A Time to Assess.

John writes his gospel three decades after the other gospel writers with the purpose of proving that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, so that we might believe, and in believing, that we might have life through His name. It is interesting to note that John 1-11 covers almost three years, while John 12-21 covers three days. A chapter of assessment, John 7:1-14 is specifically an assessment of the situation. Jesus is at the end of His Galilean ministry and has reached the zenith of His popularity. In Galilee, not even Jesus’s biological brothers are believing in Him (John 7:5), and the fury against Christ in Jerusalem is increasing as the head Jews seek to kill Him (John 7:1). Knowing His death will be the following year in Jerusalem, Jesus proceeds with the wisdom of God to perfectly observe the Mosaic feasts as the sinless Son of God.

Assessment of the Calendar

The "after these things" in John 7:1 means it has been six to seven months since the feeding of the 5,000 in the autumn of the same year. Jesus has been almost exclusively ministering to His disciples during this half year. Matthew, Mark, and Luke give more details regarding Jesus’s Galilean ministry and the transfiguration which also occurs during this time.

The Jews are preparing to celebrate the Feast of Booths (John 7:2), the most celebrated of the feasts (Lev. 23:33-44; Num. 29). This feast is celebrated the 15th through 21st or 22nd day of the seventh Jewish month called Tishrei (approximately our October). It is a feast of thanksgiving for the vintage or harvest and a joyful commemoration of the divine guidance granted to the Jewish forefathers in their wilderness journey. A special sacrifice of seventy-five young bulls is made throughout the week; the temple trumpets are blown on each day; and a ceremony commemorating the waters of Meribah where Moses struck the rock (Num. 20) is another way the people celebrate and remember their Jewish history. Everywhere in and around Jerusalem, even on the roofs of the houses, booths are erected, and torches are lit. These leafy dwellings provide shelter for the pilgrims who have come from every direction to attend this feast and are reminders of the wilderness lives of their ancestors (Lev. 23). Everywhere one looks or walks, there is a reminder of God’s faithfulness to His people for forty years.

Assessment of Jesus’s Family

Playing on Jesus’s Mosaic obligation, His unbelieving brothers suggest that Jesus head to Jerusalem ahead of the crowd so His followers can see more signs (John 7:3-5). The followers are those who had left Jesus at the end of chapter 6, not the twelve disciples who have been with Jesus during His Galilean ministry. John said those followers had left Jesus never to follow Him again.

The brothers’ motivation as faithful worshippers attending the feast is different than that of their oldest brother Jesus. Consider all that the brothers could gain walking in the shadow of their big brother Jesus, the prophet sent from God, who the people, just months ago, wanted to make king. Conversely, the brothers could also desire for Jesus, their perfect big brother, to be caught by the religious leaders. Sadly, the brothers do not believe in Jesus nor want the best for Him. Only after the resurrection and ascension do the brothers come to believe in Jesus.

Jesus’s stepfather Joseph has died, and His mother Mary must be heartbroken to see her children not getting along. She knows who Jesus is and has surely explained to her other sons. The brothers want Jesus to go fully public (John 7:4, 10, 26). Whatever their motivation, they want Him to show Himself to the world, but Jesus knows the hearts of all men.

In responding to His brothers (John 7:6-8), Jesus uses the word "time" three times. He is simply telling His brothers that it may be their time to go up to the feast, but it is not His. Jesus must not go up ahead of them or even with them. He is following God’s schedule. Jesus explains to His brothers that while they can go to the feast at any time, Jesus must wait, for when He is in the midst of the world, sin is exposed, and He is hated. The brothers understand that Jesus is associating faithful, religious Jews in Jerusalem, including the religious leaders, with pagans.

Though Jesus has divine understanding of His future kingship, His immediate joy is obeying the will of the Father as the sacrificial lamb come to die for the sins of the pagan Jews celebrating the feast in Jerusalem. Jesus calls out the most religious God-worshippers on earth as sinners. Jesus makes clear that there are only two kinds of people in the world: those who have trusted their lives to Him and those who have not.

Jesus, the perfect law keeper, travels to Jerusalem with His disciples in a non-public way (John 7:10-14). The Jews are looking for Him, and the people are talking about Him, but not openly, because they fear the religious leaders. Unbelief is always fearful. John later writes in 1 John 4:18 that perfect love casts out fear.

Application Points

  • Have you repented of your sins and trusted Jesus Christ, the Son of God, as your Lord and Savior? Today is the day of salvation!
  • Has Jesus changed the way you think, speak, act, and live? God would have you work out your salvation, growing more each day into the image of His Son.

Tools for Further Study

Cross References to Explore
  • The Transfiguration - Matt. 17:1-8; Mark 9:2-8; Luke 9:28-36

Jesus’s I AM statements

  • The Bread of Life – John 6:35, 48
  • The Light of the World – John 8:12, 9:5
  • The Door – John 10:7, 9
  • The Good Shepherd – John 10:11, 14
  • The Resurrection and the Life – John 11:25
  • The Way, The Truth, and The Life – John 14:6
  • The True Vine – John 15:1