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John 7:36

ESV What does he mean by saying, ‘You will seek me and you will not find me,’ and, ‘Where I am you cannot come’?”
NIV What did he mean when he said, 'You will look for me, but you will not find me,' and 'Where I am, you cannot come'?'
NASB What is this statement that He said, ‘You will seek Me, and will not find Me; and where I am, you cannot come’?'
CSB What is this remark he made: 'You will look for me, and you will not find me; and where I am, you cannot come'? "
NLT What does he mean when he says, ‘You will search for me but not find me,’ and ‘You cannot go where I am going’?'
KJV What manner of saying is this that he said, Ye shall seek me, and shall not find me: and where I am, thither ye cannot come?

What does John 7:36 mean?

Jesus' comments in the last few verses have robbed some of His critics' confidence. At the time of these events, many Jewish people were scattered around the known world. This was due to migration, persecution, and conquest. That widespread Hebrew population was referred to as "The Dispersion" (John 7:35). From the Jewish mindset, there were two primary cultures: Jewish and Gentile. In this context, Gentiles were often summarized as "The Greeks" (Colossians 3:11).

As He will also tell the disciples, Jesus has pointed out that He will soon be going to God the Father, as only He can. Later Jesus will explain that this is in preparation for His eventual return. Here, though, his remarks are met with confusion. Some might have thought Jesus was "going to him who sent me" via suicide. Others, as shown in verse 35, seem to think He intends to leave Jerusalem to spread His message deep into the Dispersion.

Either way, those outcomes would make the local religious leaders happy. Once Jesus is gone from their area of influence, their concern for Him would be gone, as well. Earlier, the Pharisees had sent men to arrest Jesus (John 7:32); the next passage describes how those men instead left Him alone. Confusion over Jesus' intentions, such as what's described here, might have been a major factor in that decision.
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