1. The Word
45 The officers then came to the chief priests and Pharisees, who said to them, “Why did you not bring him?” 46 The officers answered, “No one ever spoke like this man!” 47 The Pharisees answered them, “Have you also been deceived? 48 Have any of the authorities or the Pharisees believed in him? 49 But this crowd that does not know the law is accursed.” 50 Nicodemus, who had gone to him before, and who was one of them, said to them, 51 “Does our law judge a man without first giving him a hearing and learning what he does?” 52 They replied, “Are you from Galilee too? Search and see that no prophet arises from Galilee.” 53 They went each to his own house.
At the beginning of this chapter, John 7, Jesus is in Galilee and specifically not in Judea, because the Jewish religious leaders were seeking to kill Him; Galilee was not so much the territory of the Jewish religious leaders. The Jewish Feast of Booths or Festival of Tabernacles was happening in Judea.
Describing the Feast of Booths, Leviticus 23:37 says, “These are the Lord’s appointed festivals, which you are to proclaim as sacred assemblies for bringing food offerings to the Lord—the burnt offerings and grain offerings, sacrifices and drink offerings required for each day.” The occasion was a joyful celebration at the end of the agricultural year when olives and grapes were harvested in Israel. God had commanded the festival in order that Israel would remember the wilderness journey from Egypt to Canaan. In that wilderness journey, the Israelites, led by God through Moses, did not live in any kind of permanent building or house, but in “booths” or tents.
The Israelites gave up many comforts in the journey. God had to save His people out of Egypt, which was His plan. But for Israel to be saved, they had to surrender to God’s way, give up their comfort, and trust that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob would still be faithful and would provide for their every need. It was easy for them to have the tendency to complain and seek to return to their old circumstances in Egypt, so the Feast of Booths, or Sukkah in Hebrew, reminded them to rejoice in God’s salvation: that He had brought them out of Egypt with a mighty hand, guided them during the wilderness, and eventually into the promised land.
Jesus kept rather quiet during the first part of the Feast of Booths, in John 7, but in the middle part of the festival He went to the temple and began to teach. The Jewish religious leaders began to argue about Jesus, and He made a very specific claim to Deity by saying, “Where I am you cannot come.” He stated that He was seeking the glory of His Father, the One who sent Him. On the last day of the festival, Jesus cried out that He is Living Water, who satisfies the need of the human soul.
Jesus spoke so decisively about His identity, not at the beginning of the festival, but in the middle, and especially at the end, to demonstrate He is the Son of God. The people were quite divided in their views of who Jesus was, and began to argue. Some of the Jews wanted to arrest Him, but no one dared to even try. The authority upon Jesus was overwhelmingly clear and it was not yet Jesus’ time for the Cross.
In John 7:32, we read that the Pharisees heard the crowd discussing and debating about Jesus, and since they were so distressed about Jesus, the chief priests and Pharisees sent officers to arrest him. Our text for today begins in 7:45, where we see the same officers come back to the Pharisees without having arrested Jesus. The officers did not share the exact perspective of the Pharisees, for as we can see, they were deeply impressed with Jesus. The Pharisees’ question shows their rage, “Why have you not brought him?” It is also telling that they do not use Jesus’ name, but only “him”. They were fully expecting to have Jesus apprehended so that they could demand His life to be taken.
In John 7:46, the officers give the plain answer of why they had not arrested Jesus: Never did any man speak as this man speaks. Jesus spoke gracious words of eternal life, of reconciliation with God, and of forgiveness of sins, Himself being sinless perfection. Moses’ words could not compare with Jesus’ words, David, Solomon, Isaiah, and all others could not either. Perhaps the officers sent to arrest Jesus also feared the crowds who were beginning to believe upon Jesus; even a great prophet could not be disgracefully arrested religious authorities without a backlash. The crowds might have likely responded by picking up stones against the officers.
In John 7:47, the Pharisees’ words reveal themselves to be self-righteous, as they believe the officers to be deceived after encountering Jesus. Just a short time observing Jesus has caused the officers’ minds to be brainwashed, the Pharisees think, and they are enraged.
The religious leaders in Israel were famous for their wisdom, their thorough knowledge of the Scriptures, and authority in all matters of practice. They reasoned in verses 48-49, that absolutely no Pharisee or member of the Sanhedrin had ever believed in Jesus; the best of the best all rejected Him, they thought. But the Pharisees did not consider Nicodemus, a highly educated Pharisee like themselves, or Joseph of Arimathea, an extremely wealthy man, as they couldn’t discern what was in their hearts.
In verses 50-51, we read that Nicodemus has a major divergence in viewpoint. His statement is reasonable: Does our law judge a man without first giving him a hearing? The Pharisees immediately shoot down his statement by asking if he was also from Galilee and stating that no prophet comes out of Galilee.
But the statement is false; Jonah was widely recognized as a prophet whom God sent to preach to Nineveh. The true story of his being swallowed by a great fish after his disobedience is familiar to many of us. 2 Kings 14:25 calls him, “Jonah son of Amittai, the prophet from Gath Hepher,” which is the same man described in the book Jonah: son of Amittai. Gath Hepher was a town in the tribe of Zebulun, and Zebulun was in Galilee. After all, a prophet does arise in Galilee, and so does Jesus.
The religious leaders of His day largely had no regard for Jesus at all. Who do you say that Jesus is? A great teacher, a prophet, Son of God, Messiah? Investigate His claims and seek out whether His teaching about Himself is true. He did not claim to be just a teacher or prophet; He claimed to be equal with God.
See the opposition that Jesus faced, yet He did not turn back from His mission. He pressed on to reveal Himself to be the Son of God, and at the right hour to lay down His life for the forgiveness of our sins. He demonstrated that He is the Son of God by rising from the dead, so that we serve a living Savior and Lord.