John 7–8 takes place in the autumn of the third year of the Lord’s ministry. Like His countrymen, Jesus was planning to attend the Feast of the Tabernacles in Jerusalem. Some of His brethren felt that the festival presented an opportunity for Jesus to make a public declaration of His divine mission (see John 7:4). Jesus rejected the suggestion and delayed His departure for a few days, traveling secretly because the Jewish leaders sought His life (see vv. 8–13). “When the time was come that he should be received up, he stedfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem” (Luke 9:51). He would teach in Judea and Perea again before the crowning events of Gethsemane and Golgotha but would not return to His beloved Galilee until after His Resurrection.
Prayerfully study John 7–8and consider the following principles before preparing your lessons.
We learn the truthfulness of Jesus’ teachings by living them (see John 7:14–17).
As we seek and follow the truth, we become free from the bondage of sin and error (see John 8:21–24, 31–36).
The Life and Teachings of Jesus and His Apostles, 107–10.
Choose from the following ideas, or use some of your own, as you prepare lessons for John 7–8.
Ask students if they have ever been doubted when telling the truth to those they love. Ask: How did you feel?
Divide the class into two groups. Have one group read John 7:1–9and summarize it for the class. Have the other group read and summarize Joseph Smith—History 1:48–50. Ask students to contrast the feelings Jesus and Joseph Smith may have had because of the ways their families responded to their testimonies. Read the following statement by Elder Bruce R. McConkie:
“A testimony of the divinity of Christ and of the saving power of his gospel is not bestowed automatically because of family relationship. It comes only by personal obedience to those eternal laws upon which its receipt is [predicated]. In nearly all ages there have been prophets and righteous men whose sons and daughters have forsaken the faith of their fathers and have chosen to walk after the manner of the world.
“Frequent special reference is made to the sons of Joseph and Mary as the ‘brethren’ of Jesus, though in fact they were his half-brothers. (Matt. 12:46; 13:55; John 2:12; Acts 1:14; 1 Cor. 9:5.) 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); one of them, identified by Paul as ‘James the Lord’s brother’ (Gal. 1:19), was to minister in the holy apostleship; and yet another, Judas, who calls himself, ‘Jude, the … brother of James’ (Jude 1), wrote the epistle of Jude” (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 1:437).
Ask: How do you think Jesus ultimately won the trust and belief of His half brothers?
Point out that young people sometimes complain that their parents or other adults do not trust them. Ask: How can we win the trust of those we love? Encourage students to show the same integrity and commitment to the gospel in their lives as Jesus Christ did in His life.
Invite the students to imagine that a friend approached them and asked how she could know if the law of tithing was really a commandment of God. Ask: How would you answer such a question? Have students read John 7:17to find the answer (see also Alma 32:26–42and 1 John 2:3–6).
Read the following from Elder Loren C. Dunn, a member of the Seventy. Ask students to watch for specific ways John 7:17applies.
“I am reminded of two young men who came in to see me some months ago. They had been recommended by their priesthood leaders. From the moment they stepped into the office, they began in a very sincere way questioning certain doctrines and teachings and procedures of the Church. …
“I asked them finally if their questions perhaps represented the symptoms of their problem and not the cause. Wasn’t their real question whether or not this church is true? Whether or not it is actually the Church of Jesus Christ? And whether or not it is led by divine revelation? The young men agreed that perhaps if they were sure of the answers to these questions, they could take care of the other questions that seemed to arise in their hearts. …
“I asked them if they would be interested in a three-month experiment. They said they would try but were not anxious to commit themselves until they found out what I had in mind.
“‘During the next three months will you attend all your church meetings and listen carefully to what is being said. …
“‘… Will you reinstitute in your personal life prayer, night and morning. …’
“I asked them if … they would refrain from drinking, smoking, and drugs. …
“I asked them if … they would resolve to keep themselves morally clean and in harmony with the principles of virtue which the Savior taught. They said they would. And then I suggested they establish a schedule, on their own, during the next three months to read the Book of Mormon from cover to cover—a few pages each day, with a prayer at each reading that the Lord would bless them to know if the book is true and actually from him. They agreed.
“… I added, ‘If things go properly, you’ll notice some by-products, such as a growing awareness and concern for your fellowman and greater appreciation and consideration for other people.’ They accepted the challenge and left” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1971, 106–7; or Ensign, June 1971, 81–82).
Discuss how the principles in John 7:17can be applied to our own lives. Encourage students to privately identify where their own testimony is lacking and try the same three-month experiment to build it.
Place a large stone before the class with the words “the first stone” written on it. Have students read John 8:1–11looking for how a stone like this fits into the story. Ask:
What did the Lord say about casting the first stone?
What do you think the Lord was trying to teach in these verses?
Why is self-righteousness such a dangerous sin?
How can we avoid self-righteousness?
How could seeing a stone like this on your dresser every morning help?
Give all the students small stones and encourage them to display them in their rooms. (Leave the large stone in a visible place in the classroom for a week or so as a reminder of this lesson.) Encourage students to avoid the sin of judging others and instead to be an example by constantly striving to overcome their own sins.
Tell students that refraining from being judgmental and critical of others is not the same as embracing sin. Read the following from Elder Spencer W. Kimball, then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve:
“Although [God] loves the sinner, he ‘cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance.’ (D&C 1:31.) As sinners we will better appreciate his love and kindness if similar abhorrence for sin impels us to transform our lives through repentance” (The Miracle of Forgiveness, 59).
Elder Russell M. Nelson, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, added:
“I have been impressed to speak on the subject of tolerance—a virtue much needed in our turbulent world. But in discussing this topic, we must recognize at the outset that there is a difference between tolerance and tolerate. Your gracious tolerance for an individual does not grant him or her license to do wrong, nor does your tolerance obligate you to tolerate his or her misdeed. That distinction is fundamental to an understanding of this vital virtue” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1994, 90; or Ensign, May 1994, 69).
Have students reread verse 11 looking for how Jesus felt about the woman and her sins. Discuss any questions they might have concerning the need to love their neighbor while hating sin. Ask for suggestions from the class on how to do this, and write their suggestions on the board. Testify that Jesus Christ is our example. He ate with, socialized with, and loved sinners, but He always made clear His abhorrence of sin.
How does sin affect us physically, spiritually, socially, and mentally? (List responses on the board.)
How can the truth make us free in each of these four areas?
Elder Bruce R. McConkie, expanding on the phrase “the truth shall make you free,” wrote:
“Free from the damning power of false doctrine; free from the bondage of appetite and lust; free from the shackles of sin; free from every evil and corrupt influence and from every restraining and curtailing power; free to go on to the unlimited freedom enjoyed in its fulness only by exalted beings” (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 1:456–57).
Ask the students if any of them study music. (Note: If you used the teaching suggestion for Luke 17:1–10 [p. 95], you might want to pick a different talent for this object lesson.) If any of them do, ask: How does practicing a piece of music limit your freedom? (One answer is that practicing can take much time and might not leave enough for other things we’d like to do.) Invite a student with little musical background to play on an instrument a difficult piece you have selected. Ask students:
How does gaining a knowledge of music and practicing a piece give a person freedom?
How does lack of knowledge and expertise limit freedom?
To further illustrate this point, play a recording of the selection or arrange for an accomplished student to perform it for the class. Allow the music to play long enough for the students to feel the beauty of the composition. Ask:
How do you feel when you listen to someone who has so much freedom to play music?
How is this like gaining knowledge of and living the gospel? (Discuss their answers.)
Explain that knowledge is power if we live according to that knowledge. Not knowing the truth limits our freedom to live the gospel. Sin and ignorance bind us and keep us from becoming what we could be, while obedience to the truth gives us freedom. Ask: What are some examples of how the truth brings us freedom?
Tell the students that in John 7–8the Savior repeatedly bore witness of His divinity. Divide your class into four groups. Have each group read one of the following scripture blocks: John 7:14–31; John 7:32–53; John 8:12–32; John 8:33–59. Have them note each time the Savior declared who He was, and then invite them to report their findings to the class. Ask: Why do you think Jesus became more open in bearing testimony of Himself as He neared the end of His ministry?
What is the significance of Jesus’ declaration in John 8:58?
Why would the Jews pick up stones to kill Him?
How does knowing that Jesus is Jehovah, the God of the Old Testament, affect our understanding of Him?
Testify that Jesus Christ is Jehovah, the God of Moses, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.