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 against it that its works are evil. Go to the festival yourselves. I am not going to this festival, for my time has not yet fully come.” (John 7:6-8, NRSV)
After just returning from Israel/Palestine, and having yet to process the whole trip, I have yet to figure out how this trip will influence and inform my reading of the Bible. However, I now know that when I see the word “Galilee,” forever in my brain will be etched the memory of a rainbow descending into the Sea of Galilee after a mid-afternoon storm escaping over the Golan Heights. Simultaneously, though, whenever I read “Bethlehem,” my mind and memory will transport me back to concrete separation walls, broken glass, and (on a much more positive note) really good coffee on a cold, dreary day. I simply state these facts because that trip informs and influences almost every part of my life now, at least in the short term. How, then, does that help us into one of our passages for today’s Lenten readings?
The fourth evangelist writes about Jesus’ conversation with his brothers just before the Festival of Booths, which would have required them all to travel down to Jerusalem in Judea. Jesus responds that they must go ahead without him, because his “time has not yet fully come.” Many scholars uphold that, here, John is alluding to the impending crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, which seems appropriate for our season of Lent. However, I want to focus on a different part of Jesus’ interaction with his brother, “My time has not yet come, but your time is always here (John 7:6).”
In this early part of Lent, the resurrection events of Easter day are still some four weeks off. We eagerly anticipate the triumph over death and the excitement of Mary Magdalene spreading the good news to the disciples. Yet, in this account, it would appear that Jesus is telling us not to wait; not to wait four more weeks to go to the festival.
The picture I have added to accompany this devotional is one that I shot recently in Bethlehem, mere feet from the separation wall. It shows a chained door from an abandoned storefront; abandoned because there is no more foot traffic to keep the store open. It has since fallen into disrepair. But that is not the story of this photo. What does “mighty” mean? Who slapped the sticker there and what was their message? The story of this photo is one of hope and strength. It shows, at least to me, a resilient humanity always hoping for a better today. If, as Jesus tells his brothers, ones who apparently do not believe in him yet beg him to show his good works to the people, that their time and our time is always here, then we are called to find our hope and our might in a broken world in need of redemption. This broken world needs this good news of redemption and healing, and now is our time. It is always our time. We must go to the festival, now.
Seminary Deacon Leader Jonathan Britt