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Sunday School Lesson #15

Posted by Jim F. on April 23, 2007

NOTE: FOR THE MOST RECENT, UPDATED VERSION OF THESE NOTES, GO TO : http://feastupontheword.org/Site:SS_lessons#New_Testament_lessons

 

Lesson 15: John 7-8

Chapter 7

Verses 1-5: In verse 1, to what is John referring with the phrase “these things”? Look at chapter 6 to remember what things happened that caused him to be in danger. A more accurate translation of the word “Jewry” is “Judea.” Nevertheless, the theme of Jewish opposition to Jesus is frequent in these chapters (verses 1, 13, 19, 25, 30, 32, and 44; and in chapter 8, verses 37, 40, and 59). John is setting the stage for Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem and his crucifixion.

The feast of the tabernacles, an autumn harvest feast, was the most popular feast of the year. (See “Feasts” in the LDS Bible Dictionary–page 673.) The city would have been filled with pilgrims and there was a triumphal procession of pilgrims met and welcomed by temple priests as it entered the city. I think that John tells us that these events happened at the time of the feast to help us understand Jesus’ brothers’ advice to him. Why do they want him to go to Judea? What are they asking Jesus to do? Does verse 5 shed any light on their advice? How do the brothers understand Jesus’ work? Is it significant that one of them, James, will later not only become a Christian, but will be the head of the Church in Jerusalem? Is John drawing a parallel between the unbelief of the multitudes in chapter 6 and the unbelief of Jesus’ brothers?

Verses 6-10: What does Jesus mean when he says “it is not yet time for me” in verse 6? What does he mean when he says that their time is “always ready”? What is their time? Why won’t the world hate the brothers? (Compare John 15:19.) There may be a word play in verse 8: the word translated “go up” (anabainein) is a variation of the word for resurrection (anabasis). Is there a contradiction between what Jesus said in verse 8–”I go not up yet unto this feast”–and what he does in verse 10? When he told the brothers that he wasn’t going up to Jerusalem, what was he telling them he wouldn’t do? (Remember what they were asking him to do.)

Verses 11-13: Like Jesus’ brothers, many in Jerusalem are expecting him to make an appearance at the festival. Why would they expect him to come? Almost everyone in the festival was a Jew, so what does it mean to say that they did not speak openly “for fear of the Jews”? What must the phrase “the Jews” mean in this story?

Verses 14-31: A better translation of the beginning of verse 13 is “Now when the feast was already half over.” In verse 15, what do people find amazing, Jesus’ appearance at the festival or his teaching? Is what the Jews say in verse 15 a compliment or an insult? How would we expect someone to respond to whom this had been said? How does Jesus’ response differ from what we might expect? Verse 17 gives us a “test” for deciding the origin of Jesus’ teaching. (Compare Mosiah 5:13.) What is unusual about this test if we compare it with others ways that we test what people teach? In verse 18, he repeats the point that he is not his own witness. (Compare John 5:31.) The Greek and Hebrew words translated “true” in usages like that we see in verse 18 suggest “trustworthy,” “truthful,” “righteous.” Jesus reminds them that he is not unrighteous, and the evidence is that he does not seek his own glory. Then in verse 19, he describes the Jews in a way that compares them to what he has just said of himself. What is the contradiction between their behavior and their claim to keep the law of Moses that Jesus uses as evidence that they do not keep that law? Compare verses 20 and 25. What do you conclude about those who charged Jesus with being possessed by an evil spirit when he said that the Jews were plotting to kill him? Only one miracle by Jesus is recorded as happening in Jerusalem, the healing at the pool of Bethesda. Presumably that is the miracle that he refers to in verse 21 as “one work.” Remembering that circumcision was understood as a purifying ritual, explain Jesus’ argument in verses 22-23. How would the Pharisees have understood verse 24? How would the Christians come to understand it after the resurrection? How should we understand it today? In verse 26, how do some begin to explain the Jewish leaders’ failure to silence Jesus? Are they speaking honestly or ironically? What does verse 27 tell us about the Jews’ understanding of how the Messiah would come among them? They may think they know him, but whom do they not know (verse 28)? What is the significance of verse 29? How would those in the crowd have understood it? How would the leaders have understood it? Verse 31 tells us the basis of the faith of those who believed on Jesus, namely his miracles. But chapter 6 has already shown us that those who believe because of miracles may not really understand Jesus or his teaching. For us, what is comparable to believing because of miracles? What more than miracles must we have if our faith will allow us to understand who Jesus really is?

Verses 32-36: How does the attempt to arrest Jesus in verse 32 differ from that in verse 30? What motivates the first attempt? The second? To see what happened to those sent to arrest Jesus, read verses 45-46. Notice that John makes it clear (verse 32) that the two forces in Jerusalem who opposed each other for leadership, namely the Pharisees and the temple priests, were united in their opposition to Jesus. Why? Notice also that they must intend what they say in verse 35 sarcastically. That the Messiah would teach the Gentiles was unthinkable to them.

Verses 37-39: Does the LDS Bible Dictionary’s description of the Feast of the Tabernacles help us understand better why Jesus chooses the figure that he does–water–and how those who heard him would have understood what he was saying? In Greek there are two ways of reading the end of verse 37 and verse 38. One way: “If any man thirst, let him come to me; and [let him] drink, he that believeth on me. As the scripture says . . . .” On that way of reading, the living waters flow from Christ. Another way is the way that the King James translators decided to read it: the scripture describes the believer rather than Christ. Which reading do you think is most likely? Why?

Verses 45-53: Why haven’t the temple guards brought Jesus to the priests and the Pharisees? How do the priests and Pharisees respond in verses 47-48? What does their reply show about them? Verse 49 suggests that they believe that those who have believed Jesus did so because they don’t know the law. As a result, Nicodemus’s interjection at this very point is telling, for he is a person learned in the law and he has been affected by Jesus’ teaching. (See John 3:1-13.) However, what do you make of the fact that Nicodemus doesn’t defend Jesus? Instead, he insists that they follow the law with regard to Jesus. What do you make of their response to Nicodemus? Why was Jesus’ geographic origin so important to them? How did their learning cause them to stumble with regard to the question of where Jesus came from?

Chapter 8

Note: The story of the woman caught in adultery (John 8:3-11) seems originally not to have been located in this part of the story. Most good manuscripts of John do not include the story at all. Many scholars believe that the story was originally part of Luke. Others believe that it was part of John, but located some place else in the book. Few doubt that it is an authentic story, but few believe it belongs where it is. However, since there is no way to know where it might have been if it weren’t here and because, if it was moved to this place in the story, it must have been placed here for a reason, we will deal with it as part of the sequence of events that John describes.

Verses 1-2: The chapter and verse divisions, created thousands of years after the gospels were written, can sometimes cause us to miss things we might see otherwise. Compare John 7:53 and John 8:51. When John wrote his gospel, these two sentences were right next to each other, with no break between them. What contrast do you see between them? What reasons might Jesus have had for going to the Mount of Olives at night? What does verse 1 tell us about Jesus at this time? Why did Jesus return to the temple the next day, the day after the feast was over?

Verses 3-11: This story and the parable of the good Samaritan are probably the two favorite stories of the New Testament? Why? What do they have in common? What do they show us about Jesus? Why is their message important to us? In what ways are we like the woman of this story? In what ways are we like the scribes and Pharisees who bring her to Jesus? The scribes and Pharisees bring the woman to Jesus and they put the question to him in a legal way: “Moses commanded . . . , what sayest thou?” Deuteronomy 22:23-24 decrees stoning for a betrothed virgin who has committed adultery. (Joseph worried that this was the case with Mary: Matthew 1:18-19.) Deuteronomy 22:22 decrees death for a married adulteress, but says nothing of how the penalty is to be carried out. (Most rabbis believed it should be done by strangulation.) What do you think they are asking Jesus to decide, and how do you think his answer might allow them to accuse him? In verse 6, he seems to ignore them, tracing something in the dirt. (The word translated “wrote” does not necessarily mean that he wrote words.) Why do you think he refuses to answer their question? Deuteronomy 17:7 says that the first witness against a person had also to initiate the execution of the death sentence. When the scribes and Pharisees continue to demand an answer, how does Jesus use that scripture against them? What does verse 9 mean when it says that the accusers were convicted by their own consciences? The word “convicted” translates a Greek word that means “to show someone his sin and to bring him to repentance.” In verses 10-11, the word “condemn” translates a Greek word that means “to cut off.” Does Jesus excuse anyone in this story? He doesn’t condemn the woman, but does he condemn the scribes and Pharisees? How are John 7:24 and 8:15-16 related to this story?

Verse 12: Light and water were centrally important in the Feast of the Tabernacles. In John 7:37-38, he used water to talk about himself (though he did not say “I am the living water”). Now he uses light to talk about himself. Why was it important for him to connect the people’s thinking of him to the Feast of the Tabernacles? How is Peter’s offer to build tabernacles on the Mount of Transfiguration related to all of this (Matthew 17:4)?

Verses 31-36: Given the response we see in verse 33, the faith of the “Jews which believed on him” must not have been very deep. The word translated “continue” in verse 31 could also have been translated “endure.” What does it mean to endure in the word of God? What does it mean to know the truth? How does knowing the truth make one free? Notice the connection of ideas in verses 31-32: if you endure in my word, then you are my disciples; if you are my disciples, then you know the truth; if you know the truth, then you are free. Why do you think that Jesus gives them this chain of ideas? Why not, instead, just tell them, “Endure in my word and you will be free”? Compare verses 32 and 36: the first says that the truth will make us free; the second says that the Son will make us free. That means that “the truth” and “the Son” mean the same thing. Explain how that can be. Given the fact that the Jews had spent the last several hundred years under the rule of one foreign nation or another, how could they say “We . . . were never in bondage to any man”? What must they understand by freedom, and what do they think makes them free? In verses 34-36, Jesus uses a metaphor that becomes central to Paul’s thinking later: the comparison between the servant (literally “slave”) of the household and the son of the house. What would have been the difference between the servant and the son (verse 35)? What does it mean to be a servant of sin? (Compare 2 Nephi 2:27.) In the ancient eastern Mediterranean, servants (slaves) could only be freed by the master of the house or his son acting under the master’s authority. How is that relevant to Jesus’ teaching?

Verse 39: How does Jesus say we can identify the true children of Abraham?

Verses 42-44: Of what does Jesus accuse the scribes and Pharisees in the temple? What does it mean to say that Satan was “a murderer from the beginning”? The contrast is important to Jesus’s message: Satan brings murder; Jesus brings life.

Verses 48-59: What does it mean that they call Jesus a Samaritan in verse 48? What does Jesus promise in verse 52 and how do his interlocutors understand that promise in verse 53? Is Jesus intentionally provoking his audience to anger? Of what do they accuse Jesus in verse 53 and how does he respond to that accusation in verse 54? Read footnote 58b. How has Jesus’ audience understood what he says in verse 57? Why has he made this declaration to them?

8 Responses to “Sunday School Lesson #15”

  1. Todd Wood said

    Jim, I am behind you. Just started John 4. Is there any link to anything written on this chapter? Thanks

  2. Jim F. said

    Todd Wood: The study questions for John 3-4 are with Sunday School lesson #5: https://feastuponthewordblog.org/2007/01/30/sunday-school-lesson-5/

  3. Todd Wood said

    Gotcha. Thanks. Looking back, I was there in the thread. I apologize.

    From what the KJV notes in John 4:2, Jim, do you think Jesus personally baptized?

    Because this is John 7 & 8, I won’t say anymore.

    I appreciate all these questions you pose. When I arrive at these chapters, I will come back to these questions you have asked.

  4. Jim F. said

    Todd Wood: no need to apologize for not being able to find things on the blog. It isn’t always easy to do.

    I’ve not thought much about whether Jesus personally baptized. I suppose I lean toward supposed that he did not, though I don’t lean very hard that way.

  5. Robert C. said

    Here are links to a couple of interesting bloggernacle posts on the adulterous woman passage (Julie Smith questioning whether the woman was actually taken in adultery, and Mogget’s 3-part series looking at textual and narrative issues).

  6. Todd Wood said

    Thanks Jim.

    And thanks Robert C. for the links.

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