Amazing Grace Baptist Church, Bible Study Material on John 7:1-24
Introduction and Background
John 7 draws our attention to the Feast of Tabernacles. During this festival the people commemorated God’s provision (of water) for his people in the wilderness by pouring out water on a rock. They also remembered God’s presence among them (in the pillar of fire) by lighting lamps. It is in this context that Jesus presents himself as the spiritual reality of both God’s provision (the water out of the rock) and God’s presence (in the light). From all over Judea and Galilee people have come to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles. Jerusalem thus become crowded as the people mingle together in the streets, in the Temple to offer their sacrifices and as they observe the age-old rituals involved in this Feast. The crowds then expressed their speculations about Jesus’ possible identity and his future actions. Today’s lesson brings out different perceptions about who Jesus was in John 7:1-24.
Jesus’ brothers’ perceptions about Jesus
In John 7:7:1-9, Jesus’ brothers appear to have no real understanding of who Jesus and his mission was. To them Jesus should go to Judea rather than stay in Galilee since Judea is where everyone was. For it is in Judea that his ‘disciples’ would see his miracles. The brothers thought that Jesus goal is ‘to become a public figure’, and if that is Jesus’ goal, then he ought to be where the crowds are, and at this particular time they are in Jerusalem for the Feast of the Tabernacles. They judge that since he is doing miracles he should show himself to the world.
Public perceptions about Jesus 7:11 -52
There are several perceptions of the crowds about who Jesus was in John 7. Some of the Jews asked, “Where is that man?” (John 7:11). John had earlier on indicated that Jesus ‘purposely stayed away from Judea because the Jews there were waiting to take his life’. And the crowds did not say anything publicly about Jesus for fear of the Jews (John 7:13). The crowds were divided in opinion about who Jesus was. Whereas some saw Jesus to be a good man, others thought Jesus deceives the people (John 7:12). Some segment of the Jews was also amazed and asked about the source of his knowledge. The Pharisees heard the speculations of the crowd, and along with the chief priests sent temple guards to arrest Jesus (John 7:32). Other people speculated that Jesus was ‘the Prophet.’ To others, Jesus is ‘the Christ.’
Jesus’ own perceptions about himself
Jesus was carried by his Divine agenda and so was not swayed by the perceptions and expectations of others. Jesus avoided situations which would jeopardize that agenda. To avoid that Jesus stayed away from Judea because the Jews there were waiting to take his life (John 7:1). Further, Jesus did not submit to his brothers’ suggestion to go up to the Feast to show himself to the world because it was not the right time (John 6:8). Thus, it was impossible for Jesus to be seized because it was not yet the right time (John 7:30)
Jesus avoided those who wanted to make him king by force (John 6:15) because this was not the kind of Messiah he came to be, so he avoided arrest by those who wanted to kill him before the appointed time. Moreover, the Feast of the Tabernacles was not the prophetic symbol of his death and was therefore not the right time for his arrest and execution; that had to wait six more months until the Passover Feast. Then, and only then, did he allow his enemies to arrest him.
Conclusion and application
It is obvious from today’s studies that ‘even Jesus’ own brothers did not believe in him.’ Jesus’ brothers appeared to be completely earthbound in their perception of him. They saw him only from a ‘flesh’ perspective. They thought Jesus was someone who was just trying to make a name for himself. From what perspective do you read the story about Jesus? Similarly, the public had different perspective about Jesus. Yet in all these, Jesus was not moved by their perceptions.
Although Jesus was truly and fully human, Jesus was very much aware of the distinction between him and other humans. As we have already seen he knows that it is necessary for him to avoid any inappropriate acknowledgement and any premature arrest that would hinder the purpose of his purposes. Jesus is aware that the world hates him in a way that it can never hate its own – those whose origin is from the world (John 7:7). He affirms that he has been sent by God (John 7:16-18).
1. How did the brothers of Jesus perceive of his ministry? Were they justified?
2. State three different ways in which Jesus was perceived by the crowd. Why did the crowd see Jesus differently?
3. Jesus was carried by divine agenda and so was not moved by the persuasions of the crowd. Explain.
4. To what extent are you moved by the perceptions of others about your life?