by David Gatch
“Go up to the Festival yourselves. I’m not going up to the festival yet, because My time has not yet fully come.” John 7:8
“Did Jesus lie?” This was the question an 8th grader asked his teacher, a challenging question no doubt, but a good question. His reasoning appears reasonable considering Jesus told His brothers, “I’m not going up to the festival yet” but the problem arises when Jesus eventually does go up to the festival. Does Jesus’ actions contradict what He told His brothers? Did Jesus lie to His brother telling them He was not going up when He apparently intended to go up later? It might appear so. But is it? Did Jesus lie?
The young 8th grader continued rightly reasoning, “If Jesus was without sin, then why did He lie?” Or is it as he concluded, “is it sometimes okay to lie?” Most certainly, it is never okay to lie. Lying is a sin. And Jesus did not lie. Jesus was perfect, without sin, and therefore would not have lied. Did not lie. So, if Jesus did not sin, then how do we reconcile the apparent contradiction? How do we reconcile Jesus telling His brothers He would not be going up the festival and then going? To reconcile the contradiction, let me suggest that we take a closer look at the context. Let’s get the whole picture and see if Jesus indeed lied or have we missed something vital.
All Jewish males were required to attend the Festival of Tabernacles, so His brothers assumed that Jesus would be going to Jerusalem to celebrate the feast. Jesus’ brothers were His half brothers, the sons of Mary and Joseph. Their names, as listed in Matthew 13:5, were James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas (or Jude). They implored Jesus to go to the Feast with them, but as we'll see, they did so out of unbelief. Look at their initial request in verse 3, “Leave here and go to Judea so Your disciples can see Your works that You are doing.” They reasoned that Jerusalem would provide the grand stage to demonstrate that He was in fact the Messiah He claimed to be. He had recently lost a number of disciples who abandoned Him (John 6:66). Maybe, this would be the perfect opportunity to win them back. Their next statement demonstrates they completely misunderstood His mission. “For no one does anything in secret while he’s seeking public recognition.” This is worldly thinking. You have to promote yourself. They thought He must be seeking public recognition. This makes sense only if His brothers thought Jesus was a political Messiah who came to overthrow the Roman rulers. But their next statement reveals something even darker in their hearts. The next statement reveals their unbelief. “If You do these things, show Yourself to the world.” If – this little word resonated the challenge of Satan in his temptation of Jesus in the wilderness “If You are the Son of God…” (Matthew 4:3, 6) and looked ahead to the mocking unbelief Jesus faced on the cross – “If You are the Son of God, come down from the cross!” (Matthew 27:40) Therefore, John inserts this footnote in verse 5, “For not even His brothers believed in Him.” His brothers did not believe in Him. Nothing the Lord Jesus did up to this point had convinced them that He was indeed the Messiah, the Son of God. It was His resurrection from the dead that finally persuaded them that He was the Son of God.
Not Yet His Time
Jesus responded to them, “My time has not yet arrived.” Against their skepticism Jesus showed His perfect obedience to His Father who had purposed according to His timing the course of action for His Son. He gave the same response to His mother at the wedding in Cana in John 2:4, “My hour has not yet come.” He would not prematurely manifest Himself until the moment chosen by His Father had come and that moment came not at the time of the Festival of Tabernacles but at the Passover Feast the following spring, when Jesus would become "the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!" (John 1:29) The Lord would not openly declare Himself to be the Messiah until that time. Why? Because it would happen just as He predicted (Matthew 16:21; 17:22-23; 20:17-19; 26:2), His manifestation would lead to His death on the cross. Just like Peter (Matthew 16:23), His brothers were “not thinking about God’s concern, but man’s.” They were not concerned with God’s divine plans and purposes and were, like the world, indifferent to His providence. This indifference to God and His purposes puts them at enmity with God along with the whole world. Unlike Jesus they would not experience any antagonism against them from the world as they entered Jerusalem. “The world cannot hate you” (verse7), He told them, since they were a part of the world. But the world does “hate Me because I testify about it – that its deeds are evil.”
“Go up to the festival yourselves.” (verse 8) They would be going up to Jerusalem along with numerous people. For Jesus to go at this time would have likely generated an untimely triumphal entry. This would have sparked a confrontation with the Jewish leaders resulting in His death out of timing with His Father’s plan, which was at Passover and not the Feast of Tabernacles. There is also a textual issue at this point that we should take note of because it introduces this contradiction. There are Greek manuscripts that have the reading οὐκ (not) and οὔπω (not yet). However, the most likely correct reading would be οὐκ. (Shorter readings would be preferable since scribes would be less likely to take something out of a text. However, scribes have added in marginal notes into the text.) While it’s unlikely that anyone would replace οὔπω with οὐκ, since the spelling of the two words are so different. There is an obvious reason scribes would replace οὐκ with οὔπω. This would remove the apparent contradiction with verse 10, the very contradiction our young friend pointed out. In other words, a scribe may have tried to remove the contradiction (Jesus lied?) by inserting οὔπω. Either way it is written, it is clear what the Lord meant. He wasn’t saying He was not going to attend the feast at all, but that He was not going to be attending the feast the way His brothers wanted Him to attend with fanfare and triumph as the Messiah. He was going up not at their time, but at the proper time – the time His Father had predetermined Him to do so, at Passover.
The Divine Time
“After His brothers had gone up to the festival, then He also went up, not openly but secretly.” (verse 10) Delaying His departure Jesus avoided the crowds and went up “secretly” and not “openly.” Verse 14 tells us that Jesus did not arrive until the feast was half over. The crowds would have already arrived in Jerusalem and the roads would have been practically empty. He would have gone unnoticed and without any fanfare. Guess who was looking for Him? That’s right, the Jews and they were out for blood and there was a lot of discussion about Him among the crowds. Some said, “He’s a good man” and others saying, “He’s deceiving the people.” (verse 12) Yet, John tells us, “nobody was talking publicly about Him because they feared the Jews.” The crowds did not want to publicly contradict the religious leaders because they knew they would be “banned from the synagogue” (John 9:22) and most likely cutoff from Jewish life and family. Jesus was right in His Father’s timetable and plan as He always was. He was perfect and did not sin. (He made the One who did not know sin to be sin for us” – 2 Corinthians 5:21) He did not lie. He perfectly obeyed His Father and did not enter Jerusalem as Messiah until the “time” of the Passover, when He offered Himself as the Passover lamb for our sins. He was perfectly obedient to His Father, "to the point of death -- even to death on a cross." (Philippians 2:8) Jesus was out of step with His brothers and the ways of the world, but He was in perfect harmony with His Father's will and purpose. "I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me." (John 5:30) The Lord Jesus not only did His Father's will, He did it in His Father's time.
There is another time to consider if you are an unbeliever and it’s called “the acceptable time” and “the day of salvation.” (2 Corinthians 6:2) That other time is the day and time that those who have not yet come to Christ may find help from God. When is that time? That time is now.
2 Corinthians 6:1-2 – “‘Don’t receive God’s grace in vain.’ For He says: In an acceptable time, I heard you, and in the day of salvation, I helped you. Look, now is the acceptable time; look, now is the day of salvation.”
is pastor/teacher at BIBC ~ Big Island Baptist Church in Deville, LA.
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