7 After this, Jesus went around in Galilee. He did not want to go about in Judea because the Jewish leaders there were looking for a way to kill him. 2 But when the Jewish Festival of Tabernacles was near, 3 Jesus’ brothers said to him, “Leave Galilee and go to Judea, so that your disciples there may see the works you do. 4 No one who wants to become a public figure acts in secret. Since you are doing these things, show yourself to the world.” 5 For even his own brothers did not believe in him.6 Therefore Jesus told them, “My time is not yet here; for you any time will do. 7 The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify that its works are evil. 8 You go to the festival. I am not going up to this festival, because my time has not yet fully come.” 9 After he had said this, he stayed in Galilee.
10 However, after his brothers had left for the festival, he went also, not publicly, but in secret. 11 Now at the festival the Jewish leaders were watching for Jesus and asking, “Where is he?”
12 Among the crowds there was widespread whispering about him. Some said, “He is a good man.”
Others replied, “No, he deceives the people.” 13 But no one would say anything publicly about him for fear of the leaders.
The Feast of Tabernacles, or Festival of Booths, was one of the most popular events of the Jewish calendar. That is why in this passage, there were crowds of people celebrating.
This feast is Israel's "Thanksgiving" and was a joyous harvest festival. The main characteristic of the festival is the requirement that the revelers dwell in temporary shelters (booths) in remembrance of God's protection and care while they journeyed for forty years in the wilderness.
There were two very important ceremonies during the festival. The people would carry torches around the temple, lighting candles along the walls of the temple, to demonstrate that the Messiah would be a light to the Gentiles, the Jews and the whole world.
Also, one of the priests would draw water from the pool of Siloam, and carry it into the temple. It would then be poured into a silver basin that sat beside the altar, and the priest would call upon the Lord to provide water from heaven, in the form of rain.
This was important for their agriculture and their harvests, and it also reminded the people to look forward to the pouring out of the Holy Spirit, as spoken of by Joel:
"And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. (Joel 2:28)It was perfectly natural for the Jewish leaders to expect to see Jesus there at this feast, and they probably were irritated that everyone was gossiping about Him. Some were saying He was good, others were not certain, but everyone had an opinion. The Pharisees were agitated by Jesus, for He looked into their hearts and told them that their good works were not all that good; He said, in fact, that they were evil, for they were leading the people astray. People hate to hear that their "good" works condemn them.
They were amazed and enraged by his words on the last day of the feast:
"If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him." (John 7:37-38)And then, on the next morning (in chapter 8) he said this:
"I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." (John 8:12)
Nothing has changed. If we were to ask random people today, "Who do you think Jesus is?" we would hear many different answers.
"Jesus Christ was a man who thought he was God."
"I think that's something you have to decide for yourself, but he had some beautiful ideas."
"He was a good man."
"He was a great teacher."
"He lives today, and is my Friend."
Paul promised the Ephesians that good teaching and true doctrine prevent us from being tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. That illustrates how people respond to Jesus. Unless the Holy Spirit calms the mind, truth washes right on through and we are captivated by each new opinion that we hear.
If we want to stay on course, and if we want to have a true understanding of Who Jesus really is, we must first be born again, and then we must ask for wisdom from His Spirit. He will indwell us and guide us. What awesome grace, to promise this to us!
But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.(John 14:26)