“About the middle of the feast Jesus went up into the temple and began teaching. The Jews therefore marveled, saying, “How is it that this man has learning, when he has never studied?” (John 7:14-15)
By way of reminder, the Feast of the Tabernacles was also known as the Feast of Booths, Shelters, or Ingathering. One commentator describes it as “one of the three great festivals of Israel, celebrating the completion of the agricultural year. The Jews built booths or tabernacles (temporary shelters) to commemorate their deliverance from Egypt by the hand of God (Exodus 23:16; 34:22; Leviticus 23:33–43).” It is this feast of which John 7:14 refers. See John 7:2.
The designation feast of booths (tabernacles) comes from the requirement for everyone born a Jew to live in booths made of boughs of trees and branches of palm trees for the seven days of the feast (Leviticus 23:42). Sacrifices were offered on the seven days, beginning with thirteen bullocks and other animals on the first day and diminishing by one bullock each day until on the seventh seven bullocks were offered.
The New Bible Dictionary (NBD) explains that, “On the 8th day there was a solemn assembly when one bullock, one ram and seven lambs were offered (Numbers 29:36). This is the last day, ‘that great day of the feast’, probably alluded to in John 7:37. As a feast, divinely instituted, it was never forgotten. It was observed in the time of Solomon (2 Chronicles 8:13), Hezekiah (2 Chronicles 31:3; cf. Deuteronomy 16:16), and after the Exile (Ezra 3:4; Zechariah 14:16, 18–19). The ceremony of water-pouring, associated with this festival in post-exilic times and reflected in Jesus’ proclamation in John 7:37ff. is not prescribed in the Pentateuch.”
The NBD continues by stating, “This feast had a historical reference to the Exodus from Egypt and reminded the Jews of their wandering and dwelling in booths in the wilderness (Leviticus 23:43). However, this is not evidence of the conversion of the agricultural festival to a historical one. Rather it points to the truth that Israel’s life rested upon redemption which in its ultimate meaning is the forgiveness of sin.”
It was during the middle of the feast that Jesus literally went up to the temple and began teaching. Dr. John MacArthur explains that, “Jesus taught according to the custom of the teachers or rabbis of his day. Prominent rabbis would enter the temple environs and expound on the OT to crowds who sat around them.”
In spite of increasing opposition to Him and His ministry, Jesus nevertheless continued to teach with authority as God’s Son. The Jews who heard Him were continuously astonished and amazed and consequently continuously said “How is it that this man has learning, when he has never studied?”
Dr. MacArthur continues by stating, “Jesus’ knowledge of Scripture was supernatural. The people were amazed that someone who had never studied at any great rabbinical centers or under any great rabbis could display such profound mastery of Scripture. Both the content and manner of Jesus’ teachings were qualitatively different than any other teacher.”
It would be at this moment during the feast Jesus would give five reasons why He was the fulfillment and source of Israel’s redemption. In other words, Jesus would teach that He was the fulfillment of the Feast of the Tabernacles. Jesus would give five specific reasons regarding His identity and purpose for coming to earth. These reasons form the bulk of the remaining portion of John 7.
Let me encourage you to begin reading John 7:16-24 in preparation for our ongoing study of the Gospel of John. See if you can identify the five reasons Jesus gives regarding His identity and ministry.
Until next time,
Soli deo Gloria!