For an introduction to this series, click here.
April 28, 2007
This chapter begins with a shocking revelation about Jesus' family. It was the time for the Jewish feast of Tabernacles, or Booths. Jesus' brothers (half-brothers, of course) came to Him and said, "Leave here and go to Judea, that your disciples also may see the works you are doing. For no one works in secret if he seeks to be known openly. If you do these things, show yourself to the world." Then John adds, "For not even his brothers believed in him." (7:3-5) Jesus' brothers were mocking His teaching and His success. If this means anything, it means that Jesus as a young man did not flaunt His gifts. If as adults (I assume that if Jesus was 30 or 31 here, that His brothers would have mostly been in their 20s) they did not believe, then they would not have seen Jesus performing miracles as a child, as some of the apocryphal gospels record. It is instructive that most of Jesus' siblings did come to salvation after His death and resurrection.
Anyway, Jesus did not humor them, but He did go to Jerusalem later. Jesus was apparently the main topic of conversation in town. When He didn't show when they expected, they wondered where He was. The Jewish leaders were intent on arresting Him, so that is probably the main reason He did not come at first. When He does finally come, He doesn't hold back: "Has not Moses given you the law? Yet none of you keeps the law. Why do you seek to kill me?" (7:19)
The verses that follow reveal the confusion that surrounded Jesus, and the confusion of the people about the nature of the Messiah. Some of the people said, "When the Christ appears, no one will know where he comes from." (7:27) These people concluded that since they knew Jesus was from Nazareth, then that meant he was not the Christ. Others said the exact opposite: “Is the Christ to come from Galilee? Has not the Scripture said that the Christ comes from the offspring of David, and comes from Bethlehem, the village where David was?” (7:41-42)
Why was there so much confusion? Mainly because the Judaism that was practiced in the first century was not the religion God gave Moses centuries earlier. In its place the Pharisees, Sadducees and others had created a religion based on superstition and twisted applications of Moses' Law. Time and time again in the Gospels Jesus points His opponents to the Law of Moses and demonstrates how far their false religion had strayed from God's plan for Israel.
In the midst of all this confusion, the Pharisees sent soldiers to arrest Jesus. They were going to bring Jesus in front of the Sanhedrin and prove to the people that Jesus was a fraud. The soldiers came back empty handed, saying, "No one ever spoke like this man!" (7:46)
Then John records a very interesting statement by a familiar character: Nicodemus: "Nicodemus, who had gone to him before, and who was one of them, said to them, 'Does our law judge a man without first giving him a hearing and learning what he does?'" (7:51, ESV) This is valuable for a number of reasons. First, it tells us that Nicodemus was probably a believer. Secondly, it humanizes the Sanhedrin somewhat. The council always appears in the Gospels and Acts, with a few exceptions like we see here, as a monolithic entity only interested in preserving their traditions.