John 7:1–24—Jesus Teaches at the Feast
1 After this, Jesus traveled around Galilee. He wanted to stay out of Judea, where the Jewish leaders were plotting his death. 2 But soon it was time for the Jewish Festival of Shelters, 3 and Jesus’ brothers said to him, “Leave here and go to Judea, where your followers can see your miracles! 4 You can’t become famous if you hide like this! If you can do such wonderful things, show yourself to the world!” 5 For even his brothers didn’t believe in him.
6 Jesus replied, “Now is not the right time for me to go, but you can go anytime. 7 The world can’t hate you, but it does hate me because I accuse it of doing evil. 8 You go on. I’m not going to this festival, because my time has not yet come.” 9 After saying these things, Jesus remained in Galilee.
10 But after his brothers left for the festival, Jesus also went, though secretly, staying out of public view. 11 The Jewish leaders tried to find him at the festival and kept asking if anyone had seen him. 12 There was a lot of grumbling about him among the crowds. Some argued, “He’s a good man,” but others said, “He’s nothing but a fraud who deceives the people.” 13 But no one had the courage to speak favorably about him in public, for they were afraid of getting in trouble with the Jewish leaders.
14 Then, midway through the festival, Jesus went up to the Temple and began to teach. 15The people were surprised when they heard him. “How does he know so much when he hasn’t been trained?” they asked.
16 So Jesus told them, “My message is not my own; it comes from God who sent me. 17Anyone who wants to do the will of God will know whether my teaching is from God or is merely my own. 18 Those who speak for themselves want glory only for themselves, but a person who seeks to honor the one who sent him speaks truth, not lies. 19 Moses gave you the law, but none of you obeys it! In fact, you are trying to kill me.”
20 The crowd replied, “You’re demon possessed! Who’s trying to kill you?”
21 Jesus replied, “I did one miracle on the Sabbath, and you were amazed. 22 But you work on the Sabbath, too, when you obey Moses’ law of circumcision. (Actually, this tradition of circumcision began with the patriarchs, long before the law of Moses.) 23 For if the correct time for circumcising your son falls on the Sabbath, you go ahead and do it so as not to break the law of Moses. So why should you be angry with me for healing a man on the Sabbath? 24 Look beneath the surface so you can judge correctly.”
Points of Interest
- ‘it was time for the Jewish Festival of Shelters’—the Festival of Shelters is both a harvest festival and the commemoration of the Israelites’ wandering in the desert during the time of Moses. For seven days, they live in tents, as a reminder that they were once homeless wanderers. It happens six months after Passover.
- ‘even his brothers didn’t believe in him’—apparently they do, in fact, believe that he’s capable of performing miracles—or, at least, they’re kind enough brothers to be encouraging about them. What they don’t believe is that Jesus is under orders from God, and that he is the bringer of eternal life. They think of him as someone trying to make a mid-life career change and break into the rabbi business. They can’t believe he’s not making use of all of the free publicity he could get for himself at a big religious festival.
- ‘Jesus also went, though secretly’—he goes, but not for the reasons his brothers give. He throws on a hat and some sunglasses and tries to go to the festival incognito, simply to enjoy the holiday as a private person.
- ‘My message is not my own’—he now tells the crowd what he told his brothers: he’s not trying to make a name for himself. He’s simply passing along a message from God which he knows will be helpful to anyone who cares to take notice.
- ‘long before the law of Moses’—John takes Jesus’ point even further than Jesus. Moses’ laws aren’t the be-all and end-all. Other laws existed before, and take priority over, Moses’. Even the religious leaders themselves operate by this principle, by letting the laws of circumcision trump the Sabbath law. Circumcision is the ceremony of initiation into the people of faith. Circumcision began five hundred years before Moses, in the time of Abraham (Genesis 17:9-14). When the rules about Sabbath and circumcision conflict, the leaders follow the circumcision rules. Coincidentally (or perhaps not), the murder law also takes precedence over the Sabbath law; the murder law goes back even further than Abraham, to the time of Noah:And anyone who murders a fellow human must die. If anyone takes a human life, that person’s life will also be taken by human hands. For God made human beings in his own image (Genesis 9:5-6).
By their over-attention to the Sabbath law, they are condemning themselves to death by a law with greater precedence. The irony is only increased by the fact that they are trying to kill the one whose aim is to bring eternal life.
Taking It Home
- For you: Is there something that you’re currently worked up about? Or is there routinely some part of your day or week that seems to be tense or stressful? Maybe it’s your morning commute, a housemate not doing their chores, a particular child or friend who just has a way of getting under your skin. Take some time today to be still, and ask God to show you what is going on ‘beneath the surface.’ Consider that whatever outer emotions you feel, that they are just a signal for something going on deeper. Next time this situation occurs, try paying more attention to what is going on at a deeper level and what God might be saying to you in it.
- For your 6: Pray today for your 6’s friendships. Pray that, unlike Jesus’ brothers, your 6’s closest friends and relatives would be sources of good advice and strong support for them.
- For our church: They say that success is a matter of timing and John seems to agree. Five times in this passage alone, he talks about whether the timing is right or not for Jesus. Ask God to give us good timing. Pray that God would oversee the timing of all the many things that happen here: the things that are being dreamt of, the things that are up and thriving, and the things that need to end. Ask God to direct our timing in all of it.