This post is part of an ongoing series in the study of John we are doing during January. Subscribe to the blog for daily updates in the Bible Study posts. Subscribe to the podcasts to hear our discussion of the book of John throughout this month. Join us in your daily devotions as we travel through this fascinating account of the life of Christ.
But when the Jewish Festival of Tabernacles was near, Jesus’ brothers said to him, “Leave Galilee and go to Judea, so that your disciples there may see the works you do. No one who wants to become a public figure acts in secret. Since you are doing these things, show yourself to the world.” For even his own brothers did not believe in him. Therefore Jesus told them, “My time is not yet here; for you any time will do. The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify that its works are evil. You go to the festival. I am not going up to this festival, because my time has not yet fully come.” After he had said this, he stayed in Galilee. However, after his brothers had left for the festival, he went also, not publicly, but in secret. Now at the festival the Jewish leaders were watching for Jesus and asking, “Where is he?” Among the crowds there was widespread whispering about him. Some said, “He is a good man.” Others replied, “No, he deceives the people.” But no one would say anything publicly about him for fear of the leaders. John 7:2-13 (NIV)
Chapter 7 of the Gospel of John opens with the phrase, “after these things.” As we have seen in earlier sections of the gospel, that phrase signifies a new movement in the gospel. It also informs us that a passage of time occurs between the close of chapters six and chapter seven. In this instance, approximately six months have passed. During that time, the sense of Jesus as a polarizing figure in Israel has only intensified. Many people believed in Jesus when He walked the earth during these three years of His ministry. The evidence is the triumphal entry into Jerusalem as He approaches the time of His crucifixion. Many more did not believe in Him. Even at this point, we see a movement of extreme opposition forming against Jesus.
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. John 7:1 (NIV)
Polarization presents an environment of confusion. This is the environment presented in this opening passage of chapter 7. Jesus’s half-brothers, the sons of Mary and Joseph, taunted Jesus that He should go to Jerusalem. Either they did not believe Jesus was the true Messiah, or they were anxious that Jesus could leverage the crowds that would gather in the city for the Feast of Tabernacles to regain the many followers that recently deserted Him. In either case, the motives and drivers pushing Jesus toward Jerusalem at this moment could have seemed daunting, confusing, and even chaotic.
That reality pervaded even Jerusalem.
Now at the festival the Jewish leaders were watching for Jesus and asking, “Where is he?” Among the crowds there was widespread whispering about him. Some said, “He is a good man.” Others replied, “No, he deceives the people.” But no one would say anything publicly about him for fear of the leaders.
Questions, uncertainty, wrong motives, and even danger lurked around every corner. These are the characteristics of an era of polarization.
We do not need to look far to imagine how that felt. Today, we are living in our own era of great polarization. The global pandemic has triggered a variety of intense responses on issues ranging from vaccinations, facemasks, mandates, and shutdowns. Our political systems are near complete gridlock in the face of widespread polarization. Social divisions over issues like guns, race, gender, and more strain and scream at us around every corner.
How are we to respond to polarization? Which path is the correct path? We certainly cannot look at the world or our environment for answers. The polarized realities and extremism on dueling fronts have made most voices untrustworthy. In a polarized environment, most voices focus on persuading, not truth. Truth seekers do not fit in a polarized society.
Jesus did not yield to any of the voices. His brothers pushed on the levers of familial loyalty to no effect. The religious leaders of Jerusalem held no sway over Jesus. The crowds could not manipulate Him with their devotion or lack of it.
“My time is not yet here; for you any time will do. The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify that its works are evil. You go to the festival. I am not going up to this festival, because my time has not yet fully come.”
The timeframes and demands upon Jesus did not come from the earth. What did God want? What was God’s response to the situation? What was God’s position?
That is the Kingdom’s response to a polarized environment. We do not look to the world for answers, and we do not cloak the ways of God in the push and pull of the world around us. What does God want? When does He want it? And how does He want it? That is the way of Christ.
The Messiah moved into Jerusalem in secret rather than with a great crowd. That did not make sense to most. He did not even travel with His family because they were not aligned to God’s timing. He had a motive and a method of operation. It was all based upon knowledge of God’s desire. Until that desire was revealed to Him, He did not move.
- Are there areas in my life where a polarized environment is pushing or pulling me?
- Can I clearly recognize the way and will of God, or am I being tugged on by polarized voices?
- What voices and influences in my life need to be silenced so I can better hear the way and will of God?
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