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The Upcoming Feast of Booths
In John 5 we see the Lord Jesus as the Son of God Who gives life in unlimited power to whom He wants. Because He is the Son of Man, He judges all. The emphasis is on what He is, not on the position He holds. In John 6 we talk about the same Son, but there He is presented as the One Who came down out of heaven. In His humiliation He is the object of faith and then the Son of Man Who dies and then ascends to where He was before. In John 7, Christ is presented as not yet revealed to the world. Once He takes His glorious position in heaven, the Holy Spirit will come down to earth in His place to dwell in the believer.
After the healing of the lame in Judea in John 5, the Lord went to Galilee and there performed the wonder of the feeding (John 6). He walks there in love seeking people to prove that love to them. He doesn’t want to wander around in Judea because that is not the will of His Father. He never let Himself be led by how people treated Him. His will and that of the Father are equal. Therefore, we read that He did not want to walk in Judea. Yet the reason given is not the will of the Father, but that the Jews wanted to kill Him.
We see here that the evil attitude of the Jews is incorporated in the will of the Father. The will of the Father does not undo man’s wickedness, but the will of the Father is above it and He uses that wickedness to carry out His plans. Jews are the Judeans and especially the spiritual leaders. Wherever man’s wickedness prevents the Son from proving His mercy, grace finds new areas for it. He will be in that area for a certain time, because He will only go to Judea again when the time determined by the Father has come.
The time of the events of John 7 is the time of the Feast of Booths. John 6 has the Passover as its starting point (John 6:4) and His death as subject. Here the Feast of Booths is central, a picture of the feast of joy in response to all God’s blessings in the fruits of the land in the realm of peace. This is connected to the coming of the Holy Spirit (John 7:37-Malachi :).
Because of the sins of the people, the time of the fulfilment of this feast for the people has not yet come. Therefore, just like the Passover, the feast is called a “feast of the Jews”.
The Unbelief of the Brothers of the Lord
The brothers of the Lord want Him to return to Judea. They know that He has disciples there who can then see His works. That will increase His popularity which will reflect on them. They reason only from their own perspective, without any understanding of Who He really is, Who has deigned to be born into their family. They seek honor from the world, because they want to make a name for themselves by what He does.
What they propose shows what they themselves would have done if they were in His place. Their proposal comes from seeking their own honor, as is common in the world. They have no idea of what really drives the Lord. They find it strange that He remains hidden, while He, so they believe, wants to be publicly known.
The reason for their attitude and proposal is that they do not believe in Him. To them He is no more than a Brother with special gifts. They do want piggybacking on the prestige He receives through His signs, but keep far away from Him as soon as His rejection comes in sight.
Later His brothers will believe in Him. After all, they will be there when the disciples are together in the upper room after His ascension to persevere in prayer and to choose an apostle in the place of Judas (Acts 1:14).
The Lord does not let Himself be led by the vision of His brothers. As always, He remains in perfect dependence on His Father. He lets Himself be led by Him and not by people, not by His enemies and not by His family. It is not yet the time to make Himself publicly known to the world. He must first suffer. He does have a message for His brothers. He holds out to them that they live in and for the world and therefore their time to show themselves to it is now.
Perhaps the Lord also alludes to the momentary nature of their lives and that they should prepare to meet God (Amos 4:12). People of the world do not bother about God’s time, but rather take time into their own hands. Because they live in and for the world, the world regards them as part of itself and therefore cannot hate them. They love the world and the world loves them because they contribute to preserving and cultivating the world.
This is different with the Lord Jesus. The world does hate Him because He reveals the world in its true character. He comes from another world, that of the Father and life. He came into this world to give it the life that belongs to the world from which He came and to which He still belongs. Because this life is the light of men (John 1:4), He exposes the evil of the world in the light. The Lord and His brothers belong to different worlds.
He tells them to go to the feast because for that is where they belong. It is a feast of the Jews, the most deadly opponents of the Lord. It is a feast of the world in which the greatness of man is celebrated. That is what the brothers are looking for and that is why they belong at the feast.
Once again the Lord says that His time is not yet fulfilled, because His path is determined by the Father. He cannot go with them to a feast that has no place for Him unless it is the place that man thinks he should take. So He stays in Galilee.
The Lord Goes up to the Feast
When the time of the Father, or ‘My time’ (John 7:8), has come, the Lord goes up to the feast, clearly separated from His brothers and with entirely different motives. He goes in accordance with what He has said to His brothers that the time of making Himself publicly known has not yet come (John 7:6). That is why He goes as if, in secret. He does not go to satisfy human curiosity or desires. The way He goes to the feast is a type of the place He occupies now and also of the place we occupy. He is now hidden in God and our lives are with Him hidden in God (Colossians 3:3).
The Jews assume that He must also be somewhere at the feast. These declared opponents of the Lord, who are always out to get rid of Him, do not seek Him to honor Him, but to see if there is an opportunity to seize Him. Their question “where is He?” shows how occupied their minds are with Him. He is the great danger of undermining their position.
Not only the Jews are busy with Him in their deliberations. The crowds also talk about Him. It does happen in the form of grumbling and not out loud. Nor does it happen out of a deep inner need for a personal encounter with Him. They talk about Him as a phenomenon you can discuss, but that does not affect their conscience. While the leaders want to kill Him, the crowds are indifferent.
The grumbling about the Lord and not speaking freely about Him is because the crowds are afraid of the Jews, the spiritual leaders. If you said anything about Christ that the Jews did not like, you fell into disgrace with them. Their spies were everywhere. You could easily be betrayed. Here we see how great an influence the Jews have among the people.
Teaching in the Temple
Then comes the time for the Lord Jesus to go to the temple, not to make Himself publicly known, but to teach. The feast is half over by now. What an empty feast it has been so far if He Who ought to be the center of it, is not present in the temple. He now comes to the temple, even though the people do not realize that He is Yahweh Himself to Whom they owe all blessings. However, their gratitude does not go out to Him. That is why it is rightly said that it is a feast of the Jews (John 7:2). Yahweh and the gratitude toward Him are not central because it is their feast. What is central is what they have performed.
As soon as the Lord begins to speak, the power of His words is felt immediately. For them it is incomprehensible that someone can be so learned without Him having received any recognized training with the religious leaders or with a special rabbi. Likewise, for many Christians today it is only possible to say something about God and the Bible if one is a recognized theologian who has studied theology at a recognized and respected university or college.
In response to the astonishment of the Jews, the Lord answers that He does not preach His own teaching, but that what He teaches comes from His Sender. He emphasizes that His teaching is inseparable from His Father, making it perfectly clear at the same time that His teaching is completely separate from any human teaching. Only when someone is willing to do the will of God he will have the appropriate mind to recognize the correctness of His teaching.
The inability of the Jews and of every human being to understand what the Lord says is rooted in the heart of the questioner. One can only recognize that His teaching is from God if he is willing to obey the content of it.
This applies to the entire Word of God. This is a principle of extreme importance. The spiritual growth of the believer depends on this principle. Spiritual growth is not an intellectual matter, but a matter of the heart and conscience. If the words spoken originate from man himself, if man is their source, the purpose of the words can only be one's own glory. Man is only focused on himself. Where the glory of God is not sought and maintained, there can be no solid guarantee of truth.
Only when a person is focused on God and seeks His glory he is true and speaks truth. In such a person there is no unrighteousness, there is nothing that does injustice to God or any person, but he gives the true place to all and everything. This is true in perfection for the Lord Jesus. It also applies to us to the extent that we truly seek the glory of Him Who sent us into the world, just as He was sent into the world by the Father (John 20:21).
The Lord Applies His Teaching
To demonstrate that teaching is only understood when it is put into practice, the Lord points to the law. Moses gave them the law containing the commandments of God. But none of them carries out the law. This makes it clear that they do not understand the law. Instead, they abuse the law for their own glory. Thus, the Jews boast that they have received the law and therefore feel elevated above other people. The Pharisees among them even curse the crowds who do not know the law (John 7:49).
That man seeks his own glory is most evident from the abuse of the law for that purpose. The Lord exposes this abuse. They boast of the law, but no one obeys it. They have their mouth full of the law, but how is their walk? The result of their boasting is that they seek to kill the Son of God! He knows their murderousness. They cannot bear that God comes so close to them and exposes their sinful state.
The crowd that hears the Lord accusing the Jews of wanting to kill Him is not aware of what He sees in the hearts of the leaders. The crowd is not walking around with plans to kill Him. That is why they react highly surprised to the Lord’s statements. That they, too, have no notion at all of Who He is, is evident from the fact that they attribute the origin of His statements to a demon. That is why they will later be receptive to the whisperings of the leaders and call for His death.
The Lord knows that they have marveled at the work He has done in healing the lame (John 5:15-Nehemiah :). That has been an impressive work of which the impression still lingers. It is still in their minds, although it has been more than a year. The healing then caused fuss because He performed that wonder on Sabbath. He is again referring to it to further make clear how they deal with the law and how that is diametrically opposed to His actions in grace.
Again he refers to Moses in whom they boast so much. Moses gave them circumcision (Leviticus 12:3). The Lord adds that Moses included circumcision in the law, but that the circumcision already existed as an institution before the law even existed. God had already given Abraham the commandment of circumcision (Genesis 17:10-1 Chronicles :). In any case, the Jews to whom the Lord addresses Himself, adhere so strictly to what Moses said, that they carry out the commandment of circumcision, even if it must be done on Sabbath.
He reproaches them for being angry with Him because He made an entire man well on Sabbath, while they carry out circumcision in order not to break the law of Moses. For them, the commandment of circumcision outweighs the Sabbath commandment. So they themselves make an exception. He wants them to realize how great the difference is between keeping a commandment of the law concerning a small part of a person and showing grace to a whole person.
They judge according to the perceptible, to the controllable, and thus arrive at an unrighteous judgment. This judging by appearance is also a great danger for the believer. Even a man of God like Samuel was guilty of this and God had to reproach him (1 Samuel 16:7).
The Lord urges them to make a righteous judgment. In order to make a righteous judgment, His teaching is necessary, which however, they do not want. With His references to the law, He breaks through their foolish legislative reasoning.
Opinions of Men
After the Jews and the crowd some people of Jerusalem are a third group that speaks out about the Lord Jesus. They are the inhabitants of Jerusalem, while the Jews come from the immediate vicinity of Jerusalem and the crowd has come from all over Israel on the occasion of the Passover. The Jerusalem people are more familiar with Christ. They also know the murder plans of the Jewish leaders. Surprised, they wonder if it is not He who the rulers are trying to kill. But He speaks freely, without anything done to Him. According to them, this could indicate that the leaders have recognized Him as the Christ after all. Could their superiors have changed their minds? That contemplation brings them into doubt.
Their rulers are very important to them, but they also have their own thoughts about the Lord Jesus. They know that He comes from Nazareth. They will also know from the Scriptures that the Christ would be born in Bethlehem according to the prophecy in Micah 5 (Micah 5:2). But it is unknown to them, when He would come and they believe that no one knows where He would come from once He came. It’s just reflections, without a real desire to know the truth about Christ.
The human side of Christ is obvious to them. They know that He comes from Nazareth. The Lord connects to that when He says that they know Him. But with respect to His Godhead they are completely blind. That is because they do not know Him Who sent Him. He did not come of His own initiative, but was sent by Him Who is true. That is why everything the Lord Jesus does and speaks is in truth and exposes all enmity and ignorance of all who hear and see Him.
The Lord says that He knows the Father as He knew Him from eternity. He went out from Him, which means that He was always with Him. Also the Father is active in the coming of the Son, for He has sent Him. The Son knows the Father because He is always with Him and He knows His will in His mission.
His words about His Father make them furious. They want to seize Him. Yet they do not. Only when His hour will be there, they will be able to seize Him. Only then will the Father allow it, in view of the fulfillment of His plans. Nor can it be done other than only at His hour.
Where I Am, You Cannot Come
The words of the Lord impress many in the crowd. The things they have seen of Him and what they hear from Him now lead them to believe in Him. It is not a belief in Who He really is, but a belief based on reason. It does not come from a convinced conscience. The many in the crowd who believe only believe because of the signs He has done. They believe because of what they have seen. One can see this from their statements about Him, which show that they are weighing things up. They would not know what more signs the Christ, when He came, would do than this Jesus did. In their opinion, He is the best choice for the moment.
Although the crowd does not speak freely, the muttering of the crowd in favor of the Lord reaches the ears of the chief priests and Pharisees. They think it is time to intervene and seize Him. They send their servants to seize Him. The Lord Who knows this perfectly will not be influenced by their hostile action, but continues His teaching. As everywhere and ever in this Gospel, it is not His enemies who determine the course of events, it is He Himself Who does so.
He speaks calmly about the little time He will still be with them and that He will then go to the Father. He does not say a word about His rejection by them, although that too is true. He knows what people will do with Him, but He looks to His Father. All is in His hand. He will still be with them for a little time, for He will not yet establish the kingdom, but will be rejected.
When He has gone to the Father, unbelief will seek Him, but never find Him. What does the world know about heaven and the Father? He explicitly mentions that they cannot go there. He knows that they don’t even want that. There is nothing so terrible for a rebellious, hardened sinner than to come into the light, in the presence of God.
When the Lord says here, “where I am, you cannot come”, it is yet another powerful proof against the erroneous teaching of universal reconciliation. There is no way that unbelief can come where the Lord Jesus is. Nor does the Lord speak of ‘not coming where He is for a while’, as if that might happen later on. An unbeliever will never at any time in eternity come where the Son is. In order to come to Him a new birth is necessary and that new birth can only be obtained by conversion during life on earth. Only on earth is it possible to receive forgiveness of sins and not later at any time in the realm of death (Matthew 9:6).
The Jews do not know how to deal with this word. He has spoken about the fact that He has come from God and that He is returning there. As always, unbelief does not look any further than the horizon. They can only deduce from His words that He will leave the land and go outside Israel to the Jews in the dispersion. They cannot find the dispersed ones and so they believe He will become untraceable too. Their own suggestion does not satisfy them. They are left with the question what the meaning of His words is. The Lord does not elaborate further because they are not open to His teaching about the Father.
The Promise of the Holy Spirit
The last, the great day of the feast is the eighth day (Leviticus 23:36). The Feast of Booths is the only feast with such a day. On that great day, the Lord Jesus speaks with a loud voice about the Holy Spirit.
It is remarkable that in connection with the Feast of Booths the Holy Spirit is spoken about. We would rather expect this in connection with the Feast of Pentecost or Feast of Weeks, which are also among the feasts instituted by Yahweh (Leviticus 23:15; Deuteronomy 16:9-2 Samuel :; see also Acts 2:1). But neither the Passover nor the Feast of Weeks or Pentecost has an eighth day and what this day represents is precisely what characterizes this Gospel according to John.
The eighth day speaks of a new beginning after a completely closed period of seven days, a beginning without an end. In the cycles of feasts, the Feast of Booths points forward to the period of the realm of peace in which God fulfils all His promises to Israel and God’s blessing through Israel for all creation. That blessing will be heralded by an outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon all flesh (Joel 2:28). All those who enter the realm of peace are born again of water and Spirit (John 3:5) and the Holy Spirit will come upon them as the source of refreshment.
By speaking of “the last day” of the Feast of Booths, the coming of the Holy Spirit is connected to the realm of peace, because that is what the Feast of Booths refers to. By speaking of “the great day” the focus is turned on the period after the realm of peace, eternity, which is also called “the day of God” and “the day of eternity” (2 Peter 3:12; 2 Peter 3:18). That is the eighth day, the day that refers to the time after the realm of peace, which is eternity.
After the realm of peace a new beginning comes, a new heaven and a new earth that have nothing to do with the old world. That is why it is completely in accordance with this Gospel, which speaks so uniquely of the Lord Jesus as the eternal Son. What He, Who is the eternal Son, brings, comes from eternity and leads to eternity. That is why it is so appropriate that He speaks of the Holy Spirit on the last day of the Feast of Booths, the eighth day.
With the arrival of the Holy Spirit on earth, a completely new period has begun, which will never come to an end. Everyone who now receives the Holy Spirit has been brought into a new and never ending position (eighth day). Whoever has received the Holy Spirit has received the first fruit of what is present everywhere and enjoyed in eternity.
Today there is already a new family on earth that is connected to Him in heaven through the Spirit. That family belongs where He already is. The believers are still in, but no longer of the world. They no longer belong to the first creation, but to the new world that the Lord Jesus created. While they wait for the revelation of the Son of Man, they have the Spirit Who helps them on earth and Who shows the glory of the Lord Jesus that He now has.
The Lord Jesus is offering these great blessings here to anyone who is in need, who is thirsty. It also only provides for one’s own need. People are not invited to drink for others, but for themselves. That is the starting point to teach others afterwards (John 7:38). The condition to participate is faith in Him. Faith is faith in a Person, in Christ, and that faith in Him is closely related to Scripture and the living water spoken of in Scripture.
In Scripture living water can be read in for example Ezekiel 47 (Ezekiel 47:1-1 Samuel :) where it is mentioned in view of the millennial realm of peace. Here the Lord says that this living water will flow from the innermost being of him who believes. What in the realm of peace will be a refreshment for creation, is from the believer a refreshment for others in the present time and will soon be on the new earth for its inhabitants.
The Holy Spirit wants to use the believer as someone from whom blessing for his environment comes forth. That blessing is to show who the Lord Jesus is, because that is what the Holy Spirit does (John 16:14). That by living water the Holy Spirit is meant is not a fabrication of people, but is clearly stated here by God’s Word itself. The Holy Spirit will come in those who will believe in the Lord Jesus (Ephesians 1:13).
The Spirit has been active on earth since creation (Genesis 1:2), but He did not yet live on earth. He could only come to live on earth after the Lord Jesus had returned to heaven after completing the work the Father had given Him to do. As dwelling places of the Spirit, the body of the individual believer and the church as a whole are mentioned (1 Corinthians 6:19; 1 Corinthians 3:16; Ephesians 2:22). The purpose of the coming of the Holy Spirit on earth is to be a Witness of the glorified Lord in heaven. So, the Lord Jesus had to be glorified first.
The meaning of the sentence “the Spirit was not yet” is not that the Spirit did not yet exist. The Spirit is God and has no beginning, never came into being. He is the eternal Spirit (Hebrews 9:14). The point is that He did not yet dwell on earth. He has dwelled on earth since the day of Pentecost.
Division Because of the Lord
The words of the Lord impressed some of the crowd. They do sense that these are not the words of an ordinary person. He must be the Prophet promised by God and announced by Moses (Deuteronomy 18:15; Acts 3:22). For others this does not go far enough. They judge that He has to be the Christ. But this is how people separate what God has joined together. After all, the Lord Jesus is both the Prophet and the Christ. The Samaritan woman came to this conviction (John 4:19; John 4:29).
These are all guesses that are undone by others, because they argue that the Christ cannot come from Galilee, which is where the Lord Jesus comes from. They know only too well what is written of the Christ, from whom He descends (2 Samuel 7:12-Nehemiah :; Psalms 89:4-Deuteronomy :) and where He will come from (Micah 5:2). What they do not know is that He precisely meets that. The result of all those opinions is that a division occurs. Nobody is convinced of the truth, uncertainty rules.
Apart from arguments full of opinions with a little bit of truth here and there, but without the truth, there are also people who want to seize Him. However, they are stopped by the invisible power of God. God’s time has not yet come, therefore it is not possible to seize Him.
Testimony of the Officers
The officers who had been sent to seize Him return to their masters unsuccessfully. They are amazed that they come back empty-handed. They ask why. The officers may be ignorant, but their feelings are not yet completely numbed. By the words of Christ they have experienced a power that far surpasses the power of any human being. A mortal cannot speak like that.
Instead of delivering the Lord Jesus they bring the rulers a testimony of His words, although without accepting Him. In their blind hatred, the Pharisees accuse their officers of letting themselves to be deceived. Surely they can verify that they are dealing with a deceiver, because surely none of the rulers believes in Him, do they? How can they be so foolish as to believe in Him!
It is in people’s blood to hide behind what religious leaders say. The religious leaders themselves use this argument to keep the masses stupid and dependent on them. For them, the crowd consists of stupid, ignorant people. This is how they talk about the laity, common people, who had not studied the law. Those who are the shepherds of the crowd curse the crowd for it. It shows what kind of shepherds they are. They are false shepherds who are out for their own benefit only (Ezekiel 34:1-Joshua :). Such shepherds curse the sheep and abandon them. The Lord Jesus later calls them hired hands (John 10:12).
Testimony of Nicodemus
Then Nicodemus lets his voice be heard. We met him in John 3, where he came to the Lord Jesus at night. He is the exception to the defamatory expressions of the Pharisees. Nicodemus is not quite at the side of the Lord yet, but he is on his way to the light. He stands up for Him by appealing to the law.
He thinks that, before they accuse Him, they should first hear from Him and know what He is doing. He has to be able to justify Himself and get a fair trial, doesn’t He? Nicodemus gets blamed and silenced. His colleagues despise his words and reproachingly enquire if he also comes from Galilee. They advise him to investigate whether there is any mention of a prophet from Galilee.
With all his prestige of ‘the teacher of Israel’ (John 3:10) Nicodemus is not taken seriously now and experiences resistance from his colleagues. While they would otherwise have praised him for his knowledge of the Scriptures, they now despise him for standing up for the Lord Jesus.
Incidentally, with their remark that no prophet arises from Galilee, they betray their own ignorance. There are prophets from Galilee, such as Elijah and Jonah.
After this conversation, the council is dissolved and each one goes home. The domestic atmosphere, in which someone can be so very different, will not change their murderous feelings.
Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
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de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op John 7". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Sunday after Epiphany