The Faithful Church - Bearing Witness to Both the Good News of the Gospel and the Bad News of the World
Sunday, November 17, 2013 - 10:00 a.m. Sermon #: 1685
Pastor Don Horban
John 7:1-13 - “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.  But after his brothers had gone up to the feast, then he also went up, not publicly but in private.  The Jews were looking for him at the feast, and saying, “Where is he?”  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.”  Yet for fear of the Jews no one spoke openly of him.”
Today we launch into John chapter seven. There are twenty-one chapters in John’s gospel account. So that would mean, doing the math, we’re about one third through the story of Jesus as John records it.
But that’s a deceptive accounting. In fact, though only concluding six chapters of this gospel, we are now entering the last six months of Jesus’ earthly life. We are already, as we just begin chapter seven, approaching the beginning of the end for our Lord. And the details John places in this seventh chapter show this to be the case.
For example, John tells us the “Feast of Booths was at hand”(2). This feast was one of three compulsory feasts for Jewish observance. The Feast of Booths was celebrated in the fall (relatively close to our month of October). It was celebrated at the fall harvest and commemorated the provision of God during the wandering of the children of Israel in the wilderness for forty years. Its name - the Feast of Booths - came from the fact that during this feast the people would construct booths or tents from branches - frequently on the rooftops of their houses - and would dwell in them as a reminder of their impermanent dwellings in those wilderness wanderings.
This feast was followed by the keeping of the Passover in the spring. So John is cluing us in that six months from this Feast of Booths in chapter seven Jesus will be executed at the Passover in the same city. Our Lord hasn’t much time left and He knows it. We’ll go into this in more detail in a moment.
Another point by way of background and introduction. The next few chapters of John’s account are marked by an air of tension and conflict. With the exception of a few brighter breaks, these chapters are a constant back and forth in debate. There’s the repetition of attack and defense - belief exposing unbelief. Even if you didn’t know how the whole story ended you can still feel some kind of storm brewing.
1) JESUS’ BROTHERS WANT TO BOLSTER JESUS’ SHRINKING NUMBER OF FOLLOWERS
John 7:1-5 - “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.”
Immediately we wonder why John says Jesus’ brothers didn’t believe in Him. And he tells us this right after Jesus’ brothers tell Him to head to Judea and work some miracles. Surely that implies some kind of belief in Jesus, doesn’t it?
In a way, yes. But this is belief with twisted motives. Jesus’ brothers aren’t blind. They can see what’s been happening to Jesus’ support. For two chapters now Jesus seems to be losing everyone around Him. John carefully records the exodus of followers. First, the crowd (6:30), then the leaders (6:41-42), then many of the disciples (6:64), and now members of His own family (7:7). Something has to be done. Jesus obviously needs an agent.
But His brothers call to “show time” for Jesus is based more on enjoying a moment of celebrity status and acclaim than on Jesus’ lowly submission to His Father’s will for a broken body and shed blood. They know people would rather rally around a winner than a loser.
So, yes, they believed in Jesus - sort of. This is the same kind of “belief” in Jesus John described in John 2:23-25 - “Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing.  But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people  and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man.”
So do these people in John chapter two“believe” or don’t they? Well, they think they believe. They’re pretty pumped on Jesus at this point. But Jesus isn’t very excited. He doesn’t equate what they’re feeling with genuine belief in Himself. These people are success worshipers, power worshipers, victory worshipers. But they’re not really Jesus followers.
Jesus’ brothers have a family love for Jesus that doesn’t want to witness His work as a flop. This is belief that misses what Jesus is actually all about. And the church needs John’s reminder about the relationship between true belief in Jesus Christ and embracing His redemptive work on the cross. This text is a great motive checker for would-be disciples. Here’s the life principle. True belief in Jesus must always be cross/redemption centered. Any other basis of attachment to Jesus or fascination with His words will never be a faith recognized by Jesus Himself.
2) FATHER GOD REVEALS THE FULL MEASURE OF HIS REDEMPTIVE GRACE IN THE TIMING OF JESUS’ SAVING DEATH
John 7:6-8 - “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.’”
One can’t miss the way Jesus contrasts these two time zones - His - “My time has not yet come” - and theirs - “....your time is always here.” And the obvious meaning is they can come and go to any feast or any celebration whenever it suits them. It’s always the same good time for them. Jesus, on the other hand, had people waiting to kill Him. And this present Feast of Booths isn’t the time for His death.
Why? Because in the Father’s divine plan the Son is to be slain at the next Jewish celebration, The Passover. In fact, in the Father’s timing, Jesus will be slain at the precise moment that first Passover lamb was slain so long ago. And this divine timing is a graciously planned revelation so people will have an easier time seeing Jesus as the Lamb of God, shedding His blood so the Father’s wrath passes over those in Christ just as that first Passover lamb caused divine judgment to pass over those who applied the shed blood to their houses.
The Father’s timing has these events coordinated to make the message of atonement more obvious to the masses in Jerusalem. The Father stages history to keep people from interpreting His love sentimentally rather than redemptively. The timing of Christ’s death helps explain the meaning of Christ’s death.
3) PRESENTING THE GOOD NEWS OF THE GOSPEL REQUIRES PRESENTING THE BAD NEWS OF THE WORLD
John 7:6-8 - “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.”
As you can see from the text, these words are closely related to Jesus’ words about the two time zones. His brothers aren’t believers at this point - “For not even his brothers believed in him”(7:5). And in the very next verse Jesus reveals the effect of their unbelief - “Your time is always here”(7:6).
Because they don’t believe in Jesus they don’t face any inconvenience in terms of being out of sync with the surrounding culture. They fit in. They are in the same time zone as the culture around them.
Then Jesus makes Himself completely clear by taking His logic a set further - John 7:7 - “The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify about it that its works are evil.”It’s not just that the world does not hate them. Jesus goes further. This world “cannot” hate them. It’s impossible for the world to hate them because it would be hating itself. Our world embraces its own system. It cannot contradict its own self-love
The world’s self-love consistent and all-permeating. It controls every movie and sit com. It’s in its sports and its fashions. It dominates its novels and philosophies and blogs. The world always loves itself.
How we need to hear Jesus’ words at this point. He points to His own unbelieving brothers and says flat out there is nothing about their lives or their words that is sufficiently out of harmony with this world to even remotely provoke its displeasure. And the punch-line of this observation is unlike many in the contemporary church, Jesus didn’t see this harmony with the world as a good thing. There is disappointment in Jesus’ analysis.
Here it is in a nutshell. The world was free to be itself in their presence in a way that it wasn’t free to be itself in Jesus’ presence. Their words and actions left the world undisturbed being itself. Jesus’ words left the world disturbed and agitated being itself.
And now it all starts to fit together. Of course, they can go up to the festival anytime they want. Not Jesus. They’re waiting to kill Jesus. And why? Jesus tells us - John 7:7b - “....it hates me because I testify about it that its works are evil.”
All of this goes right back to the first point in today’s teaching where we examined the twisted belief of Jesus’ brothers. How easy it is for them to say “Go up to Jerusalem, Jesus! Make some miracle bread! Find a couple lame people to heal! Raise the dust a bit!”
And that’s all so easy for them to say because they don’t have a clue about why the crowds hate Jesus and want to kill Him. They don’t really know why He’s here in the first place. Their belief is in a Jesus of their own making. O, how the church needs to think about that.
4) WHY IS OUR WORLD SO STRUCTURED AGAINST THE NEW TESTAMENT REVELATION OF JESUS CHRIST?
John 7:7-13 - “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.  But after his brothers had gone up to the feast, then he also went up, not publicly but in private.  The Jews were looking for him at the feast, and saying, “Where is he?”  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.”  Yet for fear of the Jews no one spoke openly of him.”
You can see the mixed opinions. Verse 13 says people were guarded in being outspoken in their views of Jesus because of their “fear of the Jews.” “Jews” in this verse means the Jewish religious system and its leadership. We know that because the people who were afraid were Jews too, but not in the same authoritative group. These leaders wanted to kill Jesus. Others saw Jesus as a false religious upstart. A false teacher. And the best review Jesus gets is from a group that is willing to concede He’s a good person. That’s it.
So most of the people in power hate Jesus. The Jewish religious representatives want to kill Him. And now we wrap up with the question, “Why?” And the answer to the “Why does the world hate Jesus?” question comes on two levels. One level is on the surface and the other is deep and foundational.
On the surface we know some of the reasons because the New Testament tells us. These people say they hate Jesus because He healed on the Sabbath (John 5:16 - “....this is why the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because he was doing these things on the Sabbath”). They say they hate Jesus because He was guilty of blasphemy (John 5:18 - “Who can forgive sins but God?”).
But are those the real reasons? Certainly they were the reasons they used. They were ready and useful excuses for hating Jesus. But the striking issue to me is, when Jesus has a chance to tell us why the world - including those Jews waiting to kill Him in Jerusalem - when Jesus tells us why they hated Him those aren’t the reasons He gives.
And here’s the most important take-home truth for this whole morning. I think this matters because when the world today - religious and otherwise - tells the church why Jesus is found to be so offensive they don’t give the same reason Jesus gives in our text. In other words the church will never have an accurate understanding of this world’s rejection of her message and her Redeemer if she just listens to the reasons the world gives for its rejection of Jesus Christ.
And that matters because we will misinterpret our mission if we take our cue from the world about how we have to package Jesus to make Him acceptable in their view. This has everything to do with what the true, Christ-like message of the church must always be.
Our text tells us people who reject Jesus mask their reasons for doing so. This is how our true sinfulness effects the way we deal with Jesus Christ. Their reasons aren’t necessarily lies. But they fall short of fully accounting for their rejection of Jesus Christ.
The real reason anyone rejects Jesus is He exposes something of either our inward rebellion or pride in our own moral accomplishment. And Jesus makes it plain that we all stand in need of divine forgiveness and redemption. Jesus rebukes this world’s inward wickedness. He says He exposes the things in my heart that I can keep secret from everyone else. And that’s very intimidating - John 7:7 - “The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify about it that its works are evil.”
Both its immoral works and its pious independent religious works are evil. And if you reject Jesus today it isn’t because genuine faith in Him as God the Son lacks evidence. And it really isn’t because the church is full of hypocrites. And it isn’t because of the Spanish Inquisition. It’s because He shows the sinfulness of your own heart.
Admit this and come to the light today.