17 July 2017

John 7:14-24

“Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgement” (v. 24)

Psalm: Psalm 37:1-11


Today's passage comes from a tense period in Jesus' ministry. He has come to Jerusalem to participate in the Festival of Booths, or Tabernacles. This was a lively and exciting seven-day feast, when many Jews would make the pilgrimage to the holy city and participate in the extensive rituals and celebrations there. This was a dangerous place for Jesus to be, though, because many of his enemies were already "looking for an opportunity to kill him" (John 7:1). Nevertheless, he resolutely came to Jerusalem halfway through the festival and even went to the most public place in the city, the temple, to teach (verse 14).

The crowd's reaction Jesus is marked by amazement at his learning and erudition. They literally ask, "How does this man know his letters?" (v. 15) ('grammata' in Greek). They wonder how he can speak so well, when he has not apparently undergone formal training or study. Matthew records similar amazement in his Gospel (Matthew 7:29). Jesus' teaching is seemingly noteworthy for them because he does not claim authority to teach by citing learned precedents but simply speaks with seemingly divine authority.

In his response to the crowd, Jesus refers to a miracle he had previously performed in Jerusalem, healing a man at the Pool of Beth-zatha (John 5:1-18). This healing had taken place on the Sabbath (John 5:9), which had angered many of Jesus' opponents. Here, though, Jesus defends himself by pointing out that the traditional Jewish rite of circumcision always took place on the eighth day after a baby boy had been born, regardless of whether it was the Sabbath day or not (verses 22-23; see also Leviticus 12:3). He notes that the Law did not come entirely from Moses (verse 22; see Genesis 17:9-14) but also from the patriarchs. He also makes clear that they are not really seeking to follow the will of God as revealed in the law of Moses because some of them are seeking to kill him, an innocent man, despite the strict injunction of the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:13).

To Ponder

  • What does this passage tell you about who Jesus is?
  • Why do you think some people struggled to accept Jesus as one who had been sent by God?
  • How do you judge people, especially those in authority? To what extent is their appearance and style as a speaker more important than what they say?

Bible notes author

The Revd Geoffrey Farrar

Geoffrey Farrar is a presbyter in the Richmond and Hounslow Circuit, where he has pastoral charge of three churches in Barnes, Putney and Roehampton. He trained at Wesley House in Cambridge and has recently completed an MA in Ancient History with the University of Trinity Saint David.