THE LIFE OF CHRIST
In our last lesson, we finished up Matthew 18 in which Jesus taught His disciples and us a great lesson on being humble, on how to treat others, and why it is so important that we be forgiving people.
At this point in the life of Christ, He has finished his Galilean ministry, and He is about to make His way back to Judea, which will cover the last 6 months of His life here on earth as He finishes up His ministry on this earth.
Several lessons ago, we looked at John 7:1, but I pointed out that while it is tempting to continue on to verse 2, a lot happens between verse 1 and 2, which we have examined over the last 5 lessons. About 6 months of time pass between verses 1 and 2. So, our study begins in verse 2:
John 7:2 Now the Jews' Feast of Tabernacles was at hand.
The Feast of Tabernacles was observed on the 15th day of the seventh month called Tishri, which coincides with part of our September and October. It lasted for seven days. On the first day and the eighth day following the feast there was a holy convocation (Lev. 23:35-36). The feast was one of three pilgrimages the Jews were required to attend in Jerusalem. The feast celebrated the completion of the autumn harvest and it was also a time to remember how their ancestors left Egypt and lived in tents on their way through the wilderness. During this week, they would make temporary booths made of palm and willow trees. They would stay in them in honor of their ancestors and for what God did for them, which is why this feast is also called the feast of booths.
John 7:3 His brothers therefore said to Him, "Depart from here and go into Judea, that Your disciples also may see the works that You are doing. 4 "For no one does anything in secret while he himself seeks to be known openly. If You do these things, show Yourself to the world." 5 For even His brothers did not believe in Him. 6 Then Jesus said to them, "My time has not yet come, but your time is always ready. 7 "The world cannot hate you, but it hates Me because I testify of it that its works are evil. 8 "You go up to this feast. I am not yet going up to this feast, for My time has not yet fully come." 9 When He had said these things to them, He remained in Galilee.
Jesus’ brothers could not understand why Jesus was hiding out if He was the Messiah, and they think He is wasting His time in Galilee. With their idea of the Messiah, they think He should go into Judea and work His signs and miracles and openly proclaim who He is. There were different ideas among the Jews of how the Messiah would make Himself known. One example comes from a rabbinic tradition that says: “He will come and stand on the roof of the holy place; then he will announce to the Israelites, “Ye poor, the time of your redemption has arrived (Pesiqta Rabbati I62a).”” According to verse 5, His brothers did not believe in Him, but they would later (Acts 1:14).
Jesus told them it was not His time yet. He was waiting for the right moment to face these Jews in Jerusalem. That time would be at the Passover when Jesus made His triumphant entry and would become the sacrificial lamb for the world.
Jesus’ brothers can go to the feast because they have not made the Jews angry like He has. These Jews despised Jesus and they want Him dead. They believe His works were evil and from the devil. So, Jesus told his brothers to go to the feast without Him, and He stayed in Galilee because His time had not fully come, which is referring to the fate He would suffer at the Passover.
John 7:10 But when His brothers had gone up, then He also went up to the feast, not openly, but as it were in secret. 11 Then the Jews sought Him at the feast, and said, "Where is He?" 12 And there was much complaining among the people concerning Him. Some said, "He is good"; others said, "No, on the contrary, He deceives the people." 13 However, no one spoke openly of Him for fear of the Jews.
Some believe that we have a contradiction in these verses because Jesus said He is not yet going to the feast, but we find Him going to the feast in verse 10. We need to understand that Jesus did not say He was not going to the feast at all. Instead, He was telling His brothers that He was not going to go at that moment especial in the way His brothers suggested. We find out in verses 14 that He did not go to the feast until it was halfway over, and when He went, He did so secretly.
The Jews hoped He would show up so they could find some way to kill Him. Jesus had become one of the main topics people were talking about, and they could not make up their minds if He was good or bad. When they talked about Him, they did it quietly because they knew if the Jews heard them talking about Him, they would have to face their wrath.
Before we continue, I believe that Luke records more details of what happens as Jesus is about to leave Galilee and what happens on His way to this feast. So, let us turn our attention to:
Luke 9:51 Now it came to pass, when the time had come for Him to be received up, that He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem, 52 and sent messengers before His face. And as they went, they entered a village of the Samaritans, to prepare for Him. 53 But they did not receive Him, because His face was set for the journey to Jerusalem. 54 And when His disciples James and John saw this, they said, "Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them, just as Elijah did?" 55 But He turned and rebuked them, and said, "You do not know what manner of spirit you are of. 56 "For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men's lives but to save them." And they went to another village.
Jesus knew the time getting closer for Him to suffer for all mankind and to be put to death. Though all horrible things were waiting for Him, He did not pull a Jonah and try to escape His responsibilities. No, He was determined to go there and to fulfill His role.
Though Jesus had a great encounter with the Samaritans before, these Samaritans did not want to have anything to do with Him because they knew He was heading to Jerusalem for the feast. James and John did not like their attitudes at all, so they were ready and willing to do what Elijah did at one point, which was cause fire to come down on them all and consume them.
Sometimes we might feel like James and John when we see people outright rejecting Jesus and His Word. While we should not be happy about those who reject Him, we should not have this vengeful attitude toward them. Jesus makes this clear as He rebukes Peter and John and tells them that He did not come destroy man, but to save them. This statement should bring us all comfort because if we got what we deserved when we sin against God, we would suffer greatly or be put to death by God. However, this is not God’s goal. He has given us a free will and we must choose which path we will take. God gives us the opportunity to give up our sinful ways and turn to Him so we can be saved.
So, do not physically harm those who will not listen. Instead, pray for them and do what you can to encourage them to turn to God, and leave the vengeance up to God, which He will carry out on the judgment Day.
We see that they left that village and went to another. We should do the same. When people reject the truth, move on to someone else who is willing to hear it. Next we read:
Luke 9:57 Now it happened as they journeyed on the road, that someone said to Him, "Lord, I will follow You wherever You go." 58 And Jesus said to him, "Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head." 59 Then He said to another, "Follow Me." But he said, "Lord, let me first go and bury my father." 60 Jesus said to him, "Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God." 61 And another also said, "Lord, I will follow You, but let me first go and bid them farewell who are at my house." 62 But Jesus said to him, "No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God."
Some people like the idea of being a servant of God, but they like the idea more than actually doing it. We find three examples of such men in this text. Two of these examples are given in Matthew 8:18-21 as well, but our focus will be on the ones given by Luke. As we look at these examples, we need to remember that Jesus can look into their hearts and look beyond their mere words.
First, we have a man who says he follow Jesus wherever He goes, but Jesus wants this man to know that in order to follow Him, it will take sacrifice. He points out how animals have homes they can go to stay and sleep at night, but Jesus does not. He is and disciples were always on the move. It was not a luxurious lifestyle. Sure, there were times, when Jesus would sleep in a house, but for the most part they were always on the move.
Jesus was not trying to stop this man from following Him, but He wanted Him to know that cost of following Him. Like I said, sometimes people like the idea of living for the Lord and following after Him until they start doing it and find out how hard it can be.
Second, Jesus tells a man to follow Him, but the man says he wants to bury his father first. Many scholars believe that this man’s father was not dead yet, but that he was saying that he would follow Jesus after he fulfills his responsibility to bury his father once he dies and takes care of all the things involved. Think about it. If this man’s father was already dead, why would he be out on the road where Jesus would be? Back then, the people tried to bury their dead on the same day they died.
Jesus wants this man to understand that putting God first and proclaiming His message is even more important than burying the dead. When Jesus says, let the dead bury their own dead, He is saying let the spiritual dead bury the physically dead. Jesus is not teaching to neglect funerals or taking care of the dead in general, but is talking about having your priorities straight. The work of the Lord should always come first.
Third, a man says he will follow the Lord, but first he wants to bid his family farewell. Here is another man who wants to put something before God. Now, there is certainly nothing wrong with telling your family goodbye, but we need to keep the custom of the day under consideration and the fact that Jesus knows the heart of this man. Today, when we tell our family goodbye it could be something very quick or we might spend the day saying goodbye, but back then, they would spend days and sometimes weeks bidding their family goodbye as that got all their affairs in order.
Also, we have to consider the influence a family can have on a person who wants to leave and follow the Lord. They may very well talk them out of it. So, in this sense, they could distract them enough to keep them from following Jesus. Jesus illustrates this idea using the plow.
When people plowed back then, they would attach their plow to animals, usually oxen and they would stand behind the animals urging them on while holding on to the plow and guiding it. This would take lots of concentration and it would be very dangerous to be looking behind while this was going on. So, the point is that you have to be careful and not allow the distractions of this life to make you lose your focus of following after Jesus.
All three of the examples teach us that our number one priority must be God and that it will not be easy to be a servant of God, but if we are going to be fit for the kingdom, we must have our priorities straight.
Now that we have looked at the details that Luke offered let’s get back to our text in:
John 7:14 Now about the middle of the feast Jesus went up into the temple and taught. 15 And the Jews marveled, saying, "How does this Man know letters, having never studied?"
Without being seen, Jesus shows up in the temple area and He began to speak. He captivates the Jews by His knowledge of the Scriptures. Even at the age of twelve, He astonished the teachers of His day (Lk. 2:46-47). The Jews who heard Jesus speak, cannot understand how He could know the Scriptures so well when had not been in any rabbinical schools. Only those who had studied for years under exceptional teachers could have a similar knowledge like Jesus, but even the greatest student would not have compared to Jesus’ knowledge.
John 7:16 Jesus answered them and said, "My doctrine is not Mine, but His who sent Me. 17 "If anyone wants to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God or whether I speak on My own authority. 18 "He who speaks from himself seeks his own glory; but He who seeks the glory of the One who sent Him is true, and no unrighteousness is in Him. 19 "Did not Moses give you the law, yet none of you keeps the law? Why do you seek to kill Me?"
Jesus claimed over and over that the things He did and said were not His own because He was doing everything the Father showed Him and told Him to do. This fact explains the reason He has so much wisdom and knowledge of the Scriptures. So, the words Jesus spoke were the words of God the Father. These Jews could test Jesus’ words by comparing them to the Scriptures. If Jesus was making things up, they could prove He was lying, but if they searched the Scriptures and learned that He was speaking the truth, they would have to conclude that His words were from God.
Jesus compared the difference between a person speaking for himself and speaking for God. The person who speaks for himself seeks his own glory. This person might use some of God’s Word, but they will end up adding their own wisdom and thoughts. They think they know how to do things better than God, and they get people to follow their false teachings. This is a great description of the Pharisees who had made up several new laws for the Sabbath and made them binding as if they were from God.
In comparison, Jesus said the person who is speaking for God is a person who seeks out ways to give God the glory. This means that this person is humble in spirit and only wants to do those things God has commanded in His Word. When someone has that attitude, unrighteousness will not be found in him.
Jesus knew the Jews wanted to kill Him, so He accused them of not keeping the Law of Moses. There are many ways these Jews had not kept the Law of Moses especially when it came to all their own rules of the Sabbath day. Jesus may also be referring to how these Jews wanted to kill Him even though it would mean breaking one of the Ten Commandments.
John 7:20 The people answered and said, "You have a demon. Who is seeking to kill You?"
Not everyone knew about the plot to kill Jesus, which is why some would have answered this way because no one was preventing Him from talking. It is also possible that some of the Jews who wanted to put Him to death said this to hide their real intentions even further. This was not the first time that Jesus had been accused of being out His mind, and it would not be the last.
John 7:21 Jesus answered and said to them, "I did one work, and you all marvel. 22 "Moses therefore gave you circumcision (not that it is from Moses, but from the fathers), and you circumcise a man on the Sabbath. 23 "If a man receives circumcision on the Sabbath, so that the law of Moses should not be broken, are you angry with Me because I made a man completely well on the Sabbath? 24 "Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment."
It is believed that Jesus is referring to the man He healed at Bethsaida on the Sabbath. Jesus made a strong point against these Jews based on their own actions. He points out that circumcision did not originate with Moses because it began during the time of Abraham (Gen 17:10ff), but it was reinstituted under the Law of Moses (Ex. 12:44ff). Circumcision was to be done on the 8th day after a boy’s birth (Lev. 12:3). If the 8th day fell on the Sabbath, they would circumcise the boy on that day. So, if it is acceptable to circumcise on that day, what is wrong with healing a person’s whole body on the Sabbath? This was just one of many examples Jesus used to show that the Jews did good things on the Sabbath as well (Lk. 13:15; 14:5).
Jesus’ main point was that they were making a judgment based on appearance and what they thought was breaking the Sabbath Law. Instead of doing this, He wants them to judge with righteous judgment, which means they need to judge His action based on what the Word of God actually says. This is the same judgment we are taught to judge with because Jesus judges this way (Jn. 5:30). However, we have no authority to judge people based on appearance or to put ourselves in the place of God (Mt. 7:1ff).
John 7:25 Now some of them from Jerusalem said, "Is this not He whom they seek to kill? 26 "But look! He speaks boldly, and they say nothing to Him. Do the rulers know indeed that this is truly the Christ? 27 "However, we know where this Man is from; but when the Christ comes, no one knows where He is from."
This passage teaches us that at least some of the Jews knew the Jewish rulers wanted Jesus dead. Since they allowed Him to speak boldly without arresting Him, some began to speculate that the rulers thought He was the Christ. However, they could not see how this could be possible because they thought they knew where Jesus was from, which to them meant that Jesus could not be the Christ.
John 7:28 Then Jesus cried out, as He taught in the temple, saying, "You both know Me, and you know where I am from; and I have not come of Myself, but He who sent Me is true, whom you do not know. 29 "But I know Him, for I am from Him, and He sent Me." 30 Therefore they sought to take Him; but no one laid a hand on Him, because His hour had not yet come. 31 And many of the people believed in Him, and said, "When the Christ comes, will He do more signs than these which this Man has done?"
Jesus appears to be using a little sarcasm here because these Jews thought they knew who Jesus was and where He was from. If they really knew who He was and where He was from, they would know He was sent by the Father in heaven. As Jesus said many times, no human has seen the Father, except for Him. In fact, Jesus knows Him and is from Him. Once again, Jesus established that He is the Son of God, and this makes the Jewish rulers angry. They wanted to take Him away, but no one touched Him because it was not His time to die. God’s providence was at work here.
Many of the people who heard this believed in Him because it made sense that Jesus is the Christ. If He was not the Christ, would a future Christ be able to do more signs than He did? They could not see this being possible, which is why they believed in Him.
John 7:32 The Pharisees heard the crowd murmuring these things concerning Him, and the Pharisees and the chief priests sent officers to take Him. 33 Then Jesus said to them, "I shall be with you a little while longer, and then I go to Him who sent Me. 34 "You will seek Me and not find Me, and where I am you cannot come." 35 Then the Jews said among themselves, "Where does He intend to go that we shall not find Him? Does He intend to go to the Dispersion among the Greeks and teach the Greeks? 36 "What is this thing that He said, 'You will seek Me and not find Me, and where I am you cannot come'?"
Normally the Pharisees and Sadducees (chief priest), did not work together, but they did when it came to Jesus. They did not like the idea of the crowds following Him, so they sent some officers to arrest Him. Before we find out what happens to these officers, John continues telling us more of what Jesus said.
In verse 33, Jesus is teaching that He will not be on this earth much longer, because He will be going to the Father in heaven. They will continue to look for Him, but they will not find Him. When He says, “Where I am you cannot come,” He is saying that they cannot follow Him into heaven especially in their physical bodies because flesh and blood cannot enter heaven (1 Cor. 15:50). However, Jesus is not saying that no one can ultimately go into heaven because those who faithfully follow Him will (Jn. 14:1-3; 12:26).
Some commentators suggest that Jesus was saying that those who do not believe in Him will not be able to follow Him to heaven. While it is true that nonbelievers will not step foot into heaven, we find Jesus making this same statement to those that were following Him in:
John 13:33 "Little children, I shall be with you a little while longer. You will seek Me; and as I said to the Jews, 'Where I am going, you cannot come,'
Since He is telling this to His apostles, this teaches us that this is not a statement just for sinners because He is saying that they cannot physically go into heaven right now.
Even though Jesus’ statement was clear, these Jews began to twist what He said, and they avoided grasping His simple message or perhaps they thought there was a hidden meaning in what He said. They accused Him of planning to take His teaching to the Greeks and hiding out among them. The more they discussed the matter, the more confused they got.
Jesus will have more to say on the last day of this feast, but we will have to wait till our next lesson to examine what He said. I hope you have found this lesson helpful and I certainly hope you learned that God must be our number 1 priority in our lives.