The Gospel of John and God's Holy days

by: Bill Bratt


The gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke are called the synoptic gospels. These gospel writers presented an account of Jesusí life from a similar point of view.

The Gospel of John is unique. John omits a lot of information that is recorded in the synoptic gospels and adds information that they omit. William Barclay states in his "Daily Study Bible" on the Gospel of John: "The Fourth Gospel has no account of the Birth of Jesus, of His baptism, of his temptations;..... And, perhaps most surprising of all, it has none of the parable stories Jesus told which are so priceless a part of the other gospels..... But in the Fourth Gospel the speeches of Jesus are often a whole chapter long; and are often involved, argumentative pronouncements quite unlike the pithy unforgettable sayings of the other three"

The apostle John takes a totally different point of view in the Fourth Gospel. John gives a very detailed record of Jesusí life based around Godís Festivals, the seven annual "high day" Sabbaths.

Godís holy days, the weekly Sabbath and the seven annual "high day" Sabbath Festivals, are listed in order in the book of Leviticus chapter 23.

Jesus was a member of the God Family

John begins his record by stating that Jesus was a member of the God family. John 1:1-3 (NKJV) says: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. {2} He was in the beginning with God. {3} All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made." {14} "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth."

Duration of Jesusí Public Ministry

Jesus was about thirty years of age when He began his public ministry. Notice Luke 3:23 (NKJV) "Now Jesus Himself began His ministry at about thirty years of age".

Halleyís Bible Handbook (page 459) states: "As for the Duration of His (Jesusí) Public Life: three Passovers are mentioned: when he Cleansed the Temple (John 2:13); when He fed the 5,000 (John 6:4); and when He was Crucified (Luke 22:15). If the "Feast" in John 5:1 was a Passover, as is commonly supposed, that would make four Passovers, with three full years between the first and the fourth. If it was some other feast, coming in between Passovers, then there were only three Passovers, with two years between the first and third. Thus the duration of Jesusí Public Ministry was either about 3-1/2 years or about 2-1/2 years. Prevailing opinion favors 3-1/2 years."

Jesusí public ministry lasted for 3-1/2 years. Jesus was crucified on the Passover. If we back up 3-1/2 years that brings us to the Feast of Tabernacles time that Jesus began his public ministry. (There are six months between Passover and the Feast of Tabernacles.)

It is interesting that the word dwelt in John 1:14 means "tabernacled" or "pitched His tent". This could be a reference to the Feast of Tabernacles. We could translate this verse as: "Jesus became flesh and tabernacled among us".

First Week in Jesusí Public Ministry

At the close of Jesusí forty daysí temptation, Jesus had gone back from the wilderness to the place where John was preaching before He departed to Galilee.

In the following scriptures notice the detailed daily record of what happened each day of this particular week. This day by day record is probably what Jesus did during the first week of His public ministry.

In the first chapter of John it talks about Jesus being a member of the God Family and about John the Baptist, then in verse 29 it says: "The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, "Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!" Also notice verse 35-37: "Again, the next day, John stood with two of his disciples.{36} And looking at Jesus as He walked, he said, "Behold the Lamb of God! {37} The two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus."

Notice the phrase "Lamb of God". Lambs were sacrificially offered to atone for sin. Jesus was our Passover lamb and was sacrificed for us. "Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us." (1 Cor 5:7 NKJV)

Now letís look at the fourth day of this week in John 1:43 (NKJV): "The following day Jesus wanted to go to Galilee, and He found Philip and said to him, "Follow Me." Jesus continues to collect His disciples.

Now on the seventh day, which is the third day from the fourth day of John 1:43, Jesus was at the wedding in Cana where He did His first public miracle of turning the water into Wine. "On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there." (John 2:1 NKJV).

"When the master of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and did not know where it came from (but the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom. And he said to him, "Every man at the beginning sets out the good wine, and when the guests have well drunk, then the inferior. You have kept the good wine until now!"" (John 2:9-10 NKJV).

First Passover of Jesusí Public Ministry

"Now the Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. {14} And He found in the temple those who sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the moneychangers doing business. {15} When He had made a whip of cords, He drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen, and poured out the changers' money and overturned the tables. And He said to those who sold doves, "Take these things away! Do not make My Father's house a house of merchandise!" (John 2:13-16 NKJV).

Jesus went up to Jerusalem to keep the Passover for His first time in His public ministry. It was His custom from a child to keep the Passover. "His parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. {42} And when He was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem according to the custom of the feast. {43} When they had finished the days, as they returned, the Boy Jesus lingered behind in Jerusalem. And Joseph and His mother did not know it;" (Luke 2:41-43 NKJV).

A person might wonder why John called the Passover the "Passover of the Jews". John wrote his gospel around 100 A.D. At that time the Jews were the only people left in Palestine who were keeping the Passover.

After Jesus cleansed the Temple, many believed in His name. John 2:23 (NKJV) says: "Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in His name when they saw the signs which He did."

When reading the Bible remember that chapter breaks in the Bible were made by men.

As we continue reading in the third chapter of John, remember that it is still the Passover. Jesus meets Nicodemus and has a discussion on being "born again". Jesus says in John 3:6 (NKJV): "That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit."

The Passover pictures Jesus, who died for us, and is our Passover lamb. The Passover season also includes the "days of Unleavened Bread" which pictures ancient Israel leaving Egypt, a type of sin, and going through the Red Sea, a type of baptism. Baptism is being put under the water like being buried in a watery grave and coming up out the water like the resurrection of being a new man.

This conversation with Nicodemus about being "born again" ties in with the meaning of the Passover season.

After the Passover, Jesus and His disciples left Jerusalem and went to Judea, where they baptized many and then continued on their way home to Galilee.

(John 3:22 NKJV) "After these things Jesus and His disciples came into the land of Judea, and there He remained with them and baptized."

(John 4:3 NKJV) "He left Judea and departed again to Galilee."

Second Passover of Jesusí Public Ministry - The Unnamed Feast

"After this there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem (John 5:1 NKJV). Verse 2 continues: "Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, which is called in Hebrew, Bethesda." {5} "Now a certain man was there who had an infirmity thirty-eight years." {8} "Jesus said to him, "Rise, take up your bed and walk." {9} "And immediately the man was made well, took up his bed, and walked. And that day was the Sabbath."

It appears that this Passover or this feast day fell on the weekly Sabbath. The annual Sabbaths could also fall on a weekly Sabbath and they are also called Sabbaths. Letís continue in verse 10: "The Jews therefore said to him who was cured, "It is the Sabbath; it is not lawful for you to carry your bed.""

Jesus told this man to do three things that the Jews forbid people to do on the Sabbath: to carry his bed, to walk up to the Temple which was more than a Sabbathís day journey and to be healed.

"For this reason the Jews persecuted Jesus, and sought to kill Him, because He had done these things on the Sabbath" (John 5:16 NKJV).

Third Passover of Jesusí Public Ministry Jesus Fed the Five Thousand

"And Jesus went up on the mountain, and there He sat with His disciples. Now the Passover, a feast of the Jews, was near. {5} Then Jesus lifted up His eyes, and seeing a great multitude coming toward Him, He said to Philip, "Where shall we buy bread, that these may eat?" {6} But this He said to test him, for He Himself knew what He would do. {7} Philip answered Him, "Two hundred denarii worth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may have a little." {8} One of His disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, said to Him, {9} "There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two small fish, but what are they among so many?" {10} "Then Jesus said, "Make the people sit down." Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand. {11} And Jesus took the loaves, and when He had given thanks He distributed them to the disciples, and the disciples to those sitting down; and likewise of the fish, as much as they wanted. {12} So when they were filled, He said to His disciples, "Gather up the fragments that remain, so that nothing is lost." {13} Therefore they gathered them up, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves which were left over by those who had eaten. {14} Then those men, when they had seen the sign that Jesus did, said, "This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world."" (John 6:3-14 NKJV)

Jesus was very gracious and kind and wanted to share a meal with the great multitude who were hungry. He did this by doing a miracle. Notice that this miracle involved bread, which is one of the symbols of the Passover.

"Now when evening came, His disciples went down to the sea," (John 6:16 NKJV)

"On the following day, when the people who were standing on the other side of the sea saw that there was no other boat there, except that one which His disciples had entered, and that Jesus had not entered the boat with His disciples, but His disciples had gone away alone;" (John 6:22 NKJV)

Jesus now launches into a discussion on the Bread from Heaven.

"And Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst." (John 6:35 NKJV)

The Passover season includes the Days of Unleavened Bread. During this seven day period only unleavened bread is to be eaten. Jesus preaches about Himself being the Bread from Heaven.

Verse 59 closes this account of this Passover: "These things He said in the synagogue as He taught in Capernaum" (John 6:59 NKJV).

Jesusí Last Feast of Tabernacles

John 7:1 through John 10:21 gives the account of Jesusí last Feast of Tabernacles and Last Great Day.

"Now the Jews' Feast of Tabernacles was at hand" (John 7:2 NKJV).

Jesus is at home in Galilee and His brothers tell him that He should go up to Jerusalem to keep the Feast and to show Himself to the world. His brothers did not believe in Him.

"Then Jesus said to them, "My time has not yet come, but your time is always ready." (John 7:6 NKJV)

His brothers went up to the feast and the Jews were asking them, Where is He?

Jesus knew that the Jews were trying to kill Him, so He went to the feast incognito, then went to the temple and taught: "Now about the middle of the feast Jesus went up into the temple and taught" (John 7:14 NKJV).

Jesusí message to the Jews is that they donít keep the law. ""Did not Moses give you the law, yet none of you keeps the law? Why do you seek to kill Me?"" (John 7:19 NKJV). What do the Jews keep then if they donít keep the law? They keep the Talmud, the oral law and the traditions of the elders.

""If a man receives circumcision on the Sabbath, so that the law of Moses should not be broken, are you angry with Me because I made a man completely well on the Sabbath?" (John 7:23 NKJV).

"Then Jesus cried out, as He taught in the temple, saying, "You both know Me, and you know where I am from; and I have not come of Myself, but He who sent Me is true, whom you do not know" (John 7:28 NKJV). Jesus is saying that they do not know God!

The Last Great Day

The Last Great Day is the eighth day of the Feast. This day follows the seven days of the Feast of Tabernacles. It is an annual Sabbath and is distinctly separate from the Feast of Tabernacles. See Leviticus 23:30.

"On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, "If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water." But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified" (John 7:37-39 NKJV).

Jesus preached on the beginning or the evening of the Last Great Day. God reckons time with the days starting and ending at sunset. Leviticus 23:32 explains this: "from even unto even, shall ye celebrate your Sabbath. See also Genesis 1:5, 8, 13, 19, 23 and 31.

After Jesus was done preaching, notice that: "everyone went to his own house." (John 7:53 NKJV)

Now the next morning, which is the daylight part of the Last Great Day, Jesus again begins to teach.

"But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. Now early in the morning He came again into the temple, and all the people came to Him; and He sat down and taught them. {3} Then the scribes and Pharisees brought to Him a woman caught in adultery. And when they had set her in the midst, {4} they said to Him, "Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act." {5} "Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do You say?" (John 8:1-5 NKJV).

After Jesus dealt with the adulteress, He defended his Self-witness: ""I am One who bears witness of Myself, and the Father who sent Me bears witness of Me."" (John 8:18 NKJV)

He preached about "the truth shall make you free" (John 8:32) and Abrahamís seed.

"Then the Jews said to Him, "Now we know that You have a demon! Abraham is dead, and the prophets; and You say, 'If anyone keeps My word he shall never taste death'" (John 8:52 NKJV). "Jesus said to them, "Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM"" (John 8:58 NKJV). "Then they took up stones to throw at Him; but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by" (John 8:59 NKJV).

"Now as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth." (John 9:1 NKJV). Jesus heals this blind man.

The Feast of Dedication

Now, letís skip over to John 10:22.

"Now it was the Feast of Dedication in Jerusalem, and it was winter. And Jesus walked in the temple, in Solomon's porch" (John 10:22-23 NKJV).

There is an interval of two months between verses 21 and verse 22. The Feast of Tabernacles occurs in late September or the early part of October. The "Feast of Dedication" is in December.

This is the only mention in the Bible of the "Feast of Dedication". It is not one of Godís ordained Holy Days that is defined in Leviticus 23.

The Believerís Study Bible says: ""The Feast of Dedication" is not an Old Testament feast, but was instituted as a memorial of the dedication of the temple by Judas Maccabaeus in December, 165 b.c., after Antiochus Epiphanes desecrated it in 167 b.c. It is now called the Feast of Lights, or Hanukkah."

"Then the Jews took up stones again to stone Him" (John 10:31 NKJV).

"Therefore they sought again to seize Him, but He escaped out of their hand." (John 10:39 NKJV)

The Death of Lazarus

We now come to the last great miracle in the public ministry of Jesus Christ.

"So when Jesus came, He found that he (Lazarus) had already been in the tomb four days. Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles away" (John 11:17-18 NKJV). Jesus "cried with a loud voice, "Lazarus, come forth!" And he who had died came out bound hand and foot with graveclothes, and his face was wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, "Loose him, and let him go"" (John 11:43-44 NKJV).

The Fourth and Last Passover of Jesusí Public Ministry

"Now before the feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that His hour had come that He should depart from this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end" (John 13:1 NKJV). Jesus "rose from supper and laid aside His garments, took a towel and girded Himself. After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples' feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded" (John 13:4-5 NKJV).

Jesus washes the Disciples' Feet and institutes the new Passover sacraments of the bread and the wine to represent His body and His blood. For the new Passover symbols we have to turn Luke 22:14-20: "When the hour had come, He sat down, and the twelve apostles with Him. {15} Then He said to them, "With fervent desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; {16} for I say to you, I will no longer eat of it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God." {17} Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and said, "Take this and divide it among yourselves; {18} for I say to you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes." {18} And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, "This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me." {20} Likewise He also took the cup after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you" (Luke 22:14-20 NKJV).

Jesus gives His last message to His disciples in John chapters 14-17. In John 18 He is arrested in Gethsemane, appears before the high priest, denied by Peter, questioned by the High Priest and appears in Pilateís court.

"So then Pilate took Jesus and scourged Him. And the soldiers twisted a crown of thorns and put it on His head, and they put on Him a purple robe" (John 19:1-2 NKJV).

"Now it was the Preparation Day of the Passover, and about the sixth hour. And he (Pilate) said to the Jews, "Behold your King!" But they cried out, "Away with Him, away with Him! Crucify Him!" Pilate said to them, "Shall I crucify your King?" The chief priests answered, "We have no king but Caesar! Then he delivered Him to them to be crucified. So they took Jesus and led Him away" (John 19:14-16 NKJV).

Jesus is then crucified by the soldiers and remains on the cross for

approximately six hours.

"So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, "It is finished!" And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit. {31} "Therefore, because it was the Preparation Day, that the bodies should not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away. {32} Then the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and of the other who was crucified with Him. {33} But when they came to Jesus and saw that He was already dead, they did not break His legs. {34} But one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out" (John 19:30-34 NKJV).

Jesus was crucified on Passover. He is our Passover Lamb. "Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us." (1 Cor 5:7 NKJV)

Notice the words "high day" in verse 31. This indicates that this day was an annual Sabbath or holy day, the First Day of Unleavened Bread.

Jesus is buried in Joseph's tomb: {38} "After this, Joseph of Arimathea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly, for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus; and Pilate gave him permission. So he came and took the body of Jesus. {39} And Nicodemus, who at first came to Jesus

by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds. Then they took the body of Jesus, and bound it in strips of linen with the spices, as the custom of the Jews is to bury. Now in the place where He was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid. {42} So there they laid Jesus, because of the Jews' Preparation Day, for the tomb was nearby" (John 19:38-42 NKJV).

The "Preparation Day" is the day before the weekly Sabbath or an annual "high day" Sabbath. Notice that this "Preparation Day" was before the "high day" Sabbath of John 19:31 which was not a weekly Sabbath.

On the First Day of the Week

"Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene went to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb" (John 20:1 NKJV).

Notice that it was early in the morning and it was dark. It was before sunrise and the stone had already been rolled away and Jesus was not in the tomb. He had already been resurrected. (Request our free article: The Resurrection was not on Sunday to explain this Bible truth.)

In Conclusion:

The apostle John gives a detailed record of Jesusí public ministry based around Godís holy days, the annual "high day" Sabbath Festivals. For years people have known that the only way to prove the length of Jesusí ministry is to go to the Gospel of John and count the number of Passovers. You can not do this in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark or Luke. It is amazing to realize that God inspired the apostle John to record his testimony of Jesusí public ministry around Godís Feast Days. These feast days are important to God for He calls them His feasts: "And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, "Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: 'The feasts of the LORD, which you shall proclaim to be holy convocations, these are My feasts"" (Lev 23:2 NKJV).

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The idea of this article came as a result of listening to a 1978 sermon on an audio tape by Raymond McNair. The title of the audio tape is: "Defense of the Sabbath".

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For more information, request our free articles:

Godís Holy Days,

New Testament Holy Days

and the

Bible Correspondence Course

Lesson #10: Christian Holy Days.

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