John 7-A Chapter for the Working Class
John 7 My featured image, totally relates to this study because I'm talking about how Jesus was a champion of the regular guys. The things that I love about Christopher Walken characters (being edgy, mouthy, and in your face tough guys), those kinds of guys, are a lot like how I picture the soldiers in this passage.
To be completely honest, I really wanted to skip over John 7 altogether. And if I were meeting with my friend one on one, I would have said, “Let’s just skim this chapter so we can get to my favorite story in chapter 8.” But…this is going out onto the WORLD WIDE web, and no telling who could read it besides my 20 followers! LOL and I don't want to appear to be the slacker that I am.
So, I researched it a little and…big surprise, I LOVE this chapter!
The first thing you need to know a tiny bit about in order to understand why I love this chapter is the Rabbinic Tradition of ancient Israel.
The ancient world did not have schools like we have today. In general, people were educated by great teachers who chose people to be their students for reasons like, “uhmm I’m the Emperor. Educate my son or I’ll kill you.” Or “I’m super rich. Here’s a bunch of gold coins teach my baby boy something.”LOL
The Jews had a somewhat better system. All Jewish boys were supposed to memorize the first five books of the Old Testament. They all went to local synagogues and were educated to a certain point. Then the boys that stood out as the smartest would be chosen by a rabbi and they would follow him for years and be his student. All of the Jewish leaders were men who had excelled under the teachings of a rabbi.
The boys that weren’t chosen, went to work doing things like fishing, or masonry. In the days of Jesus, the wealthy people owned most of the land, so farming would have been done by servants of the wealthy. Also, everyone paid tithes and taxes to support the various leaders. The working class did not have a lot of options.
This little tidbit makes the calling of Jesus’ disciples a little cooler, cause he chose rabbi rejects! Even Matthew the tax collector, who was super rich from screwing over his fellow Jews, was most likely not chosen by a rabbi or he would have surely chosen a different path. (Also, women weren’t formally taught, which makes the time Jesus spent teaching women extra super cool.)
When last we saw Jesus, in chapter 6, he was telling everybody, “Don’t follow me because you want material stuff. I’m here to give you spiritual blessings and a relationship with God.”
Which brings us to chapter 7! Here Jesus is sitting around with his family and his brothers are all like, “Hey bro, if you really want people to follow you, do a bunch of miracles at the festival and that will impress people.” (They needed to read my blog about John 6!)
The Bible says that Jesus’ brothers “did not believe in him”. Yet, they obviously believed he was special and had powers. They were trying to encourage him to go show off with some miracles and get more people to follow him.
It’s kind of a funny thing to consider that Jesus was God walking around in the flesh and doing miracles that blew people’s minds, teaching with wisdom that could only come from God…and people reacted by saying “I see you have all these powers, let me tell you what to do!”
Except…I do that too! I’m totally always praying things like “Dear God. I have this problem and here is how I want you to fix it!” The closer I get to him, the more I pray “God, I’m struggling here. Please work and help me see and understand your work.”
Because Jesus’ bros were all up in his business, the crowds wanted to make him king, and the leaders wanted to kill him, Jesus told his brothers he wasn’t going to the festival. But Jesus secretly went so he could enter the festival on his own terms.
At the festival, everybody was all abuzz about Jesus. Everyone was commenting on who they thought he was. If he had taken the advice of others, he would have entered boldly, gathered everyone together, impressed them with some miracles and started a revolution.
But, Jesus didn't live by man's wisdom. He had a different agenda. He snuck in and he taught. There was no miracle show with flashes of ‘this is why you should follow me’. I mean if it were me, I would have just zapped a few of the haters, and said, “hey see what I can do?! Now listen up!”
But Jesus wasn’t like that. He taught the people. He amazed them with his wisdom. He wanted people, common everyday people, to know God. They were all stunned that he could know all that he knew without coming through their rabbinic system. He was one of them yet had this knowledge and wisdom that blew everyone away. Even the smartest of the smarties among their leaders couldn’t argue with him.
In verse 21, Jesus points out some of the hypocrisy of the Jewish community. In their desire to follow God and his commandments, they had established oppressive rules and regulations about every aspect of daily life. So much so that they were really missing the point of what God was trying to teach them. God wants people to love him and seek a relationship with him. The people in this crowd were separated from God by oppressive rules that working people had no hope of learning, thus not a chance of following all of the rules.
Jesus points out the foolishness of the leaders' thinking by talking to them about the example of circumcision. The Pharisees taught people to strictly following the rule, “Don’t work on the Sabbath”.
However, this rule conflicted with another rule, “boys must be circumcised on the 8th day.” Sometimes the 8th day fell on the Sabbath so they broke one rule in order to keep the other, which they considered more important.
However, they were not willing to break their rules in order to have mercy on another person. Jesus called them out on this because they were ready to kill Jesus for healing someone on the Sabbath. In essence, he was saying,“You are willing to break the rules for what you think is important. You don’t think people are important. Only your rules are important to you!”
Sadly, people who think they are following Jesus still do this today! We all start out hating the rules, often because someone hurt us by being a hypocrite.
Then, we get comfortable. We got through whatever crisis led us to seek God and we settle into our own understanding, our own rules and we quit seeking God. We just want a check list that keeps us comfortable and lets us know we’re in. We’ll seek God again when everything falls apart…or we’ll blame him, because, after all, we were keeping the rules!
And here Jesus is, calling out the Pharisees and all the common folks are thinking, cool we like this guy! So, they argued about whether or not they were going to know where the Messiah was from. (eye roll) Because even when people hate a system, they are slow to change it...
Verse 28 says Jesus continued teaching.
He was there to tell them about how to have a real relationship with God which will lead to his spirit living in them. Modern, non-Jewish audiences may not immediately grasp this meaning from verse 37, “rivers of living water will flow through them.” But, rivers and flowing water were a common Old Testament metaphor for being refreshed by the presence of God, for example, Psalm 1:1-3 “Blessed is the one …whose delight is in the law of the Lord…that person is like a tree planted by streams of water. Jesus was saying that the sustaining, refreshing, life-giving quality of God referred to in the Psalms would one day be in those of us that follow him!
A cool little phrase that you might miss if you read this chapter with the laziness that I generally do, is in verse 40, “on hearing his words”. The verse says that when people heard what Jesus was saying, they were convinced that he was “THE Prophet” or the Messiah. He was impressing the people more than their super studious hyper-religious leaders. In other places in the gospels, when the crowds asked him, “By whose authority are you saying these things?” They were asking him which rabbi he could point to in order to back up what he was saying. Jesus essentially said, “God is my authority.” This kind of thing royally p.o.ed the leaders of the day! Lol…go Jesus! I love him so much!
Because Jesus was going against their traditions, I’m sure that any time the people started talking about how great Jesus was, it was a real burr up the religious leaders’ robes. For example, we can all smirk a little, that the chief priests and Pharisees sent the temple guards to arrest Jesus and they were afraid to because of how Jesus spoke.
Things could have been messy for the guards for not doing their duty and they could have easily made up other excuses like, “arresting this dude in front of the people could have started a riot.” But they were so impressed with what Jesus was saying that they confronted the religious leaders. These soldiers were bold enough to say, “No one teaches like Jesus. We don’t think he should be arrested.”
Picture that scene for a minute. The guards worked at the temple. They heard the Pharisees ALL THE TIME. The guys that were THE experts. The guards were the muscle and they were the brains. The guards said, "no one speaks like he does"!!! That's awesome!!! Literally laugh out loud at this.
IRONY alert!!! In response to the soldiers being impressed with Jesus’ teaching. The Pharisees said, “Have any of us super smart religious leaders trusted him? No!”
Ha! Ha! Jokes on you. Yes! One of your guys is following Jesus, he's just scared of you. ( we all know Nicodemus was a closet Jesus follower from chapter 3) Not knowing this, they continued to be snobby about how “the mob that knows nothing of the law-has a curse on them.”
By the way, the "curse" they were referring to was the everyday man's inability to follow all of the rules that the Pharisees had added to the laws God had given.
Nicodemus, obviously fearful of his colleagues and probably hoping Jesus will convince them himself says, “Shouldn’t we hear from him before we condemn him?” Then they all turn on him like he stated a political belief on social media! Their final insult for Jesus was, “and besides all that other stuff, the dude’s from Galilee. Nobody religious comes from there”…
Which makes me love Jesus even a little more. Because, apparently, in addition to challenging the teaching of the leaders, healing people, choosing outcasts for disciples, he is ALSO from the town everyone looks down on! He chose to live with the most disregarded people in Jewish society and then went and rattled the cages of all the religious leaders of the day. He’s SO COOL!!!!
I didn’t even think I wanted to write about this chapter, but it reminded me of what I love so much about Jesus. He shakes the world’s understanding of what it means to follow God. He is not impressed with what people are impressed by. He shows us what God is really like. And ultimately, he paved the way for us to have a relationship with God.
Hope you got something out of this! Let me know. It always encourages me to hear someone (anyone?) reads what I write!
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