Read John 7:1-13

1 After this, Jesus went around in Galilee. He did not want to go about in Judea because the Jewish leaders there were looking for a way to kill him. 

During the last year of Jesus’ life it had become more and more obvious that the Jewish authorities had decided that they had to deal with Jesus. He was speaking openly against them, undermining their authority, even questioning their right to rule. More than that, he appeared to claim that he was the coming Messiah and was leading people astray, gaining large numbers of followers.

Jesus hadn’t shown up for the last Passover, perhaps he would come to the Feast of Tabernacles. They would probably instruct the Temple Guards to be on the watch for him as he came up to the feast, and arrest him on his way into the Temple. But they would have to be sensible; The Roman garrison (opposite the Pool of Siloam, close to the Temple) was on high alert during these festivals. Hundreds of thousands of Jews gathering together in religious fervour could always lead to anti-Roman feelings. Riots could easily break out and any signs of dissention amongst the people reflected adversely on Herod.

There was another problem too: reports indicated that some of the people were saying that Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah who was prophesied to return as the true leader of God’s people. That too must be stopped before the Romans heard about it. But the Temple guards would have to be sensitive to the mood of the people and not act in any way that might provoke trouble.

2 But when the Jewish Festival of Tabernacles was near, 3 Jesus’ brothers said to him, ‘Leave Galilee and go to Judea, so that your disciples there may see the works you do. 4 No one who wants to become a public figure acts in secret. Since you are doing these things, show yourself to the world.’ 5 For even his own brothers did not believe in him.

Although his brothers were not believers, they knew he was able to work miracles and had a large local following. Now would be a good time to launch his career in Jerusalem with the great crowds attending the festival. Perhaps they hoped that some of his popularity would rub off on them.

6 Therefore Jesus told them, ‘My time is not yet here; for you any time will do. 7 The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify that its works are evil. 8 You go to the festival. I am not going up to this festival, because my time has not yet fully come.’

It was now six months before the crucifixion. For his brothers it had seemed an ideal time, but Jesus had rightly judged the mood of the authorities and he knew that the time for his arrest was not now.

Why did Jesus say ‘The world cannot hate you’?

Those people who are ‘worldly’ fit comfortably with each other, but they feel uncomfortable amongst Christians – and vice versa! Sometimes the differences are very noticeable, and at times it truly becomes hatred. There are many parts of the world today where people are often killed just because they are Christians.

The world  .  .  .  hates me because I testify that its works are evil

What does this suggest is the reason why there is still so much hatred today against Christians?

There are really only two responses to the claims of Christ – submit, or resist. Possibly the hatred we see in people today is not so much against Christians as against the one they represent. The Devil has always sought to attack Jesus, and still does today.

 9 After he had said this, he stayed in Galilee.

To better understand chapters 7 and 8, it will be useful to explain something about the Feast of Tabernacles. There are several online sources which I have copied from and which can help here. I suggest first:


Then also




What can you tell me about the Feast of Tabernacles?

(Fill in the gaps!)

The Feast of Tabernacles took place five days after the ‘Day of Atonement’and was one of the three major pilgrim feasts that all “native born” male Jews were commanded to participate in at the Temple in Jerusalem. It is mentioned multiple times in Scripture, sometimes called the Feast of the Ingathering, the Feast to the Lord, or the Feast of Booths (Exodus 23:16; Deuteronomy 16:13). It was also the specified time for people to bring their tithes and offerings to the Temple.

The feast began and ended with a special Sabbath day of rest. During the week all native Israelites were “to dwell in booths” to remind them that God delivered them out of the “land of Egypt” and to look forward to the coming Messiah, Jesus Christ, who would deliver His people from the bondage of sin.

Rules for the feast were laid down by Moses (Leviticus 23:33-43, Numbers 29: 12-39, Deuteronomy 16:13-17) but these had been embellished over the years so that at the time of Jesus there had been important additions to the rituals that had to be observed. We will look at these later.

Now we read:

10 However, after his brothers had left for the festival, he went also, not publicly, but in secret. 

Jesus was not being deceitful, but sensible. He was not going to go on his brother’s terms, making a grand entrance and facing immediate arrest. Instead, he knew that once the festivities had started, and the Jewish leaders had decided that he was not going, the Temple Guards would be returned to their normal duties and Jesus could arrive unnoticed.

His brothers too may well have been stopped and questioned as they arrived at the temple, and they would be able to state that Jesus would not be going.

11 Now at the festival the Jewish leaders were watching for Jesus and asking, ‘Where is he?’

Jesus had read the situation correctly. The leaders were convinced that he would have gone and were still looking for him.

12 Among the crowds there was widespread whispering about him. Some said, ‘He is a good man.’

Others replied, ‘No, he deceives the people.’ 13 But no one would say anything publicly about him for fear of the leaders.

Obviously it was not only the leaders who were looking for Jesus. It seems he was the topic on everyone’s lips, and many were curious and wanted to see him for themselves. But they were also aware that for some reason he was wanted by the authorities and it would be sensible not to be heard talking openly about him.

14 Not until halfway through the festival did Jesus go up to the temple courts and begin to teach. 15 The Jews there were amazed and asked, ‘How did this man get such learning without having been taught?’

The Temple courts were traditionally places where rabbis would sit surrounded by their disciples, discussing topics from the Torah. Others would also meet, or perhaps wander from group to group, listening to what was being said.

It is possible that Jesus had told his disciples to go to the feast without him, but now, half way through the week, Jesus too was sitting teaching openly. But his teaching was different. Other rabbis would express opinions and their disciples would argue the validity of what was suggested. Jesus spoke with authority, and the truth of what he said was obvious to all.

But how could Jesus have received such learning? It was well known that he was a carpenter and had not spent years studying with a rabbi.

16 Jesus answered, ‘My teaching is not my own. It comes from the one who sent me. 17 Anyone who chooses to do the will of God will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own. 

My teaching  .  .  .   comes from the one who sent me .  .  .  my teaching comes from God

Putting these two statements together was deliberate. His listeners could only understand that Jesus was claiming not only to have come from God, but also to have the ability to pass on teaching which came directly from God.

What did Jesus mean by ‘Anyone who chooses to do the will of God will find out’?

Only those who are prepared to accept the claims of Christ can fully appreciate God’s teaching. To others it often becomes a stumbling block, and foolishness (I Corinthians 1:23-25).

18 Whoever speaks on their own does so to gain personal glory, but he who seeks the glory of the one who sent him is a man of truth; there is nothing false about him. 

You can always find people who ‘like the sound of their own voices’ who are eager to impress their opinions on others and receive glory by doing so. But those who speak on behalf of another should not seek their own praise, and those who seek to speak on behalf of God can only do so if they themselves are right with him, and their motives are pure.  

Jesus knew that the Jewish leaders (particularly the Pharisees) were well able to manipulate the law of God (e.g. Mark 7:9-13) to hide their own shortcomings. Now they were actively planning to break the sixth commandment.

19 Has not Moses given you the law? Yet not one of you keeps the law. Why are you trying to kill me?’

20 ‘You are demon-possessed,’ the crowd answered. ‘Who is trying to kill you?’

Those in the crowd may well not have been near Jesus the last time he was at the Temple, or had simply forgotten. They were quite indignant that Jesus should say such things. But his remarks had also been addressed to the ‘Teachers of the Law’ – they fully understood, and were threatened by him.  

What happened the last time Jesus went to the Temple for one of the Jewish feasts?

He healed on the Sabbath – see John 5:8 and 18.

21 Jesus said to them, ‘I did one miracle, and you are all amazed. 22 Yet, because Moses gave you circumcision (though actually it did not come from Moses, but from the patriarchs), you circumcise a boy on the Sabbath. 23 Now if a boy can be circumcised on the Sabbath so that the law of Moses may not be broken, why are you angry with me for healing a man’s whole body on the Sabbath? 24 Stop judging by mere appearances, but instead judge correctly.’

The Pharisees in particular were more concerned about ‘appearances’ than anything else. They believed that you had to do good works, and be seen to do them. But their rules-based religion prevented them and the people they taught from having a true relationship with God the Father.

25 At that point some of the people of Jerusalem began to ask, ‘Isn’t this the man they are trying to kill? 26 Here he is, speaking publicly, and they are not saying a word to him. Have the authorities really concluded that he is the Messiah? 27 But we know where this man is from; when the Messiah comes, no one will know where he is from.’

The ‘authorities’ had been caught out; they had lost the initiative, and now that Jesus had been found teaching in the Temple surrounded by seething crowds of people, they would not be able to seize him for fear of starting a riot.

But the people still had a problem: they had all been taught that the Messiah would come from David’s line, and be born in Bethlehem, yet they all knew he was from Galilee – you could tell from his northern accent! (Matthew 26:73). At this point Jesus could have been side-tracked into explaining his birth and family line. But Jesus wanted people to have faith, not depend on proofs.

28 Then Jesus, still teaching in the temple courts, cried out, ‘Yes, you know me, and you know where I am from. I am not here on my own authority, but he who sent me is true. You do not know him, 29 but I know him because I am from him and he sent me.’

We may think that Jesus was very circumspect in the way that he spoke about God and Heaven, but in the culture of the time these things were too holy to mention directly. To use the phrase ‘he who sent me is true’ would have been immediately understood that Jesus was referring to God. Again see John 5:18 and also John 10:29-33.

30 At this they tried to seize him, but no one laid a hand on him, because his hour had not yet come. 

The religious authorities fully understood what Jesus claimed and their reaction demonstrated what was in their hearts. Here was an imposter who threatened to teach people a way to God which bypassed their carefully constructed systems of control and undermined their authority. But more than that, he claimed a direct relationship with God himself: he had to go.

They thought that it would be difficult to arrest him with the crowds around, but the true reason was dictated by Jesus himself – ‘his hour had not yet come’.

31 Still, many in the crowd believed in him. They said, ‘When the Messiah comes, will he perform more signs than this man?’

32 The Pharisees heard the crowd whispering such things about him. Then the chief priests and the Pharisees sent temple guards to arrest him.

The people were becoming more confident – look back to verses 12 and 13. By now the people didn’t care if the Pharisees heard. And the Pharisees had heard enough; they had to act: if they couldn’t kill him, at least they could bring him in for questioning! But again, the Guards couldn’t just wade into the crowd: that could easily start a riot. It would be better if they infiltrated, listening for evidence that could be used against Jesus (such as blasphemy, or claiming to be the Messiah, or any teaching that contradicted their Law) and wait to arrest him when the crowd had dispersed.

33 Jesus said, ‘I am with you for only a short time, and then I am going to the one who sent me. 34 You will look for me, but you will not find me; and where I am, you cannot come.’

35 The Jews said to one another, ‘Where does this man intend to go that we cannot find him? Will he go where our people live scattered among the Greeks, and teach the Greeks? 36 What did he mean when he said, “You will look for me, but you will not find me,” and “Where I am, you cannot come”?’

Jesus will repeat these words again in John 8:21 and John 13:33. He was simply telling them that soon he would return to his father in heaven; also warning them that the time for them to seek the Messiah was running out.

Now we need to look again at what was going on at the Feast of Tabernacles and specifically paying attention to the ‘drink offerings’. These had not been detailed in scripture so were fair game for those who wished to add ‘embellishments’. By the time of Jesus they had become a major part of the rituals. An offering of wine was poured onto the altar. Also an offering of water – but that couldn’t be any old water; it had to be ‘living’ water: water from a stream or spring. The nearest source was the springs at the Pool of Siloam and that would need a procession of priests to fetch it.

(From cbn.com – see above)

Imagine a whole parade of worshipers and flutists led by the priest to the pool of Siloam (where Jesus told the blind man to bathe his eyes after He put clay over them). The priest has two golden pitchers. One is for wine. He fills the other with water from the pool. As the flutes continue to play, a choir of Israelites chants Psalm 118. The whole procession heads back to the Temple through the Water Gate. A trumpet sounds as the priest enters the Temple area. He approaches the altar where two silver basins are waiting. He pours wine into one of the basins as a drink offering to the Lord and water from the pool of Siloam into the other.

37 On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, ‘Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.’ 39 By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.

40 On hearing his words, some of the people said, ‘Surely this man is the Prophet.’

What scripture was Jesus quoting?

No-one can be sure about this, but there are a good selection of verses at:


What was Jesus teaching here?

When people accept Jesus as their saviour, and are born again, they are filled with the Spirit – like a spring of water in a dry and barren land. But not only
are they filled continually: the Spirit flows through them to others also.

41 Others said, ‘He is the Messiah.’

Still others asked, ‘How can the Messiah come from Galilee? 42 Does not Scripture say that the Messiah will come from David’s descendants and from Bethlehem, the town where David lived?’ 43 Thus the people were divided because of Jesus. 44 Some wanted to seize him, but no one laid a hand on him.

Many people were prepared to accept that Jesus was the messiah – others still struggled with the fact that he came from Nazareth, not Bethlehem.  

45 Finally the temple guards went back to the chief priests and the Pharisees, who asked them, ‘Why didn’t you bring him in?’

46 ‘No one ever spoke the way this man does,’ the guards replied.

The Guards had been around the Leaders of the Jews long enough to have grown accustomed to the double standards they applied. Particularly the way that the Pharisees could interpret laws to their own advantage. Jesus was not like them at all. What he said was obviously the truth, and spoken with complete authority. There was certainly nothing they could charge him with.

47 ‘You mean he has deceived you also?’ the Pharisees retorted. 48 ‘Have any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed in him? 49 No! But this mob that knows nothing of the law – there is a curse on them.’

What does the language used in verse 49 tell us about the Pharisees?

They had no valid arguments! The people were well behaved – not a mob, and as obedient bible-believing Jews attending a religious festival they knew enough about God’s law; and to describe these same people as being cursed simply shows how far their rage had affected their judgement.

50 Nicodemus, who had gone to Jesus earlier and who was one of their own number, asked, 51 ‘Does our law condemn a man without first hearing him to find out what he has been doing?’

52 They replied, ‘Are you from Galilee, too? Look into it, and you will find that a prophet does not come out of Galilee.’

Actually, if they wanted to ‘look into it’, and had questioned his mother as Luke obviously had; ‘since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning’ (Luke 1:3), they would have found that he was actually born in Bethlehem!

53 Then they all went home.

(A tidy end, but not in the original – we’ll investigate that next time)

John 8aJohn 6b

John 7:1-53 Feast of Tabernacles,
                   Streams of water

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