HERE WE FIND the Jews of Jerusalem adopting an attitude of murderous hostility, and then His brethren according to the flesh are seen in a sceptical frame of mind. They really did not as yet believe in Him, they did not understand His methods and His avoidance of ostentatious publicity. They wished Him to display His powers in the capital city in a way that would capture the world for Himself. Their advice the Lord refused. The world could not hate them, for they were not as yet in any way separated from it. It hated Him because from the outset He was essentially separated from it and testified against its evil works.
Moreover, He only acted according to the Father’s will, and hence His time was not yet come. They acted according to their own thoughts, and hence any time was their time, according to the spirit of the world. If we read 1 John 3:12, 1 John 3:13, we see that the situation in which the Lord was found had been typified by that of Abel. His righteous works in His Father’s name testified against the evil works of the Jews and they were aiming at His death, and would encompass it when His hour was come. At the appropriate moment He did go up to the feast of Tabernacles, while many were seeking Him and discussing Him in private. This shows us that the mass of the people, though not identified with the leaders who wanted to kill Him, were all too indifferent. They were full of curiosity and questions, and they argued their varying opinions, yet they were not sufficiently moved to reach decision. How like the situation today! Some murderously opposed, some sceptical, false disciples prepared to sell out, the masses indifferent, but some, like Peter and the ten, discovering the Lord of life, who is without a rival.
In the midst of the feast Jesus appeared and taught. At once the power of His words was felt and enquiry raised. He had not been through the schools of men yet He spake thus! How was it? He answered their question by saying that His teaching proceeded from the One who sent Him. He had come forth to utter His words and was doing so to perfection. Any difficulty that His questioners felt sprang from their own attitude. If only they had a real desire to do the will of God they would have recognised that His teaching was of God. If we desire to do God’s will we are of necessity marked by sincerity and subjection, and our convictions become clear and correct. The mists of doubt shroud the minds of those who are merely triflers or curious.
Jesus was indeed speaking not from Himself but from God, and thus His truth and righteousness were manifest. He had come to seek the glory of God instead of seeking His own by speaking as from Himself. If it had been unrighteousness for Him to have sought His own glory, though all glory was rightly His, how much more unrighteous is it for any of us who serve Him to seek our own glory, seeing that rightly we have no glory at all. A very searching and convincing thought for all of us! The standard that the Lord set is the test for us.
For the people, however, Moses was the test, and judged by that all were guilty. Jesus knew they sought to kill Him, and here was a most flagrant violation of Moses’ law. The crowd repudiated what He said, and it is possible they were ignorant of the devices of their leaders; but they showed their animosity by the terrible charge that He had a demon. Jesus replied by referring to the miracle of John 5:1-47, performed on His previous visit to Jerusalem, and by showing them how unrighteous and superficial their judgments were by their practices in regard to circumcision. Others intervened at this point, and by their remarks corroborated the Lord’s assertion of their murderous intent and overthrew the people’s repudiation of it. Yet they did not believe in Him; they were stumbled by imagining they knew His human origin. Still the reality of things was made clear by these men thus cancelling each other out.
Knowing their words, Jesus took them up in His teaching in the temple, to show that while they knew Him and knew He had come from the carpenter’s shop in Nazareth, they did not know the One that sent Him. They had some knowledge of the human side, but to the Divine side they were wholly blind. Yet there were those impressed by His miracles and inclined to believe that He might be the Messiah. The Pharisees and chief priests remained in implacable hostility and sent to apprehend Him, but His hour was not yet come. They had no real power against Him, and verses John 7:33-34 show this. When His hour was come very shortly, He would go to Him that sent Him, and pass into a region that they would never enter—a region in which He ever dwelt. He spoke thus of His death and resurrection from a very exalted standpoint. Verses John 7:35-36 reveal to us once more their utter incapacity. They had not the smallest inkling of the meaning of His words.
The eighth day of the feast of Tabernacles was to be “an holy convocation,” according to Leviticus 23:1-44. On that day, when the gladness of the people was supposed to reach its climax, Jesus made His second great pronouncement about the “living water.” He knew that none of these Jewish festivals slaked men’s thirst, and that there were some who were conscious of this. So He invited them to come to Him and drink, since through faith in Himself the Spirit was soon to be ministered. He had spoken to the woman of Samaria of the Spirit indwelling as a Fountain; now He speaks of that same Spirit causing the flowing forth of rivers. Out of the inward parts of the believer these rivers are to flow. The significance of the figure seems to be that the Spirit is to be not only received but spiritually assimilated if the outflow is to take place. Out of the “belly” and not out of the head the rivers will flow.
This is to take place “as the Scripture hath said “that is, it is not the quotation of a written statement, but rather something indicated in a more general way. For instance, Ezekiel 47:1-9, had predicted that waters should flow from the Millennial Temple, and that its waters should be living since, “everything shall live whither the river cometh.” Further, “the name of the city from that day shall be, The LORD is there” (Ezekiel 48:35). The living waters will signalize the fact that the living Lord is in their midst. But the Spirit was to be given when Jesus was glorified on high, long before the Millennial Day is reached, and He signalizes His presence and His indwelling of believers by the outflow of the living waters in a spiritual and not a material way. The Scripture thus had spoken of these things. Again and again we see verified the fact that what Israel will enjoy in a more material way in that age is to be known by the believer in a spiritual way in this age.
Verse John 7:39 is important as clearly defining the relation between the glorification of Jesus and the shedding forth of the Spirit. By that act the church was to be formed, and as the body united to its Head. Jesus was here incarnate but, before as Lord and Christ He takes up that intimate headship, four further steps were necessary—death, resurrection, ascension, glorification. Then the Holy Ghost was shed forth, and the living waters began to flow in Jerusalem and elsewhere. Looking forward, the Lord Jesus promised this, and attached no qualifications to “he that believeth on Me.” It was not for the apostolic age only but for us also. Why are the rivers so little seen? Is it because our inward parts have been clogged with other things, and but little open to the operations of God?
Verses John 7:40-44 show us the people still hesitant and mystified. Some expressed one opinion and some another. Some would have apprehended Him yet no one did so. It appeared to end in futile discussion; but it revealed the presence of a deep rift of division. There are many ways of being against Christ and only one way of being for Him—the way we saw
Peter take at the end of John 6:1-71. The rift, like some great canyon of Colorado, exists today, and all other cleavages among men are but shallow ditches compared with it. There is still a division among the people because of Him.
At the end of the sixth chapter, we had Peter’s tribute to the supernatural power of the Lord’s words; they were “words of eternal life.” We now find that the same power was felt by men who were on the opposite side of the deep cleavage that ran through the nation. The religious leaders had sent men to arrest Him but they returned without Him. The only explanation they gave of their failure to touch Him was, “Never man spake like this Man.” They did not understand what He said, but they felt that no mere man ever spake as He did; that His words placed Him in a different category altogether. They might be ignorant, but their sensibilities were not wholly deadened.
Their leaders, who had sent them, lacked not only sensibilities but scruples also. They did not lack an immense conceit of themselves; so much so that they were sure that their own rejection of Jesus was incontestable, and so final that everybody ought to accept it. If the crowd, or any of them, did not, it only showed them to be ignorant and accursed. So these false shepherds just cursed the sheep, and left it at that. Yet their own ignorance began to peep out, for the effect of their triumphant question as to whether any of the rulers or Pharisees had believed in Him, was spoiled by Nicodemus who was both a Pharisee and a ruler. Though not yet prepared to come out as a definite believer, he revealed by his question that he did not conform to their unbelief. Further, their sneer as to Galilee only revealed their ignorance as to whence Christ had come.
The scene presented to us, in these closing verses shows what an astonishing likeness exists between the present-day, modernistic religionist and these men. True, the written Word of God is more in question now, rather than the Living Word as then, but there is just the same triumphant assertion of the supreme place of human cleverness and knowledge. The modern phrase is, “All scholars are agreed...” agreed in denying or even ridiculing the Word of God. But now as then all scholars are NOT agreed, and the dissentients are not just a unit like Nicodemus in the Sanhedrim, as also their faith in Christ and His Word is far clearer and more definite than his. Moreover, like the ancient religionists, our modern specimens are just as wrong in their basic facts. Christ was not “of Galilee” as they ought to have known; but they did not trouble to look beneath surface appearances. Modern unbelief is wealthy in speculations, guesses, fancies, and sadly bankrupt in solid facts.
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Hole, Frank Binford. "Commentary on John 7". "F. B. Hole's Old and New Testament Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany