3 Words that will forever change the way you read the Gospel of John: Week 7

Contents

 Chapter 7: The Festival, The Living Water

water-heart

This is part 7 of a 21-part series which traces “seeing” and “hearing”, and looks at how they relate to “believing”, through the Gospel of John.

This chapter is Jesus’ appearance at the festival of Booths. At this festival, the Jewish tradition had developed so that a water libation was poured out at the climax of the festivities, to symbolise the Holy Spirit.


Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgement.
– John 7:24

REVIEWING THE TEXT – CHAPTER 7

Stay or Go?

There was a huge festival in Jerusalem (7:2). Should Jesus go there and gather more followers? It would certainly seem to make sense, since he suddenly found himself with only twelve again at the end of chapter 6. If he did some miracles at the festival it would really make a splash! His brothers suggested precisely this:

his brothers said to him, ‘Leave here and go to Judea so that your disciples also may see the works you are doing; for no one who wants to be widely known acts in secret. If you do these things, show yourself to the world.’

– John 7:3-4

This has an eerie ring to it. Remember the kind of language the devil used with Jesus in the Temptation? He said “If you are the Son of God…” and proposed signs that would prove the claim (Matt 4:1-7). Effectively, this was “show yourself to the world”.

As in that case, so also here: Jesus also refused his brothers’ request. After all, we are told the reason they suggested it: they did not believe! (7:5).

The Festival

Show yourself to the world!

Jesus did go, but discretely (7:10). He did not perform dramatic signs, but instead went “up into the temple and began to teach” (7:14). It was his teaching that caused people to be “astonished” (7:15), rather than any visible sign.

Jesus gave them a lecture, and its conclusion is this:

Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgement.

– John 7:24

Of course, when he does speak, the Jews are mystified (7:33-36). They can’t comprehend anything he says, but the crowd can:

On the last day of the festival, the great day, while Jesus was standing there, he cried out, ‘Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, “Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.”’

– John 7:37-38

 

When they heard these words, some in the crowd said, ‘This is really the prophet.’ Others said, ‘This is the Messiah.’

– John 7:40-41

Controversy

When the officers who were sent to arrest Jesus return empty handed, the Jews demand to know why. Do the officers say, “He doesn’t look dangerous”? No. Did they say, “We didn’t see him do anything wrong”? No. This was their reply:

Never has anyone spoken like this!

– John 7:46

The Jews were derisive, pointing out that only the “ignorant” crowd, not the men “educated in the law”, believed Jesus (7:48-49). But Nicodemus, an educated man who had gone and heard Jesus for himself in Chapter 3, replied more wisely, “Our law does not judge people without first giving them a hearing to find out what they are doing, does it?” (7:51).

Never has anyone spoken like this!

Nicodemus’ response is a key idea in the way that the Jews are being depicted in this scene, and throughout the Gospel of John. Jesus should be heard, rather than just dismissed, before judgement is passed on his teachings.

How did they respond to that? Ironically they challenge Nicodemus to “Search and see”!

They replied, ‘Surely you are not also from Galilee, are you? Search and you will see that no prophet is to arise from Galilee.’

– John 7:52

They think that they can see properly, but of course, they are wrong. In the scriptures that they think they know so well, Isaiah says:

But there will be no gloom for those who were in anguish. In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he will make glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the foreigners.

– Isaiah 9:1

Our law does not judge people without first giving them a hearing

This is quoted in Matthew’s Gospel, at Matthew 4:14-16, in direct connection with Jesus. So for all their looking, the Jews could not see. The crowd, whom the Jews called “ignorant”, hear Jesus’ words and believe. Nicodemus recommends the same to the Jews, but they respond by telling him to “see”.


QUESTIONS TO PONDER FROM CHAPTER 7

Did Jesus go to Jerusalem to be seen, or to be heard?
The crowd is essentially a Jewish one (v25), but when John uses the term “the Jews”, who does he mean? (Hint: look also for “the Pharisees”)
In John’s description here, is “the law” something considered bad, or something considered to be authoritative?

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