John 7:1-9: These verses are rather strange and I am not sure what is here for our own journeys, but we can sometimes be surprised. John’s Jesus spends much more time in Judea and Jerusalem than Jesus did in the other gospels. Here he is spending time in Galilee because of the threats of “the Jews.” Again, we need to remember the polemic context in which John was writing. It is evident from all the gospels that Jesus first followers were Jewish so he has not been opposed by all Jews. John also indicates that Jesus has disciples in Judea, something not mentioned in the other gospels. Jesus’ brothers (the Greek term may also include “sisters”) encourage him to go to Judea. John indicates that the brothers do not believe. They don’t get what he is about, and that he is doing things in God’s way and God’s time, not at the behest of others. If we can take anything from these verses, perhaps it is that going God’s way may mean even some of our closest relatives will not understand.
John 7:10-31: For whatever reason, Jesus decides to go to the festival, where he is met with mixed reactions. A rabbi named Edwin Friedman, who has written some insightful books about church leadership once said “no good deed goes unpunished.” He meant by this that anytime someone invites people to change there is resistance, some strong and some less so. The basic message Jesus conveys in these verses is that persons should judge with “right judgment.” In John’s gospel, it is not only those who oppose Jesus who fail to judge with right judgment, but also some of those who think Jesus a good person. Even some of these people fail to grasp the deeper meaning of what they experience in Jesus (Nicodemus, for example).
John 7:32-36: The controversy over Jesus continues, and some Jewish authorities seek to arrest him. For John, however, nothing will happen outside of God’s time, and the time for Jesus death has not yet come. However, the time is not far off, Jesus says he will be with them for only a little longer. As so often in John’s gospel, Jesus words, which are symbolic, are misunderstood because they are taken too literally. Ironically, within the context of John’s time, the Jesus movement had already become more Gentile than Jewish. The teaching of Jesus had reached out to the Greeks. No doubt John knew that and appreciated the irony of his words here.
John 7:37-39: As a part of the festival of Booths or Tabernacles, the priest poured fresh water on the altar as an offering to God. Jesus seems to use that imagery to make another point about what God is up to in his life. These are beautiful words of invitation, inviting people to open their lives to Jesus and the Spirit of God which is at work in him and which will be given to those who follow Jesus. John’s gospel makes use of a wonderful variety of images, and that perhaps says something about how we, too, should share about our faith. If one image does not seem to work well, we can find others.
John 7:40-44: As has often happened in this chapter, Jesus words are met with a mixed reaction. There is debate and division, some no doubt reflecting debates the Jesus community of John were engaged in with other, including other Jews. It is interesting to note that John does not seem aware of a tradition about Jesus that he was born in Bethlehem.
John 7:45-53: Controversy about Jesus rages on, even in the places of highest authority. Nicodemus seems sympathetic. Verse 53 is not in the oldest manuscripts of John’s gospel – but more about that idea in chapter 8.