New Testament Lesson 17 (John 7–10)

INTRODUCTION

Turning Toward Jerusalem

● Elder Bruce R. McConkie said, “It was autumn in Galilee. The annual Feast of the Tabernacles was near at hand, and Jesus, like many of his Jewish countrymen, was planning to attend the great celebration in Jerusalem . . . Jesus was leaving Galilee forever; his great Galilean ministry was ended. In Judea and Perea his voice would yet be heard, his mighty works seen. But the course of his life was toward the cross, and he was steadfast and immovable in his determination to follow this very course, one laid out for him by his Father. He had said of himself through the mouth of Isaiah, ‘I set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be ashamed.’ (Isaiah 50:7) Clearly, there was to be no turning back.”1

● The festival was an unusual opportunity for Jesus to publicly declare his divine mission, and His disciples urged Him to do so (John 7:1–9).

— His disciples said: “If thou do these things, shew thyself to the world.”
— Jesus rejected the suggestion, and delayed his departure for a few days.
— “Go ye up unto this feast,” he told his brethren.

● Jesus was protected until the time came for his sacrifice (John 7:8, 30; 8:20, 59).

● Then “when the time came . . . [Jesus] stedfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem” (Luke 9:51).

JESUS ATTENDS THE FEAST OF TABERNACLES

● The Feast of Tabernacles was an annual Jewish feast held six months after the Feast of the Passover [the first week of October]. It lasted eight days and commemorated the Lord’s blessings to the children of Israel during their travels in the wilderness. It also celebrated the year’s harvest and marked the end of the harvest season. The Jews considered this feast the greatest and most joyful of all their feasts.2

The Controversy Concerning Jesus

● The people anticipated his arrival and debated whether he was a man of God (John 7:10–13).

● The people were amazed at Jesus’ teachings because he was not a “man of letters” (John 7:14–15).

● Jesus’ doctrine was from God—which could be found out by doing what He taught (John 7:16–17).

● The Jews willingly broke the law of Moses—lying and seeking to kill (John 7:18–20).

● The divisions of opinion continued among the people (John 7:25–32).

Jesus Teaches Concerning “Living Water”

● The ceremony of the “outpouring of the water” was a central part of the Feast of Tabernacles. This offering was made to request rain and the success of the next year’s crops.

— Elder James E. Talmage said, “As part of the temple service incident to the feast [the Feast of Tabernacles], the people went in procession to the Pool of Siloam where a priest filled a golden ewer, which he then carried to the altar and there poured out the water to the accompaniment of trumpet blasts and the acclamations of the assembled hosts. According to authorities on Jewish customs, this feature was omitted on the closing day of the feast. On this last or ‘great day,’ which was marked by ceremonies of unusual solemnity and rejoicing, Jesus was again in the temple.”3

● The “living water” of which Jesus spoke was the Spirit, which is given to the righteous (John 7:37–38).

— Alfred Edersheim said, “Jesus stood and cried, ‘If any one thirst, let him come unto Me and drink!’ It must have been with special reference to the ceremony of the outpouring of the water, which .. was considered the central part of the service. Moreover, all would understand that His words must refer to the Holy Spirit, since the rite was universally regarded as symbolical of His outpouring.”4

● As Jesus taught, the people continued to be divided in their opinion of him (John 7:39–53). Nicodemus defended Jesus among the Sanhedrin.

A Woman Taken in Adultery Is Brought to Jesus

● We learn much about the Savior’s patterns of behavior from these verses (John 8:1–3).

● The scribes and Pharisees brought the adulterous woman to Jesus, hoping to trap Jesus into condemning the woman to death or contradicting the law of Moses (John 8:4–9).

— Jesus said that “he who is without sin” should cast the first stone.
— The hypocrisy of her accusers was that they themselves were adulterers
— They skulked away, convicted by their own consciences.
— Notice that the older men were the first to recognize their culpability
— The younger, more emotionally charged men were the last to admit guilt.

● Jesus did not approve of the woman’s sin, but he did not condemn her for it (John 8:10–11). President Spencer W. Kimball said, “Did the Lord forgive the woman? Could he forgive her? There seems to be no evidence of forgiveness. His command to her was, ‘Go, and sin no more.’ He was directing the sinful woman to go her way, abandon her evil life, commit no more sin, transform her life. He was saying, Go, woman, and start your repentance; and he was indicating to her the beginning step—to abandon her transgressions.”5

THE LIGHT, THE TRUTH, & THE GREAT “I AM”

“I Am the Light of the World”

● During the Feast of Tabernacles, the temple in Jerusalem was illuminated by flames from four huge (50 cubits high) candelabra which could be seen throughout the city.6

● Jesus took advantage of the situation to declare, “I am the light of the world” (John 8:12).

— Modern scripture explains the ways in which Christ is the “light of the world” (D&C 88:5–13). It also declares that light and life are the same thing.

Jesus Did Only His Father’s Will

● Jesus told the people in the temple that he always did the things that pleased his Father. As Jesus testified of his Father in Heaven, “many believed on him” (John 8:29–30).

● Bruce McConkie said, “Jesus was his own chief witness; again, and again, and again—both in figurative language known to and understood by his hearers, and in plain, unequivocal utterances as here—he proclaimed himself as the Messiah, the King of Israel, the Son of God, the Redeemer of the world. It is a strange thing that there are people in the world today who accept him as the greatest moral teacher of the ages and yet reject his divine Sonship. How could he be a great moral teacher, if he taught and lived a lie, if he openly proclaimed himself as the Only Begotten in the flesh without in fact being such?”7

Jesus Christ Is “The Truth”

● Jesus taught them that knowing the truth would make them free from sin (John 8:31–34).

— Elder David B. Haight, said, “You may feel at times that the Lord’s commandments restrict your freedom as compared with others. Freedom does not mean license, nor does it imply the absence of all restrictions and discipline. The Savior did not teach undisciplined, permissive-type freedom. When he said, ‘know the truth, and the truth shall make you free’ (John 8:32), he is telling us that his truth, if followed, would free us from falsity, from deception; that his gospel, if followed, would free us to gain eternal life. As the light of the gospel fills our souls, our abilities will increase. We will love our neighbors and be of sincere service in helping others.”8

— Jesus later called himself “the truth” (John 14:6 ). We know the truth by knowing the Savior.

PHARISEES AND SCRIBES — HYPOCRITICAL SHEPHERDS

Healing the Man Born Blind

● On this occasion, Jesus healed a man who was born blind. His disciples asked him if the man’s congenital blindness was the result of some sin he had committed in the premortal world or if it was the result of some sin his parents had committed (John 9:1–7).

● In asking such a question, it is obvious that they believed in a premortal life; it was not even a question that the man had lived before birth.

● We can see the man’s growing testimony in the events that followed:

— The man’s initial testimony—a “man” called Jesus had healed him (John 9:8–12).
— The man’s growing testimony—Jesus is a “prophet” (John 9:13–17).
— Both he and his parents were threatened with excommunication for saying this (John 9:18–23).
— The man’s growing testimony—He argued that Jesus must be “from God” (John 9:24–33).
— He was then excommunicated.

● Jesus sought him out and he declared that he believed Jesus to be the Christ (John 9:34–38).

● Jesus then condemned the Pharisees for their spiritual blindness (John 9:39–41).

THE GOOD SHEPHERD

Jesus Is the Good Shepherd

● Jesus knows his sheep, calls them by name, and leads them (John 10:1–5, 14).

— In Jesus’ time, sheep were led into an enclosure called a sheepfold for the night. One of the shepherds would guard the door while the others went home to rest. If a wild animal got into the sheepfold, the shepherd would give his life if necessary to protect the sheep. In the morning, each shepherd would return and call his sheep. They would recognize his voice and follow him to pasture.

● Jesus is also “the door of the sheep,” allowing them to enter the fold to be saved (John 10:7–10).

— “To understand the imagery, it must be remembered that Eastern folds are large open enclosures into which several flocks are driven at the approach of night. There is only one door, which a single shepherd guards, while the others go home to rest. In the morning the shepherds return, are recognized by the doorkeeper, call their flocks round them, and lead them forth to pasture.”9

● He will give His life for His sheep; “hirelings” will risk nothing for the sheep (John 10:11–15, 17–18).

Our Responsibilities as Shepherds

● We are also shepherds for the Lord’s sheep, helping, guiding, and protecting them as every good shepherd would do.

— Elder Bruce R. McConkie taught, “Anyone serving in any capacity in the Church in which he [or she] is responsible for the spiritual or temporal well-being of any of the Lord’s children is a shepherd to those sheep. The Lord holds his shepherds accountable for the safety (salvation) of his sheep.”10

THE FEAST OF DEDICATION

● The Feast of Dedication occurs two months after the Feast of Tabernacles —in early December. Jews today call this celebration Hannukah or the Festival of Lights. It featured the display of huge candlesticks on the temple mount, ceremoniously lit by the priests as part of the celebration. It celebrates the heroic deeds of Esther as she saved her people from certain destruction while they were captive in Babylon and Persia. Jesus returned to Jerusalem for this celebration during the final year of His life. He used the occasion to proclaim Himself again as the light of the world. He was now only four months away from His atoning sacrifice.

JESUS’ MISSION TO PEREA

Jesus “Went Away Beyond Jordan”

● Jesus “went away again beyond Jordan into the place where John at first baptized.” This area was known as Perea, a word which literally means “the land beyond” (John 10:39–40).

— Elder James E. Talmage said, “The duration of this sojourn in Perea is nowhere recorded in our scriptures. It could not have lasted more than a few weeks at most. Possibly some of the discourses, instructions, and parables already treated as following the Lord’s departure from Jerusalem after the Feast of Tabernacles in the preceding autumn, may chronologically belong to this interval. From this retreat of comparative quiet, Jesus returned to Judea in response to an earnest appeal from some whom He loved. He left the Bethany of Perea for the Judean Bethany, where dwelt Martha and Mary.”11

JESUS’ LOVE FOR MARY AND MARTHA

● Jesus then went to Bethany to visit his friends Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, which he always did when near Jerusalem (Matthew 26:6).

— Bethany was 15 furlongs, or about 2 miles, from Jerusalem, beyond the Mount of Olives. (John 11:15 and Mark 11:1).

● While the Savior was there, Martha worked very hard to prepare a meal and make Him comfortable. Mary, on the other hand, sat continuously at His feet, listening to His every word. This brought forth complaints from Martha about Mary’s failure to assist her.

● Both personalities were acceptable to Christ (Luke 10:38–42).

— Martha was compulsive about doing things “right,” and serving her guests.
— Mary had chosen the “good part” of sitting and listening to the Lord.
— Both are important, and both women were blessed, but the Lord made it clear that we should not become so “cumbered about much serving” that we don’t receive Jesus as we should.

— James E. Talmage said:

“There was no reproof of Martha’s desire to provide well; nor any sanction of possible neglect on Mary’s part. We must suppose that Mary had been a willing helper before the master’s arrival; but now that He had come, she chose to remain with Him. Had she been culpably neglectful of her duty, Jesus would not have commended her course. He desired not well-served meals and material comforts only, but the company of the sisters, and above all their receptive attention to what He had to say. He had more to give them than they could possibly provide for Him.

“Jesus loved the two sisters and their brother as well. Both these women were devoted to Jesus, and each expressed herself in her own way. Martha was of a practical turn, concerned in material service; she was by nature hospitable and self-denying. Mary, contemplative and more spiritually inclined, showed her devotion through the service of companionship and appreciation.”12

DOCTRINAL INSIGHTS

What are some doctrinal insights we receive from this week’s lesson material? You should consider discussing one or more of these with your class.

Jesus’ “Other Sheep.” Jesus also spoke of “other sheep” in another fold (the Nephites in America) (John 10:16; 3 Nephi 15:21–24).

— Elder Howard W. Hunter taught: “Those who are familiar with the life and teachings of the Master from their knowledge of the books of the Bible will be interested to know there is also a record of his appearance to the people of the Western Hemisphere—the other sheep to whom he made reference. It is titled the Book of Mormon after the prophet who compiled and abridged the records of the peoples of the American continents. The Book of Mormon is another witness for Christ and records his teachings to the other flock in the New World.”13

— When He visited them, Christ told the Nephites that they were “a remnant of the house of Joseph” and that “this is the land of your inheritance” (3 Nephi 15:11–13). The Prophet Joseph Smith said, “By it, [the Book of Mormon] we learn that our western tribes of Indians are descendants from that Joseph who was sold into Egypt, and that the land of America is a promised land unto them. . . .”14

— Because of their iniquity, the Jews did not know of this remnant of Joseph and of the other tribes of Israel who were led away (3 Nephi 15:14–15). The Nephites were led away from Jerusalem because of the iniquity of the Jews (3 Nephi 15:16–20). The disciples in Jerusalem were unable to understand Jesus’ teaching about “other sheep” because of their “unbelief.”

— “Ye are they of whom I said: Other sheep I have . . .” (3 Nephi 15:21–24; John 10:16). This prophecy does not refer to the gospel’s being taken to the Gentiles. The Gentiles were not to see or hear Jesus personally, but would receive a witness only through the Holy Ghost. The Nephites, however, both heard his voice and saw him.

There were “other sheep” besides the Nephites that Jesus said He must also visit (3 Nephi 16:1–3;3 Nephi 17:4). The Lord has scattered his people throughout the earth, as is clear from the allegory of the olive trees given by Zenos. (Jacob 5:13, 14; Ether 1:33). One such group was the ten of the tribes of the northern kingdom of Israel, who were taken captive by the Assyrians in 721 BC. Certainly, other scatterings of Israel have taken place over the centuries. We are not told how many of these groups were to be visited, but He said he would visit these other sheep immediately following his visit to the Nephites (v. 4).

— Elder Bruce R. McConkie said, “Did . . . Jesus visit [other tribes of Israel] after he ministered among the Nephites? . . . Of course he did, in one or many places as suited his purposes. He assembled them together . . . in exactly the same way he gathered the Nephites in the land Bountiful so that they too could hear his voice and feel the prints of the nails in his hands and in his feet. Of this there can be no question. And we suppose that he also called twelve Apostles and established his kingdom among them even as he did in Jerusalem and in the Americas. Why should he deal any differently with one branch of Israel than with another?”15

Jesus Christ Is Jehovah.

— Jesus told the unbelieving Jews that they were not children of Abraham because they did not believe or follow him, nor do the righteous works of Abraham (John 8:39–44).

— The Jews were upset by these comments about Abraham (John 8:51–53, 56–57).

— Jesus declared, “Before Abraham was, I am” (John 8:58; footnote 58b).

— I AM is the name of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Exodus 3:1,13–14).
— Jehovah, in Hebrew, is a variant form of I AM—they are the same being.

— Elder James E. Talmage said, “‘Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I AM.’ The true significance of this saying would be more plainly expressed were the sentence punctuated and pointed as follows: ‘Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham, was I AM’; which means the same as had He said—‘Before Abraham, was I, Jehovah.’”16

— Elder Bruce R. McConkie said:

“This is as blunt and pointed an affirmation of divinity as any person has or could make. ‘Before Abraham was I Jehovah.’ That is, ‘I am God Almighty, the Great I AM. I am the self-existent, Eternal One. I am the God of your fathers. My name is: I AM THAT I AM.’ “To Moses the Lord Jehovah had appeared, identified himself as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and said . . . ‘This is my name for ever, and this is my memorial unto all generations.’ (Ex. 2:1–15) . . .

“That the Jews understood Jesus’ plainly stated claim to Messiahship is evident from their belligerent attempt to stone him—death by stoning being the penalty for blasphemy, a crime of which our Lord would have been guilty had not his assertions as to divinity been true. But Jesus, evidently exercising divine powers, passed unknown out of their midst.”17

— Paul explained the supremacy of Christ’s gospel to the Law of Moses by noting that the gospel of Jesus Christ was preached unto Abraham (Galatians 3:16–17).

“Thou Makest Thyself God.”

— The Jews baited Jesus to declare plainly that he was the Christ. He replied, “I told you, and ye believed not. . . . My sheep hear my voice . . . and they follow me” (John 10:24–28).

He boldly declared, “I and my Father are one” (John 10:29–30). Those who, in our day, claim that Jesus was an itinerant preacher or social worker and never claimed to be the Son of God simply have not read this or any of a dozen other scriptures like it. “My Father, which gave [His disciples Him], is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand” (v. 29). Then came this bold and unmistakable claim: “I and my Father are one” (v. 30), which would make Jesus equal to His Father in glory.

— They then sought to stone Him because, “Thou, being a man, makest thyself God” (John 10:31–33). This is the same spirit of disbelief that modern-day sectarians use when criticizing Latter-day Saints for teaching that we can eventually become gods.

— Jesus said it was not blasphemy to speak of being gods (John 10:34–36). Elder Bruce R. McConkie said, “This, then, in effect, is our Lord’s argument: ‘Why accuse me of blasphemy for testifying that I was sanctified and sent into the world by the Father? Does it offend you to hear me say that I am the Son of God? Do you not know that every righteous person to whom the word of God comes, and who then obeys the fulness of that law, shall become like the Father and be a god himself?’”18

— Latter-day Saints should contemplate for a moment what these Pharisaic sectarians were saying to Jesus. “Thou makest thyself God” is a phrase familiar to us in our own time. Opponents of the Church have made a movie titled “The God Makers” (which has been shown in many so-called Christian churches), in which they attack us for claiming that we can one day be like our Heavenly Father. And because we believe that the destiny of God’s children is to become like Him, they will say, “You are not Christians.” Their loyalty is to their creeds, written centuries after the time of Christ. And, like their Pharisaic forefathers, they boldly proclaim, “We be Jesus’ seed!” and call anyone who dares to teach otherwise non-Christian. It is the same spirit that crucified our Lord for boldly proclaiming that He was the Son of God. And if He were to come again today and teach the same things again, they would surely say He is “not Christian” and cast Him out and perhaps even seek His demise.

— Not listening at all, and still enraged by their sectarian blindness, the Pharisees once again sought to take Jesus by force but did not succeed (v. 39).

Notes:

1.  Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols. [1966–73], 1:439.
2.  Bible Dictionary, “Feasts,” 673; Leviticus 23:34–43.
3.  Jesus the Christ, 3rd ed. [1916], 402–403.
4.  The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah [1883], 2:160.
5.  The Miracle of Forgiveness [1969], 165.
6.  Bible Dictionary, “Feasts”.
7.  Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 1:154.
8.  In Conference Report, Oct. 1973, 44; or Ensign, Jan. 1974, 41.
9.  Dummelow, A Commentary on the Holy Bible [1909], 791; also quoted in Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 1:484.
10. Mormon Doctrine, 2nd ed. [1966], 710.
11. Jesus the Christ, 490.
12. Jesus the Christ, 433.
13. In Conference Report, Apr. 1983, 19; or Ensign, May 1983, 16.
14. Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Elder Joseph Fielding Smith [1976], 17.
15. The Millennial Messiah: The Second Coming of the Son of Man [1982], 216–217.
16. Jesus the Christ, 35.
17. Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 1:464.
18. Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 1:491–492.

 

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