John 7:1-36.
Jesus, LORD and Messiah

       American Journal of Biblical Theology, www.biblicaltheology.com
Copyright © 2013, John W. (Jack) Carter     Scripture quotes from KJV


The beginning of Jesus' ministry was generating tremendous controversy in the region around Jerusalem of Judea.  The Temple was situated at the northernmost end of Jerusalem and was the focal point of Jewish religious activity.  The most pious and respected Jews would attend the Temple activities regularly, so Jerusalem became home to the sect of the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the ruling Jewish council, the Sanhedrin.  Their adamant regard for their fundamentalist traditional law led them to despise anything or anyone that did not strictly adhere to it, or at least to their interpretation of it.  So, when John the Baptist began preaching prophecies of the coming Messiah, and was baptizing people as a testimony of their repentance, the religious leaders held that John’s teaching and ministry work was far outside of the scope of their religious views.  They challenged John on the authority by which he did these things.  When Jesus started his ministry, His message of salvation and His claims to authority were also despised by the religious authorities.  When Jesus healed the lame man on the Sabbath and declared the man’s forgiveness, they considered both His works and words to be a form of blasphemy; so the religious leaders sought to kill Jesus.

John 7:1.  After these things Jesus walked in Galilee: for he would not walk in Jewry, because the Jews sought to kill him.

Because of the rabid hatred expressed toward Jesus by the religious leaders in Jerusalem, it was not safe for Jesus to minister there, and He moved his center of activities to Capernaum in Galilee.  However, Jesus still sought to visit Jerusalem during the feasts, so He did so in ways to avoid unnecessary attention.  The language used reveals that Jesus did go to Jerusalem on occasions, but did not “walk” there, meaning that this was not the place where He lived. 

John 7:2-5.  Now the Jews’ feast of tabernacles was at hand. 3His brethren therefore said unto him, Depart hence, and go into Judaea, that thy disciples also may see the works that thou doest. 4For there is no man that doeth any thing in secret, and he himself seeketh to be known openly. If thou do these things, show thyself to the world. 5For neither did his brethren believe in him.

The Feast of the Tabernacles, Sukkot, [1] Is one of the three mandatory annual festivals celebrated by the Jews.  Those who were able would go to Jerusalem to celebrate this seven-day event that included many prescribed activities.  Sukkot begins on the 15th day of the Hebrew month Tishrei (late September to early October, depending on the lunar cycle), following Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.

It is evident that the disciples still did not understand Jesus’ Messianic purpose. And many who surrounded Him, some referred to as “brothers,” did not truly put their trust in Him.  With the Sukkot celebration only a few days away, some of those who were with Jesus encouraged Him to go down to Jerusalem to “show” Himself to the world.  It was evident to them that Jesus did not yet intend to be known “openly.” 

John 7:6.  Then Jesus said unto them, My time is not yet come: but your time is alway ready.

At this point in time, Jesus’ purpose was to establish the faith in a small group of disciples who would carry that faith to the world following His crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension.  Jesus sought to present His true nature and purpose to those who would follow Him, and Jesus’ statement indicates that this offer was given to anyone who would respond.  Though these who were attempting to instruct Jesus, and to convince Him to follow their plan, Jesus makes it clear that, though it is not time for Him to fulfill His mission, it is time for the “brethren” to fulfill theirs. 

It is God’s purpose that all would be saved from the consequence of their sin.[2] For those who have not turned to God in faith, the time of salvation is always now.  There is never any truthful reason to delay one’s decision to turn to God in faith.  Though Jesus would delay His formal entrance into Jerusalem until He had accomplished His purpose of training His disciples and Apostles, Jesus makes it clear that it is always time for the disciples to fulfill their purpose: to repent of their love for this evil world and give their love to God.

John 7:7.  The world cannot hate you; but me it hateth, because I testify of it, that the works thereof are evil.

To turn away from one’s love of this world will have a significant impact on one’s relationship with the world as one embraces a relationship with God.  One who has turned to faith in God will not be as attracted to the sinful thoughts, ideologies, attitudes, and behaviors that formerly characterized one’s life.  Consequently, that change of relationship will bring conflict with the world as those relationships are broken.  However, Jesus notes that the conflict is not between the world and the believer, but rather between the world and Himself.  It is a conflict between sin and the Savior.  The world will hate the works of the Savior because His work exposes the true darkness, lies, deceit, and evil that so characterize those who reject Him. 

Understanding this simple truth can encourage those who have placed their faith in the LORD and find themselves in conflict with those who are still entrenched in this secular and pagan world.  Not believing in Jesus, the only available target for their hatred of the gospel is those who stand on it:  faithful Christians.  Though they will express their hatred for Christians, and act upon that hatred through bigotry and violence, the true target of their acts is the One God who created them and seeks for their repentance and salvation.  This truth can embolden the faithful to love those persecutors as God does, and seek their salvation rather then think of them as some form of enemy to be either feared or conquered.

John 7:8-10.  Go ye up unto this feast: I go not up yet unto this feast; for my time is not yet full come. 9When he had said these words unto them, he abode still in Galilee. 10But when his brethren were gone up, then went he also up unto the feast, not openly, but as it were in secret.

Jesus’ plan was not to avoid the celebration of the Sukkot in Jerusalem, but rather to take part in it in a way that would serve His purpose rather than the purposes of the disciples.  To do this, Jesus sent them on ahead with instructions to take part in the celebration without Him, and that He would come and join them at some later time.  The text gives us the impression that, once the disciples had all left, Jesus went down to Jerusalem by Himself.  We may be reminded of the prophecy of Isaiah, stating that there was nothing about the appearance of Jesus that would draw people to Him.[3] Because of this, Jesus could blend in with the crowds, often doing so to avoid conflict.[4]  Using this strategy, Jesus was able to attend the Feast of the Tabernacles without creating a scene since it was not yet time for that conflict to take place. 

John 7:11-13.  Then the Jews sought him at the feast, and said, Where is he? 12And there was much murmuring among the people concerning him: for some said, He is a good man: others said, Nay; but he deceiveth the people. 13Howbeit no man spake openly of him for fear of the Jews.

The Jerusalem Jews had already expressed their desire to kill Jesus, though they knew that to rise up against Him during one of the feasts could cause a riot that would bring the power of Rome down on them.[5]  Consequently, rather than come to the disciples and boldly demand the location of Jesus, there was a murmuring among them, with Jesus’ enemies working to conspire some solution to the “problem.”

One of the common characteristics of evil that we often overlook is the spirit of fear that evil engenders in those who succumb to it.  Evil works are not driven by courage.  Evil is driven only by a fear of even greater evil.  Evil only fears greater evil.  It was because of this fear of Rome and their fear of the people that those who sought to kill Jesus would not state their intentions openly.  Instead, they murmured among themselves, seeking an opportunity to strike from their position of darkness. 

This cowardly murmuring is indicative of how satan works in people, using them to attack the faith.  This murmuring can be found anywhere people of faith come in contact with people who reject the Lordship of Christ, anywhere from the open marketplace, to within the fellowship of families, to within the fellowship of the church.

Jesus had not even yet arrived in Jerusalem, and the conflict surrounding the nature of His true identity had already begun to shape the character of the Jewish celebration, setting the stage for the events to follow.

John 7:14.  Now about the midst of the feast Jesus went up into the Temple, and taught. 

We do not have any record of when Jesus actually arrived in Jerusalem, and the week of celebration was underway when Jesus went to the outer court of the Temple to interact with the crowds.  It was not unusual for Jewish Rabbis to use the courts outside the holy places of the Temple as a place from which to share their opinions on the law and the requirements it places upon righteous behavior.  The court would often hold several small clusters of people with each one surrounding a Rabbi.  Because of the size of the crowds, there would be little reason for those in the cluster that surrounded Jesus to recognize who He is.  However, there was something quite different about the nature and context of Jesus’ teaching, and it never took long for the people to recognize the unusual presentation and power of His teaching. 

John 7:15.  And the Jews marvelled, saying, How knoweth this man letters, having never learned?

When Jesus spoke on spiritual matters, His manner of speaking was different from anything that which they had heard before.  The people were amazed at how knowledgeable Jesus was about the meaning of the scriptures, particularly because He appeared to be a common man like most of those who were in the crowd.  The word that is translated “marveled” also describes a spirit of great anger.  Many were also incensed by his manner of teaching.  Lacking an academic pedigree, some were angered by the spirit of authority that accompanied His teaching.   

What was the difference in the way that Jesus taught and the way in which the “seminary-trained” religious leaders taught?  Jesus' teaching was characterized by a confidence and authority that no other teacher would ever dare assume.  The Rabbis and the people worshipped the law, and expressed a tremendous, if not sincere, humility to it.  They defended their points by quoting the respected and accepted work of other Rabbis, much like we do today when we defend the scholarship of our research.  Jesus did not appeal His words to Rabbinic authorities, nor had He submitted Himself as a disciple to one of the respected Rabbis.  This lack of credentials, paired with the authoritative way that Jesus spoke incensed the religious elite.  When Jesus spoke, He spoke from a position of undeniable power and authority over the Word of God, something they were not prepared to accept. 

We might see a similar parallel experience taking place in the life of faithful believers today.  When a Christian shares his or her faith, or teaches, or preaches God's Word, there is a dynamic in their testimony that no other source can draw from: a power and authority that comes from the leadership of the Holy Spirit, empowered because the message comes from the one who inspires the testimony: God.  When a Christian shares their testimony or teaches the Word out of an agape love for those receiving the testimony, the Holy Spirit is empowered in the speaker.  Even the lost see that the person is sharing from the heart, and their confidence in their beliefs is evident.  Jesus, when He spoke, was not simply repeating tenets of the law as the Rabbis did.  The Rabbis often spoke in order to promote their own pride, pointing to their own righteousness, with no concern for the true well-being of the people.  Jesus loved the people and spoke from His heart the message of salvation so that those who would believe in Him could respond.  There was a power of life in his words that the people had never heard before, except from John the Baptist.  

John 7:16-18.  Jesus answered them, and said, My doctrine is not mine, but His that sent me.  17If any man will do His will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.  18He that speaketh of himself seeketh his own glory: but he that seeketh his glory that sent him, the same is true, and no unrighteousness is in him.  

Jesus' words were clearly intended for the benefit of those who were hearing.  He did not speak in a manner that would seek to glorify Himself.  It is obvious when one is speaking in a manner that is meant to lift up the speaker, and this was the pattern of the Jewish leaders and the Pharisees.  When Jesus began to teach the people, the difference in His teaching led the people to crowd around Him to hear.  Many people were attracted by this difference in character, but most did not understand Jesus' message.

Jesus stated that, rather than receiving His doctrine from any Rabbi, His message is coming directly from God, the Father, and anyone who is in the will of God will, upon listening and believing, understand.  However, Jesus’ teaching was so different from that which they had always heard concerning their relationship the Law, His words served to enrage the religious elite, but Jesus’ words are true.  Jesus certainly cannot compromise His authority over the Law.  Unlike the information-based teaching of the Rabbis, acceptance of the heart-based and authority-based teaching of Jesus requires a seed of faith.

John 7:19a.  Did not Moses give you the law, and yet none of you keepeth the law?

The high social position held by the Rabbis was based primarily upon their prideful adherence to the law.  They declared themselves righteous under the Law by their testimony of perfect submission to the interpretation of it that they themselves espoused.  This approach to the Mosaic Law had shaped their understanding for so many years that many of the people truly believed that those fundamentalist Jews were more righteous, and therefore deserved more respect.  However, every person is keenly aware of their own sin, including the first-century religious leaders.  Each of us knows that we cannot successfully keep every tenet of the Law.  As Jesus spoke to the crowd that included many religious leaders, He pointed out this truth.  Suddenly the presumed righteousness of the religious elite is brought down to the level of the common man.  The emptiness of their inflated pride is being fully exposed by Jesus’ teaching.  This is an amazing change of doctrine for a people who held their leaders in such a high level of regard.  Today Christians understand the same truth that all people have sinned and come short of God's standard of perfection[6] and that no person can stand in front of any other with a claim of being more righteous.  All people deserve the penalty for sin, and without the work of Jesus are without any hope of redemption.

Jesus’ challenge of the authority and righteousness of the religious leaders, accompanied by what they considered a blasphemous message served only to further incense the Jewish leaders.

John 7:19b-20.  Why go ye about to kill me? 20The people answered and said, Thou hast a devil: who goeth about to kill thee?

As Jesus is speaking, He can sense the anger rising in the hearts of the religious elite who had already spoken among themselves of finding a way to kill Jesus in order to silence what they considered a blasphemous threat to their authority.  The Mosaic Law prescribed a penalty of death for acts of blasphemy against God.  They had therefore established charges of blasphemy and had drawn from their interpretation of Mosaic Law a litany of charges stemming from Jesus' previous accusations of "working" on the Sabbath when He cured a lame man.  Their desire to discredit Jesus had grown to the point of zealous obsession.  When Jesus clearly braced them on their desire to kill him, the people who were there were astonished.  The plot of the religious leaders was not public information, nor would it have been publicly accepted.  The leaders recognized that Jesus was becoming continually more popular with the people, and their very authority was being challenged by His success.  Attacking Jesus publicly would stir up riots, bringing a brutal response from the ruling Romans.  Attacking Jesus publicly could also expose their own hypocrisy.  However, as the question is asked, one can imagine that those members of the religious elite who were in attendance were more than agitated.

John 7:21-24.  Jesus answered and said unto them, I have done one work, and ye all marvel.  22Moses therefore gave unto you circumcision; (not because it is of Moses, but of the fathers;) and ye on the Sabbath day circumcise a man.  23If a man on the Sabbath day receive circumcision, that the law of Moses should not be broken; are ye angry at me, because I have made a man every whit whole on the Sabbath day? 24Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment. 

Jesus then exposes the hypocrisy of the charges of the religious elite by using the same Mosaic law that they twist for their own purposes.  Jesus first notes that the charge of the elite comes from a single event:  the healing of the lame man at the pool of Bethsaida.[7]  However, it was common practice to circumcise boys on their 8th day following birth, and if that day fell on the Sabbath, the circumcision was still performed.  This was a rite that was attended to by a Rabbi.  It was clearly understood by the people and by the religious elite that circumcision on the Sabbath was contrary to their own Sabbath law.  The leaders rationalized away this conflict by placing opinions into their traditional writings that promoted the laws of circumcision over the laws of the Sabbath.  Jesus illustrated that the violent reaction of the elite was in response to one event, yet they themselves perform a similar act on a regular basis.

Jesus called upon those who make such judgments to do so based upon righteous judgment.  The anger and prejudice of the religious leaders was obvious, and was clouding their judgment, just as anger and prejudice will cloud our own. 

John 7:25-27.  Then said some of them of Jerusalem, Is not this he, whom they seek to kill? 26But, lo, he speaketh boldly, and they say nothing unto him.  Do the rulers know indeed that this is the very Christ? 27Howbeit we know this man whence he is: but when Christ cometh, no man knoweth whence he is. 

The crowd was made up of a wide range of people, and most were probably travelers who had come for the feast.  Such travelers were more interested in matters of the faith than those in the average population.  Consequently, they would be better studied in the Old Testament law and prophetic writings than many others.  In this verse, those local Jerusalemites are pointed out as those who were seeking to destroy Jesus.  Until now, many were not certain that this was the man who the religious leaders sought to kill.  Jesus’ very presence in the Temple at this time presents a paradox since the people considered the religious leaders to hold all religious and political power, particularly that which is exercised in the Temple. 

Furthermore, some in Jerusalem were becoming convinced that Jesus is, indeed, the prophesied Messiah.  Is the response of the leaders so violent because they too think that He might be the Messiah?  There was a long-held paradox concerning the geographical source of the coming Messiah.  Written prophecies contradicted themselves, indicating that the Messiah would come from Nazareth, but also from Bethlehem, and from Egypt.  They only knew that Jesus came from Nazareth.  Why do the religious leaders not stop this man if He is not who He says He is?  Certainly, these questions were firmly on the minds of many of the listeners. 

Still, the people were probably not aware that Jesus was born in Bethlehem and shortly after His birth, Joseph and Mary took Jesus to Egypt to avoid the murderous King Herod who did know to look for the Messiah in Bethlehem.  Upon their return, they settled to Nazareth to hide from the Jerusalem leadership and it was there that Jesus was reared, fulfilling the prophetic paradox.

John 7:28-29.  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.  29But I know Him: for I am from Him, and He hath sent me. 

Jesus' response to the critics was firm.  His words could be translated in modern language, "So, you think you know where I am from, do you?"   Jesus made it clear that He did not come on His own accord, but came from God, the Father, who sent Him.  He then declared that the critics do not know God.  Jesus makes no compromise when debate arises as to who He is.  It is the debate over the true identity and nature of Jesus that has separated society for over 2000 years, and one’s position on this one question serves to separate all people from God for eternity.  Jesus states His own clear calling, that He knows that He has been sent by God, and by so doing, declares Himself in yet another way, to be the Christ, the Messiah.

John 7:30-31.  Then they sought to take him: but no man laid hands on him, because his hour was not yet come.  31And many of the people believed on him, and said, When Christ cometh, will he do more miracles than these which this man hath done?

The 'hour' that Jesus often referred to would be that point in time when He would be called upon by God to atone for the sins of all people on the cross of crucifixion.  There was work to be done before this event would take place, so Jesus could not yet fall into the hands of the angry Jerusalem Jews.  What kept the religious leaders from taking Jesus prisoner at this particular time?  It might have been God's hand of protection, it might have been due to the disorganized confusion among His enemies, it might have been due to the religious elite’s fear of the crowds.  In any case, it was God's will that Jesus would not yet be taken.

Yet, characteristic of Jesus' ministry, the people were divided.  Who were they to believe?  On one side were the self-righteous religious leaders shouting their charges of blaspheming the Law, yet Jesus was a man of peace who had shown the power of God through many miracles, perhaps more already than they would have ever been expected from the Messiah.  Accepting who Christ is requires making a decision to stand clearly on one side or the other of an eternal issue.

John 7:32.  The Pharisees heard that the people murmured such things concerning him; and the Pharisees and the chief priests sent officers to take him. 

As the people listened more to Jesus' teaching many became to have more confidence in the truth of His words.  Though Jesus described who He was in terms of His purpose, He did not actually state within the Temple that He was the Messiah, the Christ.  So people questioned among themselves as to whether it was possible that this man from Nazareth was, indeed, the Promised One.  When word got back to the Pharisees concerning the amount of attention Jesus was given, they were motivated to take action.  Part of the Temple staff included guards who served as security officers.  These men were Jews, not Romans since Romans were not allowed to enter the Temple.[8] 

John 7:33-36.  Then said Jesus unto them, Yet a little while am I with you, and then I go unto him that sent me.  34Ye shall seek me, and shall not find me: and where I am, thither ye cannot come.  35Then 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? 36What 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?

These words were spoken in the hearing of the Temple guards.  As they are coming to arrest Him, Jesus tells them that He will not be here very long, and where He is going He will not be found.  At face value, the guards might think that since Jesus will not be here long, it would be easier to let Him leave than to take Him into custody among a crowd that is increasingly supporting Him.  As the Jews considered His words, they could only conjecture on where Jesus would be going.  The Jewish laws were so severe that the only place that Jesus could be estranged from them would be to leave the Jewish community and move out among the Gentiles.  Such a concept was inconceivable to them, so their statement was not one of prophecy, but one of sarcasm.  It is if they are saying, "Where will He go?  Does He think He can go teach the Gentiles?"  Little did they know that this was exactly why Jesus would leave us in the manner and timing that He did.  By the time that John wrote these words, the gospel had been taken outside of the barren soil of Jerusalem into the Gentile communities where it found fertile soil and many were saved.

The place that Jesus was referring to was His place with the Father in heaven following His sacrifice on the Cross.  This is something that a crowd could never understand.  Jesus would only be able to teach such deep truths to individuals and small groups in a quiet setting.  These were the teachings that were brought to the Apostles and disciples who, after the crucifixion would be able to share the truth with others.

Jesus came to bring peace and life to a world that only experienced turmoil and death.  One would think that since the Jews were the "children of God" that they would have embraced the Messiah.  However, there was little in first-century Israel that resembled children of God.  The Word of God had been replaced by the religious leadership with a ritual law that was protected by a large and complex set of traditions and oral law that made adherence to the Law the litmus test of their faith, ignorant of any need for a relationship with God.  The religious leaders prided themselves on their knowledge of the Law and their ability to keep it, despising anyone else who did not.  Their power to control was entirely wrapped up in the Law.  They were not ready for a Messiah who would place the Law back where God had intended it:  into the hearts of people.[9]  Jesus' message was so radical that His life was in danger any time He set foot in Jerusalem. 

Little has changed in our world.  After 2000 years of testimony people still systematically reject Jesus, often responding with rage and violence when the gospel exposes the darkness of their lives.  The world culture is turning to a secular, traditional, and oral law and is beginning to despise anyone who does not agree.  In western culture, it is the law of secular tolerance and relativism that rejects the concept of sin, and refuses to tolerate anyone who believes in it.  Having been blinded to the consequences of sin, our postmodern culture feels no need for a Savior.  Non-western cultures still recognize their need for God, but search for Him through animism, the attribution of authority to created things, whether they be people such as Buddha, or objects and animals.  In many places in the world Christians are persecuted, even unto death for professing their faith in public.  More Christians have been martyred in the last 100 years than were martyred in the previous 1900. 

Jesus came to bring love to a world filled with apathy and hatred.  It is only through the testimony of Christians, a testimony of truth that is wrapped in love for all people, will this world turn to Christ.  Let us not allow those of us who are part of the body of the Church of Christ be as the Jewish leaders and find ourselves blinded to Jesus' true purpose, and through that blindness, lead the lost into the abyss.  Let us rather put aside our pride and submit ourselves totally to God, seeking to listen to His Holy Spirit as we seek to bring the world to saving faith.

Yes, Jesus did come from Bethlehem, born as a Man.  But Jesus was also the Word who became flesh and dwelt among us,[10] the One who provided a way for us to see God, returning to the right hand of God.  In this He was also fully God.  As the world sees the Man, let us help them see the Messiah who came to save us from our sins.


[1] This celebration is characterized by the building of small booth, or tabernacles, or sukkot, that serve as a reminder of the simple dwellings that were built by the Israelites during the 40-year wilderness wandering following their exodus from Egypt.

[2] 1 Timothy 2:4.

[3] Isaiah 53:2.

[4] John 5:13, e.g.

[5] John 5:18, et. al.

[6] Romans 3:23.

[7] John, Chapter 5.

[8] Romans could enter the Court of the Gentiles if their purpose was for worship.  However, that court had been taken over by merchants. 

 

[9] Job 22:22, Psalm 37:3, Isa.  51:7.

[10] John 1:14.