John 7:14 – John 8:59
John tells us that Jesus went up to Jerusalem in secret for the Feast of Tabernacles (John 7:1), but in the middle of the 8 day festival he goes up to the temple and begins to teach in public (John 7:14). The Feast of Tabernacles was a one of three festivals where Jews were required to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem to worship God at the temple, so you can imagine how the population in the city swelled during that time of year. The feast was a holiday not unlike our Thanksgiving, a celebration of the harvest that God provided for the year. But the feast also pointed back to the time when God provided for Israel during 40 years of wandering in the wilderness after leaving slavery in Egypt and entering the Promised Land.
There were several traditions that kept the desert memories alive. Jews lived in tents during the eight day festival to remember their ancestors who lived in tents during their 40 year wandering. Second, there was a ritual pouring out of water in memory of when God caused water to come out of a rock (Exodus 17:1-7). Third, there was a torch lighting ceremony in the temple to remind the people of God’s pillar of flame that led them through the wilderness.
As you read through John 7 and 8 notice how Jesus uses these Feast of Tabernacles images and invests them with fuller and deeper meaning.
- “Streams of Living Water” (John 7:37-38)
- “I am the light of the world” (John 8:12)
John 7:14-36. What are some of the objections raised against Jesus and his teaching? How does Jesus answer them? In case you are wondering, the 10 Commandments forbid work on the Sabbath (Saturday). Many Jewish Law experts considered healing to be work and therefore argued that Jesus was in violation of the Sabbath Law.
John 7:37-52. What is the true “stream of living water” according to Jesus? How do you receive it? Why do some of the crowds believe Jesus? Why do the religious authorities reject him?
John 8:12-20. When Israel was wandering in the desert, the ‘light of the world’ was God’s pillar of fire. Who is the true light of the world according to Jesus? In Jewish Law, all testimony had to confirmed by two or three witnesses. Who is it that confirms Jesus’ teaching? How is Jesus related to God the Father?
John 8:21-32. What are the Jews missing in Jesus’ teaching? What does it take to a be a disciple (or follower) of Jesus?
John 8:33-47. The Jews understood their status as “children of Abraham” as a biological or genetic fact that could be lost only through really bad behavior. What does it take to be a true child of Abraham (same as a child of God) according to Jesus? What does a true child do? Why can’t Jesus’ opponents ‘hear’ his teaching?
John 8:47-59. Who does Jesus claim to be? Why does this drive Jesus’ opponents to try to take his life?
Mark 8:11-21 (Sunday Reading)
Why do you think Jesus refuses to perform a miracle for the Pharisees just after feeding 4000 people with seven loaves of bread? The Pharisees and Herod represented opposite ends of the political spectrum in Israel. The Pharisees were people who achieved their status by meticulously following the law of God. Herod achieved his status through raw and brutal power. Why do you think Jesus lumps them both into the same category? How is following Jesus different from both the Pharisees and Herod?