October 20, 2019 at First Presbyterian Church at Unionville, NY (BPC)
[Jhn 7:1-9 ESV] 1 After this Jesus went about in Galilee. He would not go about in Judea, because the Jews were seeking to kill him. 2 Now the Jews’ Feast of Booths was at hand. 3 So his brothers said to him, “Leave here and go to Judea, that your disciples also may see the works you are doing. 4 For no one works in secret if he seeks to be known openly. If you do these things, show yourself to the world.” 5 For not even his brothers believed in him. 6 Jesus said to them, “My time has not yet come, but your time is always here. 7 The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify about it that its works are evil. 8 You go up to the feast. I am not going up to this feast, for my time has not yet fully come.” 9 After saying this, he remained in Galilee.
As Christians today we are surrounded by opposition, even in our own families.
In this struggle we are not alone. Jesus too walked among those who hated him. The Jews sought to kill him. His own brothers did not believe in him.
Though opposition surrounds we must yet seek to the do the will of God, and forever remain dedicated to following the Lord, for through him great works are done and in him is eternal life.
We find opposition to Christ right away in the first verses of our passage.
I. CONTEXT AND HISTORY (vs. 1-2)
1 After this Jesus went about in Galilee. He would not go about in Judea, because the Jews were seeking to kill him. 2 Now the Jews’ Feast of Booths was at hand.
A. After this
Now when the text says “AFTER THIS Jesus went about in Galilee” the time reference is in relation to that which occurred just before — the miracle of the feeding of the five thousand, the miraculous walking on water, and Jesus’ speech to the crowd of disciples (some True and some False) saying that He is the bread of Life.
B. Going about in Judea
The text explains that Jesus stayed in Galilee because had he gone to Judea (where Jerusalem is) he would have come across the Jews who were seeking to kill him. Since the “Feast of Booths” was at hand, we know that Jesus spent about 6 months going about in Galilee. John does not record what happened in this 6 months. But the other gospels provide details of this time in the life of Jesus. They tell us that he restored the hearing of a deaf man in the region of the Decapolis, and he cast out a demon from the daughter of a Syrophoenician woman because of her faith.
Incidentally, the phrase that this women used which led Jesus to praise her, is one that for some years I contended was my own dogs favorite verse in the Bible. The Syrophoenician woman said, “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters table.”
But that is an aside. Just know that Jesus did not hide out for 6 months but remained active in his ministry. Then, the Feast of Booths was a hand.
C. The Feast of Booths
WHAT is the Feast of Booths?
First, it is worth noting that this is also called the Feast of Tabernacles. So these are not two separate festivals, but one which has been given two names. A booth or tabernacle is a tent. It is an impermanent structure.
Our Old Testament reading from Leviticus 23:33-44 provides the historical origin of this festival. Most importantly we read of this festival “You shall dwell in booths for seven days. All native Israelites shall dwell in booths, that your generations may know that I made the people of Israel dwell in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.”
In Nehemiah 8:13-18 we hear of this festival being celebrated.
[Neh 8:13-18 ESV] 13 On the second day the heads of fathers’ houses of all the people, with the priests and the Levites, came together to Ezra the scribe in order to study the words of the Law. 14 And they found it written in the Law that the LORD had commanded by Moses that the people of Israel should dwell in booths during the feast of the seventh month, 15 and that they should proclaim it and publish it in all their towns and in Jerusalem, “Go out to the hills and bring branches of olive, wild olive, myrtle, palm, and other leafy trees to make booths, as it is written.” 16 So the people went out and brought them and made booths for themselves, each on his roof, and in their courts and in the courts of the house of God, and in the square at the Water Gate and in the square at the Gate of Ephraim. 17 And all the assembly of those who had returned from the captivity made booths and lived in the booths, for from the days of Jeshua the son of Nun to that day the people of Israel had not done so. And there was very great rejoicing. 18 And day by day, from the first day to the last day, he read from the Book of the Law of God. They kept the feast seven days, and on the eighth day there was a solemn assembly, according to the rule.
This festival of booths continued to be celebrated in the time of Jesus. And it is said by the first century Jewish historian Josephus that it was the most popular of all the festivals.
People would come to Jerusalem from all over the land and there dwell in tents for a week. Sounds like fun, huh? Well, it wasn’t just hiding away in tents, but there were celebrations and parties, and a various rites that were conducted, including the lighting of a candelabra in the inner court of the temple to remind the people of the pillar of fire that guided their ancestors by night through the desert.
Well, this feast of booths, according to Exodus 23:17 is, by law, one of the three times each year that all men shall appear before God; presumably meaning at the Temple.
So, fulfilling all the law, Jesus must go to the feast. And he will go later, but in his own time. For the time and circumstances in which his brother desires him to go to the feast simply will not do. His time has not yet come.
II. MY TIME HAS NOT YET COME (vs. 3-9)
3 So his brothers said to him, “Leave here and go to Judea, that your disciples also may see the works you are doing. 4 For no one works in secret if he seeks to be known openly. If you do these things, show yourself to the world.” 5 For not even his brothers believed in him. 6 Jesus said to them, “My time has not yet come, but your time is always here. 7 The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify about it that its works are evil. 8 You go up to the feast. I am not going up to this feast, for my time has not yet fully come.” 9 After saying this, he remained in Galilee.
Jesus’ brothers mockingly insult him. They do not believe in him at this juncture. And they presume to tell him what to do: “Show yourself to the world.”
But Jesus response, “My time has not yet come.”
This isn’t the first time Jesus says this. Recall back to the first miracle in the Gospel of John when Jesus changed water into wine. Jesus’ mother said to him “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.”
The hour spoken of in our passage is, as commentators Calvin and Hendriksen say, referring to the time of Jesus going to the festival. But I must think also that it is alluding to events surrounding Jesus’ final days: his arrest, trial, and especially his crucifixion. His hour has not yet come. He knows the Lord’s plans.
Jesus is hated by the Jews who seek to kill him. And he explains here when he is hated. “The world hates me because I testify about it that its works are evil.”
The works of the world are evil. Not neutral. Not some good in them, but evil.
The Westminster Confession, 16:7 explains:
Works done by unregenerate men, although for the matter of them they may be things which God commands; and of good use both to themselves and others: yet, because they proceed not from an heart purified by faith; nor are done in a right manner, according to the Word; nor to a right end, the glory of God, they are therefore sinful, and cannot please God, or make a man meet to receive grace from God: and yet, their neglect of them is more sinful and displeasing unto God.
The works of unregenerate man are sinful. The works of the world are evil.
And Jesus points this out. And he is hated for that.
We’ll see, Lord willing, in the next passage from John’s Gospel that Jesus does indeed go to the Feast of Booths. But for the meanwhile he remains in Galilee.
III. WHEN THE TIME COMES
When the time comes, at the great passover feast, the very next Spring, then the greatest plan of God was fulfilled.
In John chapter 17, verse 1, we hear Jesus say “the hour has come.”
His purpose in coming into the world is there fulfilled.
Then it is written: He lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the house has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”
All things come together in God’s plan, not in mans. And Jesus follows the will of his Father, not of his brothers.
Our passage provides for some important applications.
Application 1: The Lord does big works in small places and with small groups of people. [REPEAT: The Lord does big works in small places and with small groups of people.]
While Judea cannot tolerate Jesus, he finds refuge in the hinterlands of Galilee. There, in this off-the-beaten-path place he doesn’t gather a mega-church but works with a small group of disciples. His time is short, but he spends it not with the wise rabbis or powerful politicians, but rather with a small group of disciples teaching them about the Kingdom and preparing them to one day, with the Holy Spirit, lead the church.
We should learn from this that piety and the fear of God are not always to be found in the chief places.
Sometimes it seems almost the opposite. Many of the faithful churches I know of are in rural places, less corrupted by the ways of the world and the errors of some of the seminaries.
So let us be glad to work in the places we do and with the few people that we have. If you have one person you are discipling, do not say “Why do I not have two” but rather say “Thank you Lord for this one” and “I shall pray for those in close contact.”
With the overwhelming media presence these days, what is needed for Christian evangelism is one-on-one personal hospitable discipleship.
Your work in Christian encouragement and growth should start with your family, church family, and others who come across your path daily. Avoid and eschew online argumentation and desires for personal glory. Focus on the small places and the small things.
Application 2: Remain faithful even when your family is not. [REPEAT: Remain faithful even when your family is not]
At this point in John’s Gospel, the crowds have left Jesus. He has his twelve disciples, but the masses have left him. And now we find out that his own brothers do not even believe. His own brothers!
And these are his actual brothers. His half-brothers, born of Mary and Joseph. There is no reason to push them into the status of cousins or mere compatriots.
Jesus’ brothers are mentioned by name in Matthew 13:55 when the people astonished by Jesus ask, “Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brother James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? And are not all his sisters with us?”
Those are the brothers of Jesus: James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas.
In our present passage they are said not to believe, but later they come to belief in Christ. It is written in Acts chapter 1 that the apostles “with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.”
But the true brotherhood is not of physical descent. It is spiritual.
In Mark 3 while Mary and the brothers of Jesus are at some distance Jesus says to a crowd “Who are my mother and my brothers? And looking about t those who sat around him, he said, Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.”
This spiritual family in the Lord is to always take precedence over physical family.
As you follow Christ you will have some (or all) of your physical family despising you.
Jesus came not to bring peace but to the bring a sword. Because of the offense of the Gospel some—even in your family—do not believe.
[Mat 10:34-39 ESV] 34 “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. 36 And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. 37 Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
We do not desire separation from family.
But you must always obey the Lord first. Who you love is displayed in who you obey.
In Mark 3:21 we find Jesus family saying of him “he is out of his mind.”
Your family might say the same of you.
But know that Jesus knows what it is like to suffer opposition from an unbelieving family. [REPEAT: Jesus knows what it is like to suffer opposition from an unbelieving family.]
He calls us to remain faithful even in the midst of their unfaithfulness.
Jesus is not swayed by his brothers, because he knows the greater plan of God. We too should not be swayed to the left or to the right, but stay on the straight path of the Lord.
Though the world—even your own family—may hate you for following Christ, yet follow nonetheless, for in Christ alone is eternal life. And those who do the will of God are his true brothers. Amen.