Notes on John 7
Introduction One personal reason for teaching the Gospel of John is my desire to see the unfamiliar parts of this Gospel receive the attention they deserve. Many believers know of events and statements in the previous chapters but hardly know anything in chapter 7, yet it contains material about Christ not found in other Scriptures.
John 7 & 8 are tied to the Feast of Tabernacles. This is the last OT
feast prior to the Passover of the following spring, during which Jesus was
crucified. Both water and light were associated with Tabernacles, and the Lord
ties both of them to Himself. In 7:37,38, those at the feast were invited to
Christ, the Giver of the water of life in answer to their thirst, and as the
Light of the World, Jesus is the alternative to walking in darkness (8:12).
According to Numbers 29:7-39 drink offerings were part of the celebration of
that feast. It was a time when
The time of Jesus’ death of Christ was getting close. No Gospel follows that plot as closely as this one. The desire to kill Him came early (5:18). Here in chapter 7 it intensifies (and continues in chapter 8).
v. 1: the
Jews there [
v.11: the Jews were watching for him and asking, "Where is that man?"
v.19: Why are you trying to kill me?
v.20: Who is trying to kill you?
v.25: Isn't this the man they are trying to kill?
v.30: At this they tried to seize him, but no one laid a hand on him, because his time had not yet come.
v.32: Then the chief priests and the Pharisees sent temple guards to arrest him.
v.44: Some wanted to seize him, but no one laid a hand on him.
v.45: Why didn't you bring him in?
7:1 There was good reason for the Lord to
stay in Galilee and avoid
7:2-5 Jesus’ brothers knew that many disciples had
left Jesus (6:66). They knew that crowds would gather in
7:6-9 The Lord responded to His brothers’ advice by
treating it as the worldly wisdom that it was. (See Paul on worldly wisdom
in 1 Corinthians 1:17 – 2:5). God had a time only six months away to display
His power in unparalleled glory. The time of Jesus’ crucifixion and
resurrection was the greatest display of God’s glory. His brothers understood
neither God’s time or God’s ways. When Jesus said the right time for Him had
not yet come for the ultimate event in
7:10,11 Some think the Lord spoke to deceive His
brothers by saying He would not go and then later He went secretly, contrary to
what He had said. This cannot be the case (Titus 1:2). Some ancient Greek texts
have the word yet, so that we read “I am not yet going up to this
Feast.” Scribes may have added yet to resolve what appeared to be a
moral inconsistency. I think the Lord was simply saying that He would not go up
to the Feast when and as His brothers had suggested. The emphasis on time was
that for Him the right time had not come for the “showdown” in Jerusalem – the
time for judgment on the world and the defeat of Satan (12:31). That time had
not come in John 7 so Jesus was not going up to Tabernacles in the very public
way He entered Jerusalem the week of His death (12:12). In John 7 Jesus did not
enter in a predictable way – perhaps by traveling among a group known to be
7:12,13 John reports different opinions of Jesus. Some even speak well of Him without true faith in Him. Nicodemus began his visit by expressing his personal view that Jesus had come from God (3:2). That is a high appraisal, but we are not saved by holding good appraisals of Christ. Here in v.12 some said He was a good man, or in vv.40,41, the Prophet (also in 9:17; 4:19 and 6:14) and even the Christ! Others viewed Him as a deceiver, a madman (10:20), a Samaritan (8:48), a blasphemer (10:33) or demon possessed (7:20; 10:19-21). The charge that Jesus worked in the power of the devil is reported in the Synoptics even more than in this Gospel (Matthew 12:22-32).
People were under pressure either not to speak of Him or not to make conclusions contrary to what the authorities promoted. Here in v.13, they did not want anyone even to speak of Him. They wanted Him ignored. (This is very much like our time in history.) In John 9:22, people were forced to agree with the leaders’ denials of Christ. Today to be considered a genuine Jew by the Jewish community, one must not confess Jesus Christ as the promised Messiah. To be a good Muslim, one must likewise deny that Jesus is the Son of God. John 7 prepares us to expect this kind of persecution. (See also Matthew 10:17-42.)
7:14,15 When Jesus arrived in
7:16-19 The Lord’s brief explanation and appeal:
7:20 One way to maintain sin is to deny it. It was well-known among some that Jesus was the man they were trying to kill! (7:25). For the insult, see Appendix 7A below.
7:21-24 The Apostle John traces the desire of the Jewish leadership to kill Jesus. 5:18 is the first mention, and that was in reaction to Jesus’ claim of being God and also to a healing on the Sabbath. That had happened a year or more earlier than what we read in John 7. They had judged Jesus worthy of death as a Sabbath-breaking blasphemer (5:16-18). Here Jesus refers back to that miracle at the Pool of Bethesda, which produced such a reaction. What had He done wrong that Sabbath day?
The Lord pointed out that the Jews were scrupulous to perform a circumcision on a child who was eight days old (Genesis 17:9-13; 21:4). This was required long before the law was given through Moses. If the baby boy was born on a Sabbath, the eight days later would be the next Sabbath. The Jews would keep this regulation and circumcise even on that holy day. So to keep the law, they would in a sense cut the baby in two by removing the foreskin! They were not doing wrong or breaking the Sabbath by obeying a command of the Lord on that day. What Jesus did was in a sense the opposite. They would hurt and He would heal! He put a man back together. The invalid had been unable to walk for 38 years, and the Lord made him whole or physically complete. Those who circumcised did no wrong, but He Who healed had done no wrong either. In fact His act was much more beneficial.
While the desire to kill Jesus was fervent, the leaders did not have
ideal circumstances to do it. A number of people thought Jesus was a genuine prophet
(Matthew 21:11). The next year, the plotters did not want to arrest Jesus and
execute Him during the Feast (Mark 14:2). Perhaps they feared that quite a few
from Galilee who would be in
John often reported conversations about Jesus among the people. One popular notion was that Messiah would appear from an unknown place. There is absolutely no Scripture that suggests that; in fact, it teaches the opposite. But religious opinions do not need Scripture to exist, even when a specific prophecy would correct them. Error does not need Scriptural support to be believed. See 7:41,42 & 52 for where the Messiah would come from. I suspect that the people heard many times, “When the Christ comes, no one will know where he is from." This is folklore religion; and this kind of thinking (heard early and often), may seem to be harmless, yet it was resistance to truth. Identifying the Messiah affected their eternal welfare; they could glibly dismiss the only Savior as not the real one, because of the prevalent ignorance about the origin of the Christ.
Just as there were two kinds of birth in John 3, two kinds of food and
water in John 4, two kinds of bread in John 6, here there are two origins of
Jesus being discussed. With irony Jesus said something like this, “Oh sure, you
know where I am from,” but they did not know He was from above (3:31). In
7:30-32 Two things in 5:18 brought the anger of the Jewish religious leaders on Him: His activity on the Sabbath and His claim to equality with God. Here in John 7, His words again indicated His former life in heaven with God. He did not claim to be another of God’s many prophets, but One Who came from the presence of God. This infuriated His enemies. He had said this sort of thing openly and often, even in the courts of God’s holy temple. The hatred was there, but God is in control of the anger of men. They were not allowed to take Him away to judgment and death until Passover a little while later (v.33). All attempts to arrest Him failed till the time God had ordained.
The opposite of murder would be to believe in Him. The murder and the faith were simultaneous. God has clearly chosen to accomplish and complete His redemptive work in the presence of much evil and rejection. Those who pioneer in the face of great difficulty will find that faith appears in the context of vigorous rejection. If this Gospel was written for Jews of a later generation to read, they would know that the Jewish leadership admitted Jesus’ miracles. It would be foolish to deny what multitudes of witnesses had seen. The miracles were a reason for faith when Jesus was on earth, and these were still a reason for faith after He left. By reporting popular conversation, the apostle pursued his evangelistic goal. The question, “When the Christ comes, will he do more miraculous signs than this man?" was, and still is a forceful question. It also shows how foolish it was to ask for one more miracle (as in 6:30) when it was common knowledge that Jesus had done so many.
The Pharisees hated it when they knew that people concluded He must be the Messiah. The people’s question was one the Pharisees could not answer. Their efforts to kept attention away from Christ was a great failure as well. The leaders feared losing the support of the people, so they felt the need to have Jesus arrested immediately. This became yet another failure in their attempts to stop His influence. The chief priests (who were Sadducees) controlled the temple, so to have the temple police involved would require their cooperation.
7:33,34 “Looking for Jesus” was a matter of great frustration for His opponents. They saw Him teach in a very public way. Yet their kind of looking was so that they could seize Him and put an end to His ministry. They wanted Him removed. Jesus turned this into another kind of looking. Soon His work on earth would be finished; they would look for Him then and never find Him. Worse for them, was that He would go where they could never go. With those words Jesus referred to a time only months away when they would see Him no more. He would ascend into heaven and be seated at the right hand of God. Everyone who rejects Christ should hear His words, “Where I am, you cannot come!” That was a chilling reminder that only hell awaits those who dare to reject Him. Later Jesus assured His disciples that “where I am” was the place they will join Him (14:3), and they would see His glory forever (17:24).
7:35-36 His enemies can think only in terms of their
own experience. They reason that He must be going to some other location on
earth. That He had come down from heaven (6:58) was unthinkable to them.
And to them His return to heaven would be just as ridiculous (note also 6:62).
So they wonder if Jesus will go to teach in Gentile regions farther from
7:37-39 Here is the most famous statement found in
John 7. Both the Lord’s standing up to speak and His crying out showed His emotion.
In pain He was calling His people to faith in Him again. I suggest that the
reason for the strong emotion was the persistent pattern of unbelief towards
Him shown in the preceding verses. When He spoke of His return to the Father,
they took it to mean He might go somewhere else to teach Greeks (v. 35). They
could not believe He was the One from heaven He claimed to be (v.16). His
brothers did not believe; before He left
The last day of the Feast of Tabernacles had
come. This feast celebrated God’s great provision for them in the past, when
God had preserved theirs lives in bleak conditions. Among them stood One they
did not know (1:26), the One Who was God’s great provision (3:16) for eternal
life. During Tabernacles they remembered the time when Rock had supplied water for
their fathers in the desert. Jesus of Nazareth was that Rock Who had traveled
with them (1 Corinthians 10:3-5). In John 7 as the Lord God of
The gospel was given in terms of coming to drink of Christ. Coming and drinking are simple analogies for faith. The Israelites in the desert could not make their own water, and neither can we. They did not even find their own water. God provided for them bread from heaven (6:31-33) and water from the rock (Exodus 17:6; Numbers 20:8; Deuteronomy 8:15). Jesus remains God’s ultimate bread from heaven for salvation, which was their greatest need. He is the Rock of salvation. (Note how Psalm 18 joins God as Rock and Savior). He satisfies thirst (just as in 4:13,14), and He gives the Spirit Who produces abundant life within (10:10). In a different analogy with the same truth, Christ the True Vine is the source a fruitful life (15:8).
The gospel to Jew and Samaritan is the same! The spring of water welling up (4:14) is the same as living water flowing within (7:38). Both texts speak of this blessing as a gift (4:14; 7:39). It is a gift only from Christ, only for believers. The Samaritans believed (4:39), and the Jews at that feast should have but did not (vv.38,39).
There were many believers before Jesus came to earth and there was much activity of the Holy Spirit. Yet the OT presents a future time when the Spirit would be
John 7:37-39 is the first place in the NT to reveal that the benefit of the Spirit is dispensed by Christ to all who believe. 7:27-39 is the first place in this Gospel to explain that the living water of 4:10 is the Holy Spirit. Jesus was speaking at a moment a few months prior to His death, resurrection, and ascension. Christ as our priest needed first to offer the sacrifice for our sins, which the Father would accept without reservation. Then our priest would be in the position (having removed all obstacle of sin by His blood) to favor us with blessing. The chief immediate blessing Christ gained and gave was the outpouring of the Spirit. The Spirit gives Christ’s church: its interest in Christ, holiness in life, and power in proclamation. The Spirit also brought the Scriptures to completion. When Jesus ascended into heaven, He, “Exalted to the right hand of God,… has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear,” Acts 2:33. This Scripture shows that this blessing has its basis in the ministry of Christ, and His finished work on the cross. Then the pouring out of the Spirit followed to change the history of this world by bringing the nations to Christ.
It is a serious error to suppose, as some teach contrary to this text, that one can receive Christ but not receive the Spirit. Jesus plainly promised that those who believe in Him will receive the Spirit. “… If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ,” (Romans 8:9). (See also Acts 2:38; 2 Corinthians 1:21,22.)
7:40,41 When the Lord was here, there was no common understanding among the Jews that the promised Messiah and the promised Prophet of Deuteronomy 18:15-19 were the same person, thus their inappropriate distinction in vv.40,41. There was a prophet coming Who would be THE Prophet. This recognition of Christ in v.40 was not prompted by a miracle but by His teaching. (See the box below: Christ the Promised Prophet.)
7:41-43 Jesus’ Place of Origin A few key indicators would enable people to identify the Christ.
1. Where He would be from (v.27)
2. What He would do (v.31) i.e., miracles
3. Whether He was in the line of David (v.42)
The people of
John does not mention Isaiah 9:1-7, which
predicts that the light would shine in
These markers begin centuries earlier in the
OT. Micah 5:2 predicted
7:44-46 No one seized Him. It would be difficult to walk to the front of a group of people listening to any capable teacher and physically arrest him. The crowd would not like it. They might even react. In many minds, Jesus’ identity was a matter of great debate as John 7 shows. Perhaps the guards were told that Jesus was a sinner (as in 9:24), but when they heard Him for themselves they could not reconcile such an appraisal with what He was saying. Their reply (No one ever spoke the way this Man does!) was, ironically, truth beyond their understanding. (The more famous example of this in 11:50 was Caiaphas stating gospel truth; his gospel words were far different from what he meant.) This reluctance of the guards to arrest Jesus shows how great a problem it was for the religious leaders to arrest Jesus under circumstances favorable to them. Later Judas would offer to show them where they could find Him at night away from any crowd of listeners (18:2).
7:47-49 I think the guards recognized that Jesus had a God-honoring message. However, for the Pharisees and chief priests, it was their settled opinion that He was a deceiver. They meant that He had fooled others but not them. They presented their view of Christ as the judgment of the highly educated elite, the experts. They created an arrogant image that only uninformed people believed in Christ, a tactic still in use today. Their words reveal a low opinion of their own people when they said this crowd was cursed, though the God of Abraham had promised blessing to His people, not just to the professionals. It is a dangerous atmosphere to think that only the clergy can know the things of God (1 John 2:20,21). If that argument is seriously given, it shows that the clergy have failed to teach their people. If only the clergy knows, the clergy is incompetent.
is the second time that Nicodemus is mentioned. (See 3:1-9 and 19:39.) The OT
law does not specifically say that a man must be heard, but that all facts in a
judgment must be established by proper witnesses (Deuteronomy 19:15-21). When
his colleagues showed contempt for Nicodemus, it would be quite difficult to
speak of him as uneducated. (In 3:10 Jesus had called him the teacher.)
Yet in their scorn they would say something disrespectful of Nicodemus too.
They knew better than to suggest that he too might be a Galilean, but they spoke
that way anyway. This shows their arrogance. God was pleased to have Jesus grow
up as a Galilean, and to have most of His apostles from that region. (Note 1
Corinthians 1:26-29 and Ephesians 2:20. The New Jerusalem has many Galilean
names connected to it in Revelation 21:14.) There is no record of God’s great
prophet, John the Baptist, ever entering
The careless words that no prophet had ever
7:53 For this verse, see the notes in chapter 8.
There are good reasons to pay close attention to the reactions against the Lord recorded in this Gospel. These are things that will appear in every age till the return of Christ.
1. Since the Lord taught, “If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you” (15:18-21), we should accept being misunderstood, hated, and defamed as a natural reaction of the world against us. The apostles also endured opposition (2 Thessalonians 3:1,2; 1 Corinthians 16:8,9), and we too should expect it (2 Timothy 3:10-13).
2. The idea of a life of ease in the present life does not fit the teaching of Scripture. Being believers does not make all trouble go away; in some ways being a Christian increases one’s difficulty.
3. Not all reaction is entirely personal. It can be caused by confusion in interpreting Scripture; often it is just ignorance of God’s word. The core of the rejection is against the gospel message, and for that reason it is against the messenger.
4. We are commanded to “consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men”. The Lord added to this specific order a reason: “so that you will not grow weary and lose heart,” (Hebrews 12:3). The experience of Christ enduring opposition and the struggles of His children are similar. We have these sufferings in common with Christ (Colossians 1:24), and we need to know that.
John 7 contains an unusual record of misunderstandings about Christ. Much of it is hateful reaction to Him, but some of it is simply conversation about Christ among the people. What follows is a listing in the order they appear in this chapter. Not all of them need comments. These reactions are more than a matter of knowing historical events.
Some were seeking to kill Him (v.1). Jesus lived under this threat most of His ministry. His own brothers did not believe, but offered Him worldly advice contrary to His calling from God (vv.3-5). They misunderstood what He was doing. The world hated Him (v.7). People held conflicting opinions of Him (vv.12 & 43). The most educated leaders realized that Jesus’ learning and grasp of Scripture was profound (v.15). No one else had such a knowledge, and they could not understand how it could be. When He told them in vv. 16-18, they would not accept His reply, though His answer was the only explanation for how He could speak as He did.
When He spoke of their intentions to kill Him, they replied with ridicule, denial, and name-calling (v.20). He had been accused of being a Sabbath breaker (5:18). When He made a careful explanation about the Sabbath in vv.21-24, there is never any indication that they considered it. His rational defense has no reply in any of the four Gospels. To call Jesus demon-possessed is real blasphemy. They described Him as the opposite of what He was; He had no demon but was filled with the Holy Spirit without limit (3:34).
V.27 is much like folk religion. People often heard opinions that they accepted as the final word. They were sure they knew where Jesus was from (and they were wrong), and they assumed that when the Messiah would come that no one would know where He is from (and that too was wrong). Their ignorance in simple things made them dismiss truth. This brought an emotional response from the Lord (v.28).
Some sought to seize Him (v.30), but some believed (v.31); not all reaction was bad. The Lord said some would keep the message His disciples gave just as some did when He spoke (15:20). Religious leaders feared that their followers would believe in Jesus, thus the chief priests and Pharisees organized a scheme to arrest Him. Much reaction was from individuals; 7:32 shows an institutional and corporate reaction.
Jesus’ words were misunderstood (v.35). OT prediction spoke of the Prophet and the Messiah. It was not clear to the people that the Prophet and the Messiah were the same Person. So the Word of God from Jesus’ mouth and the ancient Scriptures were both being twisted.
OT predicted that the Messiah would be connected to both Galilee and
Ignore the following, mere notes of things to go in the Introduction later.
Glossary: “Synoptics” the Baptist, OT, NT, etc.
Intro. Use your text; these are notes! All references to texts with no book named (as in 7:12) are all from John.
NIV, ESV, NKJ
Hopefully can use commentaries