Conflicting goals

Order of Service:

Call to worship

Prayer

Hymn CH4 83 I rejoiced when I heard them say (verses 1&2)

Scripture readings (scroll down to read the text of the readings):

Old Testament Leviticus 23: 33-36; 42-43

New Testament John 7: 1-19

Hymn CH4 83 For the peace of all nations, pray (verses 4&5)

Sermon Conflicting goals (scroll down to read the sermon text)

CH4 641 Seek ye first the kingdom of God (verses 1&3)

Prayer

Hymn CMP 249 How lovely on the mountains are the feet of Him

Benediction

Scripture readings:

Leviticus 23: 33-36; 42-43

And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the people of Israel, saying, On the fifteenth day of this seventh month and for seven days is the Feast of Booths to the Lord.  On the first day shall be a holy convocation; you shall not do any ordinary work.  For seven days you shall present food offerings to the Lord. On the eighth day you shall hold a holy convocation and present a food offering to the Lord. It is a solemn assembly; you shall not do any ordinary work.

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.”

John 7: 1-19

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.

About the middle of the feast Jesus went up into the temple and began teaching.  The Jews therefore marveled, saying, “How is it that this man has learning, when he has never studied?”  So Jesus answered them, “My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me.  If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority.  The one who speaks on his own authority seeks his own glory; but the one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and in him there is no falsehood.

Sermon : Conflicting goals

Disagreement between siblings. It’s a normal thing and we have it here in the home of Jesus and his brothers. They give their eldest brother advice. That advice is to go to Judea as the Feast of Booths is about to be begin. As we heard through our Old Testament reading, this feast is celebrated as it is required and spelled out by God in the Law given to Moses, so that generations will always remember that God had led the Israelites out of Egypt and that they wandered in the desert for forty years, dwelling  in booths.

It may be that Christians feel this feast is not relevant to them, as we don’t celebrate it, but what is relevant is the preciseness with which God specifies timing of His requirements; the details He put in His words, His instructions to Moses.

That is how God is. He still works, creates through exact timing and particulars.

The reason for the brothers’ advice to Jesus is that the pilgrimage feast will be the ideal opportunity for Him to make Himself known, to get publicity.

‘No one works in secret if he seeks to be known openly’, the brothers say to Jesus. In their eyes, Jesus shouldn’t miss His chance to promote Himself.

Jesus had done works before in Judea. Earlier in John’s Gospel it says,

Jesus and his disciples went into the Judean countryside, and he remained there with them and was baptizing (John 3:22)

In the following chapter it says,

Now when Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John  (although Jesus himself did not baptize, but only his disciples),  he left Judea and departed again for Galilee. (John 4:1-3)

Jesus seems to avoid confrontation with the Pharisees, the Jewish religious authorities. But it’s not avoiding, it’s postponing.

Meanwhile, His brothers think that keeping doing things in secret, doesn’t go with wanting to be heard. You’ve got to go publicly. They understand that the purpose of the signs Jesus can do is to point to who Jesus is, to Himself. Hence the urge to put Himself in the spotlight. That’s straightforward thinking; thinking that makes sense.

But in the midst of that reasoning, the eldest brother holds back; He doesn’t think in the way His brothers think, ‘My time has not come yet, but Your time is always here.’

Now what does that mean?

What Jesus means is that timing of what He does; of what is to happen to Him comes from His Father. It has nothing to do with a desire for success for Himself.

When Jesus speaks about timing, He points to His last hour on earth; when that time has come. What Jesus has in mind is what God has in mind for Him: His suffering and dying. All will go according to God’s plan and time.

And so He differs from His brothers. His agenda differs from His brothers’ agenda. They can stick to their own. Unlike Jesus, they are not being hated and therefore they’re not in danger. They can go as a family to Jerusalem, without Him.

Plans. Arrangements. Purposes. Timing. God’s and ours. They cause suspension and tension, don’t we all know it? And here we’re told that Jesus’ family struggle with that too.

A story with which more people may be familiar is the story of the wedding at Cana, where Jesus and his mother Mary were guests. The host, the groom ran out of wine, which was terribly embarrassing for him.  Mary knew and stepped in by going to her eldest son urging Him to help them. The reply she got from her son was:

Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” (John 2: 4)

The painful distancing by Jesus from his mother, already began when He was in the temple as a twelve year old boy. After the celebration of the Passover Feast, Jesus had stayed behind in Jerusalem, learning from the teachers about the law of Moses, keen on learning more about God Himself; discovering. When Mary and Joseph found him there after three days of looking for him, Jesus says,

‘Did you not know that I have to be in my Father’s house’?  (Luke 2: 49)

Painful to hear for Mary and Joseph, this clear statement that it was not Joseph who was the father of Jesus, but that God Himself was Jesus’ Father.

Yet, after speaking to His mother in the way He did, Jesus went obediently with her and Joseph back home to Nazareth.

And at the wedding, after telling His mother that it was not yet His hour, He did help the desperate groom.

And now, after disagreeing with His brothers, Jesus did go to Jerusalem, not publicly but in private. Jesus arrives late at the Feast, to teach.

People had been wondering where He was. He was expected and was talked about. Sought by the religious authorities. The pilgrims have different opinions. There are those who don’t see Him as doing any harm. ‘He’s a good person’, they say. Others say that He leads the people of Israel astray.

In the middle of disagreeing opinions, about the middle of the feast, Jesus appears and teaches at the place where He as a boy was in dialogue with the teachers of the Law of Moses. And now, Jesus interprets the law of Moses in a way that His hearers have never heard before. And then He says,

 “My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me.  If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority.  The one who speaks on his own authority seeks his own glory; but the one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and in him there is no falsehood.” (John 7: 16-18)

Jesus’s words point away from Himself, to God; to His Father, from Whom He had come.

This was what was not understood by His brothers. Not yet. Their brotherly advice to Jesus to grab the opportunity to get publicity was rooted in their unbelief, as it says in the passage:

For not even his brothers believed in him. (John 7:5)

They thought in terms of an acknowledgment of Jesus by as many as people as possible. But it was an acknowledgment that had nothing to do with the kind of acknowledgement that Jesus has in mind. For Him, all He said and did happened through and for the Father. That was the essence of His teaching: it was all about His heavenly Father.

Jesus’s brothers’ unbelief didn’t last though. After Jesus’ resurrection, this is what the book of Acts says about them and their mother Mary,

All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers (Acts: 1:14)

Where does the disagreement between Jesus and His brothers leave us? Hopefully with a realization that there is never room for complacency in our faith in God. Over and over again we need to be found by Him through Jesus. We need to meet Him anew.

Like Jesus’s brothers, we lack belief when we aim for things that are in conflict with what He aims for. His purposes are the same as His Father’s.

In Jesus’ thoughts, words and deeds, we find the Father’s thoughts, words and deeds. They happen with a pace different from the quickness and slickness with which social media can make things happen these days. God’s words are rooted in His Love, Love that is patient, allowing for time, as it allowed time for Jesus’ brothers; as it allows time for us, and for those whom we don’t have time for. God does, in the midst of all that goes against Him and against all that He does, He doesn’t let go His purpose, the purpose of creating a Kingdom in which all His children have a place.

Let seeking that Kingdom be our purpose, for His Name’s sake.

Amen