After this Jesus went about in Galilee. He would not go about in Judea, because the Jews[a] were seeking to kill him. 2 Now the Jews’ Feast of Booths was at hand. 3 So his brothers[b] said to him, “Leave here and go to Judea, that your disciples also may see the works you are doing. 4 For no one works in secret if he seeks to be known openly. If you do these things, show yourself to the world.” 5 For not even his brothers believed in him. 6 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. 8 You go up to the feast. I am not[c] going up to this feast, for my time has not yet fully come.” 9 After saying this, he remained in Galilee.
Explanation of the Text
In our passage we have Jesus, who has just had many of His disciples turn back from following Him at the end of chapter 6. We are now told that Jesus is intentionally staying away from Judea where the Jews there want to kill Him. Now, many times when the gospel writer uses the term “Jews” it is in reference to the Jewish religious authorities, and not the common Jewish person. That’s what we have here, for it was the Jewish authorities that wanted Jesus dead, because there was a remnant of Jewish people who believed in Jesus. So Jesus is avoiding Judea at this point in time, but Jesus’ brothers, want Jesus to go to Judea, because they want Him to reveal Himself to all the people that will be there, for the feast of booths that is about to take place. His brothers have likely seen the mass defection of those that were following Jesus, and they see this as a prime opportunity to gain other followers, or win them back. However, it is revealed that they themselves do not even believe in Him – and maybe that is what is behind this as well – they want to see more signs and miracles, thinking that we will make them and others believe. Isn’t this a temptation that much of the modern church has fallen for today: they see people leaving the churches and so they want to try a bunch of tricks and gimmicks and games to try and get people back in the door instead of just being faithful to the means of grace God has given us. The fruit of that is evidently rotten to the core. But much like the crowds wanted to make Jesus king in their own way in John 6, here the brothers want Jesus to announce Himself in their own way and in their own time. But despite their wrong-headed desires, it is not Jesus’ time quite yet to go to the feast at Judea. We can even see a bit of a flashback to the wedding at Cana in John 2 when Jesus’ mother wanted Jesus to do something about the wine shortage and Jesus rebuked her, for it was not yet His time.
As we consider our text this afternoon, there are three main areas of consideration for us: The Typology of Jesus, the Testimony of Jesus, and the Timing of Jesus.
The Typology of Jesus
First let us begin to consider the typology of Jesus. Now, I may be using the the term “typology” a bit loosely for some people’s definitions, but what I mean here are the types, signs, and symbols that point to Jesus who is the true substance of the matter. In our passage today, the Jews are about to celebrate the Feast of Booths, also called the Feast of Tabernacles. This Feast of Tabernacles is the backdrop to chapter 7. In verse 10, after His brothers went to Judea, Jesus, later on goes up to the feast, and we’ll see later on in chapter 7 He causes quite the stir during this Feast of Booths celebration. Now sadly the Feast of Booths is one of those feasts that many Christians today are just not familiar with, and it may be a bit harder to see the Christological fulfillment of this feast, compared to say the Passover Feast. You will find the institution of the Feast of Booths in Leviticus 23, but I will just give a brief explanation for our purposes this afternoon. Basically, during the Feast of Booths, the people would come and they would rest from ordinary work, and offer up various kinds of sacrifices to God, and they would do so with rejoicing and celebrating – it was a feast. They would also have solemn assemblies as holy convocations to the Lord. During the feast they would all dwell in booths, otherwise called tabernacles – basically tents they would set up. Thus it was called the Feast of Booths. Now why did they dwell in these booths or tabernacles? Well this is what God says to Moses in Leviticus 23:42-43, “You shall dwell in booths for seven days. All native Israelites shall dwell in booths, that your generations may know that I made the people of Israel dwell in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.” So there we have the Feast of Booths, which is the background of chapter seven, which we will be in for the next few weeks.
So how does this Feast of Booths relate to the narrative taking shape in John 7? Well, as we move to each part of this chapter, some more of themes may come out. But for now I will mention the obvious fulfillment is the offerings and sacrifices, we are no longer to make, because Jesus Christ was and is our final sacrifice for sin with His death on the cross. We’ve just seen Jesus show forth His death in chapter 6 speaking of the necessity of eating and drinking His flesh and blood, showing the type of death He was to die was a bloody one – a sacrificial death for sins. The other thing I’ll say now is that during the feast, the people dwelt in booths or little tabernacles, to remember how God brought Israel out of Egypt and during that time in the wilderness they dwelt in booths and tabernacles. Two things on that: One, most of the time when the Bible talks about God bringing Israel out of Egypt, it uses the name LORD in all caps, indicating the covenant name of God, Yahweh. So Yahweh brought Israel out of Egypt. But what is absolutely incredible is that in Jude 1:5 it says Jesus saved a people out of the land of Egypt. Jesus saved Israel from Egypt. What does Jesus say in another place? “Before Abraham was, I AM.” Jesus is Yahweh. So really this Feast of Tabernacles was a celebration to Jesus to remember how Jesus brought Israel up out of Egypt. It’s interesting that we just were reminded in John 6 of the manna provided for Israel in the wilderness, and how Jesus was actually the True Bread of Heaven. Here is the True Feast of Booths. The second thing I wanted to say in relation to Israel dwelling in booths or tabernacles is this: remember all the way back in John chapter 1, it’s talking about the Word becoming flesh – remember verse 14, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us…” Now, in our English translations we often miss the theme that is being posited there. The Greek would more literally be translated, “And the Word became flesh and tabernacled among us…” John 1:1-18 sets forth so many themes that come up throughout John’s gospel, and now here we see as Israel dwells in tabernacles, remembering how Jesus saved them out of Egypt, Jesus is there, tabernacling among them. Just as Jesus is the True Bread of Heaven, so Jesus is our true dwelling place with God.
As we have laid out the whole backdrop of chapter 7, and will continue to bring out various related themes throughout the chapter, let us now consider the lead up to the Feast of Booths, which is before us today, and specifically now, the testimony of Jesus.
The Testimony of Jesus
While Jesus’ brothers are trying to get Jesus to go up to the Feast and show Himself to the world, even though they themselves don’t believe in Him; Jesus, knowing that the Jews were seeking to kill Him, and knowing it is not yet time for Him to go, tells His brothers, that they can go up to the Feast anytime, but Jesus who is there to do the will of the Father who sent Him, must stay on schedule, and it is not time for Him. Then He says to His brothers, “The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify about it that its works are evil.”
One of the things we have seen throughout John’s gospel is that there are lots of different groups of people who do not believe in Jesus. We should remember that so far we have seen the unbelief of the crowds, the unbelief of the Jewish leaders, the unbelief even of some of Jesus’ disciples, and now some of Jesus’ own brothers do not believe in Him.
In our day people often talk about unbelief as if it is the result of years of serious study, inquiry, and exploration into who God is, but they just can’t wrap their minds around some of the biblical concepts of God, or they just don’t see sufficient evidence for God, or they can’t explain how a good God exists in light of problems of evil in the world. And so we bless that person for being such an authentic intellectual, hailing them with the modern virtue of doubt, which is such a burden to carry, both a blessing and a curse. If Christians could just be more doubtful, we would attract a more authentic young crowd. If Christians could just be agnostic, then we could attract all the agnostics. But this is not the way the Bible speaks of unbelief. Unbelief is not the result of an intellectual inquiry into the divine, it is a moral repulsion of the one true living God. Unbelief is not a virtue of someone who searches out God but just can’t find him, it is rather a cover for their hatred of God. As many people have said, it’s interesting how much atheists can hate a god that doesn’t exist. It’s like they actually know He does or something.
Now this is not an easy or necessarily fun thing to talk about – hatred of God. Some of us may even feel a bit uncomfortable with such language and strong words. After all, the popular modern conception of Jesus is that He is soft, kind, compassionate, loving, and definitely not judgmental. So how could anyone hate that? Well, because the modern conception of Jesus is not an accurate conception of the Jesus of the Bible. At best it is lopsided and incomplete, at worst it’s just downright blasphemous. As we talked about last week, the fact is, that Jesus said and taught hard and difficult things. He was and is unafraid of offending His hearers. Jesus is not hesitant to call sin sin, or to point out and judge our works as evil. And this is precisely why the world hates Jesus, according to Jesus’ own testimony – because He testifies about the world that its works are evil. This is why atheists and unbelievers hate God, because the reality of the triune God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, is a moral judgment upon their sin. The reality of the living triune God of the Bible is a necessary objective moral judgment on the world. This is why atheists have to deny that God exists – because if He does, they recognize that He sets the standard of morality. This is why as Christians we are not to argue for generic deism, but for the one true living God of the Bible.
This is also why I believe the presuppositional approach to apologetics is the most consistently biblical and reformed approach to apologetics, because it pushes the moral antithesis upon the unbeliever. If there is no God, then there is no meaning in the world, there is no morality in the world, and thus no basis for us to call any injustice unjust. But people will do anything and everything to not believe in Christ, because Christ testifies that their works are evil. The point is this: unbelief is not a neutral intellectual rejection of Christ. It is a moral rejection of Christ. The unbeliever hates Christ because Christ testifies that his works are evil, and the unbeliever loves his sin. They hate the testimony of Christ because they love their sin. Underneath unbelief is love of sin. Remember John 3:19-20, “And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.”
But you see, we are saved because Jesus confronted our sin. He came into this world as a testimony against sin and evil, as He lived in perfect righteousness, and died a sacrificial substitutionary death in the place of sinners. It was a testimony against sin. This is what sin deserves – a bloody death and the wrath of God. This is what sin cost – the death of the perfect Son of God. When we are saved, Jesus comes to us, confronts us in our sin and calls us to repentance of sin, and to be forgiven for our sin. He overcomes our hatred because He takes our heart of stone and gives us a heart of flesh that now loves Christ, and loves that Jesus confronted us in our sin and dealt with our sin, so that we might be forgiven of our sin and forsake our sin and have life!
The world hated Jesus because He testified that its works were evil. All of the righteousness of the Jewish leaders and pharisees, Jesus exposed for what it was – evil. He exposed their hypocrisy and their fake righteousness. And they would not come humbly before Him in repentance. They were greatly judged for that – for killing the Christ – the Son of God. Friends, let us not be so self-righteous and prideful as to reject Christ’s confrontation of our sin. Let us humble ourselves in repentance and receive forgiveness from His hands.
The reality is that as faithful Christians, when we follow in the footsteps of our Lord, in calling the world to repentance from sin and faith in Jesus Christ, we also will be hated. Far too many Christians today are so concerned with worldly acceptance, that they quit talking about sin and the evil of the world. Because you see, that is what you have to do to gain acceptance with people who love sin – quit attacking what they love. But we must not be concerned with worldly acceptance, but acceptance before God. We must love our neighbor more than we want to be accepted by them, and thus be honest with them about sin and show them the way of Christ as the only alternative. It is hard and it is not easy. That is why so many turned back from following Christ – they were too in love with the world. That is why the world would not hate these unbelieving brothers of Jesus.
The Timing of Jesus
Finally let us consider the timing of Jesus. Jesus tells His brothers it is not yet His time to go up to the feast. We mentioned at the beginning the brothers’ misguided desire for Jesus to reveal Himself in their way and in their time. This is still how many people feel today. They like the idea of Jesus, just a Jesus on their terms, and not on His. They like a Jesus that doesn’t testify that their works are evil. They like a Jesus who doesn’t confront them in their sin. Even as believers, we can feel this way at times in our flesh. “Jesus I want to follow you and obey, but just not with this one thing, or in this one area, or just not this sin.” But as creatures it is our place to accept Jesus in His way, upon His terms. Jesus would not be manipulated by a mob in chapter 6, He won’t be manipulated by the Jewish leaders, He won’t be manipulated by His own disciples, He won’t be manipulated by even His own brothers, and He surely won’t be manipulated by you or me.
Not even His own brothers could convince Him to deviate from doing the will of the Father. What a lesson we can learn from our Lord here, that we ought not to let anyone pressure us into doing what is wrong, no matter how many there are, and no matter how close they are. Boys and girls, if your siblings or cousins or friends want you to do something that you know is wrong, you are not to let them talk you into it. Stay strong and obey God, rather than your siblings, remembering that this is the example Jesus Himself gave to us.
But in our text, why did the timing matter so much? After all, Jesus ended up going to the Feast. So the timing wasn’t that far off. It mattered at least for one reason, that Jesus was sent to do the will of the Father who sent Him. Jesus was on His mission of redemption. The Bible says that at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. While we were weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. How amazing the gospel is that Christ died for the ungodly! Though the world hated Him for His testimony against them, yet Christ came into the world to save the world. He loved those who hated Him. We who love Him, once hated Him, but now we love Him, because He first loved us, and gave Himself for us. John 3:17, “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that world might be saved through him.” The world that hated Him, He was sent into, that through Him it might be saved. And it is. We once hated Him and are being saved through Him. How great a love and saving power this is. We who were once far off have been brought near through the blood of Christ.
If you are an ungodly hater of God today, you don’t have to stay that way. Christ died for such a person. He does not back down from confronting sin and evil, but He overcomes it with good – with His good death and resurrection and life giving power. The time was not yet for Jesus in the beginning of John 7, but the time of salvation for the world is now here. Today is the day of salvation. Now is the time to go on up to the feast of the Lord and rest in Him, and receive His sacrifice for sin. Now is the time to go on up to the Feast of the Lord with joy and celebration and feasting in Christ to receive the blessed happiness of forgiveness of sins and peace with God. Don’t be such a grump and a grouch that you would refuse to come up to the gospel Feast of Christ. There is much joy and feasting and laughing and dancing and freedom and life. But it is only here, in Christ, in His gospel feast, in what He has provided, His Wine, His food, His body, His sacrifice. The celebration is happening. Come join us. Amen.