Studies in the Gospel of John
Lesson 20: Conflict at the Feast
John chapter 7 is a chapter of conflict. There is conflict within Jesus own family, as we saw in our last study. Then there is the usual conflict with the Jewish leaders. And there is even conflict between people at the feast about who He was and what He could do.
In fact, the various conflicts actually form the of outline of the chapter. There is conflict before the feast in verses 1 through 13. Then there is conflict during the feast in verses 14 through 36. In verses 37 through 44 there is conflict at the end of the feast, and finally, in verses 45 through 53 there is conflict with the leaders of the feast.
So let’s begin today’s study by looking at the second section of the chapter, where we find the conflict continuing. The setting is the feast of tabernacles – Jesus has gone there quietly, but it doesn’t take long before the news of His presence begins to circulate, and the conflict begins in earnest. And so in verses 14 through 18 we find the conflict concerning Jesus’ authority. An exclamation made by the people is in verses 14 and 15
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?”
Remember, by the way, that John frequently uses the term “the Jews” to refer particularly to the Jewish leaders. John doesn’t tell us what Jesus actually said, but the hearers couldn’t deny that He knew an amazing amount of truth. The problem was that they also knew that he hadn’t been to seminary – so how could He know all of this? And the implication is, “therefore there must be something wrong with his teaching.” Incidentally, it is interesting to note that a few monthes later the people were going to be amazed in this same way about the teaching of the disciples – but this time they will tie it in with the fact that “they had been with Jesus.
In response to that “exclamation,” we see Jesus’ explanation in verses 16 through 18. First He explains the source of His teaching in verse 16.
Jesus answered them and said, my doctrine is not mine, but He who sent me.”
It is important to remember that Jesus was speaking of Himself on the human level in this passage. As a human being, He had no formal education. It is interesting to notice that in all of His teaching that is recorded in the New Testament He never quotes from anything but the Bible. – no history, poetry, mathematical references, and so forth. This was because His knowledge came from long hours of study in the synagogue as a child and meditation on it as He worked in the carpenter’s shop. Yet in His teaching He shed light on every conceivable human subject! Theoretically speaking any other human being (including you and me) could have that same level of understanding of the scriptures, because we have the same father and the same Holy Spirit.
But Jesus knew that the people were having trouble accepting His authority as God, so in verses 17 and 18 He gives them the secret of understanding His teaching.
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.
The bottom line is that faith in Jesus is a moral, rather than an intellectual issue. In effect what Jesus is saying here is that if a person honestly and sincerely wants to do the will sense within himself a recognition that the teaching of the Word of God is truth as he hears it. We often hear about, of even meet, people who say that they are just “unable to believe, intellectually,” that Jesus is the Son of God, or that the Bible is God’s message. But according to this verse, a person like that is unable to believe because he is really not willing to do the will of God in the first place.
Jesus said this same thing in John 3:20 when He said that
“everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds be exposed.”
But by the same token, once a person honestly submits his will to God’s will, trusting Him to reveal Himself, he discovers that God’s truth is backed up by all kinds of reliable facts and evidence. So again, faith in Christ is basically a moral issue, not a moral one.
Now remember, we are talking about “the conflict at the feast of tabernacles”. And we have seen first the conflict concerning Christ’s authority. So now, in verses 199 through 24 we find another conflict, and that is concerning His assassination. First notice the request in verse 19:
Did not Moses give you the law, yet none of you keeps the law? Why do you seek to kill me?
This whole section is an example of the skill with which Jesus handled the Old Testament. Remember that all of the opposition to Him started back in chapter 5 where He had healed a man on the Sabbath and was charged with breaking the law of Moses. So here He says, in effect, “even if that charge were true, which it is not (back in verse 18 He had said that there is no unrighteousness in Him.”) every one of you is guilty of the same thing.”And He is going to develop that point in the next verses. But first there is the response from the people in verse 20:
(20) The people answered and said, “You have a demon. Who is seeking to kill you?”
Although the people at the at this Feast of Tabernacles probably knew by this time that their leaders were opposed to Jesus, they didn’t realize that they were actually planning to kill Him. So of course his question in verse 19 would sound “crazy” or “demon possessed” to them. Jesus just lets it go by, though, and resumes His teaching. So in verses 21 through 24 we have that resumption of teaching
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, so that the law of Moses should not be broken, are you angry with me because a made a man completely well on the Sabbath?”(24) “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.”
First He admits that He did do a work on the Sabbath day in verse 21 – “I did one work on the Sabbath and you all marvel.” But then He points out that that is no different than circumcising a baby on the Sabbath – verse 22. Now to understand this point you have to know that circumcision was commanded in the law of Moses, to be done on the eighth day after birth, according to Leviticus12. Now if the baby had been born on a Friday, the eighth day after that would be a Sabbath. So in effect, they had to break the law of the Sabbath in order to keep the law of circumcision! So the “fathers” (the rabbis) declared that they should do the circumcision anyway. (the meaning of the parenthetical statement in the middle of verse 22.) Why? Not to break the law, but to make the child’s birth whole, or “complete.” So in the last line of verse 23 Jesus says, the “the healing of a lame man on the Sabbath is exactly the same principle, only on a bigger scale.” Then He makes an application in verse 24:
Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgemen.”
In other words, “don’t concentrate on living by the mere letter of the law, but seek to have your spirit so in tune with God’s Spirit that you will be able to discern spiritual things realistically.”
But there was a third “controversy at the Feast,” and that was concerning His origin in verses 25 through 31. First, notice the confusion in verses 25 through 27
(25)Now some of them from Jerusalem said, “Is this He whom they seek to kill?”(26) But look! He speaks boldly and they say noting to Him. Do the elders 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.”
On the one hand the people were confused because some of them from Jerusalem knew that the leaders wanted to kill Him, yet they weren’t interfering with His teaching. Could this mean that he leaders think that He really is the Messiah after all? – verse 26b. And yet, how could he be the Messiah, because we know where he is from, and nobody is going to know where the Messiah comes from when He does. – verse 27. This idea that nobody will know where the Messiah comes from isn’t in the Old Testament, although it may have been a misinterpretation of Malachi 3:1, which said that He would suddenly come to His temple.”
And yet there was plenty of Old Testament information about His birth too – enough, in fact, to have actually verified that Jesus was the Messiah, if they had really known their Bibles. Incidentally, this is a vivid demonstration of the importance of actually knowing the scripture, not just “about” scriptural topics.
So in the midst of all that confusion, Jesus gives a clarification in verses 28 and 29
(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
His message in verse 28 is threefold: first: (you think) you know me and where I am from – but, (by implication,) “you do not.” Second, I have not come of myself” – in other words, I did not give myself this mission. And third: He who sent me is true, whom you know not”. It was probably this verse that infuriated the Jews.
When Jesus boldly stated that His origin was not a merely human source He was also pointing out that if they knew God they would have recognized that. And the reverse is true: if you do not recognize my deity it demonstrates that you are not right with God.” Now as a result of those statements, even more conflict breaks out in verses 30 and 31
Therefore, they sought to take Him; but no one laid a hand on Him because His hour had not come (31) And many of the people believed in Him and said, “when the Christ comes will He do more signs than this man has done? “
On the one had, there were those who sought to take him prisoner (and the implication is that they would have put Him to death, because of the statement that “His hour had not yet come.) – verse 30. But on the other hand, there were many who believed, according to verse 31. The Lord’s teaching was so powerful that it was impossible to be indifferent. As a result, the tide of belief was swelling to such proportions that the rulers had to do something – and that is developed in the next point. But at this point, since it is impossible to be indifferent about Jesus, where do you stand on that issue? Do you believe in Him as Savior and Lord as He clearly claims to be, or not? And if you do believe in him, have you grown lukewarm in your relationship with Him?
There is one final “controversy at the feast,” and that is the controversy concerning His opposition in verse 32. First we read about His attempted arrest in verse 32.
The Pharisees heard the crowd murmuring these things concerning Him and the Pharisees and the chief priests sent officers to take Him.
The officials couldn’t afford to ignore this any longer – too many were believing in Him. And apparently their plan was to put Jesus on trial right then and there. So in verses 33 and 34 we find the answer of Jesus
(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.
The arrival of these soldiers probably Jesus of His approaching death, burial and resurrection. So He turns to those whom He knew were still struggling with their decision about Him, and said these words. And His message was they must believe in Him while they still had opportunity, because the time will come when He is no longer available to them. And that reminds us that that is still His message today: Now is the time of salvation today if you will hear His voice, harden not your hearts.
And by contrast, His promise to those who do believe in Him is that He will “come again and receive them unto Himself , that where He is, there we may be also.” (John 14:1-through 3)
But in verses 35 and 36 the controversy still goes on There we find the argument of the unbelievers
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? What (36) What is this thing that He said, “you will seek me and not find me, and where I am you cannot come”?
The “dispersion” in verse 35 is probably a reference to the Jews who had been dispersed in Old Testament times way back in Daniel’s day and had never returned after all these years. And the Greeks is another term for “gentiles”
So what they sarcastically propose here is that perhaps He is going ouot to those gentile nations and make converts among them. And of course, little did they know that that is exactly what He would eventually do through His death, burial and resurrection! And this just demonstrates how far apart the thinking of god-rejecting humans is from the God of the Universe! The things that He so graciously does they can only imagine in the most ridiculous terms.
The key issue in this whole section of the chapter is something tht Jesus said way back in verse 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
Do you really want to know the God of truth and the truth of God? If so, listen to carefully to what Jesus Christ has to say.
The purpose of these studies is to help people come to know Jesus Christ as their personal Savior. Romans 3:23 says that “All of us have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” “And Romans 6:23 says that “the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life.” And John 3:16 says that “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in him shall not perish, but have everlasting life. If you have never sincerely asked Him to forgive your sins and give you eternal life He will readily do so. Having trusted Him as your savior it is my hope that the lessons will help you grow in grace and bring others to know Him as well. If you would like more information you may contact me at “firstname.lastname@example.org