After these things Jesus walked in Galilee; for He did not want to walk in Judea, because the Jews sought to kill Him. Now the Jews' Feast of Tabernacles was at hand. His brothers therefore said to Him, "Depart from here and go into Judea, that Your disciples also may see the works that You are doing. For no one does anything in secret while he himself seeks to be known openly. If You do these things, show Yourself to the world." For even His brothers did not believe in Him. Then Jesus said to them, "My time has not yet come, but your time is always ready. The world cannot hate you, but it hates Me because I testify of it that its works are evil. You go up to this feast. I am not yet going up to this feast, for My time has not yet fully come." When He had said these things to them, He remained in Galilee.
But when His brothers had gone up, then He also went up to the feast, not openly, but as it were in secret. Then the Jews sought Him at the feast, and said, "Where is He?" And there was much complaining among the people concerning Him. Some said, "He is good"; others said, "No, on the contrary, He deceives the people." However, no one spoke openly of Him for fear of the Jews.
- John 7:1-13
After Jesus taught, He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him (Monday's reading), we read (in yesterday's reading) that many of His disciples, when they heard this, said, "This is a hard saying; who can understand it?" When Jesus knew in Himself that His disciples complained about this, He said to them, "Does this offend you? What then if you should see the Son of Man ascend where He was before? It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life. But there are some of you who do not believe." For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who would betray Him. And He said, "Therefore I have said to you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father." From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more. Then Jesus said to the twelve, "Do you also want to go away?" But Simon Peter answered Him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." Jesus answered them, "Did I not choose you, the twelve, and one of you is a devil?" He spoke of Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon, for it was he who would betray Him, being one of the twelve.
After these things Jesus walked in Galilee; for He did not want to walk in Judea, because the Jews sought to kill Him. Once again, we remember that in John's Gospel, the term "the Jews" is used as akin to a political affiliation, and most often refers to the leadership of the Council. At this point, His renown has spread, He has already had confrontations regarding healing and the Sabbath rest (at the previous Feast, the second Passover recorded in John's Gospel), and given controversial teachings at the synagogue in Capernaum for which many disciples turned away. He remains in Galilee, away from the powerful rule of the religious leadership in Judea at the temple in Jerusalem.
Now the Jews' Feast of Tabernacles was at hand. The following several chapters involve our Lord's visit to Jerusalem for the Feast of Tabernacles, and the entire section will cover eight days. This is the last year of Jesus' life as Incarnate Man. Here at this Festival, Jesus taught in the temple at Jerusalem and attracted a great deal of public attention. y study bible says that some thought Him mad, and others believed Him to be the Messiah. There are still others (such as the Sadducees and Pharisees, chief parties making up the Council) who consider Him to be a threat. Those who seek to kill Him (verse 1, above) are the religious leadership, not the people in general. The Feast of Tabernacles (Hebrew Succoth or Sukkot) is an eight-day festival occurring in autumn. It is an autumn harvest festival, but commemorates the time when Israel wandered in the wilderness of Sinai, and people lived in tents (or booths or tabernacles), rather than permanent dwellings. Together with Passover and the Jewish Pentecost (Feast of Weeks), this was one of the most important festivals of the ancient Jews. It included many sacrifices and celebrations (Leviticus 23:33-43). In later times, says my study bible, the final day of this feast also included drawing water from the pool of Siloam to be mixed with wine and poured at the foot of the altar, both as purification and also commemoration of the water flowing from the rock that was struck by Moses (Exodus 17:1-7). Further, the ceremonies included lighting of the great lamps in the outer court of the temple (see 2 Maccabees 10:5-9). All of these elements will be reflected in Jesus' acts and teachings through this next section of John's Gospel.
His brothers therefore said to Him, "Depart from here and go into Judea, that Your disciples also may see the works that You are doing. For no one does anything in secret while he himself seeks to be known openly. If You do these things, show Yourself to the world." For even His brothers did not believe in Him. Then Jesus said to them, "My time has not yet come, but your time is always ready. The world cannot hate you, but it hates Me because I testify of it that its works are evil. You go up to this feast . I am not yet going up to this feast, for My time has not yet fully come." When He had said these things to them, He remained in Galilee. Jesus' brothers are extended family, perhaps either children born to Joseph in an earlier marriage or cousins or other extended relations, for whom it is still common to use the term "brothers" throughout the Middle East today. Jesus articulates the importance of time and also His complete awareness of His mission ("My hour has not yet come"). He articulates a difference between the world, or a "worldly" point of view, and one that is capable of receiving Him in faith. He says, "I testify of [the world] that its works are evil." There is a clear difference here in how one views Christ and His works, between a worldly and a faithful perspective.
But when His brothers had gone up, then He also went up to the feast, not openly, but as it were in secret. Then the Jews sought Him at the feast, and said, "Where is He?" And there was much complaining among the people concerning Him. Some said, "He is good"; others said, "No, on the contrary, He deceives the people." However, no one spoke openly of Him for fear of the Jews. Jesus goes to the feast without a grand sort of appearance, such as the one He will make on Palm Sunday (12:12-16). The text gives us the setting among the people: they argue and dispute among one another about Jesus, but none will speak openly, for fear of the leadership in the temple, who seek Jesus.
John's Gospel gives us many personal hints about Jesus' life, scattered here and there in its details. Here we're told that Jesus' "brothers" ridicule Him. They don't believe He's who He says He is. They're not His disciples as are Peter and the rest of the Twelve. In our last reading, we've been told that many disciples have fallen away from Christ, because of His "hard saying" about eating His flesh and drinking His blood. What on earth can that mean? The leadership in the synagogue at Capernaum is also perplexed and argue among themselves about what He can possibly mean. And furthermore we've just been told that Jesus knows that even one among the Twelve chosen by Him will betray Him. Far from things going well from a worldly perspective, we see elements that go against Him. We see the "worldly" perspective at work that cannot accept His words in faith, even one personally chosen who will betray Him. His own kin are against Him. A "worldly" perspective we often seem to hear is one that would say that whatever Jesus did would be so acceptable, so good, so "perfect" that all must completely be drawn to Him and fawn upon Him. Somehow we have it in our given knowledge, so to speak, or cultural understanding, that one as "good" as Christ is going to have a perfect life -- or that a person favored by God will find no obstacles or even no hatred in life. But in Jesus' life, there is nothing that could be further from the truth. On the contrary, it's His very goodness that sets up so much -- in the perspective of the Gospel -- that goes against Him. It's His very goodness, and particularly the power of that absolute Good that He is in the world, that occasions opportunity and motive for betrayal, for envy, for those who want to do Him in, for all kinds of reasons. We may even suspect that is the case among His relatives who make fun of Him and taunt Him that He must go to Jerusalem, the center of all things, and show Himself, if He really is Who He says He is. This is a different kettle of fish, so to speak, from what a sort of conventional "worldly" perspective might tell us about Jesus, the Son of Man. Everything is not smooth sailing, and this will also play as a great stumbling block to faith in and of itself. Jesus says that He testifies of the world that its works are evil. We have to think closely about what this means and what it implies about a "worldly" perspective. People can worship all kinds of things: power, money, fame, pride of place, the appearance we make toward others. But Jesus cuts through all of that. Even His power isn't a worldly power and doesn't work in the ways that worldly power does. Everything depends on how we "see" Him, how we see the Cross, the perspective that faith or the capacity for faith will give us. A worldly perspective would teach us that everything is about the appearance we make, the praise of men, as Jesus puts it (12:43). But Christ sets our goals in a deeper place, one of the heart, in which we abide in Him and He in us -- and in which it is the praise of God that counts and makes us who we truly are.