(Study Outline sourced from “The System Bible Study” – “The Book of Life” [Zondervan])
28. THE LATER JUDEAN MINISTRY
(1). Jesus Teaches At The Feast Of Tabernacles
“Not until halfway through the Feast did Jesus go up to the temple courts and begin to teach.”
The Feast of Tabernacles instituted by Moses in the Law, was an occasion for all Jews to go up to Jerusalem and live in booths erected from leaves and branches of trees and to have a joyous celebration in worship and sacrifices to God as they recalled the wanderings of their forefathers in the wilderness. In so doing, they were reminded of God’s graciousness to them in providing a secure and permanent residence in their land; and for the fact that they defied all the laws of nature as they were guided and fed, and their thirst quenched by God’s provisions for them throughout their journey .
The passage thus begins by stating that the Jews were “watching for him and asking. ‘Where is that man’?” because they expected to see Jesus and witness His miracles and teachings; however, there was a division among the people as some said, “He is a good man”. Others replied No, he deceives the people” , so it was “halfway through the feast” before Jesus went to the Temple Courts and began to teach.
As soon as Jesus begins teaching there was objection from the Jewish leaders, “How did this man get such learning without having studied?” , considering the fact that Jesus was never the disciple of any recognized Jewish rabbi – Jesus’ reply to this was that His teaching was not His own but of the One who had sent Him, and that if the Jewish teachers were following God’s will and teachings, they would recognize Him as speaking the words of God Himself. Jesus then brings up the subject of the Law and what it says about the Sabbath, and the fact that they were trying to kill Him because He healed on the Sabbath. If they were really students of the Law they would have understood that certain acts of kindness mercy and necessity were already being done on the Sabbath: in particular, the Law stated that the ritual of circumcision was to be performed on the eighth day, even if this was on the Sabbath, so they really did not understand what the Sabbath meant.
The people now begin to question the actions of the authorities, considering that they were trying to kill Jesus, but here He was teaching in the Temple and they had not arrested Him “Have the authorities really concluded that he is the Christ?” , Jesus they knew and His origin they knew, but some claimed that “when the Christ [Messiah] comes, no one will know where he is from” , so as Jesus continues His teaching He cried out – “Yes, you know me, and you know where I am from. I am not here on my own, but he who sent me is true. You do not know him, but I know him because I am from him and he sent me.” , John records that they tried to seize Jesus but were afraid to do so because “his time had not yet come”.
Jesus addressing the temple guards who were sent to arrest Him says that He will only be with them for a short time and then He would go to the One who had sent Him; they will look for Him but will not find Him, and that they would not be able to go where He was; this they could not understand .
“On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.”
“On the last and greatest day…” – this was either on the seventh or eighth day, since the feast lasted seven days but had a “closing assembly” on the eighth day – what did Jesus mean by His statement?
1.Through the feast, the Jews were reminded of the wilderness journey during which their greatest enemy was thirst, as there was little or no water in the desert; here Jesus offers them “living water” that they will never again be thirsty – the same water that He offered to the Samaritan woman at the well
2. In reference to “streams of living water will flow from within him”, Jesus was referring to a future day as had been prophesied by Joel, when the Holy Spirit would come and indwell all those who believed in Him .
This only led to a further division among the people as some recognized Him as the “Prophet”promised by Moses, others said “He is the Christ”; while others questioned the fact that Christ [Messiah] could not come from Galilee but had to come from Bethlehem where David lived .
The temple guards return to the chief priests and Pharisees, and in response to their question as to why they had not arrested Jesus they said, “No one ever spoke the way this man does”, to which the Pharisees questioned if they too had been deceived, further asking if any of the rulers of the Pharisees had believed in Jesus: Nicodemus asked, “Does our law condemn anyone without first hearing him….”, the Pharisees now turn to Nicodemus and directs him to investigate the fact that a prophet does not come from Galilee; they were angry and incorrect as Jonah came from Galilee .
(2). The Woman Taken In Adultery (Not Found In The Oldest Manuscripts)
The section begins – “And every man went unto his own house. Jesus went unto the mount of Olives.” and on another occasion Jesus said – “….Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” <Matt 8:20 (NIV)>: no reason is given for the fact that Jesus spent the night on the Mount of Olives, which could lead to speculation that He spent the night communicating with His Heavenly Father, as He did on many occasions, in preparation for the days ahead of Him in Jerusalem.
John records that early the next morning he went again to the Temple and the people came to Him to listen to His teaching, at which time the scribes and Pharisees “brought unto him a woman taken in adultery” commenting that the Law commanded that she should be stoned, “but what sayest thou?”(KJV) was their question; whereupon Jesus responded, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.”
Moses, the Lawgiver, delivered the Law of God to the people many years before this incident; now Jesus, the fulfillment of the Law, delivers a new message to these self-righteous religious leaders – righteousness is not obtained from keeping or adhering to the Law, righteousness is obtained through faith in the Son of God .
When the truth of the situation was clear to all her accusers, they departed one by one, and finally Jesus says to the accused woman “Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.” Jesus delivered her from the condemnation of the Law by extending to her the grace of God, forgiving her of her sins .
(3). Jesus Claims The Validity Of His Testimony
The Feast of Tabernacles had changed much over the years after Moses instituted it in the Law. After the Babylonian exile other ceremonies seemed to be added to the weeklong festivities, one of them being the “Illumination of the Temple”. This took place at the end of the first day, when four enormous golden candlesticks were set up in the temple court, causing the surrounding area to be bright with light that could be seen from afar.
After the Feast was over and as Jesus continued His teaching in the Temple, He said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”, offending the Pharisees who challenged the validity of His testimony, as they considered Him to be appearing as His own witness. It is not clear why they were offended at His statement, maybe the were reminded of what the prophet Isaiah wrote – “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.” , but whatever the reason they challenged the validity of His teaching and the fact that he claimed to be “the light of the world”.
Jesus defended His authority by declaring three facts: first, they had no idea of His origin or destination; second, they judge by human standards; and third, the Law required two witnesses, He being one and His Father the other witness . The reason for their error in judgment was because they did not “know me or my Father,” Jesus said; “If you knew me, you would know my Father also.” Thus they were unable to recognize the authority of Jesus’ teaching and the fact that He was the real “light of the world”; . As God’s pillar of light guided the ancient people through their desert journey, so Jesus “the light of the world” guides His people through the journey of life today, and one day there will be no more need of the sun or moon .