Scripture: After this Jesus went about in Galilee. He would not go about in Judea, because the Jews were seeking to kill him. Now the Jews’ Feast of Booths was at hand. So his brothers said to him, “Leave here and go to Judea, that your disciples also may see the works you are doing. For no one works in secret if he seeks to be known openly. If you do these things, show yourself to the world.” For not even his brothers believed in him. Jesus said to them, “My time has not yet come, but your time is always here. The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify about it that its works are evil. You go up to the feast. I am not going up to this feast, for my time has not yet fully come.” After saying this, he remained in Galilee.
But after his brothers had gone up to the feast, then he also went up, not publicly but in private. The Jews were looking for him at the feast, and saying, “Where is he?” And there was much muttering about him among the people. While some said, “He is a good man,” others said, “No, he is leading the people astray.” Yet for fear of the Jews no one spoke openly of him.
John 7:1-13 ESV [Click here to read the entire chapter.]
Observation: Recapping Yesterday’s Daily Focus, many of Jesus’ disciples question his hard saying about consuming his body and blood (not understanding the spiritual implications) and thus part company. Discerning that even his twelve were grumbling over his proclamation, Jesus asks if they are offended and supposes how they might respond if he ascended to where he dwelled in his eternal, spiritual form. And he adds that his words address our human spirits to foster growth in them. As the others walk away, Jesus asks the twelve whether they wish to leave, too. Peter rightfully responds with a rhetorical question and statement of truth: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” (vv.68-69) Jesus affirms Peter’s response and adds that this is why he chose them, excluding the one who is “a devil.” Thus, John clarifies to his readers that Judas would betray Jesus.
Today’s devotion marks a location and time shift from Galilee to Jerusalem during the Feast of Booths. Known also as the Feast of Tabernacles or Sukkot, this eight-day celebration takes place in autumn on the fifteenth day of the seventh month, beginning five days before Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement). With each family constructing a shelter from branches, the celebration recalls the forty-year wilderness wandering and points to Israel’s future redemption and salvation (see Leviticus 23:33-36). John tells us that Jesus’ brothers urged Jesus to leave Galilee and attend the feast to reveal his works to prospective disciples on a grander scale with the influx of pilgrims. But John notes that their intentions were dubious because they did not believe in him (i.e., that he was the Messiah). But Jesus graciously sidesteps their machinations, citing it was not his time, given that many hate him for calling them out regarding their evil works.
So Jesus momentarily remained in Galilee until the timing was right to attend the feast outside public scrutiny. Meanwhile, the Jewish leaders were combing the crowd to see if Jesus was in attendance. And similar to the muttering at the synagogue in Capernaum, the quiet conversations around the feast centered on whether Jesus of Nazareth was a good man or a troublemaker leading the people astray. Still, no one spoke aloud about the matter for fear of backlash from the religious authorities.
Takeaway: A first reading of the passage might lead our modern audience to believe that Jesus did not speak the truth to his brothers. But a key point explains why he later attended after telling his brothers he would not participate in the feast. Jesus’ brothers, motivated likely by jealousy borne in unbelief, offered misguided advice to expose Jesus as the real deal or a fraud. So Jesus responds accordingly with language that only would be understood by those who believe he is the Messiah. In particular, twice, he says his time has not come (“fully come” the second time). In other words, Jesus will not attend the feast to satisfy his brothers’ ill-conceived scheme because when Jesus reveals his Sonship and speaks words that expose the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and Scribes, his mission’s end will be near. Still, he will later attend on terms that align with the Father’s will. In short, Jesus’ cryptic response is similar to his parables: understood by those who have “ears to hear,” who, only by faith, will comprehend.
Our takeaway? A realm of Christian thought called “situation ethics ” holds that ethics are relevant to the circumstances. For example, if I harbor an innocent person from a would-be assailant and lie to them to spare the person’s life, this would not violate God’s law concerning lying. The ten Boom family resolved to hide and lie as necessary to protect the innocent Jews they hid in their house from the Nazis who sought to exterminate Jews.
Still, while I argue above that Jesus did not lie to his brothers, one might contend he withheld his full intent, misleading his brothers with his cryptic response. Regardless, we must not sit in the judgment seat but glean what the Word tells us. And the focus of this passage is timing. What might be a “good thing” may not be the “right thing” based on timing. How so? Time is more than the fourth dimension of our universe. For believers, it is a sacred gift and, thus, to be treasured and maximized through obedience to our Creator’s will. Hence, as Christ’s agents, we must use our gift of time to pursue our Lord’s will to grow his kingdom and glorify his name.
Jesus modeled this concept of time and its fulfillment for his disciples in this story and throughout his ministry, aiming for the climactic fulfillment of his time at Calvary. For us to steward our time for the greater good may mean we say no to a worthy cause to fulfill other ongoing commitments. Or it may require us to turn down promotions to make time for family or ongoing ministry commitments. On a smaller scale, it may mean forgoing an important meeting or phone call to prioritize time with others in our company.
And how we spend our time is also essential. It’s not necessarily about productivity. It may entail attentive listening to the lonely or sitting in silence alongside the bereaved. In sum, we best fulfill God’s gift of time when we align with his will and seek his best for others.
Prayer: Father God, thank you for your Son, who always made time for those you brought across his path. And thank you that he uncompromisingly stayed on course to fulfill time according to your will so that we might be forgiven and reconciled to you. Still, we confess that we struggle to be good stewards of our time. So would you please help us respond to your Holy Spirit’s provocations to realign with your will to fulfill your gift of time? Amen.
Rev. Gordon Green, M.Div., M.A. Counseling