Letters to the Prison - Week 68

Hello, everyone.  Just to clarify, there was a typo from last week:  John wrote the gospel of John approximately 90AD… 60 years (not 30) after the earthly ministry of Jesus Christ our Lord.  This brings up an interesting thing to consider about the New Testament:  All of it was written during the lifetime of people who were eyewitnesses to Jesus’ life, ministry, death, resurrection, and ascension.  Take what Paul says in 1 Corinthians for example:
•Then he [Jesus] appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep.-1 Corinthians 15:6
Paul wrote this letter around 56AD, and we see clearly that hundreds of eyewitnesses to Jesus were still alive at the time.  Certainly, many more of them had died by the time John wrote his gospel in 90AD.  John was certainly the last living Apostle at the time he wrote the last book of the New Testament (Revelation).  But John was himself an eyewitness to Jesus’ entire earthly ministry before and after his death on the cross (1 John 1:1).  So, what we read in the New Testament is a reliable testimony from people who experienced the events it records.  This is true for a significant portion of the Old Testament as well…  accurate historical accounts from people who were there to witness the events it records.  This is one more reason to trust the Bible.
Anyway, we’re moving into John 7.  Verses 1-2 give us some ideas about where Jesus went and how much time has passed since the events of chapter 6.  Jesus spent several months in Galilee, a region far north of Judea and Jerusalem.  He avoided Judea and Jerusalem because “the Jews were seeking to kill him” (John 7:1).  “Jews” in this phrase likely means the leaders of the Jews, not the entire nation of Jewish people.  When the time for the Feast of Booths came, Jesus had an interesting conversation with his brothers.  They “encouraged” him to go and make a public display of his works during the Feast.  We’re not told exactly why they were egging Jesus on in this way, but look what John says about them:
•For not even his brothers believed in him. -John 7:5
Whatever their motivation was, it had nothing to do with Jesus’ true nature or purpose.  It is interesting to note that Jesus’ brothers did eventually come to believe that Jesus is who he says he is.  We see them gathered with the rest of the believers after Jesus ascends back to heaven (Acts 1:14).  James and Jude, two of Jesus’ brothers, each wrote letters that are included in the New Testament.  James features prominently as a leader of the early church (Acts 15).  So, even Jesus’ own brothers didn’t believe in him at first, but God changed their minds.
We’re about to see another “change of mind” –in Jesus himself.
Look what he says to his brothers:
•8 You go up to the feast. I am not going up to this feast, for my time has not yet fully come.”-John 7:6-8
On the surface, this looks like Jesus has no intention of going to this feast.  Verse 9 even says “after this, he remained in Galilee” (John 7:9).  On the surface, there are two problems with this:
1.Jesus, being a Jewish male, is required by Jewish law to attend the feast.  And Jesus keeps the law perfectly (Matt 5:17 and see also his insistence on being baptized by John the Baptist --Matt. 3:13-17).
2.Jesus ended up going to the feast after all:  
• But after his brothers had gone up to the feast, then he also went up, not publicly but in private.-John 7:10
So, did Jesus intend to break the Jewish law by not going to the feast?  Did he lie to his brothers?  The answer is no… and no!
Keep in mind what he says: “my time has not yet fully come…”  emphasis on yet.  And…  “I am not going up to this feast…”  we could easily and accurately add “right now” to this statement… Or “yet.”  Or “with you.”  In other words, Jesus was on God’s timetable, not his brothers’.  Jesus went where God told him to go and did what God told him to do when God told him to do it.  And he did so always in perfect obedience to God’s will.  The discretion Jesus uses to enter Jerusalem at this key moment will give us some interesting things to consider later on.  But for the purpose of our study, look what else Jesus says to his brothers:
•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.
-John 7:6-7
This is a harsh thing for Jesus to say about his brothers and a profound thing for him to say about himself.  His brothers, being unbelievers at the moment, have no stake in God’s plans or timetable.  They belong to the world, which is why their “time is always here.”  This is also why “the world cannot hate” them.  Jesus, on the other hand, is hated by the world because he testifies against the world’s evil works.  This is as true today as it was back then.  Spend a few minutes watching TV or listening to the radio or reading a newspaper or scanning the internet and you will undoubtedly bump into some form of the world’s hatred for Jesus.  Sometimes it’s subtle.  Sometimes it’s loud and overt.  But it’s there.  This is why many believers find themselves uncomfortable with a lot of the things many others find innocent or entertaining… once you begin to know and love Jesus it’s hard to hear or see or experience things that dishonor or show hatred for him.
Also profound at this moment is the authority Jesus claims for himself to judge the works of the world and testify against them.  Jesus holds the authority to determine whether or not any work in the world is good or evil.  He has this authority because, being God, he is the essence… the very definition of what is good (Mark 10:18, Luke 18:19).
So, Jesus judges the works of the world and testifies against it that its works are evil.
And the world hates him for it.
Is this our response to Jesus, too?  How do we feel when God’s word convicts us… when it shows us the evil of our ways?  Heavy things to consider…  Until next week!  We love you.

Dean A.

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