God's Timing - Letters to the Prison
From the series Letters to the Prison
Last week, we caught a glimpse of something odd: Jesus was speaking openly in the temple, yet the authorities were “saying nothing” to him (John 7:26). Nevertheless, we read later that “they were seeking to arrest him” (John 7:30a). One might wonder briefly: If the Jewish leaders are seeking to arrest Jesus (which is obvious), and they intend to murder him (which is also obvious, and everyone knows it -John 7:25), and Jesus is (obviously) right there in the open, speaking publicly for all to see, what’s the problem? Why aren’t the Jewish leaders stopping Jesus? We only wonder about this briefly since verse 30 answers the question:
- but no one laid a hand on him, because his hour had not yet come. -John 7:30b
Remember what Jesus had said to his brothers about going to this feast in the first place?
- “…my time has not yet fully come.” -John 7:8b
This is another place where God’s perfect timing and plan clearly and directly over-rides the plans and intentions of even the most godless men. We’ll see in a few verses that the Jewish leaders –arguably some of the most powerful men in Jerusalem-- were indeed actively trying to arrest Jesus. But they couldn’t. Why? Because God didn’t want them to… yet. It wasn’t time… yet. Interesting also is how, in John 7:10 Jesus went up “privately,” which might make us think he was sneaking around… and yet John 7:14 shows Jesus teaching openly in the Temple. So, Jesus, even knowing that the Jews were seeking to kill him, was not afraid of them… nor was he wishy-washy about whether to go to the feast. But by entering Jerusalem privately and teaching publicly, he forced those Jews who wanted him dead to act on their murderous desire publicly. If they were going to murder Jesus, they had to do it in plain sight.
But we will soon see that –try as they might—the Jewish leaders couldn’t do anything against Jesus unless it was allowed by God.
In the meantime, we have to observe something… verse 31:
- Yet many of the people believed in him. They said, “When the Christ appears, will he do more signs than this man has done?” -John 7:31
Here, we see that among the wildly varying opinions of the crowd, some were indeed thinking along the right lines… there were people who truly believed that Jesus is who he says he is. The question here speaks volumes. First, it’s a rhetorical question. The expected answer is that… no... no one could do more signs than Jesus has done. Therefore, if anyone is the Christ, it must be Jesus. In addition, the question also speaks to the sheer volume of publicly acknowledged signs (miracles) that Jesus has already done during his ministry. Here we are, as readers, not even half-way through John’s gospel (it has been such a joy so far to savor this text with you and study it carefully!), and we haven’t even gotten to some of the most profound signs Jesus did during his ministry… and yet what he has done already is so publicly known and acknowledged that “many people” are already recognizing Jesus as the Christ –the Messiah—the Son of God and that no one else could possibly do more to validate his claim to be God than Jesus.
So, Jesus has made clear claims that many of the people recognize and understand. He has also backed up those claims to a degree that many people are already acknowledging the truth of them.
Nevertheless, the Jewish leaders want to silence Jesus. So, what do they do?
- The Pharisees heard the crowd muttering these things about him, and the chief priests and Pharisees sent officers to arrest him. -John 7:32
When the officers arrive, they find Jesus saying this:
- … “I will be with you a little longer, and then I am going to him who sent me. -John 7:33
This is a different sort of claim for Jesus to make. We’ve seen repeatedly in our study so far that Jesus claims to be sent by God from heaven. Here, Jesus is indicating that he will one day go back to heaven and to God who sent him. He doesn’t give a specific time… only that it will be a “little longer.” This is interesting, since, presumably, the temple officers were sent there to arrest Jesus immediately. But Jesus is not intimidated or worried about their presence at all. He’s on the Father’s time schedule, not theirs. What should be of great concern… what Jesus’ hearers should be worried about is the next thing Jesus says:
- You will seek me and you will not find me. Where I am you cannot come.” -John 7:34
This is a terrible and urgent warning. When Jesus goes back to heaven and to God, he will be in a place where others cannot come. That’s an alarming thing to say… none of the people hearing Jesus at that moment can go to heaven and be with God? They will seek Jesus and not find him? What’s happening here? Jesus is warning his listeners that the time to believe in him and be saved is limited. Jesus has made it plain that he goes according to God’s timetable. So do we, whether we like it or not… whether we want to admit it or not. We have a limited amount of time –the time we’re alive—to decide whether Jesus is who he says he is. Since none of us knows when we’re going to die, we don’t truly know how much time we have left to decide. So, the urgency of the matter is that we need to decide before it’s too late, and the consequences of waiting too long are dire --It’s the difference between eternal life and eternal hell. Those who wait too long to decide will suddenly find themselves desperately seeking Jesus… but unable to find him. That’s the biblical definition of hell –eternal separation from God. Those who end up there are in terrible torment and desperately seeking God forever. It is an unimaginable and terrible thing to consider.
Friends, we urge you earnestly… choose to believe that Jesus is who he says he is. Be reconciled to God (2 Corinthians 5:20). Don’t wait another minute. Today, if you hear his voice, would you answer (Psalm 95, Hebrews chapters 3 and 4)? We love you and want to spend our eternal lives in joyous fellowship with you. We pray that Jesus would meet with you today. We hope to someday hear how Jesus answered that prayer.