Jesus is the true tabernacle, the fulfilment of the world’s hope and joys, whose faithful obedience to the Father is the source of true brotherhood in the family of God.
The message and ministry of Jesus was no longer a secret. Jesus had become suspicious to many of those around him. In fact, as this scene depicts, the suspicion had trickled down to those who were closest to him. This private display of suspicion is an insight into the deeper reality of the unfolding story. The more the light shines, the more the darkness is revealed for what it truly is (cf. 1;5).
Jesus is described as “spending time” in Galilee - “walking around”. Jesus “chose not” to spend time in Judea because of the Jew. Some translate the term as “Judaeans” in contrast with Galilee. But, it is the religious establishment in Jerusalem that is meant (as in 5:10, 15).
The festival of Tabernacles was celebrated on the 15th day of Tishri and lasted for seven days till 21st of Tishri. Tishri in general covers part of September and October. A special day of celebration marked the eighth day (22nd of Tishri). If it was AD 29, then on that year the 15th of Tishri fell on October 12 - it was exactly six Jewish months before the last Passover.
By this time of year all the harvest had been safely gathered in. - not only the barley and wheat harvest being reaped between April and June, but the grape and olive harvest too.
This ‘feast of ingathering at the end of the (agricultural) year’ (Ex 23:16; cf. Ex 34:22) was an occasion for great rejoicing. It was called the festival of booths, because for the full week people lived in makeshifts booths of branches and leaves (cf. Lev 23:40–43). Town-dwellers erected them in their courtyards or on their flat housetops. Many people came for that feast to Jerusalem for it was one of the three great pilgrimages of the Jewish year.
The feast was associated with the eschatological hope of the righteous people living with God in the aged to come.
The feast liturgy featured the daily praying of the Hallel Psalms (113–118), lots of music and dancing, and ceremonies involving water and light - these ceremonies were of particular significance for John.
Now, Jesus who “tabernacled” among us (1:14) is the true “tabernacle”.
See 2:12 and 7:5.
New Testament writings mention a group known as “the brothers of the Lord” (Mk 6:1–3; 1 Cor 9:5), among whom was James, a leader of the early Jerusalem church (Gal 1:19). But it does not state that the “brothers” are the biological children of Mary. Tradition has two explanations of the identity of Jesus’ brothers:
1. They are Jospeh’s children from a previous marriage;
2. They are “brothers” in the broad sense of kin.
The brothers exhort him to go to Judea. In view of 7:1, this is rather questionable exhortation.
His ‘disciples’ mentioned by the brothers are usually considered as those who in 2:23 believed in him. But, the reader knows already that their faith was imperfect relying on the outward signs. Did his brothers not know it?
They suggest that Jesus “seeks to be in public” - seeks attention for himself. “Show yourself to the world”.
The brothers’ challenge resembles the temptation in which Satan asks Jesus to throw himself off the parapet of the temple and make a spectacle of his divine sonship - a temptation to seek honour and praise for himself (Mk 4:5–7; Lk 4:9–12).
But Jesus acts according to the Father’s will and does not conduct himself to win the praise of others (5:41). His miracles are not meant to impress but to lead people to faith.
And yet, Jesus will indeed go to Jerusalem and show himself to the “world” but in totally different way that the brothers and everybody else could ever imagine. When he will “be lifted up” in Jerusalem he will draw everyone to himself (John 2:14–15; 12:32).
The Evangelist comments on the brothers - even they did not believe in him.
This is the impression that we get from the Synoptic Gospels also (cf. Mk 3:21, 31) - apparently they failed to grasp who Jesus was and the nature and motives of the work in which he was engaged.
It is not until his resurrection that his brothers are found among his believers and followers (Acts 1:14) - probably due to his appearance to James (1 Cor 15:7).
At this stage, however, they did not believe in him。
Jesus’ use of “time” should be viewed as comparable to his use of the term “hour” (cf. 2:4; 7:30; 8:20; 13:1; 17:1). However, the term “time” emphasises God’s work in Jesus as a whole, while the “hour” refers to the climactic event of the cross.
“Your time is always ready”. The statement seems to be a direct critique of his brothers whose lives are not marked by time appointed by God and by discernment of God’s will. For them ‘one time was as good as another’.
This is the first time in the Gospel where “the world” is spoken of not as the object of God’s love (cf. 3:16, 17; 4:42; 6:33,51), but as God’s enemy (cf 1:10).
The connection between “the world” and “the brothers” - namely that the world cannot hate them - shows that they are not his true disciples - at least not yet.
In 15:19 - being hated by the world is the criterion of being Jesus’ disciple. The brothers are (still) of the world, they belonged to the world.
Jesus explains the world’s hostility to him in language reminiscent of John 3:19–20. The entry of the true light into the world exposed the world’s evil for what it was, and those who preferred their wicked works to the life-giving light hated the light for its exposure of them.
Jesus’ commands his brothers to go to Jerusalem - their time is always ready, but his time is not yet fulfilled. Jesus’ will and time is regulated by the Father’s will and time. And so Jesus would not move until the Father indicate him to do so.
The textual variants are divide between “I am not going up” and “I am not yet going up”.
Some commentators state that “I am not going up” implies ’until the Father’s will is shown.
The verse seems to imply that Jesus remained while his brothers left for the feast. Thus, Jesus is not being persuaded by the arguments of his brothers. It also indicates Jesus’ resolution not to run before the Father’s guidance.
But, together with 7:10 - the two verses can give to some critics an impression that Jesus was not firm in his decision.
Somehow, the Father’s signal was given after the brothers had left for Judea. Jesus’ going to Jerusalem in secret is in marked contrast to his brothers’ insistence that he should seek publicity. The time when it would be proper for him to make public entry into Jerusalem had not yet come; it came six months later (John 12:12ff).
After going now to Jerusalem he will never be back to Galilee before his death.
There is an hidden irony here. While the Jews were busy erecting their tabernacles, God himself was “tabernacling” (1:14) in the midst of his people. Moreover, only Jesus can fulfil the eschatological hope that the feast of tabernacle was looking forward to: the entry to the age to come leads through faith in Jesus.
It is also worth to realise that Jesus’ transfiguration in the synoptic accounts probably took place at the feast of tabernacles (Mk 9:2 ff).
From Galilee, the scene shifts to Jerusalem. The “Jews” refers to the religious authorities who in 7:1 wanted to kill him. They were seeking him - watching and hoping to catch him.
As this chapter progress, the influential opponents of Jesus will be more clearly identified as the Pharisees (7:32, 47–48) and the members of the Sanhedrin (7:26, 32; 45, and 48).
We have here a distinction between “the crowds” and “the Jews”, of whom the crowds were afraid.
Jesus is the talk of the town. The crowds “whisper” about him.
Considering the help and blessing which his works and words had brought to many, they considered him to be “good”. The term “good” can reflect the “goodness of God” (cf. Mk 10:18; Lk 18:19).
Others, however, thought that his deeds of mercy and power were covering his real intentions: he was not what he claimed to be but he was an imposter leading people away - perhaps in the sense of Deut 13:6–10.
Unfortunately, it was the last view that gained official approval in orthodox Jewish circle later on. An early tradition quoted in the Talmud says that Jesus was executed on Passover Eve because he was a beguiler who led Israel astray (see Babylonian Talmud, tractate Sanhedrin 43a).
The fear of the authorities is also mentioned in 9:22; 19:38; 20:19.
Whether the crowds approved or disapproved him, they did not speak out their opinion. It was too risky.
Why do Christians not celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles?
Because we celebrate “another feast” - the Lord’s Supper. At this feast, the food is Christ’s body and the drink is Christ’s blood, and the thing that is joyously celebrated is the glorious cross and the indestructible resurrection from the dead and the eschatological hopes awaiting his certain return.
With this in view, the building of dingy tabernacles around Jerusalem pales in comparison with the true temple of God, the church, who is the living expressions of the grace of God.