“After this Jesus went about in Galilee. He would not go about in Judea, because the Jews were seeking to kill Him. Now the Jews’ Feast of Booths was at hand. So his brothers said to Him, “Leave here and go to Judea, that Your disciples also may see the works You are doing. For no one works in secret if He seeks to be known openly. If you do these things, show Yourself to the world.” For not even his brothers believed in Him. Jesus said to them, “My time has not yet come, but your time is always here. The world cannot hate you, but it hates Me because I testify about it that its works are evil. You go up to the feast. I am not going up to this feast, for my time has not yet fully come.” After saying this, He remained in Galilee.” (John 7:1–9, ESV)
Normally when we say “after that” (or this) we mean right away. This is not so with John. It might have an event to event sense or it might just have an ordinal sense where other events happening in between were not accounted for. John told us himself in the very last sentence of this gospel record, “Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.” (John 21:25, ESV)
Our passage tells us after the events in the synagogue when many of His so-called disciples defected because they would not accept His words that Jesus remained in the region of Galilee, which was His home. His reason for doing this was that the Jews in Judea were trying to have Him put to death (see John 5:18). Judea is the region to the south, with Samaria in between. Judea was also the location of their temple, which was their center of worship.
Our passage also tells us that the Feast of Booths (or Tabernacles) was at hand (John 7:2). This would have made it our September/October. As we have been reading through John we’ve found events linked in time with the various Jewish Feasts. The events of chapter six occurred at Passover which would have been in our March/April (note that the Jewish calendar varies from ours and that dates from year to year vary with our calendar). This would have meant that between chapter six and chapter seven that Jesus had traveled around Galilee for about seven months with His twelve disciples, likely teaching them.
This accounts for two of the major Jewish Feasts. The third of them is the Feast of Weeks or Pentecost which occurred in between the other two, 50 days after Passover in our May/June. God, through Moses, commanded the people that these Feasts were to be observed saying, “Three times a year all your males shall appear before the Lord your God at the place that he will choose: at the Feast of Unleavened Bread, at the Feast of Weeks, and at the Feast of Booths. They shall not appear before the Lord empty-handed. Every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the Lord your God that he has given you.” (Deuteronomy 16:16–17, ESV) And the place appointed by God was Jerusalem. It was expected that the all of the Jewish adult males would appear in Jerusalem for these Feasts prepared to observe them as the Lord instructed.
So, our passage tells us that the time was at hand for all of the males to make their pilgrimage to Jerusalem, and Jesus’ brothers were urging Him to go. He had been there in seclusion (in a sense) from the Jews and they urged Him to go so that “His disciples” might see His works. The curious thing is that our passage also tells us that Jesus’ brothers (half-brothers (same mom, different dad-Joseph); James, Joses, Simon, and Judas) did not believe in Him either. We don’t know why they urged Him to go or what their motives were in this. There has been plenty of speculation, but the simple reality is that His brothers urged Him to go so that the Jews, who they referred to as His disciples or followers, would see His miracles. To His brothers it did not seem to make sense that if Jesus were who He claimed to be that He would not be out in front of the people demonstrating such. Staying in Galilee kept Him insulated from them and kept them from seeing His incredible works.
Jesus knew why it was right for Him to remain in Galilee, and He told His brothers that the time was not right. He still had to wait to make Himself known to them, but for his brothers they could come and go as they pleased. There was no special scrutiny on them, and they were right to publicly go to Jerusalem to observe the Feast before God and to make their offering. He told them that the world had no issues with them. They had said nothing to offend them, but He had. He had told His brothers that He had called the Jews to account for their sins, even calling their works evil, and for this they hated Him (even wanting Him dead). He was a wanted man, and He could not make Himself known in their presence at this time. He told them, “You go up to the feast. I am not going up to this feast, for my time has not yet fully come.” John went on to record that after this Jesus remained in Galilee.
Jesus knew how important timing was. He was prepared to do everything exactly in the right time and trust the Father that the outcome would be just as He planned. No amount of urging even from his own brothers was going to move Him from the plan of God. He was steadfast in His waiting for exactly the right time to be in that exactly right place.
As I think on the importance of Jesus waiting on the right timing for the right events, I am encouraged through being reminded that our God knows exactly the right time for absolutely everything. Just as the Son could trust Him for the proper timing to achieve the proper results, I am encouraged to trust Him for that leading in my life as well. Some things we go through seem to catch us off guard. We don’t know how long they will last or how deep the valleys might be, but what we do know that our God is faithful and that He will wrap Himself around us through the valleys and bring us out standing on the other side. There is no evil that can prevail against Him or snatch us out of His hand. We can trust Him for absolutely everything. These are all things that I know from His word as well as having seen through walking with Him for many years. Yet, I also know that I do not wait on Him with the perfection that Jesus did. I am not God, but I do belong to Him and I can trust Him as imperfectly as I do to keep me.
As I wrote these things there was one verse after another that popped into my mind, and I am so thankful for His Word hidden in my heart and for His Spirit who brings these things to remembrance. For those who may not be as familiar with these truths I will conclude by quoting just a few of them.
“You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, You know it altogether. You hem me in, behind and before, and lay Your hand upon me.” (Psalm 139:3–5, ESV)
“Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in Your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.” (Psalm 139:16, ESV)
“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” (Psalm 23:4–6, ESV)
“No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation He will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13, ESV)
“My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.” (John 10:27–29, ESV)
“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:9–10, ESV)