John 7:1-9 Before we set out to change the world, we ourselves must first be changed
John 7:1-9 Before we set out to change the world, we ourselves must first be changed
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. 2 Now the feast of the Jews, the Feast of Booths, was near. 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.” 5 For not even His brothers were believing in Him. 6 So Jesus said to them, “My time is not yet here, but your time is always opportune. 7 The world cannot hate you, but it hates Me because I testify of it, that its deeds are evil. 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.
The brothers of Jesus appeared to be zealous for the gospel work. But their works were insignificant and inconsequential to the expansion of God’s kingdom. For they were fixated on how they can make a name for themselves and gain a large following. The brothers have aligned themselves with the world and all that it can offer. Today’s devotion teaches us: Before we set out to change the world, we ourselves must first be changed.
After these things Jesus was walking in Galilee, for He was unwilling to walk in Judea because the Jews were seeking to kill Him.
“These things” infers the incident on the feeding of the 5000. But more significantly, it refers to Jesus’s healing of a man on Sabbath day. It was from then on that the Jews started to persecute Jesus.
The man went away, and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well. For this reason the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because He was doing these things on the Sabbath… therefore the Jews were seeking all the more to kill Him, because He not only was breaking the Sabbath, but also was calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God – John 5:15-18.
That said, the heart of the disagreement between Jesus and the Jews does not concern Jesus’s divinity or issues surrounding the Sabbath law. But rather, it concerned the Jews’ obsession for power. For they have been insidiously using the Sabbath law to oppress the people. Jesus’s unconventional interpretation of the Sabbath law, and coupled with His claim as the Son of God were eroding the Jews’ influence over the people. For this reason, Jesus moved His ministry away from Judea towards the region of Galilee to avoid His persecutors.
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…”
His “brothers” most probably refers to the sons of Mary and Joseph. The text was clear in describing their apathy in regards to Jesus’s mission. The brothers of Jesus have shown themselves to be nothing short of worldly and hypocritical. They were primarily concerned as to how they through Jesus could amass a large following, having lost many disciples in chapter 6. Their strategy was for Jesus to gain prominence (be known publicly… show Yourself to the world) by performing signs (see Your works) in a setting that would spread His name very quickly. And not just any works but works that would gratify the needs and desires of people. The feast of the booths that is held in Jerusalem would present the perfect opportunity to exalt His name. In the mind of Jesus’s brothers, Jerusalem was the centre of religious activities not only for the Jews but for many Palestinians and the Jewish diaspora. Unless Jesus prove Himself in Jerusalem, He would always be regarded by the upper echelons of society as a rustic, rural preacher.
“My time is not yet here, but your time is always opportune.”
The brother’s unbelief was shown in their insensitiveness to the divine directive and timing. Jesus’s reply, “My time (kairos) is not yet here…” spoke of a specific hour that He would be “lifted up” (see John 12:32), but not in the manner the brothers would envision. For the brothers had envisioned a romantic Jesus the world loves, as He is expected to triumph politically over their enemies. But quite the opposite, Jesus would be openly executed for His beliefs because He refused to recant what He had been teaching in the market place (…it hates Me because I testify of it, that its deeds are evil). Jesus’s primary mission is to expose evil in the world and to destroy the devil’s work. But the brothers’ mission was to gain religious and political prominence. Regrettably, they have aligned themselves with the world and were accustomed to making decisions according to the opportunities at hand (but your time is always opportune). Because they did not live by God’s directives, they could go to the feast at any time for whatever they do would have no divine impact.
Men are saved by the preaching of the truth, not by the working of miracles.
The Jewish mentality during the days of Jesus is no different from that of the church today. The brothers of Jesus had envisioned a swollen crowd charged by the abundance of miracles to cater to every heart’s desire. The idea that if you can fulfil a man’s desire, you can get him to believe anything is not of God, but of the anti-Christ. Indeed, Jesus made no apologies about His mission: He came not to fulfil men’s desires but to expose their evil deeds and call all to repentance. For this reason, the gospel of Jesus was not well received by the world. Jesus explicitly said that many would walk in the path that leads to destruction. And only a few will walk in the path of salvation (see Matthew 7:13-14).
Therefore, believers in their zeal to preach the gospel must refrain from touting the benefits of the gospel. Such evangelism tactics do not change a person’s conviction concerning good and evil. A true seeker of God will respond well to a clear and unembellished presentation of the gospel. Signs and wonders may help direct a person’s attention toward Christ, but it is a clear and unadulterated preaching of the gospel that changes lives. John the Baptist, one of the greatest evangelist performed no sign, and yet many are convicted by him (see John 10:41).
The church today in their efforts to evangelise the world has turned away from preaching the truth. They pander to the desires of men thinking that will facilitate church growth. On the contrary, not only did they keep people from hearing the true gospel, they make them twice as much a son of hell as themselves (see Matthew 23:15). The purpose of the church is to teach the truth so that believers may put on Christ and fulfil God’s mission. However, the church today have busied themselves …
- in providing an environment where people can live out the fantasies of a Christian life.
- in keeping people feeling saved and blessed without the commitment to walk in the narrow path.
- in baiting the people with food and miraculous signs so that they may continue to come and keep the church looking prosperous.
Because of this, the church have been producing false believers or lukewarm ones at best.
Before we set out to change the world, we must first change ourselves.
Jesus had considered his brothers as unbelievers even though they appeared to support His ministry. For in their hearts of hearts, they have aligned themselves with the anti-Christ. They do not read the word, nor do they seek God’s counsel. They may put on a holy appearance and worship God, but they secretly lust after money, fame and power. Jesus made clear that nothing they do would cause so much as a scratch in the devil’s armour. If we do not hate all that the world has to offer, we are not a threat to the devil.
Many ministers suppose by their gifts and abilities can amass a congregation and call it a church. But because they are secretly in love with fame and fortune, their lives’ work will alas amount to nothing. For many in their congregation will be treading on the path of destruction. Therefore, we must first take a hard look at ourselves to understand who we are. Only when we take the log out of our own eye, can we see clearly to take the speck out of another’s eye (see Matthew 7:5). Unless we continue to regenerate ourselves, we cannot regenerate another.
Do you often preach the gospel by touting the forgiveness of sin while ignoring the repentance from sin? Even though the gospel message is offensive, it is the only way through which men can enter the Kingdom of God. Jesus preached,
“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” – Matthew 4:17
Learn to present the gospel in an unembellished manner. We will see the harvest of faithful disciples who will give their all to serve the living God.
If you are a church leader, what do you think are the traits of a successful leader in God’s eyes? What are signs of a successful ministry? A successful leader is one who lives like Christ and leads like Him. A successful ministry is one that leads many to live like Christ. Write down your answers. Make plans to work towards being a successful leader and consequently a successful ministry.
Dear Lord, I desire to make a real and enduring difference in the world. Change me and mould me into an instrument for your use. Use me to make disciples that bring righteousness into the world by destroying the devil’s works. In Jesus’s name I pray. Amen.