From the House of The Nazarene. This will be a very in-depth deep dive study of the Book of John.
Let’s begin with a prayer. Thank You for this evening and we ask, Lord, that You would guide our thoughts as we look at the life of Your Son in whose name we pray. Amen.
We’re up to John 7 and in our discussion of John; some commentators actually say that the order should be switched, from chapter 5 and 7 because of the intricate connection between chapters 5 and 7. They feel the other material could’ve been put between in there. I’m not so sure about that but there is a very real connection between what happened in John 5, in a sense, when Jesus healed the paralytic.
I’ve said before in the gospel of John, there’s a very real connection between the various feasts and festivals of Israel in the life of our Lord. John is not accidental in doing that. For example, in John 5, we saw that it centered on the Sabbath and in violation, in their minds, of the Sabbath law. Jesus didn’t violate the Sabbath but human traditions concerning it.
John 6 was organized around the Passover. The idea then of the Passover, the bread and the wine imagery was there of the body of Christ and particularly because of the healing of the multitudes. You recall He said, this is the true manna, which comes down out of heaven. (John 6:58 a) He was then talking about His body and of course, that divided Himself from the crowds and even many of His own disciples weren’t following Him anymore. It was a hard statement.
John 7 concerns Tabernacles. There were Tabernacles that the male Jews needed to go to on an annual basis.
The first one of these was Passover. That was associated with the idea of the beginning of the grain harvest in the spring.
The second Tabernacle was Pentecost seven weeks later. Pentecost was a celebration at the end of grain harvest in the summer.
More festivals came in the fall. Actually, four of Israel’s feasts were associated with the spring and three with the fall. In the fall, Tabernacles was the third of these festivals that every male Jew was required to attend. It was also called Booths or Ingathering because it was associated with the autumn harvest especially of trees and vines. During that time in the autumn, you had to protect that crop and thus they established these succoths or booths that were temporary shelters in the fields. Theologically it would also remind them of the temporary shelters they had during their wilderness experience.
For these festivals then, it was necessary for the people to come up at least that was the theory. We don’t know how it worked in practice. Jesus and His family because of their fidelity to Jewish law and worship would “go up” to Jerusalem.
I’m mentioning this because you cannot understand John 7 without understanding the Tabernacles.
There are two things I want you to associate with Tabernacles- one is light and the other is water. The association with light is because, at this time of the year, it coincided with the autumn equinox. Equinox is where the length of the day is the same as the night. Then from that point on the length of the night would continue to get longer relative to the length of the day. In the spring equinox, it switches that around. It was a Jewish ritual practice, which they described as the dying of the sun. There were festival ceremonies of light-the hallmark of the passing of seasons. Light was associated with this.
Water was also associated with Tabernacles because of the idea that you had the early and then the latter rains. We’ve all heard that expression-the latter rains. The early rains would come in the spring and then the latter rains were necessary for the fall to restore the parched ground. The ground couldn’t be renewed without water. It was another set of symbols. There was a prayer that was always associated with Tabernacles for the water to come, the latter rain to replenish the country. There is a spiritual symbolism as replenishing it spiritually as well. It would certainly be a sign as it is used here as well – a symbol of the Spirit of God. There is a connection with all of that.
You have this teaching structure around the feasts. In John 7:1-13, you discover that that takes place at the beginning of the feasts. That feast was a seven-day feast. It was a ritual of agriculture. It would blend the images from agriculture and climate to theological history reminding them of their desert wandering.
In the middle is John 7:14-24.
Then the last day of the feast is mentioned in John 7:37 and goes on into John 8. You want to connect that chapter with this imagery as well with the claim of light. When Jesus makes the claim that He is the light of the world it is no accident that He refers to it at that point. When Jesus offers Himself as the water, the living water, at the end of John 7 it is not an accident either. The image of water and light is definitely connected in His offer. He’s deliberately doing something that may be under the surface and the Jews might not understand the point.
Threaded throughout this document are a series of questions that are presented as opposed to Jesus as well as a number of reactions to Jesus as we’ll see- the Jews and different groups of people who question Jesus about these things. In fact, it turns out there were three groups of people that were going on.
One of these groups is the Jews. That is John’s term for the religious leaders, not all Jews. It’s one of the reasons people suppose John might be anti-Semitic which is bizarre since he’s Jewish and he talks about a Jewish Messiah. The point is the Jews he’s referring to are not all the Jews but they were specifically the Jewish leaders. They were opposed to Jesus.
Secondly, there was the multitude, the crowd. It mentions them in several places. The crowd would come to the feast. They weren’t aware that anyone wanted to kill Jesus. They weren’t from that area. There’d be thousands of extra people coming up for the feast so Jerusalem would be flooded with extra people like it was during Passover and the Pentecost because the people had to go up at that time.
The third group was the people of Jerusalem. They were aware of that tension going on.
This also is the last period in Jesus’ life because in the following spring, He knew that He’d be in Judea and that’s where His hour would come. He would be offered up. It would be associated not with the Feast of Tabernacles but with the Feast of the Passover. After John 7, He never goes back up to Galilee. He stays in this are of Judea. He stays hidden and kind of under radar because of the mounting opposition which is incredible, as we’ll see. I’m going to mention a few of the verses, which describe this kind of thing.
In understanding this then, the Temple area was illuminated at night, which was a reminder of the pillar of fire at night. The Tabernacles were also an anticipation of the coming kingdom of the Messiah Himself.
Let’s consider the opposition. John 7:1 b, “the Jews were seeking to kill Him.” The Jews were the religious leaders. John 7:19 b, “Why do you seek to kill Me?” John 7:25b, “Is this not the man whom they are seeking to kill?” John 7:30a, “So they were seeking to seize Him.” John 732b, “sent officers to seize Him.” John 7:44a, “Some of them wanted to seize Him.” That’s a lot of repetition of that theme. This is not some trivial thing. People are out for blood and they’re waiting for their opportune moment to do so. We see this intensification of opposition and their desire to eliminate Him and it was the religious leaders who wanted to because He so challenged their ideas about what they should be and challenged their whole system.
If we go back to our text here we look at verse 3. “Therefore His brothers said to Him, “Leave here and go into Judea, so that Your disciples also may see Your works which You are doing.” You see it says after these things Jesus was walking in Galilee because He was unwilling to walk in Judea because the Jews were seeking to kill Him, which is exactly what is happening there in chapter 6.