Jesus—His Life and Message: The Feast of Tabernacles (Part 3)

July 9, 2019

by Peter Amsterdam

As we saw in the previous two articles, halfway through the Feast of Tabernacles Jesus went from Galilee to Jerusalem to attend the festival. While there, He taught in the temple, and some of those who heard His teaching opposed Him. In the course of the discussion, He stated that there were times when some things took precedence over the Sabbath laws, and told both the crowd and the Jewish leadership that they should judge rightly. We’re told that Some of the people of Jerusalem therefore said, “Is not this the man whom they seek to kill? And here he is, speaking openly, and they say nothing to him! Can it be that the authorities really know that this is the Christ? But we know where this man comes from, and when the Christ appears, no one will know where he comes from.”1

Earlier in this passage, reference was made to “the Jews” in reference to the Jewish religious leadership, and to “the crowd” of those who didn’t live in Jerusalem but had come from their hometowns to attend the Feast of Tabernacles, and who knew nothing about any plot to kill Jesus. Now reference is made to another group of people, “the people of Jerusalem.”

In the previous article, we saw that it was clear that the crowd had been unaware of the plot of the Jewish leadership to kill Jesus, so when He asked the question, “Why do you seek to kill me?” The crowd answered, “You have a demon! Who is seeking to kill you?”2 However, now we find out that some of those who lived in Jerusalem had heard that there was a plot to kill Him.

Because of the threat to Jesus’ life, the people of Jerusalem were surprised that He was at the festival and in the temple speaking publicly for all to hear. What astounded them even further was that the Jewish authorities did nothing to stop Him and hadn’t arrested Him. Because of this, the Jerusalemites began to wonder if the religious leaders had come to the conclusion that Jesus was indeed the awaited Messiah.

However, they concluded that He couldn’t be, because they knew that Jesus was from Galilee, in the north of the country, and they also “knew” that when the Messiah would come, no one would know where He was from. This seems an odd statement to make, as elsewhere in Scripture it declared that the Messiah would be from Bethlehem.

You, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.3

In the Gospel of Matthew, King Herod asked the chief priests and scribes where the Messiah (the Christ) was to be born, and they told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet.”4 Later in the same chapter, Bethlehem is mentioned again. Apparently there was a contingent of people who believed that the Messiah would have a mysterious origin and would suddenly appear on the scene—an idea which is found in some of the Jewish apocryphal books.

So Jesus proclaimed, as he taught in the temple, “You know me, and you know where I come from? But I have not come of my own accord. He who sent me is true, and him you do not know. I know him, for I come from him, and he sent me.”5

Other Bible translations state that Jesus cried out, which may indicate that He said it loudly. However, throughout the Gospel of John the phrase “cried out” is often used to emphasize that something of importance is being introduced. For example, John [the Baptist] bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’”6 So in this instance, Jesus most likely “cried out” in the sense of making a formal proclamation.

He then stated, You know me, and you know where I come from? The ESV translation makes this a question by adding the question mark, while most other versions end the sentence with a period, making it a statement. Jesus acknowledged that they were aware of who He was and where He was from. However, in a more important sense, they didn’t know where He was from as they didn’t know that He came from God, a point He then made.

I have not come of my own accord. He who sent me is true.7 

While Jesus freely admitted that He was from Nazareth, He also declared that it was God who commissioned Him, something He stated numerous other times within this Gospel.

The Father who sent me has himself borne witness about me.8

The living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father.9

Jesus made the point that the one who sent Him was true, meaning truly God.

Jesus then added, him you do not know. In stating this, Jesus was affirming that His audience, the people of Jerusalem, the Jewish religious leadership and the crowd, didn’t know God. If they had truly known God, they would have recognized that He had sent Jesus. Later on in the book of John, Jesus once again made the point that they didn’t know God.

They said to him therefore, “Where is your Father?” Jesus answered, “You know neither me nor my Father. If you knew me, you would know my Father also.”10

“You have not known him. I know him. … I do know him and I keep his word.”11

In rejecting the messenger, they were rejecting God.

In contrast, Jesus clearly stated that “I know him, for I come from him, and he sent me.”12 In saying this, He is indicating two ways in which this is true. First, His origin; He existed with God prior to His life on earth. Second, He was given a mission from God and was sent by Him to accomplish His Father’s purpose.

So they were seeking to arrest him, but no one laid a hand on him, because his hour had not yet come.13

The words that Jesus cried out in the temple angered some of those listening, so much so that they sought to arrest Him. It’s not clear at this point who exactly was plotting this—the Jerusalemites, the crowds, or the Jewish leaders. However, it’s likely that the chief priests and the Pharisees were the only ones who would have had the authority to arrest him. It seems that there was an actual attempt to put Jesus under arrest, but that it failed. We’re not told any of the details, but we’re told that the reason they were unable to do so was because his hour had not yet come. However, later in this Gospel, there is a time when Jesus declares, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.”14

Yet many of the people believed in him. They said, “When the Christ appears, will he do more signs than this man has done?”15 

In contrast with the Jewish religious leaders who were attempting to arrest Him, there were some among the multitude who believed and accepted His message. The main reason for their faith was the miracles, or signs as they are called in the Gospel of John. The expected answer to their question is no, the Messiah won’t do more miracles than Jesus was doing. Many believed in Him because they couldn’t imagine that the promised Messiah would do more miracles.

The Pharisees heard the crowd muttering these things about him, and the chief priests and Pharisees sent officers to arrest him.16

Upon hearing what the crowds were discussing among themselves, and understanding that many of them believed in Jesus, the Pharisees aligned themselves with the chief priests. The chief priests in Jesus’ day were generally Sadducees, and they held considerable authority in the Sanhedrin—the Jewish ruling body in Jerusalem. The Pharisees and Sadducees had theological differences, but they both agreed that Jesus should be arrested and together arranged for officers, most likely temple guards, to arrest Him.

Jesus then said, “I will be with you a little longer, and then I am going to him who sent me. You will seek me and you will not find me. Where I am you cannot come.”17 

Jesus didn’t seem overly concerned about the authorities wanting to arrest Him. Earlier He had said that His Father sent Him, and now He stated that He would be returning to His Father. He knew that the time of His departure was in His Father’s hands and that therefore those seeking to arrest Him were not in control.

The Jews said to one another, “Where does this man intend to go that we will not find him? Does he intend to go to the Dispersion among the Greeks and teach the Greeks? What does he mean by saying, ‘You will seek me and you will not find me,’ and, ‘Where I am you cannot come’?”18 

Those who heard Jesus say that He was going somewhere they could not go were confused. The people who heard Him wondered if He was saying that He was going to leave Israel and go elsewhere to teach Gentiles with the Dispersion (or the Diaspora, as it’s called today), which referred to Jewish communities which lived outside of Israel. One author wrote:

They are not wrong to think that Jesus has mission plans for these, and indeed for the Gentile nations too. These plans, however, will be fulfilled by his going to the Father, through death and resurrection, with the consequent outpouring of the Spirit, and the world mission of the disciple community, the church.19

While Jesus didn’t go to the Dispersion to teach and preach to the Gentiles, within the Gospels we find that He did interact with and heal Gentiles both within Israel and just across its borders. He spoke with the Samaritan woman at the well and to her town;20 healed the Gadarene demoniacs;21 healed ten lepers, one of whom was a Samaritan;22 healed the daughter of a Canaanite woman;23 and healed the servant of a Roman commander.24 Later, as described in the Acts of the Apostles and in the Epistles, after Jesus’ disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit they went throughout the Gentile world preaching the gospel and winning Gentile followers.

(Continued in Part Four)


Unless otherwise indicated, all scriptures are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

General Bibliography

Bailey, Kenneth E. Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2008.

Biven, David. New Light on the Difficult Words of Jesus. Holland: En-Gedi Resource Center, 2007.

Bock, Darrell L. Jesus According to Scripture. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2002.

Bock, Darrell L. Luke Volume 1: 1:1–9:50. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 1994.

Bock, Darrell L. Luke Volume 2: 9:51–24:53. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 1996.

Brown, Raymond E. The Birth of the Messiah. New York: Doubleday, 1993.

Brown, Raymond E. The Death of the Messiah. 2 vols. New York: Doubleday, 1994.

Carson, D. A. Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount and His Confrontation with the World. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1987.

Charlesworth, James H., ed. Jesus’ Jewishness, Exploring the Place of Jesus Within Early Judaism. New York: The Crossroad Publishing Company, 1997.

Chilton, Bruce, and Craig A. Evans, eds. Authenticating the Activities of Jesus. Boston: Koninklijke Brill, 1999.

Edersheim, Alfred. The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah. Updated Edition. Hendrickson Publishers, 1993.

Elwell, Walter A., ed. Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1988.

Elwell, Walter A., and Robert W. Yarbrough. Encountering the New Testament. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2005.

Evans, Craig A. World Biblical Commentary: Mark 8:27–16:20. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2000.

Evans, Craig A., and N. T. Wright. Jesus, the Final Days: What Really Happened. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2009.

Flusser, David. Jesus. Jerusalem: The Magnes Press, 1998.

Flusser, David, and R. Steven Notely. The Sage from Galilee: Rediscovering Jesus’ Genius. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2007.

France, R. T. The Gospel of Matthew. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2007.

Gnilka, Joachim. Jesus of Nazareth: Message and History. Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, 1997.

Green, Joel B. The Gospel of Luke. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1997.

Green, Joel B., and Scot McKnight, eds. Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1992.

Grudem, Wayne. Systematic Theology, An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine. Grand Rapids: InterVarsity Press, 2000.

Guelich, Robert A. World Biblical Commentary: Mark 1–8:26. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1989.

Jeremias, Joachim. The Eucharistic Words of Jesus. Philadelphia: Trinity Press International, 1990.

Jeremias, Joachim. Jerusalem in the Time of Jesus. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1996.

Jeremias, Joachim. Jesus and the Message of the New Testament. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2002.

Jeremias, Joachim. New Testament Theology. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1971.

Jeremias, Joachim. The Prayers of Jesus. Norwich: SCM Press, 1977.

Keener, Craig S. The Gospel of John: A Commentary, Volume 1. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2003.

Keener, Craig S. The Gospel of John: A Commentary, Volume 2. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2003.

Keener, Craig S. The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2009.

Lewis, Gordon R., and Bruce A. Demarest. Integrative Theology. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996.

Lloyd-Jones, D. Martyn. Studies in the Sermon on the Mount. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1976.

Manson, T. W. The Sayings of Jesus. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1957.

Manson, T. W. The Teaching of Jesus. Cambridge: University Press, 1967.

McKnight, Scot. Sermon on the Mount. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2013.

Michaels, J. Ramsey. The Gospel of John. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2010.

Milne, Bruce. The Message of John. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1993.

Morris, Leon. The Gospel According to John. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1995.

Morris, Leon. The Gospel According to Matthew. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1992.

Morris, Leon. Luke. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1988.

Ott, Ludwig. Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma. Rockford: Tan Books and Publishers, 1960.

Pentecost, J. Dwight. The Words & Works of Jesus Christ. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1981.

Sanders, E. P. Jesus and Judaism. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1985.

Sheen, Fulton J. Life of Christ. New York: Doubleday, 1958.

Spangler, Ann, and Lois Tverberg. Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2009.

Stassen, Glen H., and David P. Gushee. Kingdom Ethics: Following Jesus in Contemporary Context. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2003.

Stein, Robert H. Jesus the Messiah. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1996.

Stein, Robert H. Mark. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2008.

Stein, Robert H. The Method and Message of Jesus’ Teachings. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1994.

Stott, John R. W. The Message of the Sermon on the Mount. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1978.

Talbert, Charles H. Reading the Sermon on the Mount. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2004.

Williams, J. Rodman. Renewal Theology: Systematic Theology from a Charismatic Perspective. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996.

Witherington, Ben, III. The Christology of Jesus. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1990.

Witherington, Ben, III. The Gospel of Mark: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2001.

Wood, D. R. W., I. H. Marshall, A. R. Millard, J. I. Packer, and D. J. Wiseman, eds. New Bible Dictionary. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1996.

Wright, N. T. After You Believe. New York: Harper Collins Publishers, 2010.

Wright, N. T. Jesus and the Victory of God. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1996.

Wright, N. T. Matthew for Everyone, Part 1. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2004.

Wright, N. T. The Resurrection of the Son of God. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2003.

Yancey, Philip. The Jesus I Never Knew. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1995.

Young, Brad H. Jesus the Jewish Theologian. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 1995.

1 John 7:25–27.

2 John 7:19–20.

3 Micah 5:2.

4 Matthew 2:5.

5 John 7:28–29.

6 John 1:15. See also John 7:37, 12:44.

7 John 7:28.

8 John 5:37.

9 John 6:57. See also John 3:2, 17, 34; 5:37; 6:44.

10 John 8:19.

11 John 8:55.

12 John 7:29.

13 John 7:30.

14 John 12:23.

15 John 7:31.

16 John 7:32.

17 John 7:33–34.

18 John 7:35–36.

19 Milne, The Message of John, 120.

20 John 4:5–42.

21 Matthew 8:28.

22 Luke 17:12–16.

23 Matthew 15:22.

24 Luke 7:1–10.