- Religion and Philosophy
John's Gospel - a new look - Number 8, chapter 7: Confrontation in Jerusalem
Jesus confronts the Jewish Leaders during the Feast of Tabernacles
For a while Jesus remained in Galilee "purposely staying away from Judea because the Jews were waiting there to take his life" (7:1). As the opposition to Jesus grew, he must have realized that his time was almost up. In the following chapters of John, the writer records events that took place in the last six months of Jesus' life, from the autumn when the feast of Tabernacles was celebrated to the Passover that was celebrated in the spring of the following year. All in all it is calculated that the total time of Jesus' ministry was three, or three and a half years.
The feast of Tabernacles was primarily a celebration of the way God blessed the people in the yearly harvest. Now Jesus had came to this world to pitch his tent (John 1:14) as God introduced his spiritual and final harvest. Jesus, in Chapter four, refers to the "harvest being ready" and so as we study this book we are again amazed at the two levels of the message. The overt story of Christ's work and the deeper message, often found in the words of Jesus, that needs serious thinking about and consideration if we are to understand it fully.
Firstly, in chapter seven we find the discussion with his brothers who are sarcastic about his claims and encourage him to stop messing around in Galilee but to rather head for Jerusalem where the political and religious powers of the day lay. Here his claim to be the Son of God or the Messiah would be put to the test. At first he says he is not going, but then after they have left he also goes. It is interesting to see that he uses the word "kairos' that means the right time or 'psychological moment' to explain why he is not going. Elsewhere in John when Jesus refers to his time, John uses the word 'hora', which means the designated, destined time. He was saying that it was necessary to wait until the festival was in full swing before he would go.
There is excitement in Jerusalem as the religious leaders are distracted by the possible arrival of the man from Galilee, Jesus, and so they perhaps miss the point of the celebration. They also had done this when Jesus healed the man at the pool. Rather than celebrate a healing they rather had their eyes on trying to trap Jesus because of his ignoring their Sabbath rules. Their hearts were indeed far from where God wanted them to be. (Mt.15:8/9)
The debate about who Jesus is filled the minds of everyone in Jerusalem. Some believed him to be "a good man", while others believed he was "leading many away". There was much whispering and discussion taking place. Into this picture comes Jesus who arrives quietly and then immediately goes up into the temple and teaches. The debate is fast and furious as the differing parties show their positions and Jesus calls on them to make a righteous judgement.(vs.24) His arguments are always logical and based on the teachings of the Old Testament and who he claimed to be, while his opponents resort to emotional and illogical statements to make their point, even calling him demon possessed.
Many however, were amazed at his teachings, especially as they came from "an unlearned man" which they believed he was. After all they knew the learned Rabbis in Jerusalem and this man Jesus came from the backwaters of Galilee. How could he possibly teach with such authority and wisdom?
Again Jesus introduces himself and makes some amazing statements. "I am from the one who sent me"; he who believes in me will have "streams of living water", referring again to what he told the woman at the well and also referring to Old Testament Scriptures like Isaiah 58:11 and Ezekiel 47:1ff. The Rabbinic commentary on Deuteronomy 11:22 states: "The disciple who is beginning is like a well who can give only water he has received; the more advanced disciple is a spring of living water".(Morris pg. 424) This living water can be related to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2:17ff.
The Pharisees attempt to arrest Jesus but the temple guards return empty handed with the excuse "that no man ever spoke like him" (vs.48). This again shows that Jesus' activity and destination was in his own hands, or in the hands of his Father in heaven, and not in the hands of the rulers.
Nicodemus, who previously came to Jesus at night, now defends Jesus, "Does the law condemn anyone without first giving him a hearing?" he argues.(vs.51)
Then follows the account of the woman caught "in the very act of adultery" - this is not in the earliest manuscripts and so is left out of some new translations or added as a footnote. It is interesting to speculate as to what Jesus wrote on the ground and some early traditions suggest that he listed some of the sins of the men who so self-righteously wanted to stone her.
Here John is illustrating powerfully the attitude of Jesus who died for our sins while we were sinners and gives us a second chance(Romans 3:23; 4:7,8), something these religious leaders had sadly failed to understand.