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HIS BROTHERS UNBELIEVING
The Lord continued for a time in Galilee. He would not then return to Judea because of the Jews' murderous intentions. This was certainly not fear, but sober, lowly wisdom that sought only the will of the Father. He would not unduly enflame the antagonism of the Jews, just as He had told the disciples that, if they were persecuted in one city, to flee to another. He would however be present in Jerusalem at the proper time for the sacrificing of Himself, as God had ordained. Meanwhile, He would avoid that which would hinder the prospering of the ministry of the word of God.
Again "the Jews' feast" is referred to, rather than the "feast of Jehovah," and this time it is that of tabernacles, that which is prophetic of the blessing of the millennium for Israel. His brothers (His mother's children -- Psalms 69:8), who did not believe in Him, urged Him to go to Jerusalem in order to show Himself to the world (v.3-4). They did not understand His doing miraculous works in a lowly, quiet way, with no advertising of Himself. This was no usual attitude of men, for man's pride seeks followers for himself. Those who are in the flesh do not understand the things of the Spirit of God. He answers them that His time had not yet come (for He was dependent always on the Father), but for them the time of their activity was of no importance: they were not believers, and hence did not depend on the leading of God. The world could not hate them, because they were "of the world" (cf.ch.15:19); but because of His true testimony against it, the world hated Him (v.7). If one is to face the evil of the world it is imperative that he have the guidance of the Father in reality and truth. This was His undeviating practice.
HIS DOCTRINE ALTOGETHER FROM GOD
However, after His brothers had gone to the feast, He later went also, yet in no way as drawing attention to Himself, but "as it were in secret." This was the Father's leading, of course, for the truth must be proclaimed at the feast to those were thirsty, but with no fanfare.
The Jews were looking for the Lord, expecting to see Him at the feast. The people were stirred also, in conflict as to His person, though all fearful to speak openly of Him because knowing the leaders' hatred against Him (vs.12-13). But He did not begin to teach until about the middle of the feast, after people had had time to find that the Jews' feast had nothing in it to satisfy the need of souls. Without Him, all was empty. When He began to speak, the Jews marveled. Though they had plotted to kill Him, His words could not but impress them, and specially since He had not learned in their schools (v.15).
But His teaching was neither from man, nor His own independent conception: it was from the Father who had sent Him. This He insists on, and adds that anyone who was willing to do God's will would know that His teaching was from God (v.17). This is the vital key in relation to understanding the things of God. Mere human intellect is powerless here: the matter of vital importance is a genuine desire to do the will of God, which in fact is impossible if one is not born again. The purpose of heart to obey what one learns is the real secret of learning in the things of God. Christ, though Himself the Son of God, did not speak as from Himself, nor seek glory merely for Himself. He sought fully and earnestly the bringing of people to God the Father. He was true: it was God's glory He sought, not His own: there was no unrighteousness in Him (v.18). How great a contrast to those to whom He spoke!
As to righteousness, Moses had given them the standard of law by which to live. Yet none of them kept it, He declares. Indeed, if they were righteous, why were they plotting His death? (v.19). This very attitude against Him exposed their actual refusal of the law of Moses. His words however serve to prove more fully their hatred toward Him; for, because He had discerned their subterfuge, they accuse Him of having a demon. They will use every artifice in order to slip out of responsibility for their own deceit.
Now the Lord (v.21) refers back to His miracle of ch.5:8-9, a work that caused all the Jews to marvel. He reminds them that Moses, the lawgiver, had confirmed that which was introduced in the days of Abraham (Genesis 17:9-12), that is, the rite of circumcision required for every male in Israel. This surgery was in many cases rightly performed on the sabbath day: otherwise the law of Moses would be broken. The Jews were careful about this; but when Christ, in pure grace, healed on the Sabbath day, they were angry to the point of plotting His death (v.23)! Certainly circumcision required actual physical work, which in fact was not the case in the Lord's healing mercy. How could the Jews possibly justify their objection to such goodness?
Their objection therefore involved a premature judgment based on how the matter at first sight appeared to them; and once they had taken this unreasonable and unjust stand, their own pride would not allow them to admit their error. Such is religious prejudice! Righteous judgment would have weighed the matter honestly. Notice too that the Lord had given them time to consider the seriousness of their wrong, before He faced them in this way.
THE PEOPLE QUESTION. IS HE REALLY THE CHRIST?
Some of those of Jerusalem, marking the boldness of His words, And knowing the rulers desired to kill Him, are puzzled that nothing is done to stop Him or to apprehend Him. They might well question then as to whether the rulers themselves were actually aware that He was in truth the Messiah, and for this reason were fearful to carry out their murderous intentions.
Verse 27 shows the sad ignorance of the people, however, having imbibed the false notion that the Christ would appear from no known source whatever. This was mystical nonsense, for their own scriptures spoke of His coming from Bethlehem and being born of a virgin of the line of David (Micah 5:2; Isaiah 7:14; 2 Samuel 7:12-26). But mysticism is attractive to mere religious sentiment.
The Lord did not let this pass, but cried out in the temple that they knew Him, and knew He was born of Mary. The evidence was clear that He had come of the line of David, and in fact at His birth it was made known abroad by the shepherds that He was "a Savior, Christ the Lord" (Luke 2:17). If people ignored this, they were themselves to blame. But He had not come in an independent, self-exalting way: the Father had sent Him, to whom He bore witness that He is true. The sad fact however was that they did not know the Father. But He knew whereof He testified, for He was from the Father and sent by Him (v.29). The first involves His very nature, the second His commission.
The rulers cannot endure such searching words of truth, and seek means by which to apprehend Him. But God is His Protector: no man could lay hands on Him until the appointed hour. Many of the common people however had sufficient discernment to realize that He must be the Messiah, for His miracles alone were a convincing proof of this (v.31).
ORDERS GIVEN FOR HIS ARREST
Of course it was reported to the Pharisees that the people were saying such things, and they were alarmed sufficiently to send Jewish soldiers to apprehend Him (v.32). But His hour had not come, and they can do nothing but listen, as He speaks words that have such effect as to make them both unable and unwilling to arrest Him.
He tells them He will remain with them yet a little while: meanwhile He cannot be killed. Then He would go to Him who sent Him. He would return to the Father at the God-appointed time. Then they would seek Him and not find Him. Being unbelieving, they could not follow Him to His Father's house (v.33). So today Israel may seek their Messiah, yet blind to the fact that He is at the right hand of God.
The Jews can think of nothing else than His going to a different earthly location, perhaps to those Jews dispersed among the Gentiles (vs.35-36). But it is among themselves they question this: there is no serious exercise to honestly and humbly ask Him more as to this matter. They know nothing of the direct simplicity of faith that would find from Him the answers to their questions.
HIS PROMISE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
The last day of the feast arrives. How well the Lord Jesus knew that there were many left unsatisfied by all the forms and ritual of their religious feast. What indeed can their feast provide without Him? He cried out for all to hear, "If anyone thirsts let him come to Me and drink" (v.37). This was no mere teaching of religious doctrines: what they needed was the person of the Son of God, for in Him only is spiritual thirst satisfied. Absolutely no-one else in the universe could speak in this way: no popular religious leader would think of such a thing, unless thoroughly demented. Such men pride themselves on their ability to impress people with their subtle doctrines, but they know there is nothing in themselves personally to satisfy people's hearts. More than this, the Lord declares that one who believes in Him (not just believes His doctrine) would have living waters flow out from his inward parts (v.38). John 3:5; John 3:5 has spoken of the water in connection with the Spirit of God quenching one's thirst. John 4:14; John 4:14 speaks of the water as a well, springing up, causing worship; now chapter 7 tells of its flowing out toward others, the power of the Spirit in testimony.
Verse 39 explains that, as to rivers of living water flowing forth, the Lord was speaking of the Spirit of God in His people, when all believers, after the coming of the Spirit of God in Acts, would be indwelt by Him. It was of course first necessary that Christ should suffer and die, and be raised and glorified before this marvelous blessing could come to His saints. Such rivers of water we see flow out in all the book of Acts. Peter, Stephen, Philip, Paul, and many others were so blessed, and became a blessing to others.
ANOTHER DIVISION AMONG THE PEOPLE
Honesty on the part of the people could not refrain from expressing the conviction that this must be the true Prophet of God, the Messiah. How could any serious-minded person escape this? But others sought arguments to evade it. Because He had recently come from Nazareth in Galilee, they did not care to enquire as to where He had been born. Certainly scripture had spoken of His coming from Bethlehem (Micah 5:2), and of the seed of David; but both were perfectly true of Him. Why did they not have concern enough to find out? Their ignorance therefore issues in a division among the people because of Him. In chapter 9:16 we see a division because of His works: in chapter 10:19 a division because of His words.
PHARISEES FRUSTRATED AND ANGRY
Some of the officers who had been sent to arrest Him were still desirous of doing so, but did not: they were powerless before God's time. They returned to the Pharisees with a most reasonable excuse for not arresting Him: "No man ever spoke like this Man" (v.46). Certainly the Pharisees themselves could not have taken Him in the face of such words as He had spoken. But they express the fear that the soldiers are deceived, as they also consider the people to be. What of the Pharisees and rulers, those who were the sublime examples of the nation? Had any of them believed on Christ? Why did the soldiers and the people not follow the example of the Pharisees? They pronounce the people as under a curse because not knowing the law (v.49). But the law had not cursed those who did not know it: it cursed those who did not keep it.
However, from their own ranks a voice speaks out. Nicodemus was both a Pharisee and a ruler of the Jews (ch.3:1), and he appeals to the law they spoke of: "Does our law judge a man before it hears him and knows what he is doing?" (v.51). He himself had taken time to listen to the Lord (ch.3:1-21), and all he asks for is a fair consideration, as indeed law requires. He does not here even take sides with the Lord Jesus, but he calls for righteous judgment. Later, in chapter 19:3, he does fully and plainly identify himself with Christ, after His crucifixion.
But they dismiss his words with the prejudice of unrighteous judgment, suggesting that he too must come from Galilee, and giving advice that they had not themselves followed, or if they had, were guilty of brazen falsehood in saying that no prophet arises out of Galilee (v.52). Jonah was of Gath-hepher in Galilee (2 Kings 14:25), and Elijah, though living in Gilead, was a Tishbite (1 Kings 16:1), likely from Tishbeth in Galilee. More than this, if they had searched and looked, they would have known that Christ had been born in Bethlehem of Judea, not in Galilee, but in perfect consistency with all the prophecies concerning the Messiah in their own scriptures. However, if their loud, confident tone outwardly won the day, one wonders what thoughts honest men had when they went to their own homes, and if some perhaps were stirred sufficiently to search and look.
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Grant, L. M. "Commentary on John 7". L.M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 12 / Ordinary 17