The Attitude of the World to God and His Christ -- Joh_7:1-17
After these things Jesus walked in Galilee: for he would not walk in Jewry, because the Jews sought to kill him. Now the Jews’ feast of tabernacles was at hand. His brethren therefore said unto him, Depart hence, and go into Judaea, that thy disciples also may see the works that thou doest. For there is no man that doeth any thing in secret, and he himself seeketh to be known openly. If thou do these things, shew thyself to the world. For neither did his brethren believe in him. Then Jesus said unto them, My time is not yet come: but your time is alway ready. The world cannot hate you; but me it hateth, because I testify of it, that the works thereof are evil. Go ye up unto this feast: I go not up yet unto this feast; for my time is not yet full come. When he had said these words unto them, he abode still in Galilee. But when his brethren were gone up, then went he also up unto the feast, not openly, but as it were in secret. Then the Jews sought him at the feast, and said, Where is he? And there was much murmuring among the people concerning him: for some said, He is a good man: others said, Nay; but he deceiveth the people. Howbeit no man spake openly of him for fear of the Jews. Now about the midst of the feast Jesus went up into the temple, and taught. And the Jews marvelled, saying, How knoweth this man letters, having never learned? Jesus answered them, and said, My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me. If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.
Having concluded our studies of that wonderful sixth chapter, in which our Lord presents Himself as the Bread of God, we proceed now to follow Him as He resumes His course traveling about from place to place, ministering the Word to believers and unbelievers alike, according to their needs.
We read, “After these things Jesus walked in Galilee” (Joh_7:1). He preached that sermon on the Bread of God in Capernaum in the northern section of Galilee, and from there He went about to other places in the same district and later went down to Judea. Because the Jews sought to kill Him, He did not at first go to Judea. It is in the south. His foes were more violent there than in Galilee where the people did not take things as seriously as did the bigoted legalists of Judea, who were filled with excessive pride and were utterly intolerant of opposition to their views. They were very sure of their own position, and with that came an abhorrence of anything like consideration for the opinions of others who did not agree with them. They had decided already that the Lord Jesus Christ was a false prophet. They declared He deserved to be silenced, and drastically dealt with as one who sought to turn the people away from the law of God, which they confused with their own traditions.
According to Deuteronomy, such an one was to be stoned to death. So we can understand their attitude toward the Lord Jesus Christ. They hated His teaching. They thought it was contrary to the law of Moses. In that they were mistaken, of course. “The law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ” (Joh_1:17). He came to fulfill, in a marvelous way, that very law that was given to show men that they needed a Savior, to emphasize the exceeding sinfulness of sin. Paul says, “The law [is] our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ” (Gal_3:24). Now we have the full revelation of the grace of God as revealed in the gospel.
Our attention is next directed to the fact that one of the last of the great annual festivals in Judea was about to take place. We read, “Now the Jews’ feast of tabernacles was at hand. His brethren therefore said unto Him, Depart hence, and go into Judea” (Joh_7:2). Notice the significant expression, “the Jews’ feast of tabernacles.” In Leviticus 23 it is listed among the feasts of Jehovah. Why the change? Because they had missed the true meaning of it. They only observed it in a cold, legal way, so the Lord refuses to associate His name with it.
We can see the same thing today. The Lord has given us the ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Now, where they are observed according to the Word of God their significance is very real, but where people substitute baptism for regeneration, where they believe baptized children become members of the kingdom of God, or older people think that by baptism their sins are washed away, then this ordinance becomes an abhorrence in God’s sight. The same thing is true of the precious observance of the Lord’s Supper. When we come together to partake of the bread and the cup in remembrance of our blessed Savior who gave Himself for us, it is precious in the sight of God. He delights to find His people coming together in a reverent manner to remember the One who has redeemed them. But when they make of the Lord’s Supper simply a legal service and think that they are helping to fit themselves for heaven and to save their souls by observing it, then it becomes their feast and not the feast of the Lord. It becomes something that is human, of man, and not something that is of God.
Now this feast of tabernacles, as originally given, is most significant. We read in Lev_23:4 : “These are the feasts of the LORD.” The word feast does not exactly mean a festival in every instance, but a set time. In other words, they were the outstanding events in the Jews’ ecclesiastical year, and you will find that there were four of them in the beginning of the year and three in the fall, and the feast of tabernacles was the last of them all. The first one is the feast of the Passover, and in the fifth chapter of 1 Corinthians Christ, our Passover, is said to be sacrificed for us.
The Passover was observed first in Egypt when God visited the firstborn in judgment. There they divided the lamb into its parts and feasted upon it, but the blood was sprinkled outside on the door posts and lintels, and the people inside were safe from judgment. A wonderful picture of Christ-Christ the Passover Lamb-and as God said of old, “When I see the blood, I will pass over you” (Exo_12:13), so it is today. When people put their trust in that precious blood, they are safe from judgment, and then they feed, in spirit, upon the blessed Savior who shed His precious blood for our redemption. That is the feast of the Passover. And you know it was at the time of the feast of the Passover that our Lord Jesus Christ died upon the cross. He, the Lamb of God, died on Passover day to put away our sins.
The second feast is that of unleavened bread. They began with Passover day and continued for another seven days, eating only unleavened bread. Again in 1Co_5:8 we read, “Let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.” Those people feeding upon that unleavened bread represent Christians feeding on Christ and living to the glory of God, putting out of their lives everything that is worldly, that is unholy, that is connected with the old life, and now walking in newness of life.
The third appointed festival was the feast of first fruits. It was celebrated on the first day of the week following the Passover when they took the first sheaf that was fully ripe. They brought it to God and presented it to Him. That represents our Lord Jesus Christ as the Risen One. This is made plain in 1Co_15:20. We read, “But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.” The corn of wheat had to die, but dying, it brought forth much fruit. And so as the priest brought and presented that sheaf to the Lord, it represented our blessed crucified Savior rising from the dead on the morrow following the Jewish Sabbath. How perfectly the type fits the fulfillment, for it was on the first day of the week following the Passover Sabbath that Christ rose from the dead. “[He] was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification” (Rom_4:25).
Then as we continue in the book of Leviticus, the people were to count fifty days until the morrow after the seventh Sabbath, when a new offering was to be brought to the Lord: two loaves of bread baked with leaven. Leaven was a type of sin, so there could be none of that in the bread that represented Christ. But on the fiftieth day, the feast of Pentecost following the Jewish Sabbath, which has now been set aside, we find the two wave loaves presented before God, which were made of leavened dough. They picture Jew and Gentile saved by grace, and they constituted a new meal offering. That pictures the beginning of the church dispensation. All of these feasts have to do with the ground of our salvation and have already been fulfilled.
Then in the fall of the year there were three other set feast types. First, the blowing of the trumpets, which speaks of the time when Israel will be brought back to God. Then came the great Day of Atonement, and we see it fulfilled, as pictured in Zechariah 12, when in the coming day Israel will “look upon [him] whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn” (Zec_12:10). That will be the Jews’ true day of atonement, when they find out at last that the Lord Jesus Christ who died on Calvary’s cross was really the great sin offering who died to put away their sins. They will recognize Him and, trusting Him, will be able to say, “He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed” (Isa_53:5).
Then the last appointed season of the seventh month was the feast of tabernacles, and for eight days the people were to dwell in booths as a reminder of that which took place in the wilderness. Typically, it pointed to the time when the restored nation will dwell in peace with nothing to make them afraid and with our Lord Jesus Christ reigning over them. For in Zechariah 14 we find that the true feast of tabernacles will be when Israel and the world shall be brought to enjoy the saving grace of God and shall live under the glorious reign of our Lord Jesus Christ.
But, alas, the Jews of Christ’s day did not realize that the King was among them already. Even the brothers of Jesus were unbelievers until after His resurrection. We have the names of some of them. We know that James, Jude, Simon, and Joses were brothers of Jesus. Whether they were full or half-brothers has been a debated question, but at any rate they belonged in the family in some sense and were related to the Lord Jesus Christ. Other Scripture passages show that there were sisters, too. His brothers on this occasion were going up to the feast of tabernacles. They say, “Are you going?” “Depart hence, and go into Judaea, that thy disciples also may see the works that thou doest” (Joh_7:3). There is a sneer in that. It seems they would “put Him on the spot.” “Why don’t You go to Judea? You are a good Jew. Why don’t You keep the feast of tabernacles with the rest instead of doing things secretly? If you think You are the Sent One, ‘if thou do these things, show thyself to the world’” (Joh_7:4).
It must have been very hard to take that from His own brethren, to find that those who had grown up with Him did not believe in Him. “Neither did His brethren believe in him” (Joh_7:5). Think of it! It is very difficult sometimes to convince people in your own household. Have not many of us found out that it is easier to approach people outside the members of the family? If you have faults, every fault is magnified. It becomes so manifest, and it is so much harder often to impress those of your own family with any spiritual blessing that God has given. Jesus Himself, the Holy One, endured that. He can understand the trouble we have in our own homes because of our Christian testimony.
The day came when these brothers believed in Him, but it was after His resurrection, after He rose from the dead. Then, eventually, they were convinced, and James and Jude became two of His outstanding disciples. And Simon, another brother, was for many years revered as a devoted servant of our Lord, as early Christian writers tell. There was a fourth brother, Joseph, or Joses, of whom we know nothing. We have their names listed in Mat_13:55.
But now, instead of answering their sneer with a sneer, or reviling as they had reviled, He replies very kindly, “My time is not yet come” (Joh_7:6). “I am waiting for word from My Father.” You see, having come down and taken a servant’s place, He would never move until He had the Father’s word. “I came… not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me” (Joh_6:38). We make so many mistakes as we act according to our own will. The Lord Jesus Christ never did that. He always waited for word from the Father. “My time is not yet come: but your time is alway ready.” That is, the time of man after the flesh is always ready. “The world cannot hate you; but me it hateth, because I testify of it, that the works thereof are evil” (Joh_7:7). That is why men were displeased with the Lord Jesus Christ. If He had been willing to condone their sins and look kindly upon their evil doings, they could have tolerated Him, or even have become His enthusiastic adherents. But, no, He bare witness against the sin and corruption and iniquity of the world, and, therefore, they hated Him without a cause simply because of His holiness and purity, which was in contrast to their iniquity.
Now He says to them, “Go ye up unto this feast: I go not up yet unto this feast; for my time is not yet full come” (Joh_7:8). And so His brethren went on without Him. “He abode still in Galilee” (Joh_7:9). Later on, after they were gone up, He went up alone secretly by Himself. Without any flourish of trumpets, without any public announcement, He went up to Jerusalem. Evidently the Jews expected Him to be present, for we are told that “The Jews sought him at the feast, and said, Where is he?” (Joh_7:11). Why did they expect Him to be there? Because He was always careful to observe the law, and the law said that every Israelite was to appear three times in the year before God at the place where He set His name. So the Lord Jesus Christ would keep to that, the Passover, the day of Pentecost, and the feast of tabernacles. So they had a right to expect Him.
There was much murmuring. Not finding Him they began to talk about Him. “Some said, He is a good man: others said, Nay; but he deceiveth the people” (Joh_7:12). His name was dividing the nation then as it divides the world today. Some recognized in Jesus a sincere man. They thought He was a good man, and if He was a good man it followed He would speak truthfully. But there were others who said, “No, He is a deceiver.” Just so is the world divided today. Which side are you on? Are you among those who recognize His claims, or are you one of those who refuse Him?
Nobody spoke out openly, for they were afraid that some of the leaders might hear what was said, and it might lead to difficulty. But now about the midst of the feast, Jesus suddenly appeared in the temple. It was customary of old for teachers to go into the courts of the temple. Different rabbis would take up their stand by various pillars. At a set time of the day you might have seen various groups gathered about their favorite instructors. You might have come to one pillar and found a Sadducee teacher with a group surrounding him. At another a Pharisee would be holding forth. Jesus would take His place by one of these pillars, and the Jews who gathered around Him listened with amazement as He taught them.
What a grasp of things He had! With what authority He set forth His teaching! They exclaimed, “How knoweth this man letters, having never learned?” (Joh_7:15). In other words, “Why, He has never been to college. He never sat at the feet of any of our great teachers. Where did He get all this? How did He learn these wonderful things?” One might have said, “Why, He is God.” Why did not He tell them that? But that was not the answer. He was not to draw on His divine knowledge, but He chose to learn from the Word of God and to receive from His Father from day to day. Think of it! The blessed Son of God-the Eternal Wisdom-the Wisdom that created the heavens and the universe, now become Man on earth and poring over His Bible, as you and I are commanded to do, turning from page to page in God’s Word, as Man, learning from day to day as a disciple. What an example to us!
And this was the thing that made His ministry so rich and so full, and if I am speaking to any today who would be a blessing to mankind, I emphasize, saturate yourself with this Book. Do not waste your time simply on the works of man with the thought that your understanding and vocabulary will be enlarged. Live in your Bible! The better you become acquainted with this Book, the more you will be able to present the true Word of God to mankind.
“How knoweth this man letters?” He learned at the feet of His Father, and we may learn in the same way. Jesus answered them, “My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me” (Joh_7:16). Doctrine is “teaching.” “I am not giving you My own words,” He says, “but My Fathers.” “My teaching is not mine, but His that sent me.” If anybody says, “I wish I knew for sure whether these teachings are really true,” then He Himself tells us how we may find out in order that we may be absolutely certain. He says, “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself” (Joh_7:17). It may be easier understood if we say, “If any man wills to do His will.” That is, if a man settles it in his heart that he wants to know God’s will, and if he comes to God in repentance and says, “I want to be delivered from my sins and I want to do the will of God”-if a man takes that attitude, you have the word of the Son of God for it that you will not be left in doubt as to what that will is. This is a test that any honest man may apply and find out for himself whether the teaching of Jesus is true or not.
People come to me and say, “I wish I could believe as you do, but the trouble with me is that I am not sure whether the Bible is the Word of God or not. I do not know whether these things are true or not. If I could believe them it would be all right.” My friend, here is Christ’s own word, telling you how you may know for certain whether these things are true. Do you desire above everything else to do the will of God? Are you more concerned about this than about making money, getting on in life? Then He says, If you put that first, you will know of the doctrine. If you seek deliverance from your sins and you want to be right with God and ask Him by His Spirit to open up the truth, He declares in this verse that He will do just that. How many times people have come to me with that, and I always send them to the gospel of John.
In Joh_20:30-31 we read, “And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: but these are written that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through His name.” If you really desire to do the will of God and you have any doubt as to that will, take this gospel of John and read it quietly and reverently. Do not take too many verses at one time. Take it line by line, and as you read, lift your heart to God and say, “O God, above everything else, I desire to know Your will. Since this book has been written to prove it, as I study, open Your truth up to me and let me know whether Jesus is really Your Son or not.” Many people have gone to God in that way and have found out God’s will for them, and their doubts have all been dissipated.
I used to have a cowboy friend out in Arizona. He had gotten far away from God, but a day came when God spoke in power to his soul. I have heard him tell how for years he did not believe the Bible and had ridiculed it and rejected its testimony. At last, when under deep conviction of sin, someone said, “Why don’t you go to God yourself and ask Him to make it clear and real to you?” So one night he got down by his cot and he prayed, “O God, if there is a God and if You do look down upon a poor sinner like me, and if You can hear my prayer, if Jesus Christ is Your Son, reveal it to me, and I promise I will serve you the rest of my days.” He began to search the Scriptures and often told us afterward, “I can’t express or explain it, but I know that something took place. Within three days I knew beyond the shadow of a doubt that the Lord Jesus Christ was the Son of God and my Savior.” He was a faithful servant of God for years, until taken home to heaven. He died in the faith he had confessed for so long.
Now if you say, “I can’t believe the Bible,” I can tell you why. It is because you are living in some sin that that Book condemns. If you cannot believe the Bible, it is because you are living in sin. If you will face that sin honestly before God, He will give you light enough to be saved.