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Jesus at the Feast of Tabernacles
Summary —The Unbelief of the Brethren of Jesus. He Goes to the Feast of Tabernacles. He Teaches in the Temple. The Discussions Among the People. The Pharisees Send Officers to Take Him. The Last Day of the Feast. The Report to the Officers.
1. After these things. The events narrated in the last chapter. About six months of the ministry in Galilee intervened between the feeding of the Five Thousand and the Feast of Tabernacles. During this interval the Lord kept away from Judea on account of the enmity of the authorities there.
2. Now the Jews' feast of tabernacles was at hand. It fell in the month Tizri, covering part of September and of October, and lasted for a week. It was one of the three feasts that all Jews were expected to attend.
3. His brethren said unto him. His brothers. John 2:12. Depart hence, and go into Judea. A long time had passed since he had been at Jerusalem, and these brethren wished him to show his mighty powers there.
4. If thou do these things. These brethren still were doubters. He differed so from their idea of the Christ that they could not understand him, and they hoped that at Jerusalem he would be made manifest. They afterwards became believers.
8. I go not up yet. He does not say that he will not go, but he will not go yet. He did not wish to go in the great multitude of pilgrims that were en route, as there were reasons why he should go quietly.
10. But as it were in secret. After the crowds had gone, so that he could travel privately. The multitudes hung upon him and had sought to make him a king. In Galilee he was very popular at this time. His popularity intensified the enmity of “the Jews.”
11–13. The Jews sought him. “The Jews” in John almost always means the ruling class at Jerusalem. The people means the masses of the Jewish nation. The people were divided in opinion, but dared not express themselves openly until they saw what course the Jews would take. 355
16. My doctrine is not mine. This is an answer to the question of verse 15. His knowledge came not from man, but from God.
17. If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine. The Common Version is ambiguous. The Revision is clear: If any man willeth to do, etc. The difficulty is in the way of the Jews recognizing the teaching of Jesus as divine, was that they were not willing to do God's will. This spirit of disobedience is the source of most, if not all, skepticism. Unbelief is due, not to the head, but to the heart. He who in his heart says, “Thy will be done, give me light and I will walk in it,” will find that Christ is just the teacher demanded by his soul, and that the gospel meets his soul's want. Jesus will so meet the wants of his soul that he will be satisfied and will know the doctrine, that it comes from him who made the soul. The great German poet, Heine, was a scoffer until old and tortured with chronic disease. Then he said: “I have discarded my proud philosophy and learned to trust in the consolations of religion.” He had no more outward evidence than before, but his heart had changed.
20. The people answered. Not “the Jews,” but the masses. They did not then know that the rulers were seeking his death, and hence rebukes such a suggestion. Thou hast a devil. Such a mistake must be due to the whisper of a demon, they thought.
21. I have done one work. He goes back to the cause of the enmity of the rulers, the healing of the impotent man at the pool of Bethesda on the Sabbath day, about eighteen months before (see chap. 5).
22–24. If a man on the sabbath day, etc.? The argument is this: You blame me for healing an impotent man on the Sabbath; yet you break the Sabbath to circumcise a child if the eighth day after its birth falls on the Sabbath. You say that the law of circumcision was given to Abraham, is older than the Sabbath law, and must be kept if the Sabbath is to be broken. Now the law of love and mercy is 356older than Moses; why find fault if it is kept on the Sabbath? They should judge righteously, instead of by outward appearances.
25–29. Some of them of Jerusalem. Citizens who understood the purposes of the rulers, of which the visitors were ignorant. Do the rulers know, etc.? As they did not seize him according to their purpose, the question arose what had changed the mind of the rulers. Had they found out that he was the Christ? Howbeit we know … whence he is. The Jews had an idea, due probably to Dan. 7:13, that when the Messiah came no one would know from whence he came. Ye know whence I am. This is a reply to their assertion that they did. If they really did they would know that he came from God. They did not even know God, or they would know him whom God sent.
31. Many of the people believed. Not intelligently, but that he was a teacher sent from God, and possibly the Christ. Compare 3:1, 2.
32. The Pharisees heard. The bitterest enemies of Christ. When they heard that the people were believing, they thought it time for action, so the Pharisees and chief priests, that is, the Sanhedrim, sent officers to seize him. This was an official act, the first official attempt of the Sanhedrim to take Jesus. They had purposed it before, but had not taken action.
33–36. Yet a little while I am with you. Aware of the counsel of the rulers, he foretells his death and return to heaven. Where I am, ye cannot come. Not while on earth, neither after life is over, if they die in their sins (8:21). The Jews did not comprehend his words, plain as they are to us. 357
37. In the last day. Probably the eighth day, possibly the seventh. The eighth was a day of holy rest added to the seven days of the feast. If any man thirsteth, let him, etc. Jewish writers say that water was brought every day of the feast in a golden pitcher from the pool of Siloam and poured upon the altar. It is thought that it was when this water was poured out that Jesus cried out, and pointed to the living water.
38. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said. Notice that “believing” corresponds to “coming” in the preceding verse, showing that faith is the means that brings us to Christ. The reference is not to any single passage, but to the spirit of the Scripture, notably such passages as Isa. 55:1; 58:11; Psa. 36:8, 9. Out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. Christ is the living water; he who believes upon Christ has Christ formed within him, and hence must become a fountain to dispense the living water whatever he goes.
39. This spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive. This declaration of John makes the second chapter of Acts the best commentary on the preceding verse. Luther says: “So St. Peter, by one sermon on the day of Pentecost, as by a rushing of water, delivered three thousand men from the devil's kingdom, washing them in an hour from sin, death and Satan.” Because Jesus was not yet glorified. Let it be noted, (1) That the Holy Spirit was not given until after the death and ascension of Jesus. (2) The disciples of Christ did not become “fountains of living water” until the Holy Spirit was sent. This marks Pentecost as the beginning of the preaching of the gospel authoritatively by his disciples.
41–44. Others said, This is the Christ. Others asserted that he was the Christ. The opponents denied this, and based their opposition, not upon his character, or his teaching, but upon the fact that he came from Galilee. They did not know that he was born at Bethlehem, according to the prophecies (Micah 5:2). The seed of David. See Isa. 11:1; Jer. 23:5; Psa. 89:36. 358
45. Then came the officers to the chief priests and Pharisees. These were the temple police, Levites under the direction of the chief priests. In verse 32 we are told that the chief priests, instigated by the Pharisees, had sent the officers to arrest him.
46. Never man spake like this man. The only answer the officers could make to the demand why they had not carried out orders was, “Man never spake like this man.” The multitude had not overawed them, but the words of Christ.
47, 48. Then answered the Pharisees, … Have any of the rulers, etc.? The Pharisees charge the officers in language of scorn. By rulers are meant the Sanhedrim. In the matter of deciding on the claims of the Messiah they hold that the judgment of the “rulers” must be decisive. They were not probably aware that Nicodemus was really a secret believer, and that another “senator,” Joseph, would reveal himself at the proper time.
49. This people … are accursed. The argument was “Not the Sanhedrim, but the rabble are the believers upon him. They are utterly ignorant of the law and are accursed. On account of their ignorance they are easily led astray.”
50–52. Nicodemus. See John 3:1. Dost our law judge, etc.? Of course it did not, but for him to say a word in defense of justice brought the charge that he was a follower of the Galilean. Out of Galilee ariseth no prophet. The rulers in their rage make a false statement. Jonah (2 Kings 14:25), Elijah (1 Kings 17:1) and Nahum (Nah. 1:1) were all of Galilee. 358
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