In John chapter 7 we read of The Feast of Booths, also known as the Feast of Tabernacles, which is the seventh and last festival on the Biblical calendar, as recorded in Leviticus 23. God has instructed the Isrealites to observe this festival by living in temporary shelters for seven days as a reminder that when their ancestors were in the wilderness, God provided them booths, or temporary shelter, for them to dwell in. The Feast of Booths was not only a time of remembrance but also a time of great celebration because it was at this time in ancient Israel, when the harvest season was over, that God had provided more than enough food for the people to survive. Basically it was seven days of celebrating the Lord's faithfulness and provision - past, present, and future.
Obviously this Feast of Booths was a big deal and was something that all men we expected to attend. So, with this in mind, why does it appear that Jesus is shirking this responsibility when He says to His brothers in verse 8, “You go up to the feast. I am not going…for my time has not yet fully come.”
At first glance it appears that Jesus is disobeying a command given by both His heavenly AND Earthly fathers in refusing to join His brothers for this annual time of celebration. However, as it is always true with Jesus, He wasn’t avoiding obedience but rather walking perfectly in it. How do we know?
Jesus Himself sums it up perfectly in Luke 22:42 when He prayed, “Father…not my will, but yours be done.” That prayer wasn’t just a prayer Jesus prayed before heading to the cross. It was the heartbeat of the life He lived here on Earth. We see this to be true even from childhood when we read of Jesus “going missing” in Luke 2:41-52. In this passage of scripture we find Mary and Joseph in a state of panic as they become aware of the fact that their son, Jesus, appears to have gone missing. In complete contrast to their state of panic, when they finally find Him He’s peacefully sitting and learning in the temple. Not an ounce of panic or worry about being “left behind. And when His parents questioned Him on why He wasn’t with the rest of the group He matter of factly replied, “I was doing my Father’s business.”
Clearly Jesus knew the importance of waiting on and operating fully in God’s timing in all things, and that included the perfect timing for which He was to go to the Feast in Judea. He states that clearly in John 7, verse 6 when He declares, “My time has not yet come…”.
You see, every minute of Christ’s time was precious, having its own particular mission allotted to it, and, at this moment, Jesus still had some work to do in Galilee - that work being the sending out of the seventy disciples that we read about in Luke chapter 10.
What a powerful lesson we can learn from Jesus in this seemingly unimportant delay. As the masses of others are leaving Galilee and heading out to celebrate in Judea, Jesus hangs back and says - Not Yet. I haven’t yet finished the last thing I was instructed to do by my Father.
How many times have we felt so hurried by the flow of culture and so caught up in trying to be masters of our own time that we hurry out with the crowd, rushing to get to the next season of life, the next big promotion, or even the next exciting thing for the Lord - forgetting all about the mission that the Lord has us on here and now?
Can I encourage you today to not be so focused on looking at what others have or what others are doing that you forget all about the blessings and mission the Lord has placed in front of YOU? I can’t help but wonder how differently the rest of biblical history would have played out had Jesus not stayed back and finished the work the Lord had called Him to in that moment! After all, sending out that group of seventy had massive effects on the speed at which the gospel was spread among the nations. By seemingly “staying back” when others were “moving forward”, Jesus was able to expand the mission of Christ to an exponentially great degree!
Not only that but this passage of scripture also serves as a prime example of when God isn’t saying NO, He’s just saying NOT YET! His desire isn’t to keep you from the fun and exciting things in life, just like His desire in having Jesus hang back was not to keep Jesus from going and enjoying the festivities. After all, we read later in this chapter that Jesus DOES go and celebrate with the rest of His family. Rather, many times His “not yet’s” come from His desire to do something greater and deeper in and through you!
So today - right here, right now - whether you be in your car, the office, or at home chasing around those little ones, take a moment to just pray a simple prayer, asking the Lord to remind you of what He has called you to in THIS season and ask Him to breath new passion into you so you are able to, with His help, see it through to its completion. And when others question us on why we aren’t joining the crowds may we boldly and proudly declare with Jesus that we simply “I’m just doing my Father’s business.”