Today’s reading is John 7:1-31 (NIV):
Jesus Goes to the Festival of Tabernacles.
7 After this, Jesus went around in Galilee. He did not want to go about in Judea because the Jewish leaders there were looking for a way to kill him. 2 But when the Jewish Festival of Tabernacles was near, 3 Jesus’ brothers said to him, “Leave Galilee and go to Judea, so that your disciples there may see the works you do. 4 No one who wants to become a public figure acts in secret. Since you are doing these things, show yourself to the world.” 5 For even his own brothers did not believe in him.
6 Therefore Jesus told them, “My time is not yet here; for you any time will do. 7 The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify that its works are evil. 8 You go to the festival. I am not going up to this festival, because my time has not yet fully come.” 9 After he had said this, he stayed in Galilee.
10 However, after his brothers had left for the festival, he went also, not publicly, but in secret. 11 Now at the festival the Jewish leaders were watching for Jesus and asking, “Where is he?”
12 Among the crowds there was widespread whispering about him. Some said, “He is a good man.”
Others replied, “No, he deceives the people.” 13 But no one would say anything publicly about him for fear of the leaders.
Jesus Teaches at the Festival.
14 Not until halfway through the festival did Jesus go up to the temple courts and begin to teach. 15 The Jews there were amazed and asked, “How did this man get such learning without having been taught?”
16 Jesus answered, “My teaching is not my own. It comes from the one who sent me. 17 Anyone who chooses to do the will of God will find outwhether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own.18 Whoever speaks on their own does so to gain personal glory, but he who seeks the glory of the one who sent him is a man of truth; there is nothing false about him. 19 Has not Moses given you the law? Yet not one of you keeps the law. Why are you trying to kill me?”
20 “You are demon-possessed,” the crowd answered. “Who is trying to kill you?”
21 Jesus said to them, “I did one miracle, and you are all amazed. 22 Yet, because Moses gave you circumcision (though actually it did not come from Moses, but from the patriarchs), you circumcise a boy on the Sabbath. 23 Now if a boy can be circumcised on the Sabbath so that the law of Moses may not be broken, why are you angry with me for healing a man’s whole body on the Sabbath? 24 Stop judging by mere appearances, but instead judge correctly.”
Division Over Who Jesus Is.
25 At that point some of the people of Jerusalem began to ask, “Isn’t this the man they are trying to kill? 26 Here he is, speaking publicly, and they are not saying a word to him. Have the authorities really concluded that he is the Messiah? 27 But we know where this man is from; when the Messiah comes, no one will know where he is from.”
28 Then Jesus, still teaching in the temple courts, cried out, “Yes, you know me, and you know where I am from. I am not here on my own authority, but he who sent me is true. You do not know him, 29 but I know him because I am from him and he sent me.”
30 At this they tried to seize him, but no one laid a hand on him, because his hour had not yet come. 31 Still, many in the crowd believed in him.They said, “When the Messiah comes, will he perform more signs than this man?”
In the new HBO series The Young Pope, the new Pope Pius XIII is pressured to approve his new merchandise. Now, some of my Protestant friends might be unfamiliar with the ancient and proud tradition of the Pope knickknacks, which include such worthy Vatican bobbles as the Pope-face soccer ball, the Pope-face plate, the “Pope-ner” (a Pope-face bottle opener), and the hot priest calendar (this is a real and un-ironic item available for purchase; I own several). However, the new pope decides to break this venerable line of apostolic tchotchke succession. He wants, he claims, to be faceless, to point the people to their Father in Heaven and not draw them into himself.
Due to my incorrigible Roman Catholicism and inexhaustible appetite for television, I couldn’t help but see something of Pope Pius XIII in this story, right where I wasn’t expecting it. Jesus refuses to go to the crowded festival, “because [his] time has not fully come.” Considering Jesus’ other actions in the first six chapters of John, this is surprising, but considering Jesus’ actions in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, this is really surprising. Before this passage, John’s Jesus had been anything but a wall flower. “I AM” he always says: “I am the Messiah” (4:26) and “I am the Bread of Life” (6:35). These are no insignificant claims. Yet, here, moving about “in secret,” he is surprisingly similar to Matthew’s demure Jesus who says, after healing blind men, “See that no one knows about this” (9:29). Why, all of the sudden, does John’s Jesus start acting like the shy synoptic Jesus?
To answer this question, one needs to think about why the synoptic Jesus does seem so shy. The canned Sunday school answer is that he does not want to appeal to the Israelites’ infatuation with signs (Matthew 12:38-9), but rather to their faith in God. Just like Pope Pius, Christ wants to point the eyes of the Israelites upwards, not inwards. Is this what Christ is about here? While it seems possible, especially because of the mention of his brother’s lack of faith (7:5), the reason that Jesus himself gives for his reticence complicates the situation, for he says, “my time is not yet fully come” (7:8). Now what on Earth does that mean? More importantly, what does that mean for us?
Unlike Pope Pius or synoptic Jesus, Jesus isn’t being shy in order to point the people upward, rather he is being patient and submitting to God’s plan. In college and at Harvard especially, we students find it difficult to sit tight to wait for God to work in our lives. We spend so much of our time barreling through deadlines and digging down into piles of assignments that we attempt to use the same gritty determination to (as one nun I know put it) “get God to start moving” in our lives. But God isn’t able to be moved; He cannot be “worked upon.” Sometimes, like Jesus, we just have to be benched and twiddle our thumbs, saying, “[my] time has not yet come.”
Tess Fitzsimmons ’19 is a Sophomore in Lowell House studying History and Literature.