Scripture reading – John 7; John 8

Today’s Scripture brings us to a pivotal moment in the life and ministry of Jesus. John 7 and John 8 reveal a change in Christ’s relationship with the religious rulers of His day.

He withdrew from Judaea (southern Israel that included the city of Jerusalem), and retreated to His beloved Galilee (7:1a). The reason for His decision was “because the Jews sought to kill Him (7:1),” and He was mindful His “time [was] not yet come” (7:6). Knowing His appointment with the Cross would fall on the Passover, Jesus took care not to fall prematurely into the hands of His enemies.

The Disbelief of Jesus’ Brethren (7:2-9)

The time is the fall of the year prior to Jesus’ final Passover, and verse 2 reveals “the Jews’ feast of tabernacles was at hand” (7:2). The feast of the Tabernacles was one of three feasts the Lord set aside for His people to celebrate annually (Leviticus 23:23-25; Nehemiah 8:18), and was a commemoration of Israel’s wanderings in the wilderness (7:2).

Jesus’ “brethren” (half-brothers, and the sons of Joseph and Mary) urged Him to go up to the Feast of Tabernacles(7:2-3). They challenged Him, saying, “there is no man that doeth any thing in secret, and he himself seeketh to be known openly” (7:4a). You can draw your own conclusion regarding the half-brothers’ motivation, but the apostle John later reflected, For neither did his brethren believe in him” (7:5). Jesus refused His brothers invitation, and said, “Go ye up unto this feast [Feast of the Tabernacles]: I go not up yet unto this feast; for my time is not yet full come” (7:7-8). Be assured, Jesus would obey the Commandments, but not on His brethren’s timetable. Christ’s timetable was in His Father’s hands.

An Inquiry by Jesus’ Enemies and Friends (7:8-13)

After exhorting His unbelieving brethren to go up to Jerusalem without Him, Jesus followed, “not openly, but as it were in secret” (7:10). The “Jews” (meaning the religious rulers and leaders), were awaiting Jesus’ attendance at the Feast of the Tabernacles, and not seeing Him, began to question, “Where is He?” (7:9-11).

The people, anticipating Jesus would be at the feast, fell into a contentious debate among themselves saying of Jesus, “He is a good man [loving; caring; compassionate]: others said, Nay; but he deceiveth [leads astray] the people [i.e. with His doctrine]” (7:12). There were many who believed Jesus was the Christ, but for fear of spies, they dared not speak “openly of Him for fear of the Jews” (7:13).

An Unexpected Appearance (7:14-15)

Jesus followed His brethren covertly to Jerusalem, and His enemies were unprepared when He suddenly appeared in the Temple and began to teach (7:14). The Jewish leaders had contempt for Jesus, knowing He lacked a formal rabbinic education, and were stunned by His insight and understanding of the Scriptures. They “marveled [at His teachings], saying, How knoweth this man letters [meaning an understanding of the Law and Commandments], having never learned [lacking academic credentials]?” (7:15)

A Stunning Revelation (7:16-18)

While Jesus lacked the formal training of the rabbinical schools, it surely did not mean He was ignorant or unlearned. Neither was His doctrine of His own invention. Jesus declared, “My doctrine [teaching; instruction] is not mine, but his [God the Father] that sent me” (7:16).

Closing thoughts (7:17-18) – I suggest we can derive two principles from Jesus’ response to His enemies. The first: A humble, teachable spirit is essential for knowing and understanding the Word and will of God: “17If any man will do his will [the will of God], he shall know of the doctrine [teaching; instruction], whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself” (7:17). Put in a different way, God gives wisdom and understanding to those who “will” to do His “will.”

A second truth is revealed in verse 18: One can judge a man’s heart and motive by whose glory he seeks: “18He that speaketh [reasons] of himself [speaks of himself] seeketh his own glory [his own fame or the favor of others]: but he that seeketh his glory that sent him [giving glory, honor and praise to God], the same is true, and no unrighteousness is in him” (7:18).

False teachers are “glory-seekers.”  They are interested in self-promotion, and seek to advance themselves, even at the sacrifice of others. They seek glory for themselves, and not that of God.

Whose glory are you seeking?

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