JESUS TEACHES AT THE TEMPLE
Jesus has become well-known during the years since his baptism. Thousands of Jews have seen his miracles, and reports about his works have spread throughout the land. Now, at the Festival of Tabernacles (or, Booths) in Jerusalem, many are looking for him.
Opinions about Jesus are greatly divided. “He is a good man,” some say. Others respond: “He is not. He misleads the crowd.” (John 7:12) Much of this subdued talk occurs during the opening days of the festival. Yet no one has the courage to speak out publicly in Jesus’ behalf because there is widespread fear of how the Jewish leaders will react.
Partway through the festival, Jesus shows up at the temple. Many of the people are amazed at his marvelous ability to teach. He never attended the rabbinic schools, so the Jews wonder: “How does this man have such a knowledge of the Scriptures when he has not studied at the schools?”
“What I teach is not mine,” Jesus explains, “but belongs to him who sent me. If anyone desires to do His will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or I speak of my own originality.” (John 7:16, 17) Jesus’ teaching is in harmony with God’s Law, so it should be obvious that he is seeking God’s glory, not his own.
Then Jesus says: “Moses gave you the Law, did he not? But not one of you obeys the Law. Why are you seeking to kill me?” Some in the crowd, probably visitors from outside the city, are unaware of such efforts. It seems inconceivable to them that anyone would want to kill a teacher like him. Hence, they conclude that something must be wrong with Jesus for him to make that claim. “You have a demon,” they say. “Who is seeking to kill you?”
Actually, a year and a half earlier, the Jewish leaders wanted to kill Jesus after he had healed a man on the Sabbath. Jesus now uses a thought-provoking line of reasoning and exposes their unreasonableness. He calls attention to the fact that under the Law, a baby boy is to be circumcised on the eighth day, even if it is the Sabbath. Then he asks: “If a man receives circumcision on a sabbath so that the Law of Moses may not be broken, are you violently angry at me because I made a man completely well on a sabbath? Stop judging by the outward appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.”
Residents of Jerusalem who are aware of the situation comment: “This is the man they [the rulers] are seeking to kill, is it not? And yet see! he is speaking in public, and they say nothing to him. Have the rulers come to know for certain that this is the Christ?” Why, then, do the people not believe that Jesus is the Christ? “We know where this man is from; yet when the Christ comes, no one is to know where he is from,” they say.
Right there at the temple, Jesus answers: “You know me and you know where I am from. And I have not come of my own initiative, but the One who sent me is real, and you do not know him. I know him, because I am a representative from him, and that One sent me.” (John 7:28, 29) In response to that clear statement, there is an attempt to lay hold of Jesus, either to imprison him or to kill him. However, the attempt fails because it is not yet time for Jesus to die.
Many, though, put faith in Jesus, as they should. He has walked on water, calmed the winds, miraculously fed thousands with a few loaves and fish, cured the sick, made the lame walk, opened the eyes of the blind, cured lepers, and even raised the dead. Yes, they have good reason to ask: “When the Christ comes, he will not perform more signs than this man has done, will he?”
When the Pharisees hear the crowd saying these things, they and the chief priests send out officers to arrest Jesus.