John Chapter 7: Jesus Teaches at the Temple During the Feast of Tabernacles

Dec 23rd, 2009 | By | Category: John, Verse by Verse --Studies led by Br. Frank Shallieu (Click on Book name)

John Chapter 7: Jesus Teaches at the Temple During the Feast of Tabernacles

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

Verse 1 is a preface to the rest of Chapter 7. “After these things” would mean after the feeding of the multitudes and the subsequent explanation on the other side of Galilee with regard to Jesus’ being the bread from heaven, etc. In addition, the other Gospels tell that Jesus then went to Jerusalem to observe the Passover, after which he returned home to the Galilee area. Thus there was a six-month time gap between the end of Chapter 6 and verse 2 of Chapter 7. “Jewry” was Judea. When Jesus was in Jerusalem for the Passover, some of the Jews sought to kill him. Therefore, he did not linger there but returned home before they could make plans to apprehend him.

John 7:2 Now the Jews’ feast of tabernacles was at hand.

Passover was the 14th day (followed by a week) of Nisan, the first month of the religious year.

The Feast of Tabernacles began on the 15th day of the seventh month, six months later.

Therefore, verses 2-9 took place about four days before the Feast of Tabernacles began.

John 7:3 His brethren therefore said unto him, Depart hence, and go into Judaea, that thy disciples also may see the works that thou doest.

Jesus’ natural half brothers, Joses and Simon, were speaking to him. (Jesus’ other two brothers were apostles: James of Alphaeus and Jude—Matt. 13:55.) They said in effect, “If you want to be known, go right to the heart, to the capital, to Jerusalem, and do these miracles. Why do miracles up here in Galilee? You will prosper if you perform the miracles in Jerusalem.” They could not understand Jesus’ logic in limiting himself to that area.

John 7:4 For 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.

Joses and Simon continued to speak. A paraphrase of the end of verse 4 is as follows: “Since you claim to give eternal life to others, do not act as if you are afraid you will lose your life. Go ahead down to Jerusalem.”

Sometimes called “Galilee of the Gentiles,” Galilee was considered off-limits to a certain extent (Matt. 4:15). It was like a year-round resort for the Roman army, especially Tiberias with its mineral baths. The Romans occupied most of the southern half of the lake, the Jews the northern half. From a religious standpoint, many Jews did not want to be ceremoniously contaminated by going to the Galilee area where there were so many foreigners.

Jesus’ natural brothers were speaking to him in a taunting, derogatory, sarcastic manner. “Secret” was an exaggeration, for a number of Jews were up in Galilee. However, relatively speaking, that area was a more out-of-the-way place. If one wanted to be king, he certainly would not waste his time in Galilee but would go to Jerusalem to get notoriety. The words of Joses and Simon were quite a dig, which Jesus would have felt. He was extremely courageous, yet he never deliberately exposed himself to danger unless he knew that it was God’s will for him to do so. For someone who was so courageous—with no fear—it would hurt to be the object of such sarcasm. Joses and Simon denigrated his character, and no doubt others were listening. But Jesus had to curb his feelings, and he gave a controlled reply (verses 6-8).

John 7:5 For neither did his brethren believe in him.

Verse 3 alone is not sufficient to determine what brethren of Jesus were being referred to, but verse 5 clarifies that they were Jesus’ natural brothers, for surely his disciples (“brethren”) did believe in(to) him. Jesus’ natural brothers did not believe he was the Messiah.

Joses and Simon were with Mary, the mother of Jesus, quite frequently. When Jesus was giving a sermon one time and they desired to see him, he replied, “He that doeth the will of my Father in heaven is my mother and my brethren” (Matt. 12:50 paraphrase). The brothers were of his own household, yet they did not believe he was the Messiah at that time. Not until Jesus was raised from death did they realize he was Messiah. Acts 1:14 shows that they eventually accepted him, for at Pentecost, they waited in the room with Mary for the Holy Spirit to come.

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

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

John 7:8 Go ye up unto this feast: I go not up yet unto this feast; for my time is not yet full come.

Notice the way Jesus responded to the sarcasm. It took constraint for Jesus to answer in such a dignified way. We are reminded of Moses’ composure when the nation criticized him at the Red Sea as Pharaoh’s chariots were approaching. Moses felt the criticism keenly but ignored it.

Hence Moses showed himself to be a true messenger of the Lord. Jesus, too, stifled his own feelings and answered in a controlled way.

Jesus answered the taunt—yet he did not answer it. He admitted there was hatred against him, and that was why he did not recklessly expose himself. Then he told why the “world” hated him—because he was forthright. He did not speak smooth things to tickle the palate of his hearers. If one wants to be a leader, the easiest way is to please the audience and thus gain popularity, but Jesus did the opposite. When he spoke, he intentionally antagonized the majority because their works were “evil.”

A good example of the wrong attitude is the way Absalom waited in the gate, trying to win the people away from his father David. When the people came to Jerusalem to plead their cause, Absalom intercepted them with sweet mannerisms, kisses, promises, and insinuations that if he were king, things would be handled better. And his beautiful, long hair made him an idol before the people. Incidentally, the very thing that he used to influence people and that was a source of pride—his hair—became his pitfall. When his hair got entangled in the low boughs of an oak tree, his pursuer slew him (2 Sam. 18:9,10).

“I go not up yet unto this feast; for my time is not yet full come.” Jesus did not lie, but his brothers could have understood him to mean that he did not intend to go to the feast at all. Actually, he meant, “I am going but not yet.” If Jesus had accompanied them to Jerusalem and done miracles, the two brothers would have shared in his popularity as members of the same family, and that was a wrong motive for desiring his going to the feast. Although they did not believe he was the Messiah (verse 5), they could believe in him as a hero. The words “full come” show Jesus recognized that the time for his death was nearing—it was only six months hence.

“Your time is always ready.“ There were no restrictions on when the two brothers could go to the Feast of Tabernacles. It made no difference because they were not exponents of truth and righteousness, and hence had no enemies.

Not only did Jesus have to be faithful unto death (like all Christians), but he had another restriction as well. He knew he had to die at a certain hour on a certain day in a certain year.

Hence he could not injudiciously expose himself before that time. He had to be faithful day by day but also refrain from needlessly exposing himself to death before the due time. When the time was right, then the apostles tried to dissuade him from going to Jerusalem, and he rebuked them. With us, too, the consecrated sometimes give improper suggestions.

Consider how the Apostle Paul exposed himself to danger many times, for he knew no fixed hour for death. He was not foolishly reckless, but neither was he fearful. As for us, we cannot assume we are feet members, and even if we do become part of the Little Flock, our time to go might be sooner than the end of the age. Moreover, the feet members will not be all in one geographic location or in one ecclesia. They will die collectively but in different locations. As individuals, they will probably be quite well dispersed geographically.

It is true that we are to use wisdom in regard to situations we get into, but we must also be careful that the flesh does not keep us from witnessing faithfully. An occasion might arise before the end of the age when we must speak out to be faithful, and it might be our time to go as anindividual. The Scriptures say to be wise as serpents and harmless as doves (Matt. 10:16). And we should not cast our pearls before swine (or wolves), lest they devour us (Matt. 7:6). Hence a certain discretion should characterize our whole life. We must be careful, though, not to plot our time to go as a special date, for we could go sooner or later than that date. We should just try to be faithful day by day and be forthright as occasion demands. An example of unwisdom would be to take our Bibles into a bar where the notorious Hell’s Angels were meeting, but if we were somewhere else reading the Bible and the Hell’s Angels walked in, we should not stop reading.

John 7:9 When he had said these words unto them, he abode still in Galilee.

The two brothers left, and Jesus stayed behind. It appeared to them that Jesus was weak and cowardly. Big words but small action, they thought.

John 7:10 But when his brethren were gone up, then went he also up unto the feast, not openly, but as it were in secret.

Jesus went separately to the Feast of Tabernacles, incognito, as it were. Others would have wondered when Jesus’ family came to the feast without him.

John 7:11 Then the Jews sought him at the feast, and said, Where is he?

Those plotting to kill Jesus would have watched for his family, for the feasts were family gatherings, more or less. According to the Law, all males were required to attend three feasts each year (Deut. 16:16).

John 7:12 And 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.

In moments of leisure, the people talked among themselves. There was a division of sentiment.

Some said, “He is a good man” (notice that they did not say “prophet”), and others said, “He is a deceiver.” Those who said Jesus was “good” would have based their opinion on his miracles, healings, expending of energy for others, and sympathy for the ills of the people.

John 7:13 Howbeit no man spake openly of him for fear of the Jews.

Verse 13 particularly applied to those who said Jesus was a good man, for they did not want to be overheard by the scribes and Pharisees. Even though these people did not recognize Jesus as the Messiah, just their saying that he was good would have angered the religious leadership, who had a “contract” out on his life. The scribes and Pharisees truly wanted Jesus off the scene.

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

Since the feast was a week long, this event would have occurred two or three days into the feast, that is, on the 17th or 18th day of the seventh month. Why didn’t Jesus teach in the Temple on the first day of the feast? (1) The scribes and Pharisees were looking for him at that point. (2) The people were more preoccupied with offering sacrifices at the beginning of the feast. (3) As the feast was starting, Jesus did not want to destroy the procedure of the devout as ordered by the Law.

Jesus “taught.” Meanwhile, when not teaching, he may have been on the Mount of Olives, at the home of Lazarus, or at Simon the Leper’s home.

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

Jesus spoke with profound Scriptural wisdom, yet he had never been educated with the Pharisees, sat at Gamaliel’s feet, etc. Moreover, his childhood was known—he came from a lowly family and was a carpenter. The Galileans could speak of his background from firsthand observation. Joseph had probably died, and then Jesus supported his mother. He certainly was not formally studying to be a religious teacher.

The Jews’ question was based on Jesus’ language, knowledge of Scripture, understanding, recall, and reasoning power. The people wondered at such profound words, and they knew he did not have continual, ready access to the Scriptures. Of course they did not realize that as the Logos, he had had access to the Scriptures for centuries. For example, he could quote Isaiah and know Isaiah, and he knew Abraham, Noah, and the other faithful ones of old, for he had seen them and heard them speak. The people marveled that his abilities far surpassed those of the rabbis. And he could speak in the pure Hebrew with an extensive vocabulary—much beyond what a Galilean carpenter should have been able to do.

While Jesus was teaching, the populace were saying these things on the side, yet he knew their words and thoughts. When he finished his discourse, he addressed these side conversations (verses 16-19).

John 7:16 Jesus answered them, and said, My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me.

John 7:17 If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.

John 7:18 He 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.

John 7:19 Did not Moses give you the law, and yet none of you keepeth the law? Why go ye about to kill me?

Jesus showed humility by time and time again putting the Father first. He honored the Father, not himself. He said the doctrine was not his but the Father’s, yet he did not minimize his own authority. He was the Messiah, the Lord, the Son—and as such, it was right for him to speak aggressively. He was loyal to his calling, but here, as so often happened, he prefaced his remarks by acknowledging the Father as being superior. Sometimes he looked to heaven and prayed before performing a miracle.

Verses 16 and 17 directly refute the Trinity. Trinitarians use John’s writings to prove their doctrine, whereas his writings do the opposite if the spurious passages are omitted and all texts are honestly considered.

If any man does the Father’s will, he shall know the doctrine. What confidence Jesus had in the Father! All who are of the Father shall be taught and shall hear the message of truth (John 6:45).

God’s work cannot fail. Therefore, we (as Jesus did) can rest assured that the truth will reach whomever it is meant to reach. Jesus had no anxiety regarding the ones the Father would draw, but he did feel a responsibility toward those already drawn. Of those the Father gave him at that time, he lost none except Judas (John 17:12).

The assurance that all who are of the Father shall be taught casts reflection on those who profess to be serving God but do not know the doctrine. This was true of the scribes and Pharisees back there, and it is true of professing Christians today. Jesus’ words hurt some and draw others like a magnet.

In verse 19, Jesus was saying, “Didn’t Moses give you the Law, yet none of you obey it.” These words were cutting but “Christlike.” Not all of Jesus’ remarks tickled men’s ears. Smooth things have their place, but so do hard truths. A true prophet speaks the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27). A person in the right heart condition would admit the truth of these words.

“Why go ye about to kill me?” While the general populace would have said or thought, “We are not doing that,” some of the hearers were of that murderous sentiment—whether they were the perpetrators or just some who wanted to curry favor by snitching. Jesus was addressing this latter element, not those who had said he was “a good man” (verse 12).

Jesus’ criticism in verse 19 was especially pointed too, because one of the specific accusations against him was that he was violating the sabbath by healing on that day. Now he said that none of them obeyed the Law (perfectly), even though the Pharisees thought they did.

John 7:20 The people answered and said, Thou hast a devil: who goeth about to kill thee?

Not understanding Jesus’ technique, the people said, “He is crazy. To kill you is far from our thinking.” Jesus was clever, for he knew his time had not yet come. He was in Jerusalem, in the wolves’ den, as it were. By his speaking this way, the crowd was unaware of the purpose of his words, but those who were plotting his death knew he was right. Jesus thus alerted them that he knew their thinking, and thus, for now, he nipped their evil designs in the bud. By this method, Jesus was protecting himself from unnecessary danger. How astounding that he could think like this on his feet in the midst of tumult and yet have so much composure!

John 7:21 Jesus answered and said unto them, I have done one work, and ye all marvel.

The “one work” done on the sabbath is not specified, but evidently, it was an outstanding miracle comparable to the man by the Pool of Bethesda who was made whole (John 5:2-9), which occurred much earlier. In subsequent verses, Jesus justified the performance of this current miracle on the sabbath. In verse 23, the miracle is simply described, without elaboration, as making “a man every whit whole on the sabbath.”

John 7:22 Moses therefore gave unto you circumcision; (not because it is of Moses, but of the fathers;) and ye on the sabbath day circumcise a man.

John 7:23 If 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?

The word “therefore” is not in the Greek and should be omitted because it detracts from the direct force of Jesus’ words. The scribes and Pharisees did not understand the principles underlying the Law. The rite of circumcision was performed on the eighth day from birth. Thus approximately one seventh of the time, the seventh day (the sabbath) was the required time for circumcision. In fact, the eighth day occurred more often on a sabbath because additional days were also sabbaths.

Jesus tried to reason that there are different types of laws—higher and lower ones. For example, the propulsion of an airplane overrides the law of gravity but does not nullify it. The law of gravity always operates, but a higher “law” can supersede it so that the plane will not fall to the ground. What is the lesson for the new creature? As Christians, we should weigh the circumstances under which we are trying to apply the letter of the Law.

Jesus referred to Moses a number of times during his earthly ministry. The Jews revered Moses and associated him with the Law. Although he is one of the greatest Ancient Worthies, they gave him undue respect in view of Messiah’s being among them. Therefore, Jesus gave the proper slant here. Not only was God the Author of what Moses did, but the rite of circumcision preceded Moses, for it was given to Abraham. The sabbath, too, was before the Law; that is, several parts of the Law given at Sinai had previously been given, even the sacrifices. For example, Abel’s offering of a sheep prefigured the coming redemption—that without the shedding of blood, there is no remission of sins.

Jesus reasoned, “Don’t you circumcise on the sabbath? Isn’t that work? You do not criticize Moses for that, so why criticize me for healing on the sabbath?” The point was that some things could be done on the sabbath without violating the Law, such as healing, sacrificing animals, circumcising, and picking kernels of grain, rubbing off the chaff, and eating them.

Some work was permissible on the sabbath, but the scribes and Pharisees were hypercritical. We must weigh matters and judge righteously.

John 7:24 Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.

In other words, we are not to judge superficially, prejudiciously, according to appearance, etc.

The Scriptures guard us against wrong judgment. For example, “By their fruits ye shall know them” (Matt. 7:20). A wolf in sheep’s clothing will inadvertently betray himself sooner or later, but for a while, he will fool some—perhaps because of a gentle manner. However, what a person is by nature cannot be hidden indefinitely. Hence we should wait and weigh matters, and not judge by one act but by a manifestation of the true self.

In matters of judgment, we are to ignore wealth and poverty. We should not sympathize with a person just because he is poor but should judge the issue only. “Ye shall do no unrighteousness in judgment: thou shalt not respect the person of the poor, nor honour the person of the mighty: but in righteousness shalt thou judge thy neighbour…. Ye shall do no unrighteousness in judgment, in meteyard, in weight, or in measure” (Lev. 19:15,35). We are not to judge a matter on personality, influence, appearance, etc., but are to render a righteous decision. That is hard to do, but we are called to be judges and must get the Lord’s mind on these matters.

Today individuals often sue a corporation, and almost invariably the jury rules against the corporation. People reason, “Corporations have millions,” and the awards are enormous. In many cases, however, the decisions and awards are unjust. People reason that a corporation has no soul but that the claimant does.

John 7:25 Then said some of them of Jerusalem, Is not this he, whom they seek to kill?

John 7:26 But, lo, he speaketh boldly, and they say nothing unto him. Do the rulers know indeed that this is the very Christ?

John 7:27 Howbeit we know this man whence he is: but when Christ cometh, no man knoweth whence he is.

A mixed multitude of Jews from different regions and backgrounds were at this Feast of Tabernacles. Some of the Jerusalem Jews were speaking here. They noticed that Jesus spoke boldly and with emotion. Part of the mixed multitude was sympathetic to Jesus, and part was not. Earlier some had said, “He is a good man,” and others had said, “He is a deceiver.” Some of the Jews who lived in Judea were plotting to kill him—specifically, a certain element of the scribes and Pharisees who felt that their position was being threatened.

Verses 25-27 show mixed opinions. One opinion was, “Is not this he? This is the very Christ.” Another was, “Howbeit we know this man, and no man knows whence Christ is.” The former opinion was sympathetic to Jesus; the latter was not.

Since the people knew Jesus’ “parents” and that he was from Galilee/Nazareth (they probably did not know that he was born in Bethlehem), they had doubts about his being the Messiah, as indicated by their saying, “When Christ comes, no man will know where he came from.” This thought was probably based on Malachi 3:1, “The Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple.” They expected Messiah to appear suddenly, not having been there previously.

They also thought he might come in rough garments like Elijah and from the desert, that is, not from a specific geographic location.

John 7:28 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.

John 7:29 But I know him: for I am from him, and he hath sent me.

“Ye both know me [as a man], and ye know whence I am [that I come from Nazareth].” In addition, there was a responsibility for them to recognize Jesus as Messiah either because of the miracles he did or because John the Baptist had said, “Behold the Lamb of God!” However, they did not know or believe that he had come from the Father. The people knew some of Jesus’ temporal circumstances but not his true origin.

Of the four Gospels, John’s Gospel (and also his epistles) is the most difficult to understand, yet Jesus’ words were probably closer to what John recorded. Inflection is important in reading the Gospel of John, for we need to understand the emphasis. Jesus stressed certain words so that the people back there understood what they were supposed to grasp. Therefore, we must try to read with the proper inflection in order to understand the message.

Many resented Jesus’ words in verses 28 and 29. “I know where I am from. The Father sent me. I speak truth.” Jesus was implying that the others did not know, did not love, and did not appreciate the Father. Many of Jesus’ words were not tactfully spoken—he announced the truth as it really is! As the Lord from heaven, he was not to assume an inferior attitude. The Father had sent him!

John 7:30 Then they sought to take him: but no man laid hands on him, because his hour was not yet come.

Those in the mixed multitude who were turned off by Jesus’ remarks and, in analyzing them, felt he was too presumptuous sought to apprehend him. Only a most honest individual would have said, “That is true.” The majority resented his words. With the scribes and Pharisees having a contract out on Jesus’ life, those in the crowd who felt he was a deceiver knew they would have the backing of the scribes and Pharisees.

Jesus’ “hour was not yet come,” for it was six months hence. Therefore, no man could lay hands on him, but in what way could they not apprehend him? He probably mesmerized them and/or looked on them, and they fell backwards (as in the Garden of Gethsemane).

John 7:31 And many of the people believed on him, and said, When Christ cometh, will he do more miracles than these which this man hath done?

Here again is proof of a mixed gathering. Some wanted to seize Jesus, and some believed he was the Messiah. The word “many” does not mean a majority, however. If, say, 100,000 were present and only 25,000 supported Jesus, the 25,000 could be described as “many,” even though they were a minority. Incidentally, if Jesus used power to prevent apprehension, those who experienced the power had an added responsibility to reconsider their actions. In fact, they had six months to reconsider.

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.

The scribes and Pharisees sent out emissaries to do their dirty work.

John 7:33 Then said Jesus unto them, Yet a little while am I with you, and then I go unto him that sent me.

John 7:34 Ye shall seek me, and shall not find me: and where I am, thither ye cannot come.

Jesus spoke unto “them,” that is, the mixed multitude. His words here are similar to those he used the night of the Memorial. Jesus was preparing some in the mixed multitude for a radical change of events. If we had been in the crowd and heard these words, we would have been very puzzled. “To whom is he speaking? How does he know I will be seeking him and want to go where he is?” Jesus knew that at that moment, none had a desire to seek and find him, but as events occurred subsequently, some in that group would want to find him. He was really prophesying what some of them would do later.

John 7:35 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?

John 7:36 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?

The whole group was truly bewildered. Even his own disciples did not understand, for when he talked specifically to them a little later, they were perplexed. Thus many of Jesus’ statements were not meant to be understood at the time of their utterance. The same is true of many of Jehovah’s statements in the Old Testament. “Light is sown [as a seed] for the righteous,” and it may have been sown a thousand years earlier (Psa. 97:11). The light is sown as a seed, but it does not grow above the surface until it is meat in due season for a righteous class many years hence.

John 7:37 In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink.

John 7:38 He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.

This incident occurred on the eighth day of the Feast of Tabernacles, that is, on the 22nd day of the seventh month. A seven-day feast began on the 15th day, followed by a holy convocation on the eighth day (Lev. 23:34-36).

It was customary on this day for the high priest to pour out an oblation of water. The procession was timed so that when the water was secured from the Pool of Siloam (also called the Virgin Fount) in a golden pitcher and carried into the court of Herod’s Temple, the burning of the sacrifice on the altar was taking place. Everything was timed to become a climax. Several thousand people would have been present. Even though they were attentive, there would have been noise from such a crowd. As the water was being poured, no doubt the people felt thirsty, since Israel was a fairly dry land. At this very moment, Jesus stood up to speak. His action would have been considered audacious, for this was a most solemn moment and Jesus was not of the orthodox clergy.

Then he cried aloud. He must have had a marvelous, powerful, clear voice to be heard over the crowd in an area without natural acoustics. What an exciting and daring act—especially since his natural brothers had insinuated he was somewhat cowardly not to go to Jerusalem for the early or beginning part of the feast and thus make himself known!

Jesus’ words created a shock effect that was beneficial. This was a well-timed theatrical moment, yet the Bible relates the incident (and other such incidents) in a very low-key manner, lest some become attracted to the Gospel for superficial reasons. We must consider and meditate upon the Word in order to understand its POWER! “If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink”; that is, “If you thirst, come to me!” This was indeed strong language.

Note that verse 39, which is John’s explanatory comment, is properly enclosed in parentheses. However, that is not always the case. For example, he also interjected a comment in verse 38— ”as the scripture hath said”—but there are no parentheses. In other words, Jesus’ words were, “If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on [into] me, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.” In red-letter editions, John’s parenthetical insertions should be in black print.

The “scripture” John was referring to in verse 38 pertained to the incident with the Samaritan woman. Jesus had said he could give her living water that would be within her “a well of water springing up into everlasting life” (John 4:14). Since John wrote his gospel 50 or 60 years after the First Advent, he inserted an explanatory comment in verse 38.

The word “belly” is a proper rendering in verse 38 according to the Diaglott. It fits with Jesus’ words to the Samaritan woman (“a well of water springing up”). We think of the belly, the bowels, as being the depth of our bodies.

John 7:39 (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.)

Of course Jesus spoke “of the [Holy] Spirit.” If, in the present life, we are faithful to the leadings of the Holy Spirit, then in the future life, we will be enabled to give life to others from our own “belly,” the source of life. Other pictures show the Church as a mother—Mother Eve.

The Holy Spirit was not given until Jesus died, was resurrected, and had ascended to the Father. The coming of the Holy Spirit proved that Jesus’ sacrifice was acceptable. It is significant that the Holy Spirit was not given until Jesus was glorified, and he was not glorified until he had ascended to the Father and received the divine nature. When raised from the grave, Jesus had spirit nature. When he ascended to the Father, several things happened, all pertaining to the divine nature: he was glorified, he was made the express image of the Father, and he was put on the right hand of power of the Father. The divine nature was a gift given personally by the Father when Jesus ascended on high. “Glory” is an aspect of the divine nature, and to be the “express image” of the Father means to have the divine nature.

John 7:40 Many of the people therefore, when they heard this saying, said, Of a truth this is the Prophet.

Because Jesus dared to stand up and cry out at the climax of the Feast of Tabernacles, many thought he was the great Prophet of Deuteronomy 18:15 or Malachi 4:5,6, that is, the prophet like unto Moses or “Elijah the prophet,” who would be sent before the “great and dreadful day of the LORD.”

John 7:41 Others said, This is the Christ. But some said, Shall Christ come out of Galilee?

A real stigma was attached to Galilee.

John 7:42 Hath not the scripture said, That Christ cometh of the seed of David, and out of the town of Bethlehem, where David was?

To solve the dilemma, all the people had to do was to ask Jesus about his background. He was “of the seed of David,” and he had come out of Bethlehem in his infancy and babyhood. Therefore, he would have said, “Yes, I was born in Bethlehem.”

These people had some knowledge of Scripture in order to ask the question. The parallel today is as follows. Just because a person has some religious background does not mean he has a good understanding of the Bible.

John 7:43 So there was a division among the people because of him.

John 7:44 And some of them would have taken him; but no man laid hands on him.

Some of the people would have “taken” Jesus to apprehend him and deliver him to the scribes and Pharisees, who wanted to kill him. They wanted to curry favor with the religious leaders by seizing him.

John 7:45 Then came the officers to the chief priests and Pharisees; and they said unto them, Why have ye not brought him?

John 7:46 The officers answered, Never man spake like this man.

The officers had been sent out not only to apprehend Jesus but also to get evidence against him—to audit his words to find a reason to arrest him. Instead they were enthralled at what they heard, and now they commented, “Never man spake like this man.”

The Roman government supplied the officers, called “temple officers,” to the priesthood to appease them. Although the officers took orders from the priesthood, there were limitations on what they could do, for their highest authority was the Roman government. Only subordinately, therefore, could this military contingent take orders from the priesthood.

John 7:47 Then answered them the Pharisees, Are ye also deceived?

John 7:48 Have any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed on him?

John 7:49 But this people who knoweth not the law are cursed.

First, the Pharisees said to the officers, “Are ye also deceived?” Then the Pharisees gave as a justification for condemning Jesus: “Have any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed on him? [No!] But this people who knoweth not the law [that segment of the crowd who listened to Jesus and considered him to be ‘the Prophet’ or ‘the Christ’] are cursed.”

The officers were sent out to seize Jesus, but they needed a statement from him to justify their actions; that is, they needed a legitimate excuse to take him before the people. However, they found no such evidence. Instead Jesus overwhelmed them with his reasoning. The priesthood responded, “These people who are listening to Jesus are cursed, and the more so if they believe into him.”

The priesthood and the scribes considered themselves to be on a higher level than the people— they were the teachers. We are reminded of Papacy, whose communicants are merely “children” of the church and not the church itself. According to church dogma, the Roman Catholic Church comprises only those who are wed to it (priests, nuns, etc.). Verse 49 shows the superior attitude of the scribes and Pharisees, who said in effect, “The people do not know the Law, but we do.”

John 7:50 Nicodemus saith unto them, (he that came to Jesus by night, being one of them,)

John 7:51 Doth our law judge any man, before it hear him, and know what he doeth?

John 7:52 They answered and said unto him, Art thou also of Galilee? Search, and look: for out of Galilee ariseth no prophet.

Again John interjected an explanatory comment, this time to identify Nicodemus: “(he that came to Jesus by night, being one of them,).”

The Pharisees were violating the Law themselves by wanting to arrest Jesus without two or three witnesses and “hearing” him. In their superior attitude, they felt that they did not have to obey the Law and that they were not to be questioned. However, they felt that all others had to obey every jot and tittle of the Law, or they were sinners.

Nicodemus was pounced on and insulted for bringing up the embarrassing question and for wanting Jesus to have a fair trial. He asked, “Do you judge someone without first giving him a hearing?” The Pharisees replied, “Are you also of Galilee?” If it were not for John’s Gospel, we would have lost something by not knowing Nicodemus. Based on the dealing with Nicodemus, it is encouraging to see the Lord’s patience with some who are in the system yet not at heart wed to it. Such individuals, who may even be in a high position, support the system for want of more understanding.

John mentioned Nicodemus earlier in regard to his private nighttime questioning of Jesus, here in his questioning of the Pharisees, and later in connection with the Crucifixion. It is interesting that John followed through. From statements at the time of the Crucifixion, we realize that John knew Nicodemus personally and respected him and the stand he took as a Pharisee of high standing. Before the whole nation, Nicodemus risked everything, as it were, to go up and prepare Jesus’ body for burial. In contrast, most of us have no standing to start with. And yes, we give our all, but for those who are wealthy and/or have power and prestige, to consecrate is even more meritorious—and if faithful unto death, they deserve a higher reward. “Unto every one that hath shall be given” is the principle (Matt. 25:29). The word “hath” implies a lot.

How did John know Nicodemus? By marriage or some other way, he had access to the priesthood, even though he was a fisherman. It was John who later opened the door to let Peter into the palace where Jesus was being tried.

At this point in time (Chapter 7), Nicodemus was not all for Jesus. He had some doubts, but he wanted Jesus to have a fair trial, for there was something different about him. It was just that he did not want to be too hasty in judging him. The principle is stated in Proverbs 18:13, “He that answereth [judgeth] a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him.” When Nicodemus saw Jesus on the Cross, his decision was made instantly. In the private conversation earlier, Jesus had said that the Son of man would be lifted up, and recalling these words was the clincher (John 3:14).

Again these matters are stated low-key. If the Bible had been written to convey all the power and drama, many would consecrate hastily without giving proper consideration. We must analyze the message and count the cost. Nevertheless, it is helpful to reflect on the power and drama.

Comment: A Diaglott footnote states that the Pharisees were wrong to say no prophet ever came from Galilee. According to the Diaglott, Smith’s Bible Dictionary, and Young’s Analytical Concordance, Jonah came from Gathhepher, which is in Galilee (2 Kings 14:25). (Joshua 19:13 calls it Gittah-hepher.) The Diaglott also suggests that Nahum and Malachi came from Galilee.

Reply: Nahum was a prophet from Galilee.

John 7:53 And every man went unto his own house.

This statement is not true. Chapters 7 and 8 deal with the Feast of Tabernacles, and it was now the last day of the feast (John 7:37). If the Jews went to their own houses, it means they returned to Galilee and other lands and could not possibly have been in Jerusalem for the rest of the feast (which was actually a continuation, that is, the eighth day of the seven-day feast). Just as the tone of this verse is wrong, so is the sound of the Apocryphal books in Roman Catholic Bibles.

(1986–1987 Study)

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