As we begin John 7 we must remember what just took place in John 6. Jesus has just given His ‘Bread of Life’ discourse and as a result of it many of His followers chose not to follow Him any longer because His words didn’t suit their fancy. They wanted a political general, someone powerful to physically defend them not someone bringing a spiritual kingdom to them. The drama of their rejection of Him doesn’t stop when chapter 6 is over, it continues on into chapter 7.[1] And now that it has begun, we see this rejection steadily slide into greater and greater hostility ending with His crucifixion. I think this is timely for us as we enter the thanksgiving and Christmas season because this is the time of year when questions and objections abound concerning Jesus. Who He is, why He came, what He taught. In fact, when we enter into chapters 7-8 of John’s gospel we enter the arena of Jesus’ enemies who say more against Jesus in these two chapters than any other place in all four gospels. Therefore, as we enter into the holiday season, prepare not only to hear many objections to Jesus, prepare to see them answered.[2]

Narrowing down into our text today, John 7:1-13, there are two moments of strife for us to see and learn from.

Family Strife (v1-9)

v1-2 sets the stage for us, “After this Jesus went about in Galilee. He would not go about in Judea, because the Jews were seeking to kill Him. Now the Jews’ Feast of Booths was at hand.”

Here we see the hostility had risen so high, that Jesus could not walk freely in Judea because the Jews wanted to not only arrest Him, but kill Him. Most likely some time had gone by between the end of chapter 6 and the beginning of chapter 7. We see a hint of this in the words “After this” and “went about in Galilee.” After the events of chapter 6 Jesus moved around freely, spoke freely, lived freely in Galilee, because there He was out of the sight and reach of the Jewish leaders. Remember we also saw a hint of this back in John 6:4 when it mentioned the time when Jesus fed the multitude was during Passover. So the time between that moment and this moment, or the time between the Passover and this Feast of Booths, was around 6 months. This tells us much. Usually disputes and hard feelings lessen as time passes, I’m sure you’ve found this to be true in your life many times. Here in this case we find the opposite. As time had gone on, the words of Christ throughout chapter 6 lingered in the ears of the Jews, so much so that their ill will toward Him persisted and increased. So Jesus avoided Judea and Jerusalem and remained in Galilee. But it was feast time. The Feast of Booths was about to take place and all Jews from all over the nation were to attend this seven day celebration of God’s provision for them in wilderness and the end of harvest time.

Naturally then, Jesus’ brothers come to Him in v3-4 and say, “Leave here and go to Judea, that Your disciples also may see the works You are doing. For no one works in secret if he seeks to be known openly. If You do these things, show yourself to the world.” You may at first think these words are encouraging words from Jesus’ own family. Words that respectfully guide and give instruction. v5 tells us otherwise, and helps us understand and interpret the manner in which their ‘advice’ is given. v5 says, “For not even His brothers believed in Him.” Interesting that such advice would come from unbelief isn’t it? This clues us in that they do not have Jesus’ interest in mind, but something else. There are many opinions as to the motive of this advice. Maybe[3] the brothers had seen the great works of Christ and simply wanted others to see them. Maybe they want all those who’ve just left Jesus to see more wonders and that’s why they tell Him this. Maybe they sense a coming revolt and encourage Jesus to go show Himself publicly so that those wanting revolt will be stirred and some kind of political turmoil will result in Jerusalem. Maybe, there’s a tone of arrogance in these words, that they believe they know better than Jesus and speak down to Him in a kind of condescending manner. Maybe they just give simple advice, that Jesus has to get more public than Galilee to get noticed. If He wants to be seen as the Messiah He needs to do these works out in the open, where everyone would see them, in the nation’s capital, in Jerusalem.

Whatever they were thinking, whatever the reasoning behind their counsel we see one thing clearly, their counsel is worldly and their eyes are blind to the beauty of Christ. For 30 years they had grown up with Him, played with Him, slept in the same room as Him and yet couldn’t see the truth about who He was. Most of us see this and are baffled that people so close to Christ missed it! And yet, we are often blind to the fact that we can be faithful church attenders, faithful givers, and faithful in serving the local church, maybe even for 30 years and still miss it! Do not be so quick to accuse these brothers for their blindness while the same blindness exists, probably, all around us.

This scene is eerily similar to the first miracle of Jesus, at the wedding in Cana when He turned water to wine, remember that? The groom didn’t provide enough wine, it embarrassingly ran out, and Mary the mother of Jesus went up to Him and asked Him to solve this issue publicly so that they all would know who He was? Remember what Jesus said to her? John 2:5, “Woman, what does this have to do with Me? My hour has not yet come.” Notice how Jesus responds to His brothers request in v6-8, “My time has not yet come, but your time is always here. The world cannot hate you, but it hates Me because I testify about it that its works are evil. You go up to the feast. I am not going up to this feast, for My time has not yet fully come.” Many people close to Jesus wanted Jesus to show Himself, to show His power to many, and put on a massive show of wonders to prove who He truly was. But as He did with His mother back in chapter 2 He does with His brothers here in chapter 7. He separates Himself from them, refusing to do what they set before Him and bow the knee to their misguided and blind agenda for His life. So there in Galilee Jesus remains, and off His brothers go to the feast, doubtless believing Jesus has dramatically failed to live up to their expectations of what a true Messiah ought to be.[4]

This past August a few of us went to Vietnam to visit some missionaries. I knew we were going to go out into the villages and I knew that in those villages we were going to partake in some cuisine that is very foreign to my tastes. I had certain expectations, that we’d be having a nice time, talking of gospel growth and gospel gatherings in that area, and that eventually someone would bring out a plate of thumb thick grub worms for us to eat. My prior expectations produced some real concern in me. I knew it would’ve been rude to not try it, I wasn’t worried about trying it, I was worried about how would I react once it was in my mouth and I chomped through the bug’s thick juices and bones. Sure enough the time came and our team was offered a plate full of grasshoppers. I was a bit relieved that it wasn’t grub worms but nonetheless I’ve never eaten a grasshopper before. My prior expectations stirred up my concern anew, my angst grew high, I knew I had to do it to be courteous, so I grabbed one and ate it. To my surprise it wasn’t half bad. In fact, it was tasty enough that I grabbed another one from the plate and threw that one in my mouth and while the first bug didn’t in anyway match my dreadful expectations, the second bug did in everyway. It was bigger and therefore didn’t get cooked all the way through, and so as you can imagine juices flowed out and I immediately stopped chewing and swallowed to get rid of it.

I share this story to simply say, expectations really matter. My expectations about eating bugs produced a certain amount of nervousness in me and that caused me to worry about our meals. The expectations of the brothers of Jesus about what a Messiah would be deeply distorted their view of Jesus. The question for us then is simple: do you, like these brothers, believe that God has failed to live up to your expectations? Have you become angry with Jesus when Jesus doesn’t bow the knee to your agenda? When He does something you think He shouldn’t, or doesn’t do something you think He should? Feeling like this is understandable, we experience loads of things that can push us in this direction whether it be sickness, sorrow, or scandal. We often respond to God in these moments with anger and unbelief. But as understandable as these moments are they are enormously inexcusable. We are the ones in the wrong, we are the ones who need to repent, and we are the ones who need to readjust our expectations according to Scripture. Remember, God is not under our judgment, ever. Why do we live as though He were? I’ll tell you why. It’s because we’re fallen sinful people, ever in need of continuing renovation of the soul. Praise God He does this, right?

We’ve see His own brothers murmur about Him, as the text moves on we see the murmuring doesn’t stay with them, it expands to the general public.

Public Strife (v10-13)

What happens next catches us off guard. Jesus had told His brothers in v6-8 that it is not His time to go to Jerusalem and reveal His power, but in v10 what does He do? He goes to Jerusalem. Is this deception, inconsistency, or even a change of mind here? No.[5] Well then what is going on? Much. Earlier in v6-8 when Jesus responds to His brothers He said He would not go up with them because His “time has not yet fully come.” By speaking like this He was not saying the time was wrong chronologically, as if He just needed to wait to right time on the clock to go. No, He was saying the present moment wasn’t the suitable time or the right time to publicly show Himself to the world as they wanted. That time would one day come, when all would see His manifold power displayed very publicly in the seeming weakness of His death on the cross. If He went as the brothers suggested the Jews would kill Him, because the world hates Him because He calls out their sin. He will not die at a Feast of Booths. That’s not the plan. He will die, yes. And His death will be a very public event, yes. But His death will be at a Passover yet to come when He will take up the role of the spotless Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. That time was soon approaching, but it had not come yet. Jesus never told His brothers He wouldn’t go, He just said He wouldn’t go and do according to their plans. What then are His plans? Or more precisely, what are His Father’s plans? To go up secretly. So off He goes, never to see Galilee again before His death.[6]

In v11 the scene transitions to this feast and we read, “The Jews were looking for Him at the feast, and saying, ‘Where is He?’” The Jews mentioned here are the same Jews v1 referenced who want to kill Him. They must have been thinking that if everyone is supposed to come to the feast Jesus will be showing up as well. So they were on the lookout for Him, likely walking among the crowds, ever observing to notice anything that happened out of place, but at least for now there is no sign of Him. Apparently even though everyone believed Jesus wasn’t at the feast He was still the talk of the feast.[7] Even in His absence He was the One providing all the juicy conversation.[8] Yet, there was a sense of fear among the people. Though all we’re talking about Him, about His works, and about His teaching everyone was afraid to talk too loudly for fear of the Jews. We see this in v12-13, “And there was much muttering about Him among the people. While some said, “He is a good man,” others said, “No, He is leading the people astray.” Yet for fear of the Jews no one spoke openly of Him.”

Opinions of Christ were not in short supply at the feast and ironically amid all this talk about Jesus, Jesus remained hidden. That He remained hidden while all this talk is happening about Him is the epitome of irony. He who will one day return to judge the living and the dead remains silent and secret while the world judges Him. In a true sense we see Jesus here silently bearing the judgments of the world. All this talk, all these opinions in v12 that He is bearing is but a preview of the coming day when He will publicly bear the greater judgment of God in behalf of scoffers like these who will one day believe.

But I think there’s more to press into here in v12-13. I think we see this in the reality that even though 2,000 years have passed since this moment, our world today is still very much caught up in the same conversation. The world around us is ever speaking of Jesus in the exact same ways aren’t they? Some saying He’s a good teacher, others saying He’s a false teacher who created His own religion. You should be concerned about what other people around you are saying and believing about Jesus. The more you know about what your friend, neighbor, and co-worker believes about Jesus the more eager you ought to be about sharing the gospel with them. Since this conversation is ever taking place, we ought to be the ones who jump in because we know the truth about who He is. Even if these conversations take place within our own families or in the general public, we should never shy away from them.

As important as this is for us to learn, there’s a greater and more pointed challenge for us here. Sure the world may be ever caught up with discussing who Jesus is, what matters most isn’t what the world says about Jesus, what matters is what you say about Him.[9] Who do you say He is? Is He just a good teacher? Is He a false teacher leading many astray? Do you believe in Him? Do you take Him at His word? Do you just like to be in on the conversation because it’s juicy and controversial? Or maybe for fear of those around you, you don’t ever speak of Jesus at all? They don’t know you’re a Christian and you prefer it like that because you know that if they knew it your life would be a lot harder.

Church, God is holy, you are sinful, Christ came to redeem sinners, and now God is calling the whole world to repent and believe in Him. You will see many people around you respond to this gospel message in multiple ways, what will you do? That is the question that begs an answer today.

 

 

Citations:

[1] R. Kent Hughes, John: That You May Believe – Preaching the Word Commentary, page 215.

[2] Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John – NICNT, page 392.

[3] Ibid., page 395 gives this whole list of options.

[4] F.F. Bruce, The Gospel of John, page 172.

[5] Charles Erdman, The Gospel of John, page 68-70, this section was very helpful to me in understanding this passage.

[6] F.F. Bruce, The Gospel of John, page 173.

[7] R.C. Sproul, John – St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary, page 129.

[8] F.F. Bruce, The Gospel of John, page 174.

[9] Richard Phillips, John 1-10 – Reformed Expository Commentary, page 458.

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