Calvary Road Baptist Church

“THE FEAST OF TABERNACLES” Part 4

John 7.11-52 

We are back in John chapter 7 from a layoff of three weeks so I could deal with the subject of forgiveness on Sunday mornings. It was on a Sunday morning two months ago that I initially made mention of several events in the Lord Jesus Christ’s ministry in and around Galilee that are not mentioned in John’s Gospel and are generally thought to have occurred between what John tells us at the end of John chapter 6 and the beginning of John chapter 7.

In the gap between John 6.71 and John 7.1 about six months elapses, and a great many things occurred that are recorded in the other Gospels but do not serve John’s purpose to record. When the multitudes refused to follow Him anymore (and this was the day after He had fed the 5,000), over the next several months, our Lord met the Syro-Phoenician woman,[1] went to Caesarea Philippi,[2] and then was transfigured on the Mount of Transfiguration.[3]

Another gap in John’s Gospel exists between John 7.10 and John 7.11. There occurred the events recorded in Matthew 8.19-22 and Luke 9.57-62, where our Lord clarified for His men the cost of discipleship. He did that during interactions with three different men in what seems to have been the vicinity of Jerusalem. We there learned the cost of becoming a disciple of Jesus Christ,[4] the cost of remaining a disciple of Jesus Christ,[5] and the cost of interrupting one’s discipleship.[6] Some people think you cannot be a disciple of Jesus Christ and it will turn out all right. Oh, no. It will not turn out all right. Some people think that being a disciple of Jesus Christ costs nothing. No. No. That’s not true either. And some people think “Well, I’ll just put my Christianity on hold for a while and then resume it at some time later.” There is an associated cost with that, as well.

We then began to deal with John 7, from verse 11 to verse 52, a lengthy record of the Lord Jesus Christ’s last visit to one of the Mosaic Law’s three most significant religious observances, which is known as the Feast of Tabernacles. There are three feasts in the Jewish calendar; the Passover, Pentecost, and the Feast of Tabernacles. Let me mention again that the Feast of Tabernacles was typically a happy occasion, a time of bustling activity and hospitality, a time of guests being welcomed to Jerusalem and entertained there by friends and relatives, and a time for things to be prepared. It was an event when booths had to be erected, and they were put up everywhere. You’d find these little shacks made of branches and twigs and leaves all over the place. Some were erected on the flat roofs of houses. Others were built in the courtyards of nicer homes. Still others could be found in the streets and alleys, wherever room for one could be constructed, up it would go. Others dotted the hillside of the Mount of Olives and other surrounding hills around the city of Jerusalem.

The Feast of Tabernacles was that time of year when the people slept at night in little booths, or tabernacles, or wood and leaf shacks, as a reminder of their nation’s wilderness experiences after they were delivered from Egyptian bondage and before they entered the Promised Land. Imagine a young Jewish man entering Jerusalem for the first time. Up on Mount Moriah, the Temple Mount, he would see the monstrous stones that wicked King Herod had used to reconstruct the entire top of the mountain, upon which was seen the glorious Temple he then reconstructed. The pilgrim would be awestruck. Then he would be insulted by the Roman monstrosity called the Antonia Fortress. Also built by Herod, the Antonia Fortress was in our Lord’s day the headquarters and barracks for the garrison of Roman occupation troops stationed in Jerusalem. It was a monument of Gentile authority overlooking God’s people, and God’s priesthood, and God’s Temple.

It was into this city, bulging with the added population of hundreds of thousands of mostly Jewish men on religious pilgrimages, that the Lord Jesus Christ arrived. I will rehearse the high points we have attended to so far from John’s account of this episode in the Savior’s earthly ministry.

The first thing John provides for us is a record of our Lord’s arrival, in verses 11-13: 

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. 

Next, John makes mention of our Lord’s activity in the city, verse 14: 

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

Third, John remembers the Jewish leaders’ appraisal of the Savior, verse 15: 

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

Fourth, John records our Lord’s accusation against His detractors, in verses 16-19: 

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? 

Fifth, John records the astonishment of our Lord’s audience, verse 20: 

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

Sixth, the apostle goes on to record our Lord’s continued accusations, verses 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. 

Seventh, and this is where we left off before my three-part series dealing with forgiveness, John records the acknowledgment that these leaders were actively the Lord’s death, verses 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. 

That is the background leading up to where we are today: 

Eighth, JOHN RECORD’S THE LORD’s ASSAULT AGAINST HIS ADVERSARIES 

John 7.28-29: 

28 Then cried Jesus in the temple as he taught, saying, Ye both know me, and ye know whence I am: and I am not come of myself, but he that sent me is true, whom ye know not.

29 But I know him: for I am from him, and he hath sent me. 

Let’s look at these two verses a phrase at a time, remembering that during this feast in the courtyard of the Temple there were perhaps 50,000 men present and the background noise level would be quite high. This helps us to understand our Lord’s actions:

First, we see our Lord’s loudness and His location: 

“Then cried Jesus in the temple as he taught.” 

When you take into account everything that has happened as our Lord Jesus taught in the Temple courtyard up to this point, the impression is given that the leaders and perhaps some of the crowd that had listened to Him teach is now dispersing and walking away from Him. I say this, particularly, because of this word “cried.” Translating the word , it refers to screaming or crying out in a very loud voice, either to make an important announcement or to make yourself heard above the din.[7] My opinion is that as some of His audience begins to recede and the chit chat begins when the crowd begins to break up, my Lord begins to yell at the top of His voice to make several important statements heard by everybody. So, these movies that portray our Lord as a soft speaking fellow bear no resemblance to reality.

Next, we see our Lord’s assertion of His enemies’ knowledge about Him, despite the obvious ignorance of the crowd that had assembled: 

“Ye both know me, and ye know whence I am.” 

Verses 25-27 reveal that the assembled crowd that surrounded the Lord were unsure of their facts and somewhat ignorant of His identity. But they had not spent time and money investigating the Lord Jesus Christ, because they did not see Him as a threat to their position. Not so with the religious establishment in Jerusalem. They had what is called opposition research. Political parties in our country are known for conducting opposition research. But don’t think that activity is a modern phenomenon. Such has been taking place for thousands of years. That is why the Lord Jesus Christ asserts in front of one and all that His adversaries within the Jewish religious establishment, the scribes, the Pharisees, and the priesthood, do have information about Him that is accurate as far as it goes. They know that He has not been taught by the great Rabbis. They know that He grew up in Nazareth. They know the facts and details related to His mother’s betrothal and marriage, as well as her delivery date. So, they know the details of His earthly upbringing and existence, as far as men could discover.

Third, John recorded our Lord’s assertions about Him that the religious establishment did not recognize, that opposition research did not uncover. Four phrases: 

First, 

“And I am not come of myself.” 

That is, the Lord Jesus Christ is stating that He did not come on His Own initiative. He wants the people who are walking away from Him to hear that. We know from Paul’s writings that in the counsels of the Godhead in eternity past it was determined that the Father should send His Son, Ephesians 1.11-12: 

11 In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will:

12 That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ. 

This is not a new idea. Next, 

“but he that sent me is true.” 

Here the Lord Jesus Christ refers to the Old Testament Scriptures. This can only be an allusion to the God of Israel. Had not God been true to His promises and predictions? Had not many predictions already been fulfilled? And was not their rejection of the Lord Jesus Christ a fulfillment of God’s true prophecies given by His prophets? Yes, yes, and yes. Third, 

“whom ye know not.” 

They are walking away when they hear this. Picture the Lord Jesus Christ in the Temple courtyard, yelling at the top of His voice, lungs straining while the arrogantly self-righteous Pharisees and rulers of the Jews are walking away through the crowd, “whom ye know not.” He thereby publicly throws down the gauntlet and challenges them in front of 50,000 men. He finished by contrasting Himself with them: 

“But I know him: for I am from him, and he hath sent me.” 

In the immediate context of the moment, everyone hearing Him would understand fully what He was yelling for all to hear: He was saying, in essence, “I know the Father. I know the Father because I am from the Father. And the Father is the One Who sent Me. Make no mistake about that.” Our Lord’s adversaries had done their research, providing them with what they thought was damaging information about the One Who stood before them. And while their information was accurate so far as it went, there was so much they did not know about Him. So, He told them. And how, did He tell them, with everyone in the Temple courtyard hearing Him tell them. They could not allow that to pass without a response. 

Ninth, JOHN RECORDS Their attempt to take Him 

John 7.30-32: 

30 Then they sought to take him: but no man laid hands on him, because his hour was not yet come.

31 And many of the people believed on him, and said, When Christ cometh, will he do more miracles than these which this man hath done?

32 The Pharisees heard that the people murmured such things concerning him; and the Pharisees and the chief priests sent officers to take him. 

Picture the scene in your mind. It might be easier for you if you have been there. We have been in that courtyard area. Since the time of David, there has been provision for Levites to guard the entrance to the Temple and to maintain order. And though there were times of apostasy when the Temple and its environs were left relatively unattended, since the return of the Jews from the Babylonian captivity they had zealously associated the Temple with their national identity and had patriotically guarded it, if not for the love of God.

Now, right in the middle of the Feast of Tabernacles there comes onto the Temple grounds and into the courtyard a figure who sets things a buzzing. But such things had happened before. And as He taught, He gathered a crowd. But such things had happened before. But remember that the guards whose families have been guarding the Temple for a thousand years know that this figure gathering the crowd is the one who tipped over the tables and caused trouble for the money changers several years earlier when He cleansed the Temple.[8] How do I know that? People who are in charge of security, who have the power of life and death to maintain peace and security, are people who are professionally paranoid. They would know that kind of thing.

So, imagine what would have happened when the guards saw their bosses, the rulers of the Jews, strolling over to the crowd surrounding this Person. They watched, as security men watch. After a few minutes (you can tell at a distance by watching the crowd, more than actually being able to hear anything) they could tell that there was an exchange between the rulers, who they know and nod to and defer to every day as they go about their duties, and this Teacher. He is talking over the crowd to their bosses. Then, as the rulers and some Pharisees turn their backs and begin walking away, this stranger the crowd has been so enamored with starts yelling with a very loud voice, arresting the attention of every person in the Temple courtyard. Thousands turned toward Him in wonder.

What do you think the Temple guards would do next? Especially if they are given the nod by the rulers as they walked toward them? John 7.30: 

“Then they sought to take him: but no man laid hands on him, because his hour was not yet come.” 

They tried to take Him into custody. They ran up to Him. But for some reason, they did not grab hold of Him. Why not? They didn’t know. Perhaps it was His demeanor, they thought. He was so serene, so confident, so utterly unafraid. But the real reason was that His hour was not yet come. It wasn’t God’s time for anyone to lay hands on His Son.

What do you think the spectators did next? John 7.31: 

“And many of the people believed on him, and said, When Christ cometh, will he do more miracles than these which this man hath done?” 

Was this saving faith on the part of those who believed on Him? I seriously doubt it. We must recognize that there are false professions. There are all kinds of people who say they are Christians. I say this because of John 2.23-25: 

23  Now when he was in Jerusalem at the passover, in the feast day, many believed in his name, when they saw the miracles which he did.

24  But Jesus did not commit himself unto them, because he knew all men,

25  And needed not that any should testify of man: for he knew what was in man. 

There has to be more than say so. Am I right? It’s the second half of John 7.31 that provides the convincing clue for me. These people’s decision seems to be based on who does the best. In other words, their commitment to Christ was not based on real faith in Him, in my opinion, but on their impression that no one could top His miracles. But what if someone did top His miracles? Would they still believe in Him?

It seems the apostle expands what he initially touched on in John 7.30 because verse 32 reads, 

“The Pharisees heard that the people murmured such things concerning him; and the Pharisees and the chief priests sent officers to take him.” 

This seems to be a fuller explanation of what happens in verse 30. The details of what prompted the religious leaders to dispatch the Temple guards are filled in at this point. The Pharisees and chief priests are alarmed by what they see and hear. The common folks like this Jesus of Nazareth, despite how He speaks with the challenge He issued to the religious leaders. This concerns the chief priests and Pharisees enough to send ranking officers of the Temple guards to deal with the matter. 

We should pause and think about what has happened to this point. That there was an intense animosity that existed between the chief priests and the Pharisees cannot be disputed. The chief priests and the Pharisees typically hated each other. The priesthood of our Lord Jesus’ day were primarily Sadducees or theological liberals who denied most things supernatural. Pharisees, on the other hand, who were working the people to undermine the priesthood in the minds of the people so that they could supplant them as the religious leaders of the country, were extremely conservative theologically.

Why, then, do both groups send officers to take Jesus of Nazareth? Or why do they seem to be cooperating in sending officers to take the Lord Jesus? Simple. Each of the Jewish groups knew their familiar enemy. And they were struggling to the death with each other for control of the minds and hearts of the people. The last thing either of them wanted was some third party, or third person, to come in and supplant them both. But this is precisely what the Lord Jesus did. He came to supplant both groups of religionists. Why so? Because both the chief priests and the Pharisees were wrong. The chief priests were wrong in their denial of the supernatural. The Pharisees were wrong in their conviction they could merit God’s blessings through good works. They were both wrong. With both groups there was the pride of position in the culture that they feared was threatened by this outsider from Galilee, this carpenter’s son, this one they would soon accuse of being an illegitimate child. Their fear, and their spiritual blindness, produced by their deadness, severely distorted their thinking. Ignoring His wisdom while teaching, and passing over His great miracles and healings, they were not receptive to His ministry.

What about you? Are you resistant to the Lord Jesus Christ’s ministry? Do you fear that He will overturn your finely constructed life? Are you terrified He will prove you wrong about so much? Think about it, my friend. It’s the price of admission into heaven. You are wrong, and He is right. That’s the price of admission to heaven. You are evil, and He is good. You are sinful, and He is holy. He is God’s Son, while you behave as God’s enemy. You are proud, and He is humble. You are spiritually dead, and He is life. You are bound for Hell without Him, and He has already returned to glory and will take all His own there to be with Him. He said, “that where I am, there ye may be also.”

What is the solution to your problem of sin, your problem of condemnation, your problem of guilt, your problem of deadness? Surrender. Give it up. Admit the reality that Jesus is Lord and you are doomed without Him. And then trust Him.

__________

[1] Matthew 15.21-28; Mark 7.24-30

[2] Matthew 16.13-20; Mark 8.27-38; Luke 9.18-27

[3] Matthew 17.1-13; Mark 9.2-13

[4] Matthew 8.19-20; Luke 9.57-58

[5] Matthew 8.21-22; Luke 9.59-60

[6] Luke 9.61-62

[7] Bauer, Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature, (Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press, 2000), pages 563-564.

[8] John 2.13-22

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