John Chapter 7
“The officers answered, ‘Never has a man spoken the way this man speaks’” (John 7:46 NASB).
by Jeff Mezera
The seventh chapter of John marks a transition point in the ministry of Jesus from being mostly tolerated, to having to risk his life to continue his ministry because of threats from the Jewish officials.
Introduction (John 7:1-2)
Early in the chapter, the Apostle John makes a specific point about the Feast of Tabernacles. It is the only reference to this feast in the New Testament. That small bit of information helps us understand that this was Jesus’ final celebration of this feast, as it was just six months before he was crucified.
The Feast of Tabernacles was held five days after the Day of Atonement, which pictures the ultimate atonement of all mankind. Every Jewish man was required to observe the feast in Jerusalem as a remembrance of the forty years Israel wandered in the wilderness. For seven days the people were to dwell in booths as temporary residences. Then, on the eighth day, a holy convocation was held, a special gathering for prayer and rejoicing (Leviticus 23:34, Deuteronomy 16:13-17, John 7:37).
A Secret Ministry (John 7:3-13)
Jesus had already performed miracles and taught things that provoked the scribes and Pharisees to threaten his life. His teachings were so revolutionary that even his own kindred scoffed at him, suggesting that he go to Jerusalem and prove his messiahship to the world. Jesus replied that it was not yet his time, but they were free to go to the feast if they desired. Instead of publicly traveling to Jerusalem, Jesus went in secret because of threats against his life from the Jewish rulers (John 5:18).
A Public Ministry (John 7:14-18)
Jesus entered Jerusalem secretly, in the middle of the festival week, but then began teaching in the temple. By timing this message with the festival, it may have given him a larger audience. His teaching made an impact because the Jews were surprised at what he knew and how he taught. Now was the time to proclaim the truth and offer hope for those who would accept his message.
This is another recorded instance of Jesus as a public teacher in the temple (with the earliest mention in John 2:13). Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown’s commentary describes the Greek word John uses in verse 14 for “taught” as one which “denotes formal and continuous teaching, as distinguished from mere casual sayings.” The Jewish teachers were shocked. They called Jesus and the apostles unlearned and uneducated (John 7:15, Acts 4:13). How could he know these things without being educated? Jesus had no reputation or honor, but he knew the Law. He taught with authority. Yet he had not been trained in the Rabbinical schools. His teaching was powerful. His doctrine was not his own, but received from the One who sent him.
When the Jewish leaders accused him, Jesus knew his rights under the Law better than they. He did not have to testify against himself. They were required to have two or three witnesses to prove any accusations against him. Later, they would bring false witnesses against Jesus to have him crucified. Jesus answered, “If anyone is willing to do His will, he will know of the teaching, whether it is of God or whether I speak from myself” (verse 17 NASB).
As Jesus emphasized that his only desire was to do the will of God, we also should yield our hearts entirely to God and seek His will. The active seeking of God’s will, and the diligent pursuit of accomplishing it, will not only assist us in practicing His will, but demonstrate our obedience so that we can be heirs of the promise (John 7:17, Matthew 11:25, Psalms 25:9).
Jesus said, “He who speaks from himself seeks his own glory; but he who is seeking the glory of the One who sent him, he is true, and there is no unrighteousness in him” (John 7:18 NASB). Jesus was not exalting himself. He only wanted to glorify the Father who sent him.
Jesus listed two important principles that help us understand not only how to find truth, but how to share the truth as well.
(1) “If any man’s will is to do his will, he shall know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority” (John 7:17 NASB). Are we totally committed to God’s will?Are we truly devoted to Him?
(2) “He who speaks on his own authority seeks his own glory, but he who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and in him there is no falsehood” (John 7:18 RSV). God’s teachings do not contradict themselves. They remain consistent with His loving character. Our message to the world must be the truth from God’s word, a reflection of His glory. That is our only legitimate authority. Are we seeking our own glory, or trying to magnify God instead?
Jesus’ Time Was in the Hands of His Father (John 7:19-30)
Jesus’ ministry was orchestrated by his Father, including when he would be delivered into the hands of his enemies. Since it was not yet time for this, his Father protected Jesus while he continued on his mission to do his Father’s will.
The Pharisees rejected what Jesus taught, and continued to accuse him. Jesus’ response was, though the Pharisees were unable to keep the Law, they wanted to kill Jesus by accusing him of breaking the Law (John 5:8-18). Jesus asked them to judge the things he was doing with impartiality and fairness, instead.
“You Will Seek Me and Not Find Me” (John 7:31-34)
The crowd knew what Messiah was to do, and some connected that with what Jesus was showing them. Because so many believed in Jesus, the Pharisees became nervous. If Messiah was anything like the prophets Elijah and Elisha, would not miracles be a sign as well?
The same people who believed Jesus, also did not understand his words when the officers came to seize him. Jesus statements only confused them further. “You will seek me, and will not find me,” and “where I am, you cannot come” (John 7:32-34 NASB).
Waters of Life (John 7:35-39)
When asked what he meant, Jesus responded cryptically: “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water’” (John 7:37-38 ESV).
Regarding this verse, Br. Michael Nekora said, “The Companion Bible1 suggests that Jesus is really saying that the ‘rivers of living water’ come from him. Faulty punctuation hides the true meaning of his words. It should be rendered … ‘Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and let him drink, he that believeth on me. As the scripture hath said, out of his [the giver, Messiah, not the receiver] belly shall flow rivers of living water [which become available for believers to drink].
“With this corrected understanding we turn to Zechariah for confirmation: ‘In that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness’ (Zechariah 13:1). Jesus is that ‘fountain.’ We must drink or appropriate the ‘living water’ which comes from him and receive God’s holy Spirit if we are to ever have life on the spirit plane” (Michael Nekora Discourse: Nicodemus).
(1) Editor’s Note: From the ancient manuscripts alone, the punctuation could be either way. The United Bible Societies’ Greek New Testament, 5th edition, following the Companion Bible note: NRSV (and in the margins of REB and NIV), plus several modern German, French, and Spanish versions. But following the KJV are: REB, NIV, the margin of NRSV, a modern French version, and the margin of two others.
This is confirmed by John’s interpretation of Jesus’ words: “This he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified” (John 7:39 ESV). Jesus later told his disciples, “the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father’s which sent me” (John 14:24). Jesus would not leave his followers without guidance. In John 16:13 he promised that when “the Spirit of truth, is come, it will guide you into all truth.”
Drink in the words of Jesus, accept them, believe them, and integrate them into our hearts and minds, so that they become a part of our Christian walk.
Pharisees, Good and Bad (John 7:40-51)
The Temple leaders were angry that their officers had not arrested Jesus. When the officers came back empty-handed, they were questioned. These officers were accustomed to crowd control, following orders, and arrests, but they were disarmed by the words of Jesus. He could express deep ideas in a simple manner and be clear to those who were seeking to understand. The soldiers failed at their duty because they were impressed by what Jesus had said. Their testimony was genuine, which, compared to the Pharisees’ response, illustrates how they were touched by the words of Jesus.
The Pharisees had had a stranglehold on the people, but Jesus’ ministry made them jealous, angry, and afraid. Even after Jesus died, they complained about Jesus, stating “this Jesus of Nazareth … will change the customs that Moses delivered to us” (Acts 6:14 ESV).
Nicodemus was different. He was the one who had a private conversation with Jesus recorded in John 3. Jesus told him the wonderful promise, “that whosever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). Nicodemus’ approach in coming to Jesus directly suggests that it is often necessary to be moderate and open-minded when searching out justice and truth.
The Galilean (John 7:52 to End)
The Jewish leaders were trying to convict and condemn Jesus. This is exactly what they did on Jesus’ final evening when they brought false witnesses against him. Here in John Chapter seven, they attempted to arrest him. Nevertheless, Jesus was driving at a principle that was too much for those who were plotting against him. His statements puzzled them. How could they seek him and not find him? How could they not go where he was going? (John 7:33-34). Arrogantly, they argued that Jesus could not be a prophet because no prophets could come from Galilee.
Though Jesus grew up in Nazareth, his opponents overlooked that he was born in Bethlehem in Judea, the city from which the prophet Micah predicted the Messiah would come (Micah 5:2-3). Many Jews looked down upon Nazarenes (John 1:46, 7:52, Reprint 3483), while the Pharisees were incorrect about whether or not prophets came from Galilee. The prophet Jonah was from Gath-Hepher, a town bordering the Sea of Galilee. Nahum was from Capernaum. Elijah the Tishbite came from Tisbe which some suggest was located in the Galilee area. Some speculate that Malachi was from the Galilean province because his book mentions a prophecy about Elijah.
This chapter of John was about six months before Jesus’ crucifixion and death. In this chapter, we see attempts to arrest Jesus, his masterful responses which confounded his opposers, his encouragement for those who followed him, and hints at his fate and future arrest. Still, Jesus gave a message of hope for those who believed in him and a promise of help from the holy Spirit that would soon be given to all who walk in his footsteps.