As we move into the seventh chapter of John’s gospel we have been learning about who are true disciples and who are false disciples. John’s thesis for this gospel has been that Jesus came to his own but his own did not receive him (1:11). Jesus was in the world but the world did not know him. For many chapters we have seen that the Jews did not receive Jesus as the Son of God. But the end of chapter 6 showed us that there were even disciples of Jesus who were unwilling to receive what Jesus was requiring of them. They had been following Jesus, but they had not been taught by God. Even Judas, one of the twelve apostles, is identified as chosen by God. However, though Judas had been exposed to the teachings and miracles of Jesus, he did not receive Jesus. Chapter 7 continues to explore who are truly disciples of Jesus and who are false disciples.
Evidences of Unbelief — Self-glorification(7:1-6)
The seventh chapter begins by informing us that Judea is not a safe place for Jesus. Jesus is going about Galilee and will not go to Judea because the Jewish authorities are looking to kill him. Verse 2 sets the template for our study over the next three chapters. It is the Feast of Booths, which is also called the Feast of Tabernacles. This is an important lens that John is placing on the text. In John 6:4 the Passover feast was the lens through which we saw the miracle of the feeding of the 5000 and the subsequent teaching concerning the bread of life. Now it is the Feast of Booths. This is an eight day feast when each family built a temporary structure/tent to live in. This reminded the people how they lived in tents while wandering in the desert for 40 years after Mount Sinai. The feast was also associated with the ingathering of the harvest. The feast was a time when the people reflected on Israel’s history and its hopes for Israel’s future. When Israel was in the wilderness living in tents, they were awaiting with hope the time to enter the promised land. We will note the important symbolic aspects concerning the Feast of Booths in relation to the text as we come upon them. For now it is enough to recognize that the feast was a time of messianic expectation.
With these things in mind, notice that Jesus’ brothers want him to go prove himself in Judea. If you are the Messiah, you cannot stay up here in Galilee. This is a great time for publicity. The people are thinking about and hoping for the Messiah right now as the Feast of Booths approaches. Further, all the males of Israel had to come to Jerusalem to keep this feast. Go to Jerusalem and put on a display for all to see. To the brothers’ minds, now is the appropriate time to reveal himself as the Messiah. If you are doing the works of the Messiah, go show yourself to the world! Now this sounds like belief. It sounds like they think Jesus is the Messiah and Jesus needs to get this ball rolling. But notice verse 5: “For not even his brothers believed in him.” This is a staggering statement. You know that Mary told her children that Jesus was a miracle baby and the one to save the world. But this gospel shows us a continuing trend. The world does not believe. The Jews, his own people, do not believe. Many of his disciples do not believe. Not even his brothers believe. John draws a picture of two types of unbelief. There is aggressive unbelief, which we see with the Jewish authorities who are looking to kill Jesus. But there is also passive unbelief. The brothers are not trying to get Jesus killed, but they certainly are not followers of him. If we are not passionately for Jesus then we are unbelief. Unbelief is not only being aggressive against Jesus. Unbelief is also being neutral toward Jesus.
So the brothers are telling Jesus that if he possesses the powers that his miracles seem to imply, then go to Jerusalem, but those powers on display, and capitalize on those powers. Show yourself. Prove yourself. Consider that this request is similar to the direct temptation Satan gave to Jesus. Satan told Jesus to throw himself off the top of the temple and let the angels bear you up to show yourself to all the world.
But Jesus is not going to prove himself. His life is not at all about his own glory. This should be shocking to us. Jesus is God. Show yourself to be God so that you will get the glory you deserve! But Jesus does not do this. Jesus is not about getting people to look at him but to look at the Father. Another evidence of unbelief and false discipleship is that we want the attention on ourselves. We want people to pay attention to us. We want the glory we deserve. We want people to know what we are doing. Jesus did not do this. Jesus tells his brothers that it is not the time for his glorification. It is not his time yet. Jesus is committed to the Father’s timing. Jesus has resolved himself to keep his Father’s will.
Evidences of Unbelief — The World Does Not Hate Us (7:6-13)
But Jesus does not conclude by telling them that he is focused on God’s timing and God’s glory, not his own. Notice what else Jesus says to them in verses 6-7. “Your time is always here. The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify about it that its works are evil.” Jesus says that the world does not hate them because they are not taking a stand for God and declaring the world’s works to be evil. There is something wrong when the world does not hate us. The scriptures teach this truth in many places.
Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you. (1 John 3:13 ESV)
Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted… (2 Timothy 3:12 ESV)
It is not that we seek out persecution. Nor do we seek to be inflammatory. We want people to listen to us and that will not happen by throwing Bible grenades at people. We are not to be caustic but we will live a life that teaches the truth of God’s will. We will be hated because we will stand on the teachings of God. The world cannot hate you when you belong to the world. We can consider that if we fit in with the world that there is something wrong. If our actions, our views, and our standards are the same as the world’s standards, then we belong to the world. If the world does not think that our actions, views, and standards are strange, then we are not with Jesus. The world is supposed to be surprised at how we live (1 Peter 4:4). Representing the Father will bring hostility.
So Jesus goes to the feast, but he does not go with the fanfare that his brothers were telling him to go. Verse 10 says that Jesus went to the feast privately. He did not make himself known. Verse 11 shows why. The whole city is looking for Jesus. Apparently the whole discussion in the city was about Jesus. People are looking for Jesus and they are talking about Jesus. The discussion that we read about in verse 12 is very similar to the discussions about Jesus today. Some think he is a good man. Some think he is leading the people astray. Few see Jesus for who he truly is. But no one will be open about him out of fear. No one is running around proclaiming Jesus because they fear the Jewish authorities. Few are willing to be vocal about Jesus today for fear of what people will say and think. But notice what happens now that Jesus is in Jerusalem.
Evidence of True Belief (7:14-18)
In the middle of the week during the feast Jesus went into the temple and started teaching. The Jews are amazed at his teaching because he does not teach like the others, nor has his teaching come from a formal rabbinical school. His teaching is from the Father. It was common to appeal to the teachings of earlier rabbis as the basis for one’s own teaching. Jesus is different. His teaching is not based on the writings and sayings of previous rabbis. His teaching is directly from the Father. Now we come to the heart of the message, which is found in verses 17-18.
If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority. The one who speaks on his own authority seeks his own glory; but the one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and in him there is no falsehood. (John 7:17-18 ESV)
Here is the picture of a true disciple: your will is to do the Father’s will. Discipleship is not about merely embracing certain ideas. Discipleship is the converting of our will to be the will of the Father. Anyone whose will is to do the Father’s will knows that Jesus’ teaching is from Father. The teachings of Jesus articulate the will of the Father. That is why Jesus’ teachings are so precious. No one has seen God except the Son and the Son reveals the will of the Father to us. The true disciple wants to do the will of the Father which has been taught to us by Jesus. Notice how verse 18 helps us understand the impact of this.
To speak on our own authority is to seek our own glory. The one who seeks the Father’s glory is true. The person who seeks the Father’s glory is a true disciple, truly belongs to God, and is truly a child of God. How do you know if you are a true disciple? You seek the Father’s glory alone, not your own. Sin is doing things for your own glory rather than God’s glory. We have a heart problem when we want people to glorify us and give attention to us rather than God. This is the crux of our problem. We want things to be about us. We want people to serve us. We want people to respect us and pay attention to us. Disciples love the glory of God. Disciples seek the glory of God. Disciples point to the glory of God, not ourselves. Loving the will of God leads to obedience (vs. 19).
How do we develop and increase our love for the Father’s glory? The way we increase our love for it is the same way we increase our love for anything in this life. I never cared about classical music at all. In fact, if you said the words “classical music” I would have found the idea completely revolting. However, to get my business degree, I was required to take a fine art in college. I hated this idea. Why does someone who is getting his degree in accounting have to take a dumb fine art class? So I took a semester of classical music. You may not believe what happened. I started to like classical music. I started to appreciate it and began to enjoy listening to various composers. Beethoven and Vivaldi became instant favorites for me. How did this happen? I did not want to like it. I did not really try to like it. But by exposure I began to appreciate classical music and then developed a joy for it. If you want to increase your love for the glory of the Father, spend your time looking at his glory, studying his greatness, and spending time with other lovers of the Father. This is how you will increase your love for God’s glory and diminish your love for yourself. Focus on the Father. Spend your time in his word. Gaze on his glory and you will love him more and more.