Chapter 7 opens with a great interaction between Jesus and his brothers. Listen to their concern and consider why Jesus disagrees with them. One of John’s purposes has been to allow Jesus to speak for Himself, and you can tuck this into the mix as Jesus’ character is developed.
You’ll hopefully remember that the Feast of Booths was a weeklong celebration of how God had provided for Israel in the desert, when they lived in “booths” – in other places called “tabernacles” or just “tents.” According to Leviticus 23, the Israelites were to build tents and spend the week in rest and feasting, and to “take the fruit of splendid trees, branches of palm trees and boughs of leafy trees and willows of the brook, and…rejoice before the Lord your God seven days.”
This is the context of the sermon in chapter 7, which is spurred on by statements of the Jews, such as: “Some were saying, ‘He is a good man,…But others, ‘No, he is leading the people astray.’” and “How is it that this man has learning, when He has never studied?” And another: “Can it be that the authorities really know that this is the Christ?” Pay attention to John’s observation for why people were afraid both to speak openly about Him and to imprison Him.
Chapter 8 is again driven by statements of the Jews: Consider their declaration that “Abraham is our father” with the memory of Genesis fresh in your mind. Listen for the subtlety in “Are we not right in saying that you are a Samaritan and have a demon?” And then listen to the tense change when Jesus asserts: “Before Abraham was, I am.” Is that an echo of Exodus 3 – the voice out of the burning bush?
In most Bibles, a note is attached to verses 7:53 through 8:11 that reads “The earliest manuscripts do not include this passage.” This gospel was written over 1,900 years ago, and was copied down by Christians who were often on the run. No full manuscripts exist from John’s lifetime, and the earliest fragments do not include this passage. It is possible that this story is an authentic tradition that a copyist inserted, but the grammar and word use are different from John’s style. In any case, it’s simplest for us to read straight through, and I encourage you to talk with your church about these issues.
Our verse for this week is John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”
John 7 and 8. Now let’s read it!