John 7 – 10 is a large section in which Jesus is teaching the temple, in the context of the Feast of Tabernacles. These chapters narrate also the reactions and responses of people to the revelation of Jesus. John 7 develops the theme of “Living Water” which was introduced in John 3 and further clarified in John 4. John 7 is an important turning point of this thematic development which will climax in John 19: 34. The theme of “The Temple” too was introduced in John 2: 13-25 and finds a crucial moment of development in this section of John 7 – 10; because through his teaching inside the temple, the official religious context, Jesus is interpreting the very meaning and relevance of “The Temple”.
Structure of John 7
The narration begins with the dialogue between Jesus and his brothers. John 7 ends with the discussion among the Jewish leaders about Jesus. In both, the theme is “unbelief”. Between these we have the narration of Jesus’ teaching in the temple and the reactions of the people to the same. The organisation of the John 7 can be depicted as follows: –
John 7: 1-9 – Jesus and his brothers
John 7: 10-44 – Jesus’ teaching in the temple and reactions
John 7: 45-52 – Jewish leaders about Jesus
John 7: 10-44 can be further divided in the following manner: –
John 7: 10-13 – People searching for Jesus
John 7: 14-36 – Jesus’ teaching & reactions of people & officials
John 7: 37-39 – the central revelation
John 7: 40-44 – Reactions of the people
Context of John 7
The context of John 7 is that of open confrontation from the part of Jesus. Jesus confronts his brothers, the crowds, and the officials of Jews. The presence of Jesus inside the temple is of paramount importance for the prophetic character of his teaching. He is reinterpreting the meaning of the central institution of Jewish religion through his presence and his words. The idea of the new temple was introduced in John 2: 13-25. The nature of the new temple is being revealed by Jesus.
Feast of Tabernacles
The context of the Feast of Tabernacles is essentially important for understanding the prophetic message of Jesus’ revelatory statement. This feast was in the Jewish month of Tishri (in our calendar: September – October). This was celebrated to remember the experience of Israelites in the wilderness during their Exodus. During their sojourn in the wilderness, they had no permanent houses but were dwelling in the tents. To experience this, on eight days of the feast, they used to dwell in the tents. Again, this feast was a memorial of the miraculous provisions God made for Israelites in the wilderness, such as water, Manna, and meat. God was the source of their life and prosperity. In expression of this theme, they had the ceremony of prayer for rain all the eight days of the feast.
It consisted mainly of a procession of Priests, Levites, and the people from the fountain of Gihon to the temple. While the priest carries a jar of water collected from the fountain of Gihon, the people are supposed to take with them a lemon and the sprigs of myrtle plant and of velvet osier which are the symbols of prosperity and life. Myrtle is an evergreen plant with white flowers growing abundantly in the deserts. The priest will carry the water to the holy place and pour on the altar. During the procession the Priests and Levites will be singing Hallel Psalms. Finally, when the water is poured they will sing Isaiah 12: 3 “With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation”. They believed that through this ceremony they would get abundant rain and harvest. This procession was very solemn on the eighth day. It is in the context of this solemn procession, Jesus is giving his central revelation.
Jesus’ identity and his wisdom are the points of controversy among the Jews. People are divided on account of Jesus. Jesus speaks about his departure from the earth, through his passion, death, and resurrection. This is a theme to be developed in the Second Book (The Book of Glory) of the Gospel of John.