When Jesus and His followers returned to Capernaum from their short teaching trip, only a few people remained in town. The majority of the population had left to travel to Jerusalem for the Feast of Booths.
“So we aren’t going to the feast, Teacher?” Matthew asked what they were all wondering.
“Actually we are going,” Jesus returned. “I just didn’t want anyone to know we’re going.
“My friends, things have changed, and we are going to have to do things differently from now on. Our enemies have become more focused in their plans to destroy Me, but I cannot let them succeed until My time has fully come. Get whatever we need to take with us. We will leave for Jerusalem tomorrow morning.”
“I’ve never seen it like this before!” Aaron of Bethphage said to his brother-in-law Tobias as they entered the temple in Jerusalem. “The Pharisees are harassing everyone.”
“I know!” Tobias agreed. “They’re all looking for the teacher Jesus.”
“They want to kill him,” Aaron said confidently. “I’ve heard them talking. It’s not just the Pharisees either. The chief priests and all the Sadducees are in on it as well.”
“The guy heals people, casts out demons, and teaches people about God,” Tobias shot back. “He’s a good man. They should leave him alone.”
“No, he’s not a good man!” said a man standing nearby that neither of them knew. “Jesus is a liar, and he’s leading the people astray. I’ve heard that he even claims to be the Son of God! That’s blasphemy!”
“You don’t know what you’re talking about!” a different man growled loudly. “Jesus healed a lot of people in my town! He’s a good man, an’ I’ll punch anyone in the face who says otherwise!”
With a glance at each other, Aaron and Tobias slipped away from the argument.
After two days of searching for Jesus at the feast and not finding Him, the religious leaders finally concluded that the controversial teacher must have decided not to come. All of the people they had enlisted to help capture and kill Jesus were told to stand down and go enjoy the feast. The very next day, a man with his prayer shawl on his head wove his way through the crowd of worshipers at the temple. Arriving at some steps near the center of Solomon’s Porch, the man pulled off the shawl.
“Look, it’s Jesus, the teacher from Galilee!” a voice nearby cried out, and the multitude drew near.
In a loud, clear voice, Jesus began to speak to the people. He told them a story about a rich man who was not rich toward God and the terrible consequences he faced. Jesus told them how much the Father cares for them and that they should trust in Him and not worry about things. “If you’re going to seek after something,” He said, “then seek after God’s reign in your life. That’s the most important thing. If you do that, then God will take care of everything else.”
When it was reported to the religious leaders that Jesus was in the temple speaking to the people, they were stunned and sent two of their number to see if the report was true. The spies couldn’t get close to Jesus because of the crowd, but they could see Him and could clearly hear His words. After listening to the Teacher for several minutes, one of the Pharisees asked his companion, “He’s from some podunk place in Galilee, right?”
“Right,” came the answer.
“And he’s never been educated, right?”
“Well, listen to his reasoning, his stories, his message….How did he get all this learning?”
As soon as the Pharisee asked this of his companion, Jesus called out, “My teaching is not Mine, but His who sent Me.”
The Pharisees were dumbfounded. “There’s no way he could have heard me ask that,” the first one said. “We’re too far away!”
“He shouldn’t have been able to,” the second answered, “but He’s looking straight at us.”
“If you’re ready to do God’s will,” Jesus called over the crowd, “then you will know if My teaching comes from Me or the One who sent Me. He who speaks his own words seeks his own glory. But I came speaking My Father’s words. I am doing this for God’s glory, not Mine. My motives are righteous, and you can trust these words.”
“He is talking to us, Isaac!” the second Pharisee exclaimed. “He has not taken his eyes off us.”
“He’s creepy!” Isaac answered in almost a whisper. “No wonder the leaders want to kill him.”
“Did not Moses give you the law?” Jesus called again, still looking over the large multitude and at the two Pharisees in the distance. “But instead of keeping the Law, you are planning on breaking it by trying to kill me.”
Even though the Teacher stood some distance away, it became obvious to the people around them that Jesus was looking at the Pharisees as He spoke, and many had turned to stare at the two. That was too much for Isaac, and he screamed back, “You have a demon! Who is trying to kill you?”
“I did one miracle, and all of you were amazed,” Jesus continued, “but because I did it on a Sabbath, you are ready to kill me.
“Circumcision came through Abraham, and Moses wrote about it in the Law. He said that you are to circumcise a boy on the eighth day. But what happens if that day falls on a Sabbath? You break your Sabbath rules by circumcising him anyway so that the Law of Moses won’t be broken.”
“What’s he getting at?” the irritated and embarrassed Isaac snarled at his friend.
“If a child receives circumcision on the Sabbath to keep from breaking the Law, why are you mad at Me because I made a person completely well on the Sabbath?”
“He got you there, Pharisee!” a man standing beside the two said with a chuckle, and many around them began to laugh.
Jesus called once again over the noise of the crowd. “Do not judge based on the way it appears to you, but look at a situation through God’s eyes so that your judgment will be based on righteousness.”
“Isn’t this the man they are trying to kill?” Aaron of Bethphage said to his brother-in-law Tobias, who happened to be standing near the Pharisees. “And look, He’s standing right there in front of everybody teaching publicly, but the religious leaders aren’t saying anything to Him. The rulers don’t know that He’s the Christ, do they?”
Isaac the Pharisee overheard Aaron’s words and snapped back an uninvited response. “This man can’t be the Christ because we know where he’s from. The Christ will be a man of mystery. No one will know where he is from.”
Suddenly Jesus’ voice rang out over the noise of the crowd. “So you think you know Me and know where I’m from.”
“He’s looking at us again,” Isaac’s companion said.
“I have not come of myself,” Jesus called. “My Father is the One Who sent Me, and He can only speak the truth. But you don’t know Him. I know Him because I am from Him. He sent Me to speak His words to you.”
“ENOUGH OF THIS!” Isaac shouted back over the crowd. “SOMEONE SEIZE THAT MAN!”
In response to this, all Aaron heard was chuckles from the crowd. “Seize Him yourself, Pharisee!” someone called back.
“So what do you think about Jesus, Tobias?” Aaron asked his brother-in-law.
“When the Christ comes,” Tobias answered, “will He perform more signs and teach more truth than this man has? I don’t think so.”
Again Isaac heard the nearby conversation. Infuriated, he decided to take matters into his own hands. “Come on!” he ordered his companion. Rushing back to the religious leaders who sent them, the two Pharisees quickly went to the chief priests to get them to arrest the offensive teacher. Because the rulers didn’t think Jesus was coming to the feast, they had already disbanded those they had recruited to capture the teacher and were now having a hard time gathering a force to do it. After most of two days, the desperate religious leaders finally had to resort to only sending a few temple guards to apprehend Jesus. As all of this was taking place, the miracle working preacher from Nazareth continued to speak each day in the temple.
Jesus taught the people regarding the kingdom using stories about catching fish, harvesting crops, planting mustard seeds, and shepherding sheep to make His points. He told them how much God loved them and the wonderful life the Father wanted to give them, if they would give up their lives of sin and believe in the One the Father had sent.
“For a little while longer I am with you,” Jesus said to the crowd, knowing that the rulers were renewing their plans to kill Him. “Then I go to Him Who sent Me. My enemies will seek Me, but they will not find Me. Where I am going they cannot come.”
Some of the Pharisees who were in the crowd listening to Him were bothered by this statement. “Where does this man intend to go that we cannot find him?” one said. “He’s not going to the cities across the Jordan to teach the Greeks, is he?”
“That sounds like the kind of Messiah he would be…a Greek lover,” another shot back hatefully.
On the last day of the feast, as Jesus told them once again of the beautiful life He came to give them, he cried out loudly, “If anyone is thirsty for that wonderful life, let them come to Me and drink all they want! He who believes in Me, as the Scripture says, From his inner most being shall flow rivers of living water.
When Jesus finished His message, he gathered His disciples. They began to make their way through the crowd, and surprisingly, no one tried to stop them.
“Teacher,” John asked as he walked beside Jesus, “is the living water you spoke about today the same living water that You said You talked about with the Samaritan woman?”
“It is,” Jesus returned. “The living water that the Father will give to all who believe in Me is His life-giving Spirit. Just think of it! The very Spirit of God will be a constant source of life and peace for the one who trusts in Me!”
“Well, I trust in you, Teacher!” John returned enthusiastically. “When do I get the Spirit of God?”
“The Father has not sent the Spirit yet,” Jesus answered, “but He will after I am glorified. And when the Spirit comes to you, He will cause you to remember all My words, He will explain God’s word to you, He will empower your prayers, and He will give you all you need to live a life that fully pleases the Father. He will do that for ALL who believe in Me…and it will be wonderful!”
By Alan W. Harris
(Inspired by John 7:9-39)