The Jews moved through their calendar much like we do. In place of our holidays, they would celebrate with special Feasts. For us, we celebrate the Fourth of July with fireworks and patriotic music to commemorate July 4, 1776, the day the United States declared its independence from Great Britain. Every December 25, we celebrate Christmas and commemorate the birth of Jesus and his coming to set us free from our sin. Most cultures have special holidays - Cinco de Mayo in Mexico, Guy Fawkes Night in England, Bastille Day in France, Carnival in Brazil, Russia Day in Russia.
The Jewish culture is not much different. As we come to today’s text, John 7, we find a major Jewish holiday, the Feast of Tabernacles. During the Feast of Tabernacles, the Jewish people, especially in Jerusalem, built small little tents in from poles and cloth in front of their houses to commemorate the 40 years that Israel had wandered in the wilderness. Often they would eat meals and many would even sleep in these small tents/tabernacles. It was an eight day festival for which many would gather in Jerusalem and celebrate with their families the provision that God supplied for His people.
With massive crowds flooding into the city, it was assumed that Jesus would come directly into town at the beginning of the Feast of Tabernacles. John tells us that the religious leaders who wanted to kill Jesus were searching for Him at the beginning of the celebration, but were unable to find Him because He in His wisdom had avoided the first part of the celebration.
It was mid-week that Jesus showed up, having come secretly. Now that everyone was in Jerusalem, Jesus came into the temple and began teaching. The religious leaders wanted to capture Him when no one was around, perhaps in the middle of the mayhem and chaos of everyone coming into town. But now, everyone was settled in and Jesus had come to teach. If the religious leaders were going to capture Jesus they would have to do it in front of everyone. This was an option that they certainly didn’t prefer, so they would have to figure another way to capture Him to kill Him.
Throughout John, we see a pretty consistent theme. Jesus is teaching, but the majority of people don’t accept Him. Even here in John 7, He teaches and they don’t know what to do about His teaching. Many of them had deserted Him in John 6 because the Spirit had not chosen to open their hearts to understand the truth, so they viewed His teaching as too difficult to understand.
They refused to acknowledge that He was Divine. Understandably, they did not want to acknowledge it. Many of them knew He was from Galilee and more than likely He had a Galilean accent. This would be like us hearing someone speak with a thick country accent and claim divinity. Especially if we knew he was from Mississippi, we would naturally question his claims of divinity. The same difficulty was happening for the Jews in Jerusalem that had gathered for the Feast of Tabernacles.
Even if they didn’t fully understand, Jesus would not leave them without help. He continued to teach and to lovingly instruct them. For most of them, it would be a few years before they fully understood, but He would continue to shower them with the truth so that God would use His Holy Spirit to open their eyes and regenerate their souls.
Food For Thought: Why did Jesus wait and then come to the Feast secretly? What were a couple reasons that those hearing the teachings of Jesus had a hard time believing that He was truly divine?