1 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. 2 But when the Jewish Festival of Tabernacles was near, 3 Jesus’ brothers said to him, “Leave Galilee and go to Judea, so that your disciples there may see the works you do. 4 No one who wants to become a public figure acts in secret. Since you are doing these things, show yourself to the world.” 5 For even his own brothers did not believe in him. 6 Therefore Jesus told them, “My time is not yet here; for you any time will do. 7 The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify that its works are evil. 8 You go to the Festival. I am not going up to this Festival, because my time has not yet fully come.” 9 Having said this, he stayed in Galilee.
First, I must apologize that I am now so many days delinquent on my commitment to writing these meditations. For the two or three who actually read them, I am sorry. I had a rather long assignment to accomplish today. I will be at Church camp next week and I had to prepare lesson outlines for my teachers. That’s done. Now I’m prepared to do some writing for you, my loyal readers.
Second, if you are interested, I recently read an article in the June 24, 2007 issue of the Christian Standard about a church having difficulty in their ‘neighborhood’ (“God1, County 0”) http://www.christianstandard.com/articledisplay.asp?id=629. Well, needless to say, the article infuriated me. Sad thing is, I do not normally even read the Standard since it has become a hodge–podge of mega-church mania and money-making. It’s not about what it should be, but I’m not on the board of directors or a shareholder in the corporation that owns them, so I can only resort to writing letters to the editor. After reading the above article, I wrote a letter to the editor of the paper and, shock of all shocks, they actually published it at their website. You can access my letter, ‘Are you Kidding?’ here: http://www.christianstandard.com/letterseditor.asp It’s not a pleasant letter and it has stirred debate at www.christianchurchtoday.com in the forum section. You can access this ongoing debate over the worth of my letter at: http://www.christianchurchtoday.com/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=4783. Thanks for allowing me to advertise a bit. Perhaps later I shall have more to say about the article I responded to and about the nature of the letter I wrote, that is, what my main complaint was.
This is about priorities and about timing and about Jesus. Jesus had firmly decided he was not going to go up and put himself in a position where his life was going to be threatened. Only Jesus could determine the time of his death, not humans. So, since he knew they were plotting against him, he stayed away.
But his brothers persisted. They want him to go up since it was clear to them that ‘he wanted to be a public figure.’ Well, maybe they wanted him to be a public figure. Maybe they were chiding him a bit. They had their reasons. Maybe they really wanted to know who he was and what he was about—they didn’t believe him after all. They wanted him to show himself to the world, since he was ‘doing these things.’ But Jesus again would have none of it. And it is here that I shall make my points for this meditation.
First, he said that it was not his time yet and for us any time will do. He was in control of his time schedule and he was not about to be moved or persuaded to move against that time schedule just because the people around him were anxious for him to do so. He wasn’t interested in making a public show, in a public place, for reasons of mere publicity. That is, becoming a public figure was not his ambition. Romans says he died in the fullness of time. I’m sort a literalist on this matter: I believe he died at precisely the moment in time when he was supposed to, not a minute too soon, not a minute too late. His timing was impeccable and—better—in perfect accord with God’s will.
I think this teaches us about our time too in that maybe our timing still isn’t God’s timing. Perhaps it is true that for us anytime will still do. We are not so picky about when things get done so long as they gone done now, on our time schedule. We’re not long on patience and perseverance and endurance. We’re built for the short run, not the long obedience in the same direction. People have even sung songs about, “It’s better to burn out, than to fade away.”
Second, he says that the world cannot hate us, but it does hate Him. And why? Because he testifies that what the world does is evil. This is clearly (one aspect of) what sets Jesus apart: He does not side with the ways of this world. He does not applaud the world. He does not go the world’s way. And because of it, the world hates him. You ever wonder why so many people in this world absolutely despise the Christ of God? It is precisely for this reason: Jesus properly preached and lived still testifies against the world and the world’s evil. That’s right. The Jesus of Scripture still has no affection for the sin of this world or the people who perpetuate that sin. There’s very little, if any, love the sinner hate the sin. They are inseparable as far as Scripture is concerned.
Jesus shows us, by not going to the Festival when his brothers asked him to that he is not here to serve our purposes and our time. Our motivations for him are not nearly what his motivations are for himself. He eventually became a public figure, but not because he went up the Festival. He became a public figure, he drew (draws!) all men (people) unto himself in the cross (See John 12). This too is the primary manner in which Jesus testifies against the world. In his cross is not only salvation but judgment. He levels this against the world and testifies against our sin by dying for it.
There seems to be very little offense to Jesus any more. With the exception of Islamists and the Hindus I have mentioned in other posts, the world is in deep love with Jesus. Unfortunately, it is the Jesus of Forbes 500 and not the Jesus of Scripture. The Jesus of Scripture is radically counter-cultural. The Jesus of Scripture is manifestly opposed to the wickedness of this world. The Jesus of Scripture is not moved by our agendas or schedules. The Jesus of Scripture is cross-driven and commands that his disciples be cross-driven too. There is no way to escape this life that Jesus calls us to. Further, why does the world love the church? Is it because the church has refused to testify that what the world does is evil? Is it because the church has become a haven not for the repentant but for the delinquent who are in need of God’s love apart from God’s judgment? PT Forsyth wrote, “If we spoke less about Gods’ love and more about His holiness, more about His judgment, we should say much more when we did speak of His love” (The Cruciality of the Cross, 73).
I mentioned an article above. The article is the story about a church in Colorado. The church is fighting, kicking, screaming in court, in the papers, in their community because the local commissioners will not let the church expand their building to accommodate children who want to ‘dance and groove to contemporary Christian music.’ The gist of the letter I wrote to the Standard is that I don’t fee sorry for the congregation in the least (and that the Standard was profoundly wrong to publish the essay). They (the church) are not being persecuted. They are not martyrs. They are not being told by the commissioners of the county not to speak in the Name of Jesus. They are being told they can’t build a bigger building. Now, if those county commissioners ever decided in the future that this church can’t preach the Gospel, if they ever tried to close the doors because the church was preaching against sin, or announcing God’s judgment on those without Christ, or talking about a Crucified Lord Jesus—well, then I might be concerned for the church. It’s a matter of priorities. Right now that church has, from all outward appearances (and I grant that I am not living there to hear the sermons each week), a messed up set of priorities–this whole building things stinks because it is a diversion. They want us to feel sorry for them, to chastise the commissioners with cries of ‘that’s illegal’ and ‘persecution,’ all sorts of other blah, blah. But I submit to you that if the church (not just Colorado, but in the entire world) actually preached what Scripture says about Jesus, and what Jesus says about this world, the church would be far less liked, far less tolerated, and have far fewer buildings at all. There wouldn’t be fighting over a building expansion; they’d be fighting for their very lives like Christians are doing in the Middle East and elsewhere. Then we would see if we are on the crucified & resurrected Jesus’ side, serving His purposes, in His time, or if we just want to set Him up as some public figure, on our time schedule, for our purpose.
My contention is that it cannot be both ways.
I hope that today, you are blessed.
Soli Deo Gloria!