I love festivals! When I lived in Miami, I looked forward to President’s Day Weekend and the Coconut Grove Art Festival. Artists and artisans set up booths and it was an open-air gallery. In today’s chapter 7 in John’s Gospel, we have Jesus attending the annual Festival of Tabernacles (or Shelters), known to the Jews as Sukkot. It was the equivalent of our 4th of July, Thanksgiving and New Years all rolled into one. Party time!
Jews still celebrate it today. It was ordered by God back in the Old Testament. They traveled from all over to Jerusalem to set up their shelters.
16 “Each year every man in Israel must celebrate these three festivals: the Festival of Unleavened Bread (Passover), the Festival of Harvest (Pentecost), and the Festival of Shelters (Tabernacles / Sukkot). On each of these occasions, all men must appear before the Lord your God at the place he chooses, but they must not appear before the Lord without a gift for him. (Sacrifice)Deuteronomy 16:16 NLT
Sukkot lasted 7 days — they were the holiest and greatest days. On the last day, the temple priest would go down in a procession to the Pool of Siloam to draw water. He’d then pour the water on the altar where they do the sacrifices, washing off all the blood. It was a reminder of how God drew water from a rock for the people in the wilderness (Exodus 17). The priest would then walk around the altar 7 times. This commemorated the victory at Jericho when Joshua was told to have the people walk around the city 7 times. It also looked forward to the day that God would pour out the water of His Spirit onto His people (Acts 2). It’s at this time when Jesus speaks up (verse 37-52).
In today’s story, verses 1-10 lead up to the festival. Verses 11-36 take place during the feast. Finally, verses 37-52 happen on the last day of the feast as the priest is pours the water. This is important to know because of what Jesus says. Pay attention. Let’s dig in….
After this, Jesus traveled around Galilee. He wanted to stay out of Judea, where the Jewish leaders were plotting his death. 2 But soon it was time for the Jewish Festival of Shelters, 3 and Jesus’ brothers said to him, “Leave here and go to Judea, where your followers can see your miracles! 4 You can’t become famous if you hide like this! If you can do such wonderful things, show yourself to the world!” 5 For even his brothers didn’t believe in him.
6 Jesus replied, “Now is not the right time for me to go, but you can go anytime. 7 The world can’t hate you, but it does hate me because I accuse it of doing evil. 8 You go on. I’m not going to this festival, because my time has not yet come.” 9 After saying these things, Jesus remained in Galilee.
2 Points Here
- Jesus had 4 half-brothers and 2 half-sisters. Yes, Mary had other children after Jesus. She was not a virgin forever!
- Like many politicians, even today, they know that going to a festival or fair and speaking where there are a lot of people gathered, is a great way to get known. Jesus’ brothers suggested that it would be a good idea for Him to go to Jerusalem for the festival. They didn’t get it. They thought that Jesus would be a ruling King right then and there. They didn’t believe that Jesus was the Messiah — at least not until after the resurrection. As it turns out, one of His half-brothers, James, becomes the head of the church in Jerusalem.
Jesus Teaches Openly at the Temple
10 But after his brothers left for the festival, Jesus also went, though secretly, staying out of public view. 11 The Jewish leaders tried to find him at the festival and kept asking if anyone had seen him. 12 There was a lot of grumbling about him among the crowds. Some argued, “He’s a good man,” but others said, “He’s nothing but a fraud who deceives the people.” 13 But no one had the courage to speak favorably about him in public, for they were afraid of getting in trouble with the Jewish leaders.
14 Then, midway through the festival, Jesus went up to the Temple and began to teach. 15 The people were surprised when they heard him. “How does he know so much when he hasn’t been trained?” they asked.
16 So Jesus told them, “My message is not my own; it comes from God who sent me. 17 Anyone who wants to do the will of God will know whether my teaching is from God or is merely my own. 18 Those who speak for themselves want glory only for themselves, but a person who seeks to honor the one who sent him speaks truth, not lies. 19 Moses gave you the law, but none of you obeys it! In fact, you are trying to kill me.”
20 The crowd replied, “You’re demon possessed! Who’s trying to kill you?”
21 Jesus replied, “I did one miracle on the Sabbath, and you were amazed. 22 But you work on the Sabbath, too, when you obey Moses’ law of circumcision. (Actually, this tradition of circumcision began with the patriarchs, long before the law of Moses.) 23 For if the correct time for circumcising your son falls on the Sabbath, you go ahead and do it so as not to break the law of Moses. So why should you be angry with me for healing a man on the Sabbath? 24 Look beneath the surface so you can judge correctly.”
Is Jesus the Messiah?
25 Some of the people who lived in Jerusalem started to ask each other, “Isn’t this the man they are trying to kill? 26 But here he is, speaking in public, and they say nothing to him. Could our leaders possibly believe that he is the Messiah? 27 But how could he be? For we know where this man comes from. When the Messiah comes, he will simply appear; no one will know where he comes from.”
28 While Jesus was teaching in the Temple, he called out, “Yes, you know me, and you know where I come from. But I’m not here on my own. The one who sent me is true, and you don’t know him. 29 But I know him because I come from him, and he sent me to you.” 30 Then the leaders tried to arrest him; but no one laid a hand on him, because his time had not yet come.
31 Many among the crowds at the Temple believed in him. “After all,” they said, “would you expect the Messiah to do more miraculous signs than this man has done?”
32 When the Pharisees heard that the crowds were whispering such things, they and the leading priests sent Temple guards to arrest Jesus. 33 But Jesus told them, “I will be with you only a little longer. Then I will return to the one who sent me. 34 You will search for me but not find me. And you cannot go where I am going.”
35 The Jewish leaders were puzzled by this statement. “Where is he planning to go?” they asked. “Is he thinking of leaving the country and going to the Jews in other lands? Maybe he will even teach the Greeks! 36 What does he mean when he says, ‘You will search for me but not find me,’ and ‘You cannot go where I am going’?”
Jesus Promises Living Water
37 On the last day, the climax of the festival, Jesus stood and shouted to the crowds, “Anyone who is thirsty may come to me! 38 Anyone who believes in me may come and drink! For the Scriptures declare, ‘Rivers of living water will flow from his heart.’” 39 (When he said “living water,” he was speaking of the Spirit, who would be given to everyone believing in him. But the Spirit had not yet been given, because Jesus had not yet entered into his glory.)
Division and Unbelief
40 When the crowds heard him say this, some of them declared, “Surely this man is the Prophet we’ve been expecting.” 41 Others said, “He is the Messiah.” Still others said, “But he can’t be! Will the Messiah come from Galilee? 42 For the Scriptures clearly state that the Messiah will be born of the royal line of David, in Bethlehem, the village where King David was born.” 43 So the crowd was divided about him. 44 Some even wanted him arrested, but no one laid a hand on him.
45 When the Temple guards returned without having arrested Jesus, the leading priests and Pharisees demanded, “Why didn’t you bring him in?”
46 “We have never heard anyone speak like this!” the guards responded.
47 “Have you been led astray, too?” the Pharisees mocked. 48 “Is there a single one of us rulers or Pharisees who believes in him? 49 This foolish crowd follows him, but they are ignorant of the law. God’s curse is on them!”
50 Then Nicodemus, the leader who had met with Jesus earlier, spoke up. 51 “Is it legal to convict a man before he is given a hearing?” he asked.
52 They replied, “Are you from Galilee, too? Search the Scriptures and see for yourself—no prophet ever comes from Galilee!”John 7 NLT
Now, this would have been a good time for Mary to appear and testify that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, the City of David. But no — Mary isn’t mentioned until the crucifixion in John 19:25-27 (we’ll get there soon enough).
Jesus Quenches Every Thirst!
Are you looking for…
Jesus is knocking at the door of your heart. He won’t force Himself upon you. It’s up to you to let Him in!
If you’re not sure if you’re saved or not, if you truly want to be born again and have the assurance of salvation, receive the Holy Spirit, feel His Shalom — a peace that surpasses all understanding, and get a 1-way, non-stop ticket to Heaven after you die, or that you won’t be left behind at the Rapture, which can happen at any moment, this is what you have to do…
The Story of Jesus Part 7
Come to the Altar by Elevation
Soli Deo Gloria – To God Alone be the Glory!
Top picture by Ron Almog from Israel (CC BY 2.0)