Calvary Road Baptist Church

“THE FEAST OF TABERNACLES” Part 3

John 7.11-52 

We have, thus, far, approached John 7.11-52 two times on Sunday mornings, so far dealing with verses 11-20. The first of what will likely turn out to be thirteen points we considered was our Lord’s arrival in Jerusalem to attend the Feast of Tabernacles. That was in verses 11-13. Next, there was the Savior’s activity in Jerusalem leading up to the feast, in verse 14. Third, we took note of the Jewish leaders’ appraisal of our Lord in Jerusalem. That was in verse 15.

The fourth of thirteen sections of this Feast of Tabernacles narrative may have been a surprise to some of you. You may have been taken aback by the Lord’s accusation against His detractors, in which He made a claim about the Source of His doctrine, verse 16, in which He asserted the certainty of His doctrine, verse 17, in which He announced His faithfulness to His Father’s doctrine, verse 18, and then when He really went on the offensive to charge His accusers with unfaithfulness toward the Law of Moses and conspiring to murder Him, in verse 19. In verse 20 we saw the astonishment of our Lord’s audience and how quickly they turned against Him when He accused the religious leaders in Jerusalem of conspiring to murder Him. He told the truth, and they turned against Him.

Please turn to John 7.11 at this time. When you find that verse I invite you to stand for the reading of God’s Word: 

11  Then the Jews sought him at the feast, and said, Where is he?

12  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.

13  Howbeit no man spake openly of him for fear of the Jews.

14  Now about the midst of the feast Jesus went up into the temple, and taught.

15  And the Jews marvelled, saying, How knoweth this man letters, having never learned?

16  Jesus answered them, and said, My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me.

17  If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.

18  He that speaketh of himself seeketh his own glory: but he that seeketh his glory that sent him, the same is true, and no unrighteousness is in him.

19  Did not Moses give you the law, and yet none of you keepeth the law? Why go ye about to kill me?

20  The people answered and said, Thou hast a devil: who goeth about to kill thee? 

Reflect on this a bit. Are you a bit shocked by how quickly our Lord’s sympathetic crowd turned against Him when He challenged the religious leaders’ plot to kill Him? How about the aggressive nature of our Lord’s defense of Himself by going on the offensive, which took the form of His accusations against the religious leaders, rather than being quiet and unresponsive as He would later be just before His crucifixion?

A surprising number of people manifest sympathy toward our Lord Jesus Christ, and are quite benign toward the Christian faith until they are made aware of the Lord’s defense of Himself or until a Christian dares to refute false claims and accusations. Then such people are quickly offended, supposing Christ was always silent when accused and supposing Christians are supposed to always respond to accusations with silence. They suppose the default setting for all Christians at all times is to shut up and take it. The Apostle Paul was characteristically willing to defend himself against false charges, and we are seeing our Lord’s willingness to dispute His enemies’ charges in this narrative.

Are you offended by the Lord Jesus Christ’s willingness to speak strongly against His accusers? If you are, then I suggest that you prepare to be offended even more. 

Sixth, JOHN RECORDS OUR LORD’S CONTINUED ACCUSATIONS 

This is found in John 7.21-24: 

21  Jesus answered and said unto them, I have done one work, and ye all marvel.

22  Moses therefore gave unto you circumcision; (not because it is of Moses, but of the fathers;) and ye on the sabbath day circumcise a man.

23  If a man on the sabbath day receive circumcision, that the law of Moses should not be broken; are ye angry at me, because I have made a man every whit whole on the sabbath day?

24  Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment. 

The Lord Jesus Christ ignored the shocked and outrageous response of the crowd around Him and continued to speak directly to the scribes, Pharisees, and priests who were likely standing at the periphery of the gathering. Ignoring this larger group, He is doing what He again would do at His arrest, and during His unjust trials leading to His crucifixion, which is to say, “who, when he was reviled, reviled not again,” First Peter 2.23. In other words, the Lord Jesus Christ did not answer some of His critics even while He was addressing other critics.

I raise the issue once more because I think it bears repeating. Does our Lord’s tactic of not responding to the protests of the larger group mean we should never answer our critics? Not necessarily. Remember again; the Apostle Paul typically did answer his critics. As well, keep in mind that here our Lord is not answering His critics among the multitudes while He is answering His critics among the religious leaders. Thus, this simplistic notion of suggesting one always do what the Lord Jesus did, or asking “What would Jesus do?” is not usually wise. What is wise is to do what the Lord Jesus would want you to do. But back to our passage. Let’s examine verse 21 first, and then consider verses 22-24.

I call your attention to John 7.21: 

“Jesus answered and said unto them, I have done one work, and ye all marvel.” 

Who is the “them” He speaks to in this verse? The clue that convinces me the Lord Jesus Christ is not answering the larger crowd’s reaction, but that He is instead answering the smaller group, the leaders of the Jews, is right in front of us. The Savior referred to having worked one work that caused them all to marvel. This word “marvel” translates the word thaumazoo, that refers to being astonished, to being shocked, to being amazed, with the context determining whether or not they marveled in a good way or a bad way.[1] Does this refer to being shocked to anger or shocked to delight? Let’s go back to the incident the Lord Jesus is referring to and we’ll see. That incident is recorded in John 5.1-16: 

1  After this there was a feast of the Jews; and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.

2  Now there is at Jerusalem by the sheep market a pool, which is called in the Hebrew tongue Bethesda, having five porches.

3  In these lay a great multitude of impotent folk, of blind, halt, withered, waiting for the moving of the water.

4  For an angel went down at a certain season into the pool, and troubled the water: whosoever then first after the troubling of the water stepped in was made whole of whatsoever disease he had.

5  And a certain man was there, which had an infirmity thirty and eight years.

6  When Jesus saw him lie, and knew that he had been now a long time in that case, he saith unto him, Wilt thou be made whole?

7  The impotent man answered him, Sir, I have no man, when the water is troubled, to put me into the pool: but while I am coming, another steppeth down before me.

8  Jesus saith unto him, Rise, take up thy bed, and walk.

9  And immediately the man was made whole, and took up his bed, and walked: and on the same day was the sabbath.

10  The Jews therefore said unto him that was cured, It is the sabbath day: it is not lawful for thee to carry thy bed.

11  He answered them, He that made me whole, the same said unto me, Take up thy bed, and walk.

12  Then asked they him, What man is that which said unto thee, Take up thy bed, and walk?

13  And he that was healed wist not who it was: for Jesus had conveyed himself away, a multitude being in that place.

14  Afterward Jesus findeth him in the temple, and said unto him, Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee.

15  The man departed, and told the Jews that it was Jesus, which had made him whole.

16  And therefore did the Jews persecute Jesus, and sought to slay him, because he had done these things on the sabbath day. 

Most of those assembled around the Lord Jesus during the Feast of Tabernacles recorded in John 7 were not present during the unknown feast that occurred perhaps 2½ years earlier, near the very beginning of our Lord’s earthly ministry. But the rulers of the Jews most certainly were there, since they lived in Jerusalem. So, this is almost certainly the miracle they marveled at, and not in a good way, I might add. These religious leaders were so stunned by the miracle the Lord Jesus had performed at the pool of Bethesda, not just that it was a remarkable miracle performed only a few hundred yards from the Temple, but that it had been performed on the Sabbath, that they harbored a hatred and an animosity related to it for more than two years! Thus, the “all” who the Gospel writer said marveled could only have been the religious leaders who were here then as well as now.

Now, please, turn back to our text, John 7.22-24: 

22  Moses therefore gave unto you circumcision; (not because it is of Moses, but of the fathers;) and ye on the sabbath day circumcise a man.

23  If a man on the sabbath day receive circumcision, that the law of Moses should not be broken; are ye angry at me, because I have made a man every whit whole on the sabbath day?

24  Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment. 

We know that the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem were looking for a way to murder the Lord Jesus Christ because He had dared to heal a crippled man near the pool of Bethesda on the Sabbath several years earlier. So, during the Feast of Tabernacles, in response to derogatory remarks, some of the Jews had made about Him while He was teaching the multitudes, the Lord took them to task. In John 7.19 He rebuked them for not keeping the Law which Moses had given the nation and then He asked them why they went about to kill Him. This, predictably, provoked a reaction from the crowd of mostly religious pilgrims, which the Lord Jesus Christ ignored as He pointed out both the reason for the desire for the rulers to seek His death and their reaction to His earlier miracle, referred to in John 7.21. Look at these three verses with me one at a time, as we try to appreciate some of the nuances of the Lord’s statements and how powerfully He rebuked His enemies for being opposed to Him and His ministry. Notice, first, John 7.22: 

“Moses therefore gave unto you circumcision; (not because it is of Moses, but of the fathers;) and ye on the Sabbath day circumcise a man.” 

We know from the book of Genesis that God gave the rite of circumcision to Abraham as a sign of the covenant that He had made with him. So, what does the Lord Jesus Christ mean when He says, “Moses therefore gave unto you circumcision”? Our Lord is probably referring to the fact that when God gave to His people a system of laws and ordinances through His servant Moses, provision was made in that Mosaic Law for the circumcision of the male child on the eighth day.[2] Notice that in the next phrase the Lord did acknowledge that circumcision was of “the fathers,” meaning that it was a rite come down from patriarchal times. But the key statement is the Lord’s observation that circumcision was a rite that was observed even on the Sabbath day. And no one could deny the truth of this because every person there knew of a truth that circumcisions were performed on the eighth day, regardless of when that eighth day came, whether on a weekly Sabbath or even on a high holy day. Keep in mind that the Jewish leaders conspired to kill the Lord Jesus Christ because He had healed a man on the Sabbath when He was in Jerusalem several years earlier. That brings us to John 7.23: 

“If a man on the Sabbath day receive circumcision, that the law of Moses should not be broken; are ye angry at me, because I have made a man every whit whole on the Sabbath day?” 

At first glance, it appears that there is a conflict that has arisen about the will of God. The Ten Commandments requires that the Sabbath not be violated. And we can see instances in the Old Testament where God demanded that those violating this prohibition be executed.[3] But we also see that there is a requirement that infant boys be circumcised on the eighth day, even if the eighth day is a Sabbath. A well-recognized Rabbinic principle is stated something like this: If circumcision, which applies to only one of the 248 members, of which, according to the Rabbis, the human body consists, superseded the Sabbath, how much more the preservation of the whole body? So, you can circumcise on the Sabbath, and you can rescue someone from danger on the Sabbath to preserve life, and you can even drag one of your livestock out of a pit on the Sabbath to save its life. Why, then, should there be a complaint related to healing a paralyzed man on the Sabbath? There should not be such a complaint. But consider the way people think. Once you are opposed to someone, as the Jewish leaders were opposed to the Lord Jesus Christ, nothing that He did was acceptable in their sight, and everything He did was examined only to find fault. Notice John 7.24: 

“Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.” 

Here is the rebuke. What Christ’s enemies had done was evaluate His actions in an extremely superficial and cursory manner. Obviously, at first glance, it is a violation of the Law to work on the Sabbath. The Sabbath was a day God set aside for the benefit of the people, so they could rest and worship Him and contemplate His goodness and His provision. But did Christ’s healing of that paralyzed man by the pool of Bethesda several years earlier in any way distract anyone from the goodness and the glory of Almighty God? No. Does that act of goodness and mercy in any way subvert any of the people from being devoted to the one true and living God? Again, no. How about when the Lord told the healed man to take up his bed? Did that little rolled up mat of straw or cloth require exertion or fit into a plan to satisfy someone’s greed or avarice, thereby contaminating them spiritually? No. You see, a right understanding of the purpose of God in His Law and His Sabbath day observance would reveal that God would allow two kinds of things to be done on the Sabbath. These two kinds of things did not violate the spirit of His will for His people. And those two things could be categorized as deeds of necessity and deeds of mercy. To circumcise a child on the eighth day that fell on the Sabbath was a deed of necessity. It had to be done to obey God’s will for circumcision to be performed on the eighth day. Remember when the Lord Jesus and His disciples picked grain from the stalks on a Sabbath and angered some people for “harvesting” on the Sabbath? That was a deed of necessity. They were traveling and needed to eat. Thus, there was no violation of the Law and no failure to observe the Sabbath. In like manner, when the Lord Jesus Christ went to the pool of Bethesda on that occasion several years earlier and healed that man paralyzed for 38 years, that was no sin. That deed did not conflict with the Law of God or violate the Sabbath. It was an act of mercy performed by the Son of God, the Lord of the Sabbath, extended to one of His creatures. So, these Jewish religious officials were completely unjustified in their opposition to the Lord Jesus Christ and their criticism of His ministry. 

Seventh, JOHN RECORDS THE ACKNOWLEDGMENT THAT THE LORD’S DEATH WAS BEING SOUGHT 

We see this in John 7.25-27: 

25 Then said some of them of Jerusalem, Is not this he, whom they seek to kill?

26 But, lo, he speaketh boldly, and they say nothing unto him. Do the rulers know indeed that this is the very Christ?

27 Howbeit we know this man whence he is: but when Christ cometh, no man knoweth whence he is. 

So far in this chapter of John’s Gospel, we have heard from the Lord Jesus Christ’s half-brothers, then the rulers of the Jews, then the pilgrims who had come to Jerusalem for the feast days, and now from those living in Jerusalem who were common folk.

It’s impossible to keep secrets for very long, since folks tend to talk and what others want to find out they can find out. So, it should be no surprise to us that these ordinary people from Jerusalem would know what the rulers are up to. Gardeners, assistants, secretaries, housekeepers, and others, hear everything and know all that their bosses say and do. And they tell their friends and families, who in turn tell everyone else. We read the results of what ordinary people have overheard in John 7.25, 

“Then said some of them of Jerusalem, Is not this he, whom they seek to kill?” 

Okay, ordinary people know that some powerful men are determined to have the Lord Jesus Christ killed. The question for the ordinary people to address is What are you going to do about it? Or will you just blend back into the crowd and observe from a safe distance?

Look to John 7.26: 

“But, lo, he speaketh boldly, and they say nothing unto him. Do the rulers know indeed that this is the very Christ?” 

Incredible, isn’t it? The Lord Jesus Christ is teaching in the Temple courtyard, speaking the truth with boldness and drawing a crowd, convincing the townspeople, anyway, that He is the Christ, that He is the Messiah. Notice what they are saying to each other: 

“Do the rulers know indeed that this is the very Christ?” 

Do they know? You seem to know, but what are you going to do about it? Do you just stand there? Do you just sit there? Do you respond in no particular way to the fact that this man you think is the long-awaited Messiah stands in your midst and teaches you with a plot to take His life known to you?

Or are they convinced that Jesus is the Messiah? In John 7.27 we read of them saying these words: 

“Howbeit we know this man whence he is: but when Christ cometh, no man knoweth whence he is.” 

Two observations and a conclusion can be drawn from this verse: First, we can see evidence from this first phrase that there are people looking into the Lord Jesus Christ’s past. How else would those folks say, “Howbeit we know this man whence he is”? We know about this guy and where He is from, is what they mean. They know where He grew up. They know about His family, His brothers, and sisters. And, especially, they know about His mother. But this phrase is just a hint of what will come out fully in John 8.41 when the rulers who actually did the background search let the cat out of the bag by saying “We be not born of fornication.” They knew that Mary had gone to visit her cousin Elizabeth for three or four months thirty plus years ago. And they knew when Mary and Joseph were married. And they knew when the baby Jesus was born. How did they know? The long-tongued witches in Nazareth, the gossipmongers told them. So, with a little math, they concluded that the Lord Jesus Christ was the product of fornication, not realizing that He was the virgin born Son of the living God. Second, these folks are less sure that Jesus is the Messiah than you might imagine. Convinced intellectually by what they had heard Him say, they are aware of the gossip circulating among the leadership about Him, and they rather believe it. On top of that, they have bought into the idea that the Messiah, when He comes, will come suddenly and unexpectedly from a place no one knows. That is, they believe the Messiah will come by means of some supernatural work. So, they have three sources of information. They had heard the Lord Jesus speak, source #1. They had heard rumors about the Lord Jesus, source #2. And they had some Bible truth about the second coming of Christ that they misunderstood, source #3. And as unregenerate men are wont to do, they are completely incapable of deciphering reality from these three sources of information. 

Conclusion? These folks are really no different than anyone else. John 7.3-5: 

3  His brethren therefore said unto him, Depart hence, and go into Judaea, that thy disciples also may see the works that thou doest.

4  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.

5  For neither did his brethren believe in him. 

The Lord Jesus Christ’s half-brothers, men born of the same mother, men raised in the same household, men who observed His sinless conduct their whole lives, still did not believe in Him. The rulers of the Jews displayed their prejudice toward Him, John 7.15: 

“And the Jews marvelled, saying, How knoweth this man letters, having never learned?” 

Really? Despite His miracles, His profound knowledge of God’s Word, He has nothing to say because He was not taught by one of their approved rabbis?

The multitudes who had gathered for the feast displayed their spiritual state, John 7.20: 

“The people answered and said, Thou hast a devil: who goeth about to kill thee?” 

Again, really? Loyalty for corrupt religious leaders instead of this One Who works miracles, Who raises the dead, and Who speaks as no man has ever before spoken?

And we have just seen that the common folks of Jerusalem are no better. Truly does the Bible say that “all have sinned.” And rightly did Jesus say “And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life,” John 5.40.

You will not come to Christ. You cannot come to Christ. Therefore, I pray that the Father draws you to come to Christ, John 6.44.

Are you lost?

Are you undone?

Are you doomed and damned because of your sins?

The remedy is Christ.

Come to Jesus Christ for forgiveness, for salvation, for eternal life.

__________

[1] Bauer, Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature, (Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press, 2000), pages 444-445.

[2] Leviticus 12.3

[3] Numbers 15.32-36

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