at the Feast and hoped to arrest Him before those who believed in Him could surround Him.

Second, the pilgrims argued about him. Some said, “He is a good man”. Others, “No, He deceives people.” Not so different from today!

Third, everyone whispered their opinions for fear of the leaders. The Jewish leaders said anyone who openly confessed Jesus as Messiah would be put out of the synagogue.

John 7:14-24 Not until halfway through the festival did Jesus go up to the temple courts and begin to teach. 15 The Jews there were amazed and asked, “How did this man get such learning without having been taught?”

16 Jesus answered, “My teaching is not my own. It comes from the one who sent me. 17 Anyone who chooses to do the will of God will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own.18 Whoever speaks on their own does so to gain personal glory, but he who seeks the glory of the one who sent him is a man of truth; there is nothing false about him. 19 Has not Moses given you the law? Yet not one of you keeps the law. Why are you trying to kill me?”

20 “You are demon-possessed,” the crowd answered. “Who is trying to kill you?”

21 Jesus said to them, “I did one miracle, and you are all amazed. 22 Yet, because Moses gave you circumcision (though actually it did not come from Moses, but from the patriarchs), you circumcise a boy on the Sabbath. 23 Now if a boy can be circumcised on the Sabbath so that the law of Moses may not be broken, why are you angry with me for healing a man’s whole body on the Sabbath? 24 Stop judging by mere appearances, but instead judge correctly.”

Half way through the seven-day festival, Jesus went to the temple courts and began to teach. Even though they were against Him, the Jewish leaders listened. And they expressed amazement at His knowledge and wisdom. They knew Him only as the son of a carpenter from Nazareth, without the formal training of the rabbinical schools. They marveled at His skillful use of the Old Testament Scriptures and His great insight. 

Jesus said in verse 17 - Anyone who chooses to do the will of God will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own. Remember, He also said, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one He sent.” So Jesus traced all doubts, concerning the divine source of His authority to what is basically a moral issue – unwillingness to do God’s will.

Vs 18 answers the slander that “He deceives the people.” Whoever speaks on their own does so to gain personal glory, but he who seeks the glory of the one who sent him is a man of truth; there is nothing false about him Jesus always and only honored and glorified God in everything He said and did. 

And remember, He is our model. He made Himself nothing so the Father could be glorified through Him. In the book of Philippians, Paul urges us to imitate Christ’s humility.

Philippians 2:1-4 Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2 then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

John 7:25-32 At that point some of the people of Jerusalem began to ask, “Isn’t this the man they are trying to kill? 26 Here he is, speaking publicly, and they are not saying a word to him. Have the authorities really concluded that he is the Messiah? 27 But we know where this man is from; when the Messiah comes, no one will know where he is from.”

28 Then Jesus, still teaching in the temple courts, cried out, “Yes, you know me, and you know where I am from. I am not here on my own authority, but he who sent me is true. You do not know him, 29 but I know him because I am from him and he sent me.”

30 At this they tried to seize him, but no one laid a hand on him, because his hour had not yet come. 31 Still, many in the crowd believed in him. They said, “When the Messiah comes, will he perform more signs than this man?”

32 The Pharisees heard the crowd whispering such things about him. Then the chief priests and the Pharisees sent temple guards to arrest him.

The people were amazed to find Jesus boldly defying the authorities as He taught in the temple area. Along the outer “Court of the Gentiles” were two colonnaded porches called “The Royal Porch” and “Solomon’s Porch” where rabbis talked to groups of followers. The people expected someone to appear at any moment to arrest Jesus or at least stop Him. But as He continued they began to wonder if He really could be the Messiah. And did the rulers know it?

Popular belief held that the Messiah would burst suddenly and mysteriously upon His people without anyone knowing where He came from. They thought they knew all about Him – but actually if they knew He was born in Bethlehem (not Nazareth) and to a Virgin, they might have put two and two together!

Jesus infuriated the Pharisees when He said, “You do not know Him” – which was telling them they didn’t know God, because if they did they’d know His Son! Again, Jesus was clearly stating His divinity. And to the Jews that was blasphemy.

John 7:33 – 36 Jesus said, “I am with you for only a short time, and then I am going to the one who sent me. 34 You will look for me, but you will not find me; and where I am, you cannot come.”
35 The Jews said to one another, “Where does this man intend to go that we cannot find him? Will he go where our people live scattered among the Greeks, and teach the Greeks? 36 What did he mean when he said, ‘You will look for me, but you will not find me,’ and ‘Where I am, you cannot come’?”

Jesus’ words were urgent – the people only had a short time to make a decision about Him. We have that same urgency today. Either we’ll die some day or He’ll come back for us – either way, we have to make up OUR minds about Him.

Those who reject Jesus cannot expect to be in Heaven with Him. But for those who DO believe – we have His promise, “I will come back and take you to be with me.”

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