Scripture: John 7:10-13
But after his brothers had gone to the festival, then he also went, not publicly but as it were in secret. The Jews were looking for him at the festival and saying, “Where is he?” And there was considerable complaining about him among the crowds. While some were saying, “He is a good man,” others were saying, “No, he is deceiving the crowd.” Yet no one would speak openly about him for fear of the Jews.
Chapter seven of John recounts Jesus’ experience at the Festival of Booths. The festival itself, is a fall festival that celebrated the way God cared for the Israelites during the exodus journey from Egypt and the forty years of wondering through the wilderness that followed. We heard about this festival in the last post, as the brothers of Jesus tried to convince him to go and display his miraculous works to the crowds that would be there. Jesus refused to go on their terms. As we see today, though, it looks like Jesus had every intention of going the whole time. He just wanted to do it his way – that is quietly and secretly. So, he follows his brothers without telling anyone.
And in our few verses that follow, John sets the stage for the conflict that Jesus will experience during his time at the festival. Like much of the gospel so far, there is a crowd of people trying to figure out just who this Jesus guy really is. Likewise, there is a group of authority figures lurking. And between them all, nobody comes up with the correct answer about who Jesus is. Some say he’s a good man. Others say he’s a liar and a trickster. None of them suggest that he is God incarnate and the long-expected Messiah. Like usual, Jesus will have to come and explain that himself. He’ll do it amidst an impassioned, often threatening crowd of people.
I find it interesting that Jesus doesn’t avoid the conflict he must know will be coming. He goes to the festival knowing that doing so will put him at some degree of risk. Jesus feels compelled to testify to the truth about his identity despite the dangers of doing so. I guess the question is do we feel challenged by his example? I live in a context where it’s pretty easy to be a Christian. No one threatens me for my beliefs. I’ve never experienced a hint of persecution. I hope I never do. But these verses do keep me mindful of those who know of these struggles all too well. I’m thankful for their faith. I’m in awe of their willingness to follow Jesus even in this way – even in his journey towards risk. May we do the same if the need ever arises.
Fearless and brave God, who risked an incarnate life on earth at the expense of heaven, bless those people who suffer for their religious beliefs. Forgive their persecutors. Enable me to work for your blessed peace. Amen.