Looking at the Light through John - Chapter 7

Prelude to Tabernacles

When the viewer is close, the high peaks are often obscured by lower foothills. Only distance and elevation put the picture in perspective, and then the foothills are dwarfed by the magnificence of the majestic massifs which stand behind them. And so it is in the relationship of man to men. Proximity obscures the greatness of the truly great in the eyes of his close associates and his contemporaries; only the distance of time and the elevation of history make it possible for the outstanding character, signal achievements, and history-altering insights of some men to be evident amidst the range of normal of activities of their bedfellows in time.

Into the mix of men came the Lord Jesus; the Word dwelt "among us" (John 1:14). Those who were closest to him, the children of Joseph and Mary, had a hard time seeing His greatness. His contemporaries among the Jews were openly contemptuous, eventually putting Him to death. The small-minded and short-sighted have always despised glimmerings of greatness in others, and have always done everything they can to sabotage the positive progress that comes through the insight and accomplishments of those rare individuals who know what their purpose in history is, and who, by the grace of God, can seize the day. Thus it was, in the ultimate degree, with the blessed Lord Jesus.

The brothers may have been somewhat sincere in the advice and encouragement they offered. But they were too close to see Jesus’ greatness, and consequently unaware of the great spiritual battle that was already raging. And their advice, correspondingly, would have been dead wrong.

 

 

Cagey Comments

Because Jesus’ brothers did not believe in Him and in what He was doing, He could not trust them. They gave some good worldly advice, saying that if He really wanted to get His movement going, He should set up His table and booth at the big convention in Jerusalem. "For no one does anything in secret, when he himself seeks to be known publicly," they said. Such a strategy was based on their perception that Jesus only wanted a share of the Jewish market; what they didn’t understand was that He eventually was going to destroy that market and replace it with a superior system.

The spiritual war was being waged under the noses of Jesus’ brothers, but they had no comprehension of the forces that were at work in the world to try to trap Jesus. When His "time" had "fully come," then Jesus would step out to meet those who would lead Him to His crucifixion. Until then, He sent His brothers on ahead to Jerusalem, leaving their heads ringing with the echoes of His cagey comments.

 

 

Stirrings in the Mob

In spite of the efforts of the Pharisees and Sadducees to silence Jesus, He had made a tremendous impact on the Jewish people. In a rapid-paced three years, He had spoken in synagogue after synagogue, performed numerous healings and miracles, talked to small groups, and lectured large crowds. By the time of the Feast of Tabernacles, 29 AD, there was a grass roots curiosity about Jesus that no suppression from the top could stop. But they had the pressure on, so that Jesus Himself was compelled to go up to Jerusalem, "not publicly, but as it were, in secret." In disguise, then, He approached the ancient city.

People talk about what is important or interesting to them. The Almighty would rather have multitudes discussing the pros and cons of various points concerning the kingdom of God than arguing which of the daytime television programs has the best plot. The Lord knew, as John recorded in His account, that He was making progress among the people when He was the topic of discussion at the Feast of Tabernacles. Even though some thought He was leading the multitude astray, He would have been excited to know that His ministry and message were having sufficient impact that He was being discussed by the common people and opposed by the chief priests and elders.

Progress comes at a price. Rejoice when the spiritual revolution becomes the topic of conversation. You can measure your effectiveness by the size of your enemies.

Jesus was making progress, and His time would fully come just six months later at the Feast of Passover, 30 AD.

 

 

The Mark of a True Teacher

Those who are in the educational establishment are in business. They are not neutral, nor have they ever been neutral. Anyone who goes into education has a message, a mission, or agenda, and he does not quit his field at a slight challenge. And those of the modern educational establishment work hard to promote their overall system; thus those who have not purchased Ph.D.’s at their price and from their system are not regarded as really educated or qualified to speak on a specified topic. They have it set up so that all education has to flow through their institutions and thus ensure the continuation of their "business," and that money continues to flow from tax coffers to the flood of their brainwashing citadels.

So it was in Jesus’ day. When He showed up incognito in the middle of the Feast of Tabernacles, those of that society’s educational establishment were greatly surprised at His message and delivery. "How has this man become learned," they asked, "having never been educated?" It wasn’t that He hadn’t been educated; it was just that He hadn’t been educated in their recognized institutions and by their rabbis. He had learned in the local synagogue where He grew up, and He especially had become learned by reading and memorizing His Bible.

Jesus did not come up through the established organs of Judaism, having a piece of paper on His wall proclaiming Him to be a certified rabbi. But His teaching came from God in accordance with what was written in the sacred word; it was clear that He, as a true teacher sent from above, sought no glory but what would accrue to the Father in heaven. May we so walk today.

 

Who’s Crazy Here?

The Jewish hierarchy had its agenda; the people as a whole — the multitude — were unaware of the conspiracy to destroy Jesus and anyone who taught the same things as He did. In disguise at the Feast of Tabernacles in the fall of 29 AD, Jesus was teaching with insights and depth unfamiliar to the ranking rabbis of Judaism. At their outcry over His lack of proper credentials, the Lord simply challenged them actually to apply the teachings to their personal lives in order to find out whether He was a fake or in fact a teacher sent from God.

But the Lord Jesus was not willing to leave the inquiry there in regard to His own teaching. The crowd was also, in a slightly more subtle way, challenged to examine the teachings of those others. "He who speaks from himself seeks his own glory," was the astute observation of the Maker of men, "but He who is seeking the glory of the One who sent Him is true, and there is no unrighteousness in Him" (John 7:18).

Mankind as a whole has its ambitions and desires, and weaves its will through the fabric of societies, customs, and mores of each localized group. Those of Jesus’ time worked through Jewish society, bending the teachings of Moses and the prophets to suit their will, willing to eliminate the Son of God when He stood in their way.

Father, help us to learn the appropriate lessons from these recorded conversations!

 

 

With Righteous Judgment

The incognito Jesus challenged the scribes and Pharisees in the midst of the Feast of Tabernacles. They wanted to know what His credentials for teaching were; He wanted to know whether they were honest and kept the law of Moses. When the answers to the honesty and law-keeping questions were "negatory," then the Christ of God pointed out that these self-righteous guardians of the gate were desirous of killing Him. The crowd, involved in the exchange, wanted to know who was seeking to put Him to death. Jesus to some degree brushed the query aside to continue to work on the Jewish hierarchy, with the crowd still participating in the proceedings.

The battle goes on: show vs. substance. Those who are interested in show judge according to appearance; those who are interested in substance judge with righteous judgment.

 

"You Know Where I Am From"

Look deeper than the surface, Jesus appealed to His hearers. "Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment" (John 7:24). In a crowd different people are going to hear different things because of what is important to each person. Many, preferring to salve the conscience rather than cure the guilt, hear what sounds good to them; as long as the show has the form of godliness, they are satisfied. But there are a small percentage who ask the probing questions, who are interested in the true power of godliness rather than just holding to the form. Both types were present at Jesus’ incognito appearance at the temple during the Feast of Booths in the fall of 29 AD, and both had different reactions to the comments of the Lord.

The Lord Jesus was appreciative of those who were able to slice through the fog, some of which was precipitated by the mass manipulators. But He gave no one an excuse for not recognizing Him, as the apostle John notes in using the word "therefore." "Jesus therefore cried out in the temple, teaching and saying, ‘You both know Me and know where I am from …" (John 7:28). In the ultimate sense, He came from heaven with words of eternal life.

 

The Teaching Tells The Tale

Some of the assemblage drew the conclusion that the incognito Jesus was the Christ, but most languished in confusion. Behind the scenes and lurking in wait were "the Jews," the Sanhedrin and their representatives, looking to turn the crowd against Him at any opportunity. In the temple, the teaching Jesus cried out, pulling the perceptive heavenward in their thinking. "You both know Me," He said, "and know where I am from; and I have not come of Myself, but He who sent Me is true, whom you do not know" (John 7:28).

The teaching of Jesus, backed by His miracles, told the tale. He was indeed the Teacher sent from God, carrying heavenly truth to rescue captive man. "I know Him," were the Lord’s assuring words, "because I am from Him, and He sent Me" (John 7:29).

 

 

"You Shall Not Find Me"

Jesus was a fugitive from the law. It wasn’t that the Lord had broken any moral law, but the executive enforcers of law in Israel were twisting the statutes so that they could arrest Jesus and shut His mouth. His teaching attracted the interested among the Jews; "the multitudes were amazed at His teaching," noted Matthew the former tax gatherer, "for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as their scribes" (Matthew 7:28,29). The scribes noted the contrast and decided to use to force of the law to close down their competition.

The Jews would never find the Christ in the places where they would look for Him. Seeing with physical eyes only, they would look for a physical deliverer to bring in a physical kingdom, arranging for a physical salvation. "If You are the Son of God," they would later say, "come down from the cross," so blind that they did not know that the cross was the only means of spiritual salvation (Matthew 27:40). They would seek Him, but they would not find Him.

The final outcome was also sad but true. Jesus was absolutely correct in His assessment, "Where I am, you cannot come." Earthbound in their thinking, they would remain separated from God forever, spending eternity in the black burning recesses of the lake of fire.

 

 

Seeking the Wrong Christ

"He came to His own," the apostle John had recorded, in reference to Christ’s coming to the Jewish people, "and His own did not receive Him" (John 1:11). The Jews, like most others, had a tendency to think that God ought to run the universe so that it functioned according to their parameters. The Christ, if He ever came, would become a member of their good ol’ boys’ club, and position Himself with enough money, troops, and political backing so that He could run the Romans out. Since Jesus did not operate this way, and since He had nothing on His horizon that even remotely looked like it could reasonably challenge the Romans, the rulers of the Jews were confident that He could not be the Messiah. Their eyes were locked in on the physical realm, and there they would stay.

The Christ whom they sought was an imaginary one who would never come, and who has never come. But they tore their robes in rage over seeming blasphemy as Jesus the Messiah spoke to those with spiritual eyes: "Hereafter you shall see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of power, and coming on the clouds of heaven" (Matthew 26:64).

 

 

Rivers of Living Water

One of the major, but subtle, messages of the gospel according to John is the indwelling Spirit. Jesus, in the discourses recorded by the apostle, often obliquely referred to the coming indwelling Spirit, and the Lord’s comments are generally not comprehensible unless viewed from a perspective of the completed New Testament. In the conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus, for example, described in the third chapter, the Lamb of God spoke of being "born of water and Spirit." At the time of the conversation, it would have been impossible for Nicodemus to understand what Jesus was talking about, but when viewed from the perspective of the rest of the new covenant writings, it is clear that the water would be the water of immersion into Christ, and that being born of the Spirit would refer to the indwelling Spirit received at immersion. In chapter four there was the "well of water" springing up to eternal life, and in chapter six the Jesus of whom one could drink and be satisfied was a reference to Christ in the Spirit.

But the key that unlocks much understanding on the issue of the indwelling Spirit is found in chapter 7. Here the apostle recalled the events as the Feast of Tabernacles wound down. "Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, ‘If any man is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, "From his innermost being shall flow rivers of living water."’" (John 7:37,38). The Old Testament scriptures had prophesied the flowing of waters of life from the inward parts of believers, according to Jesus. The apostle explained: "But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified" (John 7:39).

The great God has had a very definite plan in motion to bring all possible men and women into fellowship with Him through His Spirit. The passage on "rivers of living water" brings the Old and New Testaments together, and helps the followers of Christ understand the plan and purpose of the Father of glory.

 

 

Revealing the Mystery

God is at war with the forces of Satan, and rescuing the salvageable elements of mankind. His means of salvation includes, as a major component, the imparting of information to the mind of man, that the new creation in Christ might be transformed by the renewing of the mind with the message of God. Hence God has a sort of spiritual "firewall" in place in order to ensure the safety of His data — to make it tamperproof — and to make certain that the information is transferred clearly to those who are to come through that firewall. The message of salvation through Jesus Christ is simple enough that a man of humble circumstances might easily understand it, but it is imparted in a tapestry so complex that if someone starts messing with the threads of the spiritual weaving, it is detectable because the picture communicated in the tapestry is immediately deformed. Hence it was that the Lord spoke in parables, so that only those who are "inside" understand.

God has also communicated through "secrets," or what are generally translated "mysteries," as revealed in the written New Testament. These mysteries include special information on the resurrection from the dead, partial hardening of the Jews from 30 to 70 AD, and the conspiratorial forces of wickedness at work within the church. But the All Wise has one He several times calls "the mystery," as the apostle Paul noted, referring to his fully carrying out the preaching of the word of God: "…that is, the mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations" (Colossians 1:26). This mystery, hidden in the pages of the Old Testament, is, in the inspired words of the apostle, "Christ in you, the hope of glory" (Colossians 1:27). "Christ in you" is another name for the indwelling Holy Spirit (Romans 8:9-11).

"By revelation there was made known to me the mystery," wrote Paul to the Ephesians in a passage paralleling the one in Colossians. This "mystery of Christ," is "that the Gentiles are fellow heirs [by receiving "the Spirit of adoption as sons" — Romans 8:15] and fellow members of the body [by being immersed into one body and thus made to drink of the one Spirit — I Corinthians 12:13], and fellow partakers of the promise [the "Holy Spirit of promise" — Ephesians 1:13] in Christ Jesus through the gospel" (Ephesians 3:6). What was hidden from the past ages and generations was that the Gentiles would become partakers of the Holy Spirit (Hebrews 6:4).

Ezekiel and Zechariah are two of the Old Testament books wherein are passages referring to the coming of the indwelling Spirit to the Gentiles. In Ezekiel 47, in the vision the prophet sees, a trickle of water is flowing from the spiritual temple of God (a prophecy of the church). 4000 cubits away, the trickle had become a "river" of living water which made the Dead Sea come to life. This, according to the apostle John, was "the Spirit." Similarly, Zechariah says "that living waters will flow out of Jerusalem, half of them toward the eastern sea and the other half toward the western sea" (Zechariah 14:8).

These prophecies of the indwelling Spirit to the Gentiles obviously had their meaning well hidden; it would have been extremely difficult, if not impossible, for someone studying the Old Testament to arrive at that conclusion. But John and the Holy Spirit, in their authoring of the account of the life of Jesus, had carefully prepared the way. In chapter one, Jesus was described as "the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!" not just the sins of the Jews. In chapter three, the Lord was described as saying, "God so loved the world," not just the Jews. In chapter four, a Samaritan woman was told that "living water" would be given to "whoever." In chapter 7, the Lord’s words were "any man" would be able to have "rivers of living water" flow from his inner being.

"But this He spoke of the Spirit," was John’s inspired information. Thus the "mystery" was revealed, and faithful followers were given a key to unlock the meaning of many previously hidden prophecies of the Holy Spirit to the Gentiles.

 

 

A Muddled Multitude

Some say that Jesus was merely a great teacher. But if He were only a great human teacher, He was the greatest combination egoist/martyr-complex that ever lived. "If any man is thirsty," He cried, "let him come to Me and drink." He was so great, was the implication, that any person on the surface of the earth should come to Him and drink from Him. At the same time His martyr complex was kicking in, evidenced by His words, "For a little while longer I am with you, then I go to Him who sent Me." Crazy, wasn’t He? Or maybe He was truly the Son of God.

The multitude present at the Feast of Tabernacles, AD 29, was thrown into a further state of confusion by the words of the Lord. Some were intrigued, some were challenged, and some were turned off. Thus it was, and thus it is.

Everywhere Jesus went, there arose confusion and division. This was not because the Lord Himself was a destructive personality, but because many were not spiritual enough to comprehend or desire to comprehend the upward truths which He was setting before them. Light and darkness collided at the Feast of Tabernacles, and the darkness was forcibly trying to repress the light.

 

 

"The Way This Man Speaks"

Controversy! Always controversy! Some were saying that Jesus was the great Prophet raised up in the place of Moses and some were saying that He certainly was the Christ. But others were adamant in their refusal to recognize anything special about the incognito Jesus, saying that the Christ had to come from Bethlehem rather than Galilee. Adding to the confusion were the officers sent by the Jewish hierarchy to arrest Jesus and take Him into custody. Failing in their mission, they returned with their heads hanging down to those who commissioned them.

Isaiah 9:1,2 would have solved their search. Never did a man speak as Jesus spoke, and men still make their justifications, intimidations, and general brushes-off. Let us instead hear His words and act upon them.