This chapter begins with discussions about whether or not Jesus would travel to Jerusalem to attend the Feast of Tabernacles. This feast, also known as “Festival of Booths” was a week-long celebration of God’s provision of the nation during the 40 years in the Wilderness as well as for the late summer harvest (see Lev. 23:34-43; Deut. 16:13-15). It was one of the three pilgrimage festivals to which Jewish men were expected to travel (Deut. 16:16). While at the festival, the attendees would live in temporary huts in remembrance of the way their ancestors lived during their trek through the Wilderness.
Jesus’ brothers (James, Joseph, Judas and Simon according to Mark 6:3) are encouraging Jesus to attend the Feast, and they have good worldly logic: You can’t be a public figure if you don’t show yourself to the people, and everybody will be there. They do not seem to believe in their brother at this point, and this seems a little bit like a nice brotherly taunt. We know that after Jesus’ resurrection they came to belief and were important leaders in the Jerusalem church. (Gal. 2:9)
Jesus tells His brothers that He won’t go because His time has not yet come. Notice the reference in v. 1 that there were some who were awaiting His arrival to kill Him. This statement on His part is meaning that the time for His death on the cross was still in the future for His earthly ministry was not yet completed. He also makes another interesting observation in v. 7: The world hates Him because He testifies that they do evil. Of course that isn’t what people usually enjoy hearing and His brothers are not involved in this, since they don’t believe Him anyway. They can pack up and go any time… Verses 10-13 tell of Jesus’ going later to the Feast and of the whisperings of the Jews at Jerusalem.
Jesus arrives secretly and suddenly appears at the Temple and begins teaching. Those who hear Him are amazed at the power of His teaching, and in typical worldly fashion wonder how He could teach like this without being formally trained. A similar situation today might occur if we heard great teaching from someone who hadn’t been to College; it wouldn’t occur to anyone that the Holy Spirit might be involved.
In vv. 16-19 Jesus is responding to their wonder. In vv. 16-17 He tells them that His teaching is from the Father and not from Himself. He makes an interesting comment here when He says that anyone who chooses to do God’s will can tell where His teaching came from. The word “chooses” is the one to focus on, for it says so much! Do we “choose” to do God’s will, or do we “choose” to do our own? If doing God’s will is a choice, then when we do not do His will that must also be a choice, and if we are not doing God’s will we cannot blame anyone or anything except ourselves, for we have chosen our path. We have made a choice even when we decide not to decide. In other words, if we choose to consider doing God’s will later… we have just chosen not to do His will now. I don’t know about you, but for me that’s a little bit convicting!
In 18-19, Jesus moves in another direction; one that has an interesting logic. If a man speaks for Himself, he does so to gain honor for himself, that is to say he does it so that his audience will applaud. Keep in mind that many want Him dead… He is using this obvious observation as demonstration that His teaching came from God; He certainly isn’t gaining honor if everybody wants Him dead. Then He mentions the Law of Moses, saying that none of His hearers have kept the Law. (Breaking the Law carries a death sentence). This is to say that those who condemn Him are the ones who deserve to die.
If Jesus was trying to win the praise and honor of men, what He says in verses 20-24 is a poor way to go about it. The reaction to His last comment above is strong: You’re nuts! Who (as if they didn’t know) is trying to kill you? In 21-23 He refers to the incident that got the leaders all riled up which was His healing of the crippled man at the pool in chapter 5 on the Sabbath. He uses the example of circumcision, which must be done on the eighth day Sabbath or no as a justification of His miracle being done on that day, accusing people of making their judgments on mere appearances and not being willing to think through the actual truth of a situation. He finishes by calling on them to start making better judgments. In this, He speaks the truth plainly, so much so that He isn’t likely to gain any love from those to whom it applies. This is an interesting example for us because you will notice that in this case, Jesus wasn’t exactly being overly concerned about their delicate feelings…