“My Time Has Not Yet Come” – John 7:1-9

Moving now to John chapter 7, let’s take a quick review of our timeline so far.

  • Jesus heals a lame man on the Sabbath in Jerusalem.
  • Jesus claims to be the Son of God.
  • The Jewish leaders in Jerusalem seek to kill Jesus.
  • Jesus explains to the Jerusalem crowd His unique relationship with the Father.
  • Jesus supports His claim with several witnesses:  John the Baptist, Jesus’ supernatural works, the voice of God the Father, and the Old Testament scriptures (particularly the words of Moses)
  • Jesus goes to Galilee and feeds 5000 people.
  • Jesus rejects the attempt to be made king.
  • Jesus explains to the Capernaum crowd His identity as “the Bread of Life that came down from heaven.”
  • Jesus clearly presents the crux of the gospel:  “He who believes in Me has eternal life.”

John chapter 7 starts with Jesus still in Galilee.  Based on the timeline of the synoptic gospels, it has probably been about a year since the John chapter 5 experience of Jesus in Jerusalem.

John 7:1 After these things Jesus was walking in Galilee, for He was unwilling to walk in Judea because the Jews were seeking to kill Him. (Jesus was not returning to Jerusalem because the Jewish leaders wanted to kill Him.  This is not because Jesus is afraid of them, it is more related to the fact that “His time has not yet come”.)

2 Now the feast of the Jews, the Feast of Booths, was near. (The feast of tabernacles or booths was held in the fall of the year to celebrate the fall harvest.  The name comes from the fact that people lived in makeshift shelters during the eight day festival .  This was one of the three great pilgrimage feasts that happened each year and brought people from all over the countryside into the city of Jerusalem.)

3 Therefore His brothers said to Him, “Leave here and go into Judea, so that Your disciples also may see Your works which You are doing. 4 For no one does anything in secret when he himself seeks to be known publicly. If You do these things, show Yourself to the world.” (Jesus’ brothers were saying, “If you are indeed the Messiah, go up to Jerusalem, home of the big show, and be recognized publicly.”  It seemed incredible to them that Jesus – if He wanted to proclaim His identity as the Messiah – would make such an effort to avoid publicity; which is exactly what it appeared Jesus was doing by laying low, as it were, in Galilee.  “If you do these things – supporting your claim to be the Messiah- show yourself.”) 5 For not even His brothers were believing in Him. (Since His brothers did not believe in Him, we don’t totally know their motivation for encouraging Jesus to go up to Jerusalem.)

6 So Jesus said to them, “My time is not yet here, but your time is always opportune. (Jesus answers the why of His not going to Jerusalem.  “My time is not yet here.  For you, my brothers, who are not following an intentional agenda, anytime is a good time to come and go.  But for me, the time is not right.”  Jesus’ reference to this not being the right time may refer to His final revelation to the crowds as the Messiah – which was still to come on Palm Sunday – or the time of His crucifixion – still to come on Good Friday.)

As an aside, throughout Jesus’ ministry He always carried an intentionality as to what He would do next.  Was it a rude, narrow schedule on Jesus’ part?  Not at all.  Jesus constantly responded to interruptions with compassion and action.  But in the midst of all the drama He faced, He seemed to always have a “holy must” about what He should do next.

7 “The world cannot hate you, but it hates Me because I testify of it, that its deeds are evil.” (This may be an allusion to the fact that the Jews in Jerusalem are out to kill Him.) 8 “Go up to the feast yourselves; I do not go up to this feast because My time has not yet fully come.” 9 Having said these things to them, He stayed in Galilee. (Jesus again explains that His time has not yet come, so his brothers go up to the feast without Him.  But Jesus does have a secret plan to show up on the scene, a plan we will investigate next time.)

Words of Eternal Life – John 6:66-69

Returning now to the narrative of John chapter 6, Jesus has concluded His discussion about true food and true drink with the following result.  John 6:66 As a result of this (the confusion over Jesus’ explanation of the spiritual meaning of the true “food”, and possibly His claim to be the Christ) many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore. (The followers who withdrew were not true disciples in the spiritual sense.  They were followers in the material sense.  It appears that they were attracted to Jesus by the signs and miracles; wonders performed in the material world.  His true disciples embraced the spiritual significance of the signs.  But now the crowd has diminished dramatically and Jesus turns His attention to the twelve apostles.)

67 So Jesus said to the twelve, “You do not want to go away also, do you?” 68 Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life.” (Peter recognized that Jesus indeed had the words of eternal life.  The words of Christ are not merely words of wisdom, not only moral platitudes, not just a higher ethic; they are words of eternal life.  At their very core, the words of Christ are the words of life itself.  Beginning in chapter 5, Jesus has used the words “eternal life” [or in some cases, just the word “life” to refer to eternal life] over and over again, well over a dozen times in these two chapters.  And that message has not been lost on Peter.  In fact, he confirms his belief and appears to speak for the group as well in the next verse.)

69 “We have believed (met the requirement for eternal life, see John 6:40) and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God.” (and the basis for our belief is your identity as the Christ, the Holy One of God.)

Think about the apostles’ progression of belief.  Early on, the apostles lacked insight into Jesus’ true identity. Look at their reaction when Jesus calmed the stormy sea, “Then He got into the boat with them, and the wind stopped; and they were utterly astonished, for they had not gained any insight from the incident of the loaves, but their heart was hardened” (Mk 6:551-52).

Fast forward to Matthew chapter 16, “Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’  And Jesus said to Him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven’ ” (Mt 16:16-17).  They went from hardened hearts to soft hearts that embraced God’s revelation concerning the identity of His Son.

Peter’s answer, “We have wholeheartedly placed our faith in your claim to be the Holy One of God” is a perfect capstone to this chapter.  Is faith in Jesus the only way to heaven?  Jesus has said so Himself at least a dozen times in our study and we still have a chapter to go.

The Father Draws His Own – John 6:64-65

John 6:64 “But there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who it was that would betray Him. 65 And He was saying, “For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father.” (In the midst of His hearers’ confusion, Jesus explains that only those chosen by the Father can grasp the spiritual significance of what is going on here.  This text harkens back to John 6:44, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent me draws him.”)

The idea of God choosing and our responsibility in salvation is just as confusing today.  Here is the short answer as I understand it.  If you scour the New Testament for every occasion where the Greek word for “choose” or “elect” is used, there is such a preponderance of use with God as the subject doing the choosing that there can be no doubt that God has chosen you to join His family.

Having said that, you also have a requirement to respond to God’s choice by faith.  Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one can boast.”  We almost always focus on the words grace, gift, and works in this salvation passage and almost never on the word faith.  Based on this passage and others, somehow our faith matters.  Our faith is of great importance.  Yes, salvation is by grace and we contribute nothing to this grace.  It is the free gift of God.  But to lay hold of this grace – this gift – faith is required.  So there actually is one “work” that is required of us to be saved; the “work” of faith.

This blends right in with the teaching of Jesus in John chapter 6.  “They said to Him, “What shall we do, so that we may work the works of God?”  Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent” (Jn 6:28-29).  There is one “work” required of us.  It is the work of faith.  It is the work of “believing in Him [Jesus Christ] whom God has sent.”

The idea that God does the choosing and we respond in faith gives us great courage in evangelism.  We have the opportunity to join God in something He is already doing, drawing men and women to Himself.  We are not responsible to make belief happen.  This gives us tremendous freedom when we face rejection.  It is not our message that is being rejected, it is the message of Jesus Christ.  If the message of Christ is being rejected, it is because it has not been revealed by God to the hearer.  It is not because we muddled the message, did not say exactly the right words, or somehow goofed up the presentation.

The idea that God chooses does not hinder evangelism, it frees us up to plant as many seeds as possible without fear because we do not know the whole story of what God is doing next in a person’s life.  We can’t see below the surface and know where the good soil is.  Our responsibility is to plant and water, and “God causes the growth” (I Cor 3:7).  “For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father” (Jn 6:65).

True Food and True Drink – John 6:55-65

As we ended last time, Jesus was explaining the spiritual significance of His “eating My flesh and drinking My blood” metaphor.  Eating the flesh of Christ and drinking the blood of Christ is a metaphor for appropriating Christ by faith, embracing the message of Christ.  It is the same as believing in Christ.  It is meant to be understood in the spiritual realm, not the physical realm.

55 “For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink. 56 He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. 57 As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats Me, he also will live because of Me.” (Eating is a word picture for belief in Christ.  Eating leads to eternal life.) 58 “This is the bread which came down out of heaven; not as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live forever.” (Unlike those who ate the manna in the wilderness, he who eats this bread will live forever.) 59 These things He said in the synagogue as He taught in Capernaum. (This discourse, which began in verse 26, took place as Jesus was teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum.)

60 Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this said, “This is a difficult statement; who can listen to it?” (Who can accept these difficult teachings?  They are even a challenge to His closest followers.) 61 But Jesus, conscious that His disciples grumbled at this, said to them, “Does this cause you to stumble? 62 What then if you see the Son of Man ascending to where He was before?” (If I were to disappear into heaven, then would you realize that I am speaking in the heavenly realm, the spiritual side of life?)

63 “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life.” (True life is given by God’s Spirit and is found in the spiritual realm.  The flesh in this discussion represents the material world.  You are not going to find your answers to life’s big questions in the material world.  An important principle of the Christian message is that there is an unseen spiritual aspect to our existence that is just as real as the material world that we see, smell, hear, and touch.  Just because we cannot experience it with our senses does not make it less real.  It exists!)

64 “But there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who it was that would betray Him. 65 And He was saying, “For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father.”

The idea that only those chosen by the Father can grasp the spiritual significance of what is going on here is such a weighty topic that we will give it our full consideration next post.

“I am the Bread of Life” – John 6:43-54

We are near the halfway mark in our exploration of John chapters 5 through 7.  Summarizing to this point in the story, Jesus is confronted by the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem over what we might now consider a minor offense, healing on the Sabbath.  The confrontation escalates when Jesus claims to be following the example of God, His Father.  Jesus first made the Son of God claim in John 5:17 and followed it up with the statement that, therefore, eternal life is found only in Him.  Between His discourse in Jerusalem (John chapter 5) and His teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum (John chapter 6), Jesus has claimed at least seven times that believing in Jesus, the Son of God, is the path to eternal life.

  • John 5:21 – The Son gives life.
  • John 5:24 – He who believes has eternal life.
  • John 5:25 – Those who hear (synonymous with believe) will live.
  • John 6:29 – The work of God is that you believe.
  • John 6:33 – The Bread of God gives life.
  • John 6:35 – He who believes in Me will never thirst.
  • John 6:40 – Everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life.

All this talk of bread coming down from heaven and believing in the Son left the Jews in Capernaum pretty confused and they began to discuss among themselves, “We know this guy.  We know his parents.  He can’t be anything special.  Messiahs don’t grow up from little boys.”

So Jesus addresses their confusion. 43 Jesus answered and said to them, “Do not grumble among yourselves. (Don’t be stumped by this.  Here is some more explanation.) 44 No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; (God the Father does the calling,) and I will raise him up on the last day. (And I do the raising.) 45 It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught of God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father, comes to Me. 46 Not that anyone has seen the Father, except the One who is from God; He has seen the Father. (Jesus says that He has seen the Father.) 47 Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life.” (For the eighth time; belief equals eternal life.)

48 “I am the bread of life. 49 Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50 This is the bread which comes down out of heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; (ninth reference to eternal life) and the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is My flesh.” (Christ is now referring to His death on the cross.  His death is both voluntary – “the bread which I will give up” – and vicarious – “for the life of the world.”  Christ is going to die in place of the world to bring life to the world.  The use of “world” emphasizes the global scope of Christ’s death in our place.  The gospel message is not targeted to a specific group, but is open to all.)

52 Then the Jews began to argue with one another, saying, “How can this man give us His flesh to eat?” (The Jews are still thinking on the physical level with their concern, “How can this man give us His flesh to eat?”) 53 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves. 54 He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

I am not so sure that this last statement of Jesus really cleared anything up in the minds of His listeners.  The idea of eating Christ’s flesh and drinking His blood was not only confusing by outright offensive to the Jews.  But again, their focus was purely on the physical angle of bread and drink, flesh and blood.

Of course, we see now that Jesus is focused on the spiritual and the spiritual significance of His teaching about bread and drink.  The spiritual lesson here – Jesus’ tenth reference to Him being the path to eternal life – is that to share in God’s life, the eternal life, it is necessary to be united with Christ by faith.  “He who eats and drinks (is connected to Christ in a spiritual union) has eternal life.”