Sukkot

Gospel of John 7:1-31

1 After this, Jesus went around in Galilee. He did not want to go about in Judea because the Jewish leaders there were looking for a way to kill him. But when the Jewish Festival of Tabernacles was near, Jesus’ brothers said to him, “Leave Galilee and go to Judea, so that your disciples there may see the works you do. No one who wants to become a public figure acts in secret. Since you are doing these things, show yourself to the world.” For even his own brothers did not believe in him. NIV

Chapter 6 opens with Jesus avoiding the second year of Passover. After making it possible for five to ten thousand people to eat an evening meal, Jesus walked on water and gave a long oration on the Bread of Life. That speech, calling for us to eat the flesh of Jesus, drove away most of his followers.

Chapter 7 opens on another feast. This is the third feast requiring all men to go up to Jerusalem after Passover in the spring and Shavout (Pentecost) in early summer. You may have noticed that John is building his signs record around days of special meaning for Judaism.

Most Christians have a basic understanding of Passover. We do not generally know much about the other two.

There are two Biblical names for the feast: Feast of Tabernacles; and the long name, Feast of Ingathering and the Season of Our Joy. Part of the joy came from setting fire to four vast pools of olive oil mounted on four tall towers in the Woman’s Court. They burned night and day for seven days and threw light over the entire city. From the descriptions, it seems to be somewhat like Mardi Gras. Performers roamed the streets day and night. There was dancing and singing.

There are several names commonly used: Tabernacles, tents, and booths. Sukkot is the Hebrew word that is translated into those three English words.

In addition to the lights in the Temple, there is a water libation every day.  Priests collected water from the Pool of Siloam to pour out on the Altar. There is a sin offering of seventy bulls to take away the sins of all the world’s nations.

Today, none of the Temple activity occurs, but it is still a joyful occasion. For city apartment dwellers, many compromises are made, depending on costs. Some settle for decorated sheets draped over 2×4’s in the living room. Those with a backyard can build a more proper Sukkot with green tree branch roofs and bring out comfortable chairs, chilled drinks, coffee makers, and plenty of food.

Why did Jesus’ brothers suggest he go to Jerusalem? We do not know for sure, but they may have joined the exodus of followers who did not want to become cannibals. Since they were put out with him, they encouraged him to show off his tricks to the people who already hated him. You know how younger brothers like to poke at big bubba.

6 Jesus replied by saying, “It is not yet the right time for me, but any time is right for you. You see, it is impossible for you to arouse the world’s hatred, but I provoke hatred because I show the world how evil its deeds really are. 8 No, you go up to the festival; I shall not go up now, for it is not yet time for me to go.” 9 And after these remarks he remained where he was in Galilee. Phillips

Jesus could have said, ‘I know what you are up to. Forget it.’ But he said, ‘You can go if you want, but I am staying here.’ As we follow this story, it becomes clear that the Twelve also went up to the festival with Jesus’ brothers.

We should pay special attention to Jesus saying I provoke hatred. He is about halfway through his short ministry, and he must hide out until the Holy Spirit says it is time to poke a stick in the lion’s mouth.

10 But after his brothers had gone up to the feast, then he also went up, not publicly but in private. 11 The Jews were looking for him at the feast, and saying, “Where is he?” 12 And there was much muttering about him among the people. While some said, “He is a good man,” others said, “No, he is leading the people astray.” 13 Yet for fear of the Jews no one spoke openly of him. ESV

Some critics will point out that Jesus lied to his brothers, forgetting what they did to him. He did not lie. The Spirit told him to sneak in, watch, listen, and see what his enemies were doing. We know little about this part of his visit; how did he spend a few days unnoticed? John tends to include such details if he knows them, which means he did not see what happened.

Jesus did not lie. When we look back to verse 8 we see Jesus saying, I shall not go up now. He did not say when he would go.

14-15 But at the very height of the festival, Jesus went up to the Temple and began teaching. The Jews were amazed and remarked, “How does this man know all this—he has never been taught?” 16-18 Jesus replied to them, “My teaching is not really mine but comes from the one who sent me. If anyone wants to do God’s will, he will know whether my teaching is from God or whether I merely speak on my own authority. A man who speaks on his own authority has an eye for his own reputation. But the man who is considering the glory of God who sent him is a true man. There can be no dishonesty about him. Phillips

Remember, this is a seven-day event, so the height would be day three or four, though John more likely meant the eighth day, the culmination of the whole week. The festival began on Tishrei 15, with the eighth day celebrated as a Sabbath, regardless of the day of the week. The first feast of the year is Passover with six more feasts, Rosh Hashanah—the New Year, and Yom Kippur—the Day of Atonement. Hanukkah was a new celebration in Jesus’ day and was little thought about. The modern Jewish calendar excludes several old feasts but includes celebrations of events in Israel since 1948.

How does this man know all this? We are reminded of twelve-year-old Jesus in the Temple at Passover, stunning everyone with his knowledge and wisdom; and stunning his parents in another way. Luke 2:41-52.

41 Every year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the Festival of the Passover42 When he was twelve years old, they went up to the festival, according to the custom43 After the festival was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it44 Thinking he was in their company, they traveled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends45When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him46 After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions47 Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers48 When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.” 49 “Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” 50 But they did not understand what he was saying to them. 51 Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart52 And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man. NIV

This time Jesus gives full credit to God. He may have done so at age twelve, but there is no mention. He uses every opportunity to provide evidence of his status as the Messiah. ‘You will know I am who I say I am if you are keeping the Word of God. Notice the Pharisees, priests, and scribes who always want us to notice them instead of God. They use God for their gain.’

19 “Did not Moses give you the Law? Yet not a single one of you obeys the Law. Why are you trying to kill me?” 20 The crowd answered, “You must be mad! Who is trying to kill you?” 21- 24 Jesus answered them, “I have done one thing and you are all amazed at it. Moses gave you circumcision (not that it came from Moses originally but from your forefathers), and you will circumcise a man even on the Sabbath. If a man receives the cutting of circumcision on the Sabbath to avoid breaking the Law of Moses, why should you be angry with me because I have made a man’s body perfectly whole on the Sabbath? You must not judge by the appearance of things but by the reality!” Phillips

John has now mentioned Moses seven times. Jesus has no quarrel with Moses or the Law. Matthew 5:17“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill themNIV He makes it clear with whom he is upset. ‘None of you obey.’ Notice that he is talking to a crowd of people, not just the Pharisees. Also, remember that Jesus knows the truth about each person around him.

John wants us to understand and believe that Moses gave us the true faith more than any other single person. But John also wants us to know Jesus goes well beyond Moses in understanding what God meant when He gave us His Words (Law).

Why are you trying to kill me? John has given us several clues about the upcoming death of Jesus, so this statement should not surprise us, the readers. Still, it hit the crowd hard, especially after he accused them of violating the Law of Moses. You must be Mad!

Remember that John witnessed what he writes. He did not understand all of it at the time, but he has made sense of it sixty years later. Jesus was not baiting the crowd. He was trying to show them that healing a man on the Sabbath (5:1-18) was, under the Law, just like performing a circumcision. The circumcision was instituted by God with Abraham long before Moses. It was a sign of the Covenant with God. What better day to perform such a sign than on the Sabbath? And what better day to heal someone—also part of the Covenant?

The Message translates verse 24 this way; Don’t be hypercritical; use your head—and heart!—to discern what is right, to test what is authentically right.” MSG At this time in America, we seem to have trouble doing the testing and recognizing the authenticity of the Word of God, let alone political issues.

25 Then some of the residents of Jerusalem began to say, “Isn’t this the man they are trying to kill? 26 Yet here he is, speaking publicly, and they are saying nothing to him. Do the ruling authorities really know that this man is the Christ? 27 But we know where this man comes from. Whenever the Christ comes, no one will know where he comes from.” NET  

Looking back to verse 20, the crowd was primarily pilgrims to the feast. Now we hear from the locals, who keep up with the plots and political maneuvers. People living in Jerusalem know the authorities want to arrest Jesus because he threatens their position, but also because any disruption can result in a Roman crackdown.

What they wonder is why are the authorities allowing him to teach openly? Is it because they know or think he is the Messiah? They expected the Messiah to be royalty, a prince after King David. They expected him to arrive with an army. They knew Jesus was the son of Joseph and Mary from Nazareth. There is no way he could be the Promised Messiah.

In these verses, John gives us two basic groups of ordinary people who were unwilling to accept Jesus as anything but a rabble-rousing preacher who was doomed to failure.

28-29 That provoked Jesus, who was teaching in the Temple, to cry out, “Yes, you think you know me and where I’m from, but that’s not where I’m from. I didn’t set myself up in business. My true origin is in the One who sent me, and you don’t know him at all. I come from him—that’s how I know him. He sent me here.” MSG

Cry out. Most translations use that phrase, but The Message adds, that provoked Jesus to cry out. The Greek does not include any words to indicate provocation, except for krazo, croak, or scream. I think it is reasonable to assume provocation if Jesus screamed his response.

More importantly, is his response. ‘You know the human me, but you do not understand that I am a part of God. You would also know me if you knew God, but you do not.’ Jesus adds the last statement, sealing his fate when the authorities finally decide to act. I know him, for I come from him, and he sent meESV

Only a madman would claim to be sent directly by God. He should be put away before the Romans decide to clean house.

Looking at Jesus’ statements through the eyes of the authorities, it is easy to understand their thinking, wrong but understandable. The problem the people in the Temple had that day is the same one we all face, is Jesus who he says he is? How can Jesus prove the truth of his statement? The proof is in the resurrection, but even that requires faith. The problem is that no earthly evidence will work because Jesus is talking about a non-earthly existence.

30 So they were seeking to arrest him, but no one laid a hand on him, because his hour had not yet come. 31 Yet many of the people believed in him. They said, “When the Christ appears, will he do more signs than this man has done?” ESV

Theodore of Mopsuestia wrote about 400 CE, They wanted to arrest him, but no one laid hands on him—as if they were prevented by divine power…. From this it appears that he could not be arrested by them if he did not want to be. ACCS

Jesus knew that he had not lost every follower. The number of true believers may have been small, but the number was not significant; faith was. They said, in verse 31, would be those few commoners who continued to believe.

Augustine wrote about 400 CE of what the believers were thinking. Unless there are two Christs, this is surely the Christ. ACCS

Be Righteous and do Good

Mike Lawrence

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