“Then after this He said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.” The disciples said to Him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now seeking to stone You, and are You going there again?” Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. But if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.”” (John 11:7-10, ESV)
Have you ever been tempted to cut things short because you did not like what might happen next? Maybe you were at an event that was about to get unruly and you left before it got such. Maybe there was a perceived danger and because of it you chose not to go. We all make decisions based upon expectations, and many times those expectations are based on nothing more than hunches. But there are times when expectations are based upon repeated experience and a firm assurance that something indeed might come to pass if you follow that certain course.
In the verses just before this we read, “Again they sought to arrest Him, but He escaped from their hands. He went away again across the Jordan to the place where John had been baptizing at first, and there He remained.” (John 10:39–40, ESV) We presume that this is where Jesus had remained until the time when Mary and Martha sent for Him. Having been pleased with to return to Judea His disciples panicked. They remembered their last time in Judea (Jerusalem) when the Jews sought to stone Him and He escaped to where He was. His disciples remembered this and they pled with Him not to return. They had their idea of the likely outcome and they wanted to do all that they could to avoid it.
But Jesus, just as He had all along, knew something more important. He knew the sovereignty of God and the ability of God to bring to completion His plans without anyone being able to thwart them. This even meant when Jesus headed into situations that most people would think to be certain traps. Jesus knew that He had a prescribed time on earth, and that He would not be taken before that time. We saw this in John chapter 7 when the Pharisees and chief priests had sent the temple guard to arrest Him. John told us, “So they were seeking to arrest him, but no one laid a hand on him, because his hour had not yet come.” (John 7:30, ESV)
Going back to Judea was not an issue with Jesus because he knew that God would do exactly as He intends in His right time. Jesus told His disciples, “Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world.” It is during the day time that they worked (not having lit factories and such as we do now), and when it got dark they were done. Jesus was sent for a specific period of time in order to accomplish the will of the Father, and He was not going to call His day short so close to the end of His shift. He wasn’t going to clock off early. He was going to be faithful to the task for which he was sent until the end, and He wasn’t going to allow any of these stumbling blocks deter Him from it. He knew they were there, but He also knew that in the light He could proceed safely.
In contrast, there are those who do not have the light in their lives. They have no guiding direction, and for them there is no doubt that they will get tripped up by the darkness. He said, “But if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.” Jesus had already told the hardhearted Jewish leadership that they did not have the love of God in them, that they did not know God, and that because of that they were going to perish. In John 9, after giving sight to the blind man, Jesus said, “We must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” (John 9:4–5, ESV) Later He added, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.” (John 9:39, ESV) The Pharisees did not like these words and they responded, ““Are we also blind?” Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains.” (John 9:40–41, ESV)
Returning to Judea, Jesus was committed to not letting the actions of those walking in the dark to hinder Him walking in the right timing for which He was sent. He knew Who sent Him. He knew it was for a specific purpose. He knew it had a specific time frame. And He knew that every single detail was fully under control. As such He was not going to fear walking according to how He was sent.
There is a powerful message here. This morning I watched on a national news network a florist from Washington being interviewed concerning her stand against the Attorney General of her state. She was being pursued because she would not act contrary to her beliefs and the Attorney General has threatened not only to shut down her business, but to open her up to civil suits such that people can go after her home and all of her other assets. He even offered to buy her off, allowing her to pay a fine and agree to deny what she believed to be right for her, but she would not bend. And we know that she is not alone in this battle.
Around the world Christians are laying down their lives for their faith as extremists fight to pressure them to deny their faith or face execution. Others still are not even being given the choice, but are being slain in mass because of their association. God has not abandoned any of them, and even in their deaths people are being shown the darkness of this evil while many, many others are being saved. Just as Jesus knew there was a specified time for Him to accomplish what He was sent to do, God is working in the lives of those who suffer to do the same. It does not make these atrocities any less tragic from a humanitarian standpoint, but it does underscore how dark darkness is and remind us of how desperately we need Him who is the Light of the world. Even these people who carry out these evil acts under the mask of darkness will either have to come to the Light themselves or remain in judgment by the Light.
“for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”” (Ephesians 5:8–14, ESV)