John 7:1 After this, Jesus went around in Galilee. He did not want to go about in Judea because the Jewish leaders there were looking for a way to kill him. 2 But when the Jewish Festival of Tabernacles was near, 3 Jesus’ brothers said to him, “Leave Galilee and go to Judea, so that your disciples there may see the works you do. 4 No one who wants to become a public figure acts in secret. Since you are doing these things, show yourself to the world.” 5 For even his own brothers did not believe in him.
6 Therefore Jesus told them, “My time is not yet here; for you any time will do. 7 The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify that its works are evil. 8 You go to the festival. I am not going up to this festival, because my time has not yet fully come.” 9 After he had said this, he stayed in Galilee.
10 However, after his brothers had left for the festival, he went also, not publicly, but in secret. 11 Now at the festival the Jewish leaders were watching for Jesus and asking, “Where is he?”
12 Among the crowds there was widespread whispering about him. Some said, “He is a good man.” Others replied, “No, he deceives the people.” 13 But no one would say anything publicly about him for fear of the leaders.
Having finished the extended dialogue and controversy centred on Jesus’ claim to be ‘the bread of life’, a new and extended dialogue begins in chapter 7. It is set at the Jerusalem temple at the time of the Feast of Tabernacles and continues all the way through to the end of chapter 8 (with a possible interruption). At issue here are Jesus’ origins. From where does he get his authority and power? If he’s not from Galilee, is he ‘the prophet’ or ‘the messiah’ sent from God?
This Feast of Tabernacles celebrated God’s faithfulness in provision for the Exodus generation (cf Lev 23:33-44, Deut 16:13-16). It was meant to be a time of looking back with gratitude, not unlike a modern Thanksgiving celebration. So it’s time to gather with the family and go to the Jerusalem temple but Jesus refuses to go with his brothers. At this time, his brothers probably think Jesus is delusional (cf Mark 3:21). Later James and Jude became influential leaders of the early Christian church, but for now they are sceptics who goad Jesus to ‘get on with it’,… if he really is ‘a someone’. (Brotherly ‘love’ seems not to have changed in character over the centuries.)
So Jesus says he will not go to the Feast with his family. But is he lying? Or does he change his mind? Soon enough, he does indeed go the Feast (v10), but not with his brothers and not on their terms. He will not go to the Feast as a stunt or to be paraded about. But he goes in secret because his ‘hour’ has not yet come.
The wisdom of Jesus’ decision is immediately evident. The Jewish leaders were on the look out for him. The crowds were speculating in whispers. No one dared speak publicly for fear of the leaders. The Jerusalem Temple is a religious powder-keg which Jesus does not want to ignite… yet. Jesus’ “hour” has not yet come but it is approaching.
Lord Jesus, give me a sense of your timing. Now is important time. You are returning in glory to judge soon, but you have given me this day. Grant that I might live it well, with your priorities, in your strength, for your glory. Amen.