Jesus’ discouragement only begins in chapter 6. It quickly gets worse.
(John 7:1-8 ESV) After this Jesus went about in Galilee. He would not go about in Judea, because the Jews were seeking to kill him. 2 Now the Jews’ Feast of Booths was at hand. 3 So his brothers said to him, “Leave here and go to Judea, that your disciples also may see the works you are doing. 4 For no one works in secret if he seeks to be known openly. If you do these things, show yourself to the world.” 5 For not even his brothers believed in him. 6 Jesus said to them, “My time has not yet come, but your time is always here. 7 The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify about it that its works are evil. 8 You go up to the feast. I am not going up to this feast, for my time has not yet fully come.”
Jesus couldn’t go to Judea without being killed. Even his physical brothers lacked faith in him. Jesus declared that the world “hates me.” Indeed, Jesus knew it wasn’t yet time for his crucifixion and yet couldn’t do his work as God’s Messiah without risking arrest and death too soon.
Imagine what it must have been like to hear his brothers say, “If you do these things, show yourself to the world” — showing both doubt and a cavalier atttitude toward his life!
(John 7:9-11 ESV) 9 After saying this, he remained in Galilee. 10 But after his brothers had gone up to the feast, then he also went up, not publicly but in private. 11 The Jews were looking for him at the feast, and saying, “Where is he?”
By now, Jesus was something of a celebrity, and he’d been in Jerusalem at feast time before. The Feast of Booths drew crowds from across the land, celebrating the dedication of the Tabernacle and reminding the Jews of their time in the desert traveling with God toward the Promised Land. They expected Jesus to show. It was a major, national event.
Of course, the symbolism would be powerful, as God himself appeared in the midst of the Israelites in the Tabernacle and led them on their journey to the Promised Land. For Jesus to appear at the feast could even symbolize, to the Eastern mind, Jesus’ claim to be God.
(John 7:12-13 ESV) 12 And there was much muttering about him among the people. While some said, “He is a good man,” others said, “No, he is leading the people astray.” 13 Yet for fear of the Jews no one spoke openly of him.
You can imagine the rumors and debates. Many in Jerusalem would have traveled there from other countries. Others would have seen Jesus do miracles. Others would have heard his speeches or John’s testimony about him.
(This passage importantly demonstrates the idiom of using “the Jews” to refer to the Jewish leadership rather than the people generally.)
(John 7:14-15 ESV) 14 About the middle of the feast Jesus went up into the temple and began teaching. 15 The Jews therefore marveled, saying, “How is it that this man has learning, when he has never studied?”
If I were the script writer, I’d have had Jesus do a great miracle or another cleansing. It seems that it’s time for something dramatic — but Jesus (who is far wiser than I am) chose merely to teach.
And yet his teaching was so wise and learned that those present were astonished that he could teach that well with no formal education.
(John 7:16 ESV) 16 So Jesus answered them, “My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me.”
Jesus is claiming inspiration. This makes him, at least, a prophet.
(John 7:17-18 ESV) 17 “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. 18 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.”
Jesus thens explains how to tell who teaches for the glory of God: Does the speaker seek his own glory or the glory of God?
(John 7:19-20 ESV) 19 “Has not Moses given you the law? Yet none of you keeps the law. Why do you seek to kill me?” 20 The crowd answered, “You have a demon! Who is seeking to kill you?”
“You have a demon” is the equivalent of “You’re crazy!” They were having a nice, polite conversation, and then Jesus accuses them of trying to kill him. Why?
(John 7:21-24 ESV) 21 Jesus answered them, “I did one work, and you all marvel at it. 22 Moses gave you circumcision (not that it is from Moses, but from the fathers), and you circumcise a man on the Sabbath. 23 If on the Sabbath a man receives circumcision, so that the law of Moses may not be broken, are you angry with me because on the Sabbath I made a man’s whole body well? 24 Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.”
Jesus refers to the healing he’d done at the last feast (likely Pentecost, six months earlier), where he’d healed a lame man on the Sabbath.
Jesus now offers a rabbinic argument. The Law of Moses says to circumcise an infant on the eighth day. It also says not to work on the Sabbath. What do you do when the eighth day falls on a Saturday?
They circumcised the infant, reasoning that the command to circumcise is “higher” than the command to not work on the Sabbath. Obviously, Jesus reasons, the command to love our neighbor by healing him is higher than the Sabbath law.
“Do not judge by appearances” here means “Do not judge superficially.”
“Right judgment” is often translated “righteous judgment,” that is, “Judge as God judges.” Judge with the heart of God — and God has a heart for the lame! You see, you can’t interpret God’s laws unless you understand (and have) the heart of God.
(John 7:25-26 ESV) 25 Some of the people of Jerusalem therefore said, “Is not this the man whom they seek to kill? 26 And here he is, speaking openly, and they say nothing to him! Can it be that the authorities really know that this is the Christ?
Jesus began simply enough, merely teaching and demonstrating his divine wisdom. But then he intentionally recalls his healing on the Sabbath — essentially begging to reinstitute that controversy at the risk of his own life.
The crowd well understands the danger Jesus was placing himself in. They even wonder why the authorities are afraid to arrest him.
(John 7:27-29 ESV) 27 “But we know where this man comes from, and when the Christ appears, no one will know where he comes from.” 28 So Jesus proclaimed, as he taught in the temple, “You know me, and you know where I come from. But I have not come of my own accord. He who sent me is true, and him you do not know. 29 I know him, for I come from him, and he sent me.”
Although the Prophets are clear about the location of Jesus’ birth, uninspired Jewish literature of the day speculated that the origins of the Messiah would be unknown.
(John 7:30 ESV) 30 So they were seeking to arrest him, but no one laid a hand on him, because his hour had not yet come.
In other words, God didn’t want him arrested, and so he wasn’t arrested. Indeed, the implication seems to be that Jesus initially hesitated going to Jerusalem because his time had not yet come. Then he realized that if his time had not yet come, God would make sure that his time did not come. It’s just that simple.