While Jesus was laying low in Galilee, it was time for yet another Jewish festival resulting in an influx of people to Jerusalem. The festival of tabernacles or the feast of booths commemorated Israel’s journey out of Egypt into Canaan and would be celebrated by people camping in tents just as their ancestors had done during their nomadic journey in the dessert. Much like all our festivals, over the years, this festival also got a new meaning due to the month of its celebration as it turned into a harvest festival. One can imagine the atmosphere of joy and celebration during the harvest festival especially in the bustling city of Jerusalem.
Knowing very well that the pharisees and temple leaders were out to kill Jesus, His brothers taunted and even challenged Him to make Himself known among the crowds in Jerusalem. They assumed that Jesus wanted to become a public figure and like many, did not truly understand the purpose of their brother’s ministry.
There have been several instances of family members not understanding God’s calling in the life of one of their own. David faced hostility from his brothers when he tried to pursue the path of God. Joseph even faced criticism from his own father Jacob when he spoke about a vision that God gave him. Jesus was chastised by His own family, to the extent that they called Him a mad man, with his siblings trying to silence Him to prevent the wrath of the Jewish leaders. People care about what the society thinks about them more than doing right by God. In their pursuit to please people over God, they prevent the people of God also from doing God’s will. Jesus went through everything that we go through and did not have a free pass from the world just because He was the Son of God. In persevering through all that was thrown at Him, He has shown all of us the way forward and the assurance that we are not alone when we go through such challenges in our lives.
After His brothers had left for the festivities, Jesus secretly arrived in Jerusalem alone. Throughout the festival, rumors and speculation about Jesus were circulating. But it was not until halfway through the festival that Jesus came forward and began to teach in the temple courts. Everyone marveled at how Jesus attained such a learning without going through the rigorous training in a seminary like the one the pharisees and the temple leaders had to go through. To their amazement Jesus responded by saying,
Whoever speaks on their own does so to gain personal glory, but he who seeks the glory of the one who sent him is a man of truth; there is nothing false about him.John 7:18
If we are open to let God work in our lives, He will fill us with His knowledge and wisdom that the world cannot comprehend. When Jesus confronted the crowds about the desire of the leader to have him killed, He was accused of being demon-possessed. Even though it was the worst kept secret that the pharisees and the chief priest were looking for ways to send Him to the gallows, no one would admit to it openly and even used it as an excuse to further build their case. It seemed like the Jewish leaders had not forgotten about Jesus healing the invalid man on the holy day. Jesus addressed that saying,
Now if a boy can be circumcised on the Sabbath so that the law of Moses may not be broken, why are you angry with me for healing a man’s whole body on the Sabbath?John 7:23
The human desire has always been to be in control of our own destiny. When Moses had disappeared into the clouds and uncertainty had taken over the camp, Aaron decided to build his own god. The Jewish teachings had been simplified to a definite formula, do these things and God will reward you. They started believing that if one followed the laws and did not break any traditions, then no one could stop them from attaining Heaven, not even God. Such blind and illogical beliefs have been passed down from generations and many believers even today have the same notion. Jesus openly criticized the leaders but no one dared arrest Him in full view of the crowds that had assembled, proving Jesus’ point. Even if they thought that Jesus should be arrested according to the law, they would not act on it fearing appearances and what would be the repercussions among the Jewish community for such an act.
Origins of Jesus
When people started questioning about Jesus’ origins and comparing it with what the scriptures said about the coming of the Messiah, Jesus responded by speaking about the One who had sent Him. At this the pharisees tried to seize Jesus while many others started believing in Him. People still wanted signs so that Jesus could prove His authority. No matter what signs and wonders they witnessed, no matter which city Jesus was born in and no matter what the scriptures said. People want to believe what is convenient to believe. If believing in Jesus will make them an outcast they will go against it, much like Jesus’ own family. If the majority has moved toward a notion then we have no problem jumping on that ship. God does not work that way. He calls all of us individually and expects us to respond in a similar fashion.
Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.John 7:38
Jesus wanted the people to desire the living water, His Spirit, residing in them and guiding their paths. Instead people were satisfied by just witnessing signs and miracles. The people were divided, some calling Jesus the prophet, some the Messiah but many calling Him a deceiver. They assumed that Jesus was from the Galilean town of Nazareth and could not understand why would the Messiah not come from Bethlehem.
No matter what proof and evidences Jesus brought before them in the form of scriptural references or the signs and wonders, the leaders kept bringing new obstacles in His way. They would never call Him the Messiah and there was no point in telling them that He was born in Bethlehem, David’s hometown. Perhaps this was the reason why Jesus always spoke cryptically when He was in Judean countryside and among His critics, but in the Samaritan towns He openly declared His true identity.
Among the chief priests and pharisees, there was a clear consensus on the need to execute Jesus. Nicodemus, the pharisee who had visited Jesus earlier did speak up asking them to hear Jesus out but he did not speak with conviction and was easily silenced by the pharisees. If we wait for a consensus we will never be able to take a stand for Jesus. In Jesus’ own words the world hates Him and will never accept us if we are the followers of Christ. If we wait for signs and wonders to be fulfilled we will miss out on fulfilling the purpose that God has for our lives.
Jesus came alone to Jerusalem and stood out in the crowd, He did not wait for the consensus to be formed about Him before He spoke out against the leaders. By the power of God, He took a stand against the leaders who had diluted the Gospel and made it a religion. Are we waiting for a consensus in our lives or are willing to stand out for God?
- V5: Why did Jesus’ own brothers not believe him? What credibility does someone have if their own family members are against them?
- V23: Why were the leaders fine with other traditions being followed on the sabbath but not healing?
- V42: Why did Jesus not tell them that He was born in Bethlehem?