Sermon: Feast of burden – John 7:1-13

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After this Jesus went about in Galilee. He would not go about in Judea, because the Jews were seeking to kill him. 2 Now the Jews’ Feast of Booths was at hand. 3 So his brothers 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 going up to this feast, for my time has not yet fully come.” 9 After saying this, he remained in Galilee. 

10 But after his brothers had gone up to the feast, then he also went up, not publicly but in private. 11 The Jews were looking for him at the feast, and saying, “Where is he?” 12 And there was much muttering about him among the people. While some said, “He is a good man,” others said, “No, he is leading the people astray.” 13 Yet for fear of the Jews no one spoke openly of him. 

Prayer

Our heavenly Father, 

We continue to see the extreme division in our nation. 

It says in Your Word: 

 God reigns over the nations; 

God sits on his holy throne. 

9 The princes of the peoples gather 

as the people of the God of Abraham. 

For the shields of the earth belong to God; 

he is highly exalted! 

May we continually be mindful of that. Lord, you are on the throne, you are our hope. 

Lord God, let us not be swayed by the whims of the world, but let us be grounded in the truth of who you are. 

Lord, we ask that you bless our time in your Word. May we come to you and praise you. 

In Jesus’ name, amen. 

Introduction 

We come to John chapter 7. 

Several weeks ago when we started chapter 6, I had mentioned that chapters 6, 7, and 8 are a section of John where we see a lot of themes which take us back to the Exodus event and the Israelite wanderings. 

We certainly saw that in the feeding of the multitudes as that harkened back to God’s provision of manna for the Israelites during their wanderings. 

That will continue in this chapter, especially as we consider the feasts which were instituted during the Exodus event. 

We also saw it in the time of year as the beginning of chapter 6 told us it was Passover. Passover, the Jewish holy day which celebrated God’s redeptive work of freeing the Israelties from slavery in Egypt. It would also be at a Passover when Jesus is crucified. In tht 6, John 6 was the beginning – give or take a few days – of the last year of Jesus’ life. 

Chapter 5 had also been at a feast, although John doesn’t specify which feast it was. 

Chapter 7 will begin at yet another feast, the Feast of Booths. 

And that’s definitely something that John likes to do in this gospel is tie events in Jesus’ life and ministry to their correspondence to the Jewish holy days. 

And in that, we see that Jesus is the greater fulfillment of the Jewish feasts and what they ultimately point to. 

So it’s the time of year of the Jewish Feast of Booths, and Jesus’ attendance at the feast will come into question and we’ll look at this morning’s passage in three scenes. 

  1. A conflict

Verse 1: After this Jesus went about in Galilee. He would not go about in Judea, because the Jews were seeking to kill him.

John begins this passage “after this” and he’s referring to Jesus’ Bread of Life discourse. We had concluded that chapter in looking at the way people responded to Jesus. Some walked away and others followed him. 

John says “after this Jesus went about in Galilee.” 

It’s actually been about six months since the last event which John recorded. We know that because the last chapter was at the time of Passover, in the spring; as verse 2 will tell us, this is the Feast of Booths, which is in the fall. The math is pretty simple. 

Jesus was in Galilee and John adds that he would not go about in the region of Judea because the Jewish leaders were seeking to kill him. 

That’s not the first time we’ve seen opposition in John’s Gospel, but it really begins to pick up starting in this seventh chapter. 

By no means a light hearted disagreement, but bloody opposition as there were people who wanted to see Jesus dead. 

Verse 2: Now the Jews’ Feast of Booths was at hand. 

We’ve already noted that. The timing of the Feast of Booths, when Jesus should go, and when he did go are all important elements in this passage. 

Verse 3: So his brothers 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.”

We see Jesus’ brothers who were originally introduced in John’s Gospel at the Wedding Feast at Cana in chapter 2. 

They suggest Jesus go to Judea and they point out that “no one works in secret but seeks to be known openly.” Their point seems to be that “if you want people to believe in you, you’ve got to be seen! You’ve gotta market yourself.” Cinderella had better go to the ball. 

It’s interesting. 

Jesus’ brothers give him advice. 

I think of the areas where we like to have opinions when we’re not truly teh experts on the topic. Play calls in football, military strategies, foreign policy decisions. We have opinions on what doctors should or shouldn’t do.

I’m not judging that. I have opinions on things too. 

But we aren’t experts in every domain of life. A lot of our information comes from people who actually are experts. 

But here we have Jesus’ brothers telling him that he should go to Judea so that his works can be seen. 

They’re telling God what he should do! 

The all-knowing, all wise, righteous Lord needs advice from his younger brothers. 

It’s not all that different from how the world often treats God, his word. We make our own moral judgements about God’s wisdom when we sin. 

I think of God’s providence but we so often rebel and grumble against that. I understand the value of lament of the hurt that our sin and the sin in the world causes. 

But it can also be tempting to look at situations and to forget that God is all-knowing, all-good and that he is working ll things together for good (Romans 8:28). And in that, we can judge God’s providence and perfect will.

We can do the same thing for things that God allows to happen in nature or in the world where we judge God for allowing it to happen. 

The world likes to judge God for being a righteous judge. The world likes to judge God for punishing sin. The world likes to try to dictate to God what love is, what justice is, what goodness is. 

For commands in scripture with which we disagree, we like to find reasons why they don’t apply. 

On and on. 

Isaiah 45:9 says: Woe to him who strives with him who formed him, a pot among earthen pots! Does the clay say to him who forms it, ‘What are you making?’ or ‘Your work has no handles’? 

The point of that verse is that fallen humanity is the clay who complains against the potter who made us. 

In our pride and sinfulness, humanity – in our heart of hearts – likes to think we know better than God. 

There’s irony that Jesus’ brothers suggest to him what he should do. 

Now, there’s debate among scholars as to why they gave him this advice. 

Are they just being supportive brothers giving advice? 

That’s possible. 

Although it should be noted that verse 5 says his brothers didn’t believe in him.

That is to say that they did not believe in his Lordship.  

Jesus’ brothers have a lifetime of seeing his righteousness, they’ve seen his signs. But they don’t believe in who he is. 

Richard Phillips says in his commentary “if anything can prove the depravity of the human heart, it is this.” 

Sometimes people say that they don’t believe in God because they don’t feel like they have enough evidence. 

In the Bible, you see people interacting with Jesus, seeing his ministry and miracles. Who don’t believe. 

In the Old Testament, Abraham had personally been given the promise of God for land and offspring. But we still see him struggle with doubts at time. We see him respond with laughter at the idea that him and Sarah could have a child in their old age. 

You see the Israelites miraculously freed from slavery. The parting of the Red Sea. But then they quickly turn to idolatry. They had decades of God providing for them and sustaining them in their wanderings, and yet they fell into grumbling. 

It’s easy to think that if we had a little more of the picture, a little more of a sense of God, then everything in our life of faith would suddenly be so easy. 

That would not change that we’re still sinful people. 

Jesus’ brothers had been in his presence for their entire lifetime and, at this point, they did not believe. 

Think about the great Spiritual privilege that was! 

I know we can feel a real sense of burden, a real sense of responsibility for people in our own families who are not believers. 

We should care about that. We should pray for our families, pray for opportunities to share the gospel, to talk about faith. But we must remember that no matter who you are, how good you are, how faithful you are, it’s beyond your control. 

Jesus had a real life family who interacted with him and lived with him and yet they still struggled. And while we’re on the subject of Jesus’ brothers, there’s another brief point that warrants mention. 

Jesus had siblings. 

The historical teaching of the Catholic Church is that Mary remained a virgin her entire life. That’s not supported in the Bible, and is actually contradicted in the Bible. These are siblings. Some have argued that maybe they’re other relatives, such as cousins. 

Greek has a word for cousin. That’s not what they use here. 

Jesus had siblings. He had a family.

His siblings are referenced other places in the New Testament. 

Matthew 13, his brothers are named. 

Matthew 13:55-56: Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? 56 And are not all his sisters with us?

Jesus had a family. 

And guess what? 

 
One of the things that we see in the gospels is that Jesus had a sometimes complicated relationship with his family. 

So if you think your family is dysfunctional…just remember that there were people who were related to Jesus and they did not really understand him or always get along with him. 

That’s not to say that Jesus ever sinned. He didn’t. 

But we do see examples in the other gospels of familial strain. 

Mark 3:20-21, Jesus is growing in popularity and crowds are following him. But we see a response of his family early in his ministry. 

20 Then he went home, and the crowd gathered again, so that they could not even eat. 21 And when his family heard it, they went out to seize him, for they were saying, “He is out of his mind.” 

As our passage explicitly tells us, Jesus’ brothers did not believe. 

At least some of his brothers eventually came to faith. Two books in the New Testament are written by brothers of Jesus: James and Jude. 

But at this point in his ministry, when we’re in the last six or so months of Jesus’ life, they do not believe. 

So we’ve seen the unsolicited advice of Jesus’ brothers. 

There’s another comment that warrants mention by way of application. I think of how important it is to have a strong family. I think about when I was nearing the end of seminary. I was single and considering different ministry opportunities. 

I knew I eventually wanted to be the teaching pastor of a church, but part of the reason why I didn’t immediately go that route was because I thought it would be so much harder to do as a single person.

It’s important to have the support of a family. 

Jesus endured a lot during his ministry. In this passage, there are people plotting against him. There were people who wanted to use Jesus to suit their own ends. There were people in Jesus’ inner circle who betrayed him. There were people who plotted against him. 

And through all of that, aside from Mary, we don’t see any support for Jesus from his own family. 

There are so many ways how Jesus relates to us in his humanity. Family dysfunction is one of many. 

Continuing in our passage. 

Jesus responds to them. 

II. We come to our second scene – divine will 

Verses 6-8: 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 going up to this feast, for my time has not yet fully come.”

Jesus says “my time has not yet come.” 

I think the point is that his point of going to Jerusalem for the Feast of Booths has not yet come. 

He is not on man’s schedule or timeline. 

Jesus’ brothers suggest that Jesus capitalize on the autumn holidays and go to present himself in Jerusalem. 

They tell him what they would have done, but they didn’t see the world the way Jesus did. 

There are several reasons why it’s not the right time. 

As the beginning of the chapter informed us, there were Jewish leaders who were seeking to kill Jesus. 

But more importantly, Jesus is always sensitive to the divine will. 

John 5:30, Jesus said:  

I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me.

We see in the gospels that Jesus is led by God. 

Matthew 4:1

Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil

Richard Phillips’ commentary points out that God had ordained a specific time for the birth of Christ. 

Galatians 4:4: 

when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law

God had ordained a specific time for the death of Christ.

John 17:1: 

When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you,

And he had ordained the timing for the events in Jesus’ life and ministry. 

Again, Jesus’ brothers wanted him to show himself, his signs, make a big display at this feast. That was not the divine will and that is why Jesus was saying the time had not come for him to go to the feast. 

Because he was on God’s timeline, not man’s timeline. 

Jesus tells his brothers in verse 6: 

 your time is always here.

Their time is always here because their focus and mission is still the things of the world, not the things of God. And so it doesn’t matter when they go to Jerusalem. 

But Jesus’ time has not yet come because he is serving heavenly purposes.

Verse 7, Jesus specifically connects his brothers to the sinful world. 

The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify about it that its works are evil. 

The world doesn’t hate Jesus’ brothers because they’re following the way of the world. 

But Jesus came to bring light into a dark world and the world hates that. 

John 3:19: 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.

Jesus continues speaking. 

Verse 8: You go up to the feast. I am not going up to this feast, for my time has not yet fully come.”

I find verse 8 to be the most interesting verse in this passage. 

Jesus tells his brothers to go to the feast. That’s straightforward enough. 

But Jesus says that he will not be going up to “this feast.”

It’s interesting that it’s translated “I am not going up to this feast” instead of “I am not going up to the feast.” 

The ESV, NASB, NIV, King James all say “this” and not “the.” 

If Jesus says “I am not going to the feast,” it would seem that he’s saying that he’s not going to the Feast of Booths that’s being celebrated.

But when he says “I’m not going to this feast,” that seems to imply that he is going up to another feast. 

The wording “going up” is also interesting. 

Now from where Jesus was in Galilee, to go to Jerusalem, there actually is a change in elevation where you literally would be going up to Jerusalem. But as we see so many times in this gospel, I think Jesus’ words have a double meaning. 

Jesus uses the phrase about “going up,” “lifted up,” “ascending” in other places of this gospel. I think it refers to Jesus being lifted up on the cross and that when Jesus says that it’s not the time for him to go up to this feast, he’s looking forward to the future feast that he would go up to: the Passover the following spring when he would go to the cross. 

And that brings us to our third scene in the passage. 

III. The feast 

Verse 9: After saying this, he remained in Galilee. But after his brothers had gone up to the feast, then he also went up, not publicly but in private.

Jesus goes to the feast. 

Just two verses before, I thought Jesus had said he wasn’t going. 

He wasn’t going on the timeline of his brothers. 

He was on the divine timeline. 

Jesus does not go to make a grand entrance at this feast, but he has quietly gone to attend. He’s one among the many Israelites who have gone to Jerusalem to observe the holiday. 

Jesus goes in private, but there were people on the lookout for him as the opposition to Jesus was increasing. 

11 The Jews were looking for him at the feast, and saying, “Where is he?” 12 And there was much muttering about him among the people. While some said, “He is a good man,” others said, “No, he is leading the people astray.” 13 Yet for fear of the Jews no one spoke openly of him. 

There’s a buzz about Jesus. There are people at the feast who wanted to see him. 

We see the differing opinions that some were favorable to Jesus while others feared he was leading people astray. 

But just as Jesus had gone to the feast in private, we see that the response to Jesus is also largely in private, most likely for fear of the ruling authorities possibly retaliating against people who were sympathetic to Jesus’ message and teachings. 

So the passage ends with Jesus at the Feast of Booths. He’s in private, but as the passage unfolds in the following weeks, we’ll see Jesus more and more come to the forefront at this feast. 

Feast of Booths 

We talked a little bit about the Feast of Booths in the very beginning. 

Providentially, it’s pretty good timing in the year to come to this event in chapter 7 when the Israelites are celebrating the Feast of Booths. There are three Jewish holy days in the fall. 

Rosh hashanah which is the New Year in Judaism. That actually falls this weekend. 

A second holy day is Yom Kippur, or the Day of Atonement which is a one of the most sacred days in Jewish life which is represents atoning sacrifice and forgiveness. 

That’s next weekend. 

And the third major Jewish Holy Day is the Feast of Booths, which is happening in our passage this morning. The Feast of Booths is how it gets translated in John. 

I don’t love that translation for “booths.” 

I hear “booth,” I think of a restaurant boof. 

More literally, it’s the Feast of Tabernacles, sometimes called the Feast of Tents. It’s also called the Feast of Ingathering. Those are all referring to the same thing. In Hebrew, the feast is called Sukkot. 

Sukkot is an 8 day celebration. It is a joyous celebration that corresponds to the fall harvest and a time of thankfulness and it also calls attention back to the Israelite wanderings in the desert for 40 years. 

The significance of sleeping in tents was that it was reminiscent of the Israelites sleeping in man made structures during their time of desert wanderings. The feast has a lot of resonance to the desert wanderings of Israel.

Sleeping in tents was also paying homage to Jewish farmers who sometimes had to sleep in these types of structures during their time of harvest. 

And for eight days, Jewish people slept in these tents that they made. 

Sukkot includes water and light ceremonies which will both become relevant in this chapter and we Jesus will explain how these elements ultimately point to him. 

This year, Sukkot will fall from October 2-9. So again, we’re at the same time of year as that holy day.  

A day like yom kippur, the day of atonement, is meaningful, but it’s not like a joyous celebration. It’s a pretty somber event. It calls our sin to mind. It’s like Good Friday.

But it was a meaningful, festive holiday. It also had agricultural ties as did many of the Jewish feasts. 

Richard Phillips’ commentary is again helpful in considering the feasts. 

I mentioned some of the fall holy days. 

But in the Israelite calendar, you also had three pilgrimage feasts where Jewish people in the first century would have traveled into Jerusalem from all over Israel. 

The first was Passover. 

Passover was in the spring.

Obviously it was Passover when Jesus was to give his life as a sacrifice. 

Passover is remembering God’s deliverance of Israel. It’s symbolized by the sacrifice of lambs. Jesus is the perfect and spotless Passover lamb who was sacrificed to deliver and redeem people from their slavery to sin. 

Passover points to salvation. 

About seven weeks after Passover, you have the Feast of Weeks, also called Pentecost. That’s the second of the pilgrimage festivals.

Passover coincided with the time of year when the Israelites left Egypt. Pentecost – 7 weeks later – coincided with the time of year when God gave the Law to Israel at Mount Sinai. 

And certainly both of those days have resonance in Christianity. 

Passover is the time of year when we celebrate Good Friday and Easter. 

Pentecost Sunday commemorates God pouring out his Spirit on the early church. 

And so we have this progression in the year between Passover to Pentecost to the Feast of Booths. 

But there is also a progression that you have Easter, before the giving of the Spirit at Pentecost. And for the Isrealites, the Feast of Booths was a fall harvest celebration that also looked forward to a time of future hope in God’s promises. 

Feast of Booths was a time that looked forward. For the Israelites, they looked forward to the coming year. They looked forward to next year’s planting. 

Zechariah 14 pointed forward to a future time when he talked of people from the nations coming to Jerusalem together to celebrate the Feast of Booths. 

Zechariah 14:16: everyone who survives of all the nations that have come against Jerusalem shall go up year after year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Booths. 

And so when Jesus’ brothers want him to make a grand entrance at the Feast of Booths, the timing was not right. Feast of Booths was a celebration, but before that celebration would be appropriate, the Lord Jesus needed to endure the cross. 

As Phillips says “they were advising him to put on a crown without first taking up his cross.” 

That is why Jesus could not go to the festival on his brothers’ terms. 

It was not the right time. 

It’s interesting. 

He goes up to the Feast of Booths. Again, I prefer Feast of Tabernacles. 

As I’ve mentioned many times in our study of John, Jesus is the true tabernacle. 

He’s the place where we meet God in the world. 

So one last time, consider the situation. 

It’s the Feast of Tabernacles and the true tabernacle is there. But he goes quietly, and largely unnoticed because sinful humanity wants to see him killed. 

And just as the Feast of Tabernacles was a time when the Jewish people looked forward to a future hope, the true tabernacle, Jesus: the presence of God in the world went up to Jerusalem a final time for Passover where he would go up on the cross and give up his life so that the same sinful world who killed him could have redemption through his death and resurrection.