John has recorded some of Jesus’ miracles and deep teaching up to this point to demonstrate that Jesus really is not only a truly human being but also divine, sent from heaven and approved by God the Father to bring spiritual life to the world (6:51). The Jews, ie the religious leaders, scribes and Pharisees, have been arguing and grumbling about these words and deeds of Jesus (and they possibly knew a lot more than we have been told, since John tells us that he has only included a small selection -21:25), so much so that it has now led to their making death threats and forming plots to kill him. From here on, John gives us a glimpse into the 3rd and final year of Jesus’ ministry in and around Jerusalem.
It is now the time for the Jewish feast of Tabernacles. Everyone assembled in Jerusalem for the 8 days of this feast, living in makeshift tents around the city and celebrating harvest, while also reminding themselves of how God had provided for their forefathers as they lived in tents in the wilderness after God had rescued them from their slavery in Egypt.
Jerusalem would have been heaving with people, and the atmosphere charged with excitement, with everyone in holiday mood. Jesus’ brothers urge him to go to Jerusalem to the feast in order to ‘show himself to the world’ – for us this is almost like saying ‘if you want to be a star, it’s no good just singing in the school choir, you need to get on ‘Britain’s got Talent’ – so everyone in the country can see how good you are and vote for you!’
We have already seen that Jesus knew he was not to be that sort of public figure (6:15). He knew full well that the time would come when he would be shown to the world, as it were, but not in that way and not now. God’s timing was always right.
He also knew what the public vote would be, despite a few recognising his goodness and his origins – he is already aware of the completely unjustified threats, plots and hatred felt towards him. He is also totally aware of the Holy Spirit guiding him in everything he did and when he did it. So he does not go to the Feast immediately with his brothers….but he does go a bit later, not with a public fanfare, but quietly, because he knew that the Jews would be watching, almost ‘waiting’ for him.
His comments to his brothers are very challenging for us to consider – ‘the world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify that what it does is evil.’ (v7). John uses the word ‘world’ a lot in his gospel – 78 times. It can mean the universe, the people or earth, most people, people opposed to God or to God’s purposes, so the context is important to see which meaning is most appropriate. Here it obviously means people as in human society opposed to God and unwilling to submit to God’s ways. Jesus would later tell his disciples that ‘if the world hates you, bear in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, (ie fitted in with society, accepted all that it said and did etc), it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you’. (ch15:18-19)
The reason why the world will hate us is that we once belonged there…but we have crossed over to belong to God’s kingdom of light (Col 1:13) and we are now different, so we are a testimony against the world and a challenge to its ways – at least, we should be!
Do we feel the world’s hatred of us? J C Ryle comments;
‘The real cause of many people’s dislike of the gospel is the holiness of living which it demands. Teach abstract doctrines and only a few will find any fault. Denounce the fashionable sins of the day and call on men to repent and walk consistently with God, and thousands will be offended.’
So, we should ask ourselves again – are men offended at us? It sounds like they should be, if we are loyal servants and followers of our Master.
Prayer: Lord forgive us if we are too bland and innocuous in our faith, so that we fail to arouse either curiosity or hostility. Make us salt and light amongst those with whom we live.