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The New Testament Commentary Vol Iii John by B.W. Johnson

Jesus in the Temple.

14. About the midst of the feast. About the middle. It lasted, altogether, eight days. This indicates the time, probably, when Jesus reached Jerusalem. Bengel calculates that on this year the middle of the feast would come on the Sabbath day; the temple would, therefore, be unusually crowded, and the day itself would suggest the remarks about the Sabbath which are found in verses 22, 23. Went up into the temple and taught. He had come secretly and had refused to make a show of himself, but he did not hesitate to proclaim his doctrine in the most public manner. He seems to flash upon the Jewish multitude on this occasion with the suddenness of the lightning flash. How he came to Jerusalem, whether he dwelt in a leafy booth as others, whether his voice was heard in the Hallel, we are not told. All we know is that suddenly he presents himself in the temple, the very stronghold of his enemies.

Eighteen months had passed since he was last in Jerusalem. Then, although the miracle at Bethesda had aroused a controversy and had called for teaching, he had not presented himself as the public teacher of Israel. Now, however, throwing off all concealment, and apparently passing from extreme caution to the very verge of daring, he plants himself in the temple and addresses the multitude in a capacity that was assumed only by the oldest and most renowned Rabbis of Israel. Olshausen, following Tholuck, thinks that the Savior on the Sabbath day, did not merely teach in the open court, but delivered a formal discourse in the synagogue which was situated in the court of the women. As the Lord appears suddenly in the temple, on this great festal occasion, as a public teacher, we are reminded of Malachi 3:1. (Joh 7:15)

15. How knoweth this man letters? Jesus had never studied in the great Jewish schools of theology. In the preceding generation Hillel had presided over the school or university in which all who became doctors of the law were expected to take their course. At this time Gamaliel, a disciple of Hillel, had succeeded him in the supervision of this renowned school. Here |letters,| the written law, and the unwritten interpretations and traditions, were made the subjects of study. No person was expected to become a rabbin, a public teacher of the synagogue or temple, until he had passed regularly through such a course. Yet Jesus, who had never learned of any of the doctors, never attended any of the rabbinical schools, now stood forth publicly in the temple as a teacher of religion. The Jews |marvelled| at this, but their question implies more. They question the right of one who had not a Doctor's diploma to appear thus as a public teacher. (Joh 7:16)

16. My doctrine is not mine. These words are an answer to the question of the Jews. The Rabbis were wont to proclaim of whom they |received| their teaching. Jesus declares that his is not human learning, was not learned in any of the schools of men, but came from God. (Joh 7:17)

17. If any man will do his will he shall know the doctrine. Literally, |If any man wills to do his will,| etc. A willing obedience to the will of God is essential to knowledge where Christ is a divine teacher. This does not promise that he who seeks to obey the will of God shall be able to solve every difficulty of theology, but it does promise that he will be able to know whether Christ taught divine truth and is therefore the Savior of mankind. In other words, the purpose to do God's will so clears the spiritual insight that the soul will be able to recognize the nature and mission of Christ. If this be true, unbelief originates in an indisposition to do the will of God. The honest soul, eager to do God's will, will recognize Christ as a divine teacher. I believe that the experience of humanity confirms this declaration. I have never heard of one who devoutly sought to know and do the will of God who remained in unbelief. As far as my observation has gone skeptics have been more anxious to follow their own will than the will of God. The antidote to unbelief is for the heart to say, not my will but thine be done. Indeed, the conscience is not right before God until there is a determination to do his will. Until that point is reached there is not |the good and honest heart| in which the seed of the word can germinate. In these words the Savior points out to the Jews the spiritual difficulty in the way of their understanding his claims. They were not willing, in spite of all their religious pretensions, to do the will of God. (Joh 7:18)

18. He that speaketh of himself seeketh his own glory. The true teacher of men does not preach himself. Christ came to speak of and exalt the Father. The true preacher hides his own personality behind Christ. The general truth is stated. Whenever a preacher is met who keeps himself prominently before his hearers he is not a true man; but when one forgets himself in the message of his Lord |the same is true.| Egotism and the spirit of Christ are not in concord. (Joh 7:19)

19. Did not Moses give you the law? I take it that this remark is designed to convict the Jews of not |willing to do the will of God.| The law of Moses was recognized by them as the will of God, yet they violated it. It commanded, |Thou shalt not kill,| yet at that very time |the Jews| were plotting his death. (Joh 7:20)

20. The people answered. This answer is not given by |the Jews,| of whom the Savior's words were just spoken (see verse 15), but by |the people,| the great multitude of the nation who were yet undecided. There were people standing there, |people of Jerusalem| (verse 25), who knew of the plot to assassinate him, but the great body of the people were probably ignorant of it and, therefore, spoke honestly. It seemed to them so abhorrent that there should be a purpose to murder him that they think that the error must have been impressed on his mind by demoniacal influence. They mean nearly what we would say if we were to say of one that he is under a delusion, or is |mad.| Hast a devil. See note on Demons at the end of this chapter. (Joh 7:21)

21. I have done one work, and ye all marvel. Dropping the matter of their purpose to kill him, which time would reveal, the Lord cites them to the marvellous work, which had aroused the first purpose of |the Jews| to slay him. That work had taken place eighteen months before, on the occasion of his last visit to Jerusalem (see John Chap. V.). It had been performed on the Sabbath day, which had, probably, caused them to marvel more, than that a man bound for thirty-eight years should be made whole. (Joh 7:22)

22. Moses gave you circumcision. The rite of circumcision, given at first to Abraham, and therefore, |of the fathers,| was a part of the Mosaic law. The child was to be circumcised on the eighth day and if this came on the Sabbath, the day was disregarded and the rite performed in order |that the law of Moses might not be broken.| (Joh 7:23)

23. Are ye angry at me? The Rabbis said, |Circumcision drives away the Sabbath.| It was, they held, |of the fathers,| a patriarchal institution, and therefore, of older date than the Sabbath, which was of Moses; therefore, the Sabbath gave way before the duty of attending to circumcision on the eighth day. The law of mercy was older than either circumcision or the Sabbath; the Jews were, therefore, inconsistent in their indignation against him because he had performed an act of mercy, |made a man every whit whole, on the Sabbath day.| Mercy was God's eternal law. (Joh 7:24)

24. Judge with righteous judgment. They judged by |appearances| when they condemned Christ for healing on the Sabbath, and forgot the eternal principles of righteousness. Sometimes one law is broken in order to obey a higher law. They should always ask whether this was the case before they condemned, and then |judge with righteous judgment.| (Joh 7:25) (Joh 7:26)

25, 26. Then said some of them of Jerusalem. There were hundreds of thousands of strangers in the city who would know little of the purposes of |the Jews,| but these residents of the city would be more likely to know. They therefore express surprise that he |whom they sought to kill| is speaking boldly. Do the rulers know indeed that this is the very Christ? They are bewildered. They do not either condemn or approve the purpose of the rulers, but they cannot understand why it is not carried out. Is it possible that the rulers have found out that this is the Christ? Does that explain their neglect to carry out their purpose? (Joh 7:27)

27. When Christ cometh, no man knoweth whence he is. There was an expectation, probably due to Dan.7:13, that the Messiah would suddenly appear in Jerusalem without any one knowing whence he came. These men, therefore, reason that this cannot be the Christ because they knew from whence he was. They knew that he came from Galilee and probably that his early home was at Nazareth, but were ignorant of the fact that Bethlehem was his birthplace. Nor did they know of his heavenly origin, so that it was literally true that the Christ was before them and no man knew whence he came. It might be well to add that the Jewish tradition held that Bethlehem would be the Messiah's birthplace, but he would be caught away by spirits and tempests and lie hidden until he should miraculously appear to enter upon his mission. (Joh 7:28)

28. Ye both know me and know whence I am. These words are directly suggested by their argument against his being the Christ. There is a certain irony in the answer, as though he should say: |You profess to know all about me, whence I came; yet if this were true you would believe, for I came not of myself, but was sent by one who is true; you do not even know who sent me.| Whom ye know not. They knew not God. Had they known him, recognized his true character, they would have known Immanuel. (Joh 7:29)

29. I know him. His knowledge was not that of hearsay, but of experience, for he came from God. (Joh 7:30)

30. Then they sought to take him. The charge that they were without the knowledge of God so angered them that they sought to lay hands on him. |They of Jerusalem| are referred to. It was the attempt of a mob. Because his hour was not yet come. They were in some way restrained, perhaps by awe, and no man could yet do him violence, for the set time had not come. (Joh 7:31)

31. And many of the people believed on him. Not |the Jews,| or |they of Jerusalem,| but the multitude. They were convinced that he was a teacher from God and were ready to follow him, though as yet not certain that he was the Christ. Hence they asked, |When Christ comes will he do more miracles than this man does?| It must be remembered that Jesus did not proclaim himself to be the Christ. He demonstrated it by his works. His apostles already knew who he was; the multitude had not yet learned. (Joh 7:32)

32. The Pharisees heard that the people. These active and watchful adversaries discovered that the people were being convinced and thought it time to act. The most powerful and most religious of the Jewish sects, they were the bitterest enemies of Christ. Great sticklers for ceremonials, worshiping the letter of the law while careless of its spirit, intensely Jewish and Mosaic, they were early alarmed by the teaching of Christ (John 4:1), though this is the first place where we have the positive declaration of the enmity of the sect in the headquarters of ritualism. The Pharisees and chief priests. This phrase describes the Sanhedrim, composed of the chief priests who were Sadducees, and the leaders of the Pharisees. It is apparent that the Sanhedrim was quickly called together, it was announced that Jesus was in Jerusalem and teaching in the temple, also that the people were moved by his doctrine and ready to acknowledge him; it was therefore determined to send at once |the officers,| temple guards always on service within the sacred precincts and composed of Levites, to arrest him. (Joh 7:33) (Joh 7:34)

33, 34. Then Jesus said unto them. Now he gives another part of his discourse. His first words show that he is aware of the beginning of the end. He will not be arrested now for |yet a little while I am with you,| but the triumph of his enemies will come shortly, for |I go to him who sent me,| |and ye shall seek me and not find me.| This is very plain to us in the light of subsequent history, but it is not strange that his hearers on the other side of the cross, did not understand. (Joh 7:35) (Joh 7:36)

35, 36. Then said the Jews. They could not comprehend. Did he mean that he was going also to the Jews dispersed among the Gentiles? Would he teach them and the Gentiles, as well as the Jews of Judea and the Galileans? Their perplexity was genuine, but as the Jews of Jerusalem looked with scorn on those dispersed abroad, the insinuation is designed for a taunt. The question indicates the scorn in which |the Jews| held all whose religious privileges were less than their own. There was only a less degree of contempt for foreign Jews and Galileans than for Gentiles. In verse 52 the contempt of Galilee is indicated in the rebuke of Nicodemus. This contempt did not arise so much from pride of blood, as from pride of superior sanctity and religious learning. Jerusalem was then the great center of Rabbinical learning, while the outlying districts were regarded unlettered and scorned as the homes of ignorance. |If any one wishes to be rich, let him go north; if he wishes to be wise, let him come south,| was a saying of the Rabbins. When Nathanael asked, |Can anything good come out of Nazareth?| he only spoke in the spirit of the times. Puffed up with the pride of Rabbinical learning, |the Jews| exhibited an offensive contempt for all who could not be measured by their standard.

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