Jesus attended the Feast of Tabernacles in Jerusalem. He went to the temple and taught the people there how they could receive a witness that His teachings were from God the Father. Because the people were contending about who Jesus was, He used images of water and light to testify of His divinity. He also taught them about the Holy Ghost.
Write the following question on the board: Did Jesus have brothers and sisters?
Invite students to respond to the question. If necessary, help students understand that Joseph and Mary had children who were born after Jesus and who would have been raised in the same household with Him. However, because Jesus Christ was the literal son of Mary and God the Father, not Joseph, these individuals were Jesus’s half brothers and half sisters (see Mathew 13:55–56).
What do you think it would have been like to grow up in the same home as Jesus?
Do you think it would be easier to believe in Him if you had grown up with Him? Why or why not?
Point out that in John 7 we learn how some of Jesus’s “brethren” (John 7:3, 5) viewed Him. The term brethren probably refers to Jesus’s half brothers, though it might also include other close relatives.
Invite several students to take turns reading John 7:1–5 aloud.
What do we learn from verse 5 about Jesus’s brethren?
Invite a student to read aloud the following statement by Elder Bruce R. McConkie of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:
“A testimony of the divinity of Christ and of the saving power of his gospel is not bestowed automatically because of family relationship.
“… Though they were reared in the same household and came under the benign influence of Joseph and Mary, though they were aware of the teachings, ministry, and miracles of Jesus himself, yet these his close relatives had not so far accepted him as the Messiah. However, all of them, apparently, were converted later (Acts 1:14)” (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols. [1965–73], 1:437).
How is it possible that some of Jesus’s own family members did not yet believe in Him, even though they were aware of His teachings and miracles?
Point out that John 7 records events that occurred when the Feast of Tabernacles was being held in Jerusalem (see John 7:2). During this eight-day feast, considered to be “the greatest and most joyful of all” (Bible Dictionary, “Feasts”), many Jews traveled to Jerusalem to commemorate God’s blessings upon the children of Israel when they sojourned in the wilderness, living in makeshift booths, or tabernacles, following their delivery from slavery in Egypt (see Leviticus 23:39–43). The Jews also celebrated and gave thanks for the yearly harvest of fruits and grains (see Exodus 23:16).
According to verses 3–4, what did Jesus’s brethren want Him to do?
Summarize John 7:6–10 by explaining that Jesus decided to delay going to the feast, but He encouraged His brethren to go. After the feast had started, Jesus then went in secret—knowing that some of the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem wanted to kill him but that His time to die had not yet come.
Invite a student to read John 7:11–13 aloud.
What were various people in Jerusalem saying about Jesus?
Point out that just as in Jesus’s day, there are varying opinions about Jesus Christ in our day. Some people know and testify that He is the Son of God and Savior of all mankind. Others believe in Him and hope His gospel is true. However, there are also people who doubt the divinity of Jesus Christ and the truthfulness of His teachings. Invite students to look as they continue to study John 7 for how we can know that Jesus Christ is our Savior and that His teachings are true.
Invite a student to read John 7:14–15 aloud. Ask students to follow along, looking for what Jesus did at the temple. It may be helpful to explain that the temple was the focal point of the celebrations that took place during the Feast of Tabernacles.
What did Jesus do?
Why did the Jews marvel?
Invite a student to read John 7:16–18 aloud. Ask students to follow along, looking for what Jesus said the people could do in order to know whether His doctrine, or teachings, were true.
According to verse 16, from whom did Jesus receive the doctrine He taught?
How can someone know that the doctrine Jesus taught is truly from God?
What principle can we learn about how we can receive a testimony of Heavenly Father’s teachings? (Using their own words, students should identify a principle such as the following: If we do Heavenly Father’s will, then we will receive a testimony of His doctrine. You may want to invite students to mark the words in verse 17 that teach this principle.)
To help students understand how this principle can be applied in our lives, invite a student to read aloud the following statement by President James E. Faust of the First Presidency:
“We acquire a testimony of the principles of the gospel by obediently trying to live them. … A testimony of the efficacy of prayer comes through humble and sincere prayer. A testimony of tithing comes by paying tithing” (“Lord, I Believe; Help Thou Mine Unbelief,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2003, 22).
Although His own brethren did not initially believe in Him, they later gained a testimony and were converted (see Acts 1:14).
How would the principle identified in John 7:17 help Jesus’s brothers gain a testimony of Jesus Christ and His teachings?
Ask students to imagine they have a friend who is struggling with his or her testimony of the gospel.
How might you use the principle we identified in John 7:17 to help this friend?
To help students testify of the principle they identified above and feel its truth and importance, display the following statement:
Encourage students to complete the statement in their class notebooks or scripture study journals by writing about a gospel commandment or principle they have come to know is true through their efforts to live it.
Invite a few students to share what they wrote with the class.
Invite students to write down a gospel truth, commandment, or teaching that they would like to receive a stronger testimony of. Invite them to also write what they will do to receive a greater testimony of this truth, commandment, or teaching by applying the principle they learned in John 7:17.
Summarize John 7:19–36 by explaining that Jesus rebuked the Jewish leaders for rejecting His teachings and miracles and seeking to kill Him. Many people wondered if He was the Messiah, and the chief priests and Pharisees sent officers to take Him.
Ask for a volunteer who is thirsty to come to the front of the class. Give the student an empty cup, and ask him or her:
Will this satisfy your thirst?
What else do you need?
Display a source of water such as a water bottle or a pitcher full of water. Fill the cup with water, and invite the student to drink. Then ask the student to return to his or her seat.
Hold up the pitcher or water bottle you used to fill the student’s cup. Explain that during each of the eight days of the Feast of Tabernacles an appointed priest drew water from the pool of Siloam with a golden pitcher and poured the water into the silver basin at the base of the temple altar. On the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles, when the priest had done so, Jesus stood and offered an invitation to the people. (See Bruce R. McConkie, Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols. [1965–73], 1:446.)
Invite a student to read John 7:37 aloud. Ask students to follow along, looking for what the Savior invited the people to do after He appeared at the temple on the eighth and final day of the feast.
What did the Savior invite the people to do?
Considering the drawing and pouring of water performed by the priest on this feast day, why do you think Jesus would extend this invitation at this precise time?
Write the following incomplete statement on the board: If we come unto Jesus Christ and believe on Him …
Invite a student to read John 7:38–39 aloud, including the Joseph Smith Translation of John 7:39 found in verse 39, footnote b. Invite students to look for the promise Jesus made to those who come unto Him and believe on Him.
Explain that the phrase “out of his belly” suggests that the living water will be within and flow from the believer, rather than coming from an outside source.
According to verse 39, what did the living water the Savior spoke of represent?
Explain that “for some reason not fully explained in the scriptures, the Holy Ghost did not operate in the fulness among the Jews during the years of Jesus’s mortal sojourn (John 7:39; 16:7)” (Bible Dictionary, “Holy Ghost”). While the gift of the Holy Ghost would not be given in that dispensation until after the Savior was glorified by completing His mortal mission, the power of the Holy Ghost was available to help people receive a testimony of the truths the Savior and His disciples taught.
Based on the Savior’s teachings in John 7:37–39, how would you complete the statement on the board? (Students may use different words but should identify the following principle: If we come unto Jesus Christ and believe on Him, then we will be filled with the Holy Ghost.)
Explain that those filled with the Holy Ghost are able to influence others for good. Invite students to think of a time when they were filled with the Holy Ghost and, as a result, were able to influence someone else for good. Invite a few students to share their experiences.
Summarize John 7:40–53 by explaining that the chief priests and Pharisees again desired to have Jesus arrested. Nicodemus, the Pharisee who had come to the Savior by night (see John 3:1–2), came to the Savior’s defense and reminded his fellow Pharisees and the chief priests that their own law would not allow an individual to be condemned until he was given a chance to be heard.
Conclude by testifying of the truths students identified in their study of John 7.