Post Title: Yeshua - The Boy Next Door
I want to elaborate upon Jn 7:1-12 because I think it contains—as all of Scripture does—such deep riches, so many jewels. Let’s begin by making some clarifications. In verse one, John writes that Jesus went about in Galilee. The Greek text literally says he walked around Galilee—a region in northwest Israel. It is a description of an itinerant rabbi (teacher) raising up disciples. He goes on foot from place to place, over the countryside to villages and towns. In synagogues and from house to house, Yeshua passes on words of life to those who have ears to hear.
Then notice John’s peculiar use of the term Jews. Jesus would not go about in Judea because the Jews were seeking to kill him (Luke 7:1). Jews is a term rarely used in the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. John, however, uses this term over 71 times in his gospel. We must slow down and make sure we understand his usage in context. Why? Because it is, to us, a derogatory term, one that has been the source of misunderstanding and even used to justify the abuse of Jewish people for two-thousand years.
John uses the phrase "the Jews" in a variety of ways.
First, he uses it simply to talk about his people. John records that Jesus attended a wedding in Cana and notes there were six stone jars containing water. He explains that the Jews used the water for ceremonial washings and for ritual purification. In this instance, he uses the term in a totally neutral sense. What a wonderful glimpse into the Jewish customs of the time.
Second, John uses the terminology "the Jews" in a very positive sense. He quotes Jesus saying, Salvation is of the Jews (4:22). Here is a profound truth, salvation has come to us through the Jews. In other words, we are in their debt. Paul makes this point powerfully in Romans. They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of Torah, the worship, and the promises (9:4). On top of all this, it is because of the Jews that we have a savior who is both a Jewish Messiah and Lord of heaven and earth.
Third, and in the most common sense for John, is his use of "the Jews" in a negative sense. Even here, as most scholars note, his negative usage has two reference points.
He speaks of the Jews geographically from the literal rendering of that word, Judeans. Israel is a slender piece of land that runs north and south. In the north, you have Galilee and the Sea of Galilee. Then there is the bread basket area of Israel, the Jezreel valley and all the lands that are nourished by the waters of the Jordan river which heads down towards Judea in the southern part of the land. Jerusalem is settled there in the mountains of Judea.
John uses the Jews to mean the Judeans, those uniquely associated with Judea. But more specifically, he uses it to mean the Jewish leaders. We know very clearly that these were the ones who were threatened by this messianic figure, Jesus of Nazareth. Their control and authority over Israel are threatened by anyone who dares to confront the temple complex with all of its ceremony, power, and corruption.
We see in all four gospels that these are the authorities who are after Jesus. And he keeps his distance from them, as John points out, until the right time. It makes so much more sense now, does it not? When we read statements like for fear of the Jews, it is not the Jewish people in general but the Jewish authorities and leaders being referenced.
John goes on to speak of the feast of Tabernacles. Now the Jews’ Feast of Booths was at hand. The terminology used in John is very consistent with Jewish tradition. Of the three pilgrim festivals found in Leviticus 23, this is the only one that came to be known as the Feast.
Zechariah 14 gives it eschatological importance because, in the end times, all the nations will stream up to Jerusalem to celebrate it. There is no longer a need for Passover sacrifices and no longer a need for a Pentecost because God’s Spirit will pervade all people. But there will always be a need for giving thanks—for Tabernacles, the festival of thanksgiving.
So his brothers said to him, “Leave here and go to Judea, that your disciples also may see the works you are doing. For no one works in secret if he seeks to be known openly. If you do these things, show yourself to the world.” For not even his brothers believed in him. - John 7:3-5
This has always been a fascinating text to me, and it is very instructive.
The older I get and the more I learn about Jesus, the more I grasp the fact that his own flesh and blood related to him only in the natural—initially at least—not in the supernatural. They grew up with him, they lived with him, and they did not believe that he was who he claimed to be.
Why does that make such an impression on me? Because it is the opposite for us. I think we have forgotten how human Jesus was.
If we're being honest, Jesus is such a supernatural figure that most of us have trouble relating to him as a person. Therefore, it doesn't make sense someone could have actually been with him and not believed who he was—Messiah, God in the flesh.
Years ago, I was invited to a small Ohio town to teach. Following the Sunday service, I went to a home owned by a woman who was highly esteemed in the community. At dinner, I learned that her deceased husband had been the sole banker in the town for many years, so they knew everyone. As she shared stories about this town over our meal, she kept mentioning a young man who had grown up there named Billy Gable.
At one point, my friend who had accompanied me leaned over and said she was talking about the actor Clark Gable. His name was William Clark Gable, and he grew up in this small Ohio town known to all as Billy. Yet all over the world, he was known as a bigger-than-life figure on the movie screen. He was the epitome of masculinity and virility in the classic Hollywood era. To the masses, Clark was this larger-than-life figure, strong, handsome and debonair. Whereas to the people in Cadiz, Ohio, he was simply Billy Gable.
My story illustrates the fact that you and I, for the most part, see Jesus projected on the theological screen of church history.
For twenty centuries now, he has been a bigger-than-life personality. We see him almost exclusively as the second person of the Trinity. As we read and study the gospels, we do well to remember the biblical principle of thinking with two hands. On the one hand, his divinity; on the other hand, his humanity.
Yes, he is the only Son of the One true God. Yet he grew up in Nazareth, a village of 300 to 400 people. To them, he was simply Yeshua, son of the handyman Yoseph and his wife Myriam.
That is what makes what happens next in John 7 so intriguing.
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This study is from a professionally produced transcription of the audio recording. It was edited for readability by the team at JC Studies.
Dwight A. Pryor (1945-2011) was a gifted Bible teacher of exceptional clarity and depth who earned the friendship and admiration of both Christian and Jewish scholars—in the United States and Israel—as well as the respect and appreciation of followers of Jesus around the world. His expertise in the language, literature, and culture of Israel during the life and time of Jesus and the early church yield insights that nourish every area of faith and practice.
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