As I have continued my devotions in John, I came across an interesting conversation between Jesus and his brothers. The issue was over Jesus’ attendance at the Feast of Booths. The brothers, though they did not believe that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God (7:4, cf. 20:31), thought that they could give him some “career advice” nonetheless. They told him,
Leave here and go to Judea, that your disciples also may see the works you are doing. For no one works in secret if he seeks to be known openly. If you do these things, show yourself to the world (7:3-4).
Their reasoning is simple. They understood that Jesus was allegedly doing “things”, but people weren’t believing. The problem, his brothers thought, was poor marketing. Jesus wasn’t being showy enough for his disciples. How could he possibly think that he would attract a large following of disciples if he didn’t show more signs?! If he was truly doing these miraculous “things”, and he wanted to be the promised Messiah, he had to show himself to the world.
This is the same mindset for our seeker-sensitive friends. The reason why so many people aren’t coming from all places pleading for salvation is our presentation. We simply aren’t showy enough. We need more pizazz, more razzle-dazzle, more of the “wow” factor. Let’s get this celebrity who thanked God in his awards speech– surely he’s a Christian now! And let’s throw him up on stage at the next rally or conference– surely people will come to Christ then! Or let’s spend $1 million on a Christmas program extravaganza, complete with Cirque du Soleil dancers and a live donkey for Mary, because if we don’t people won’t get saved!
Jesus’s words to his brothers are very important for us as well:
My time has not yet come, but your time is always here. The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify about it that its works are evil. You go up to the feast. I am not going up to this feast, for my time has not yet fully come (7:6-8).
There are two things in particular that we need to notice. First, Jesus’ greatest display of his glory came in his death on the cross. Twice in his response Jesus mentions that his time had not yet come. This is both a response to his brothers about the feast and a continuation of a concept in John concerning Jesus’ focus towards the cross. This is evident later in the chapter, where the Jewish authorities “were seeking to arrest him, but no one laid a hand on him, because his hour had not yet come” (7:30, cf. 7:44).
His brothers were unaware of God’s providential timetable. Jesus was not being reclusive as they thought. He was being obedient to the plan of the Father. He was waiting until the moment that he knew he would display his glory, and it would not be in the way that they expected. It would be through his death on the cross. We must also be mindful of the fact that the greatest display of Christ’s glory is in his death and resurrection. Though I am not against creativity and freshness, I am against the mindset that the cross doesn’t “sell”. It was not intended to sell; it was intended to save. Those who reject the glory of God in the death of Christ do not need more signs. They need to be reborn (cf. 3:3). They need to be drawn by the Father (cf. 6:44-45, 60-65).
Second, Jesus teaches that depravity is why people hate Jesus. The world hates Jesus because he testifies to it that its works are evil. Again, Jesus did not come to sell, but to save. He came to tell the truth, as he himself is the truth (cf. 14:6). But the people hate the light and love darkness instead (3:19-20). Jesus knew that that was the reason people hated him. Coming to him strips us from all boasting in ourselves. We are made as nothing before the One who is the only begotten from the Father (1:14, 18).
Again, this cuts at the brothers’ mindset. They thought that Jesus was the reason why the disciples weren’t totally convinced. They thought he wasn’t trying hard enough. The problem was not with Jesus, however, but with humanity. We are evil to the core of our being. The same is true today. What ultimately keeps people from coming to Christ is depravity. Jesus is neither lovely nor glorious to them. So we demand more signs. We want to be entertained. But Jesus would much rather tell the truth.
May we be full of grace and truth as well in our Gospel ministries. We must be honest with people; we are evil and are sentenced to eternal punishment. But may we also extend the grace of Jesus as well, who displays his glory for us to behold, as he is the only one who can take away our sins and give us life. We don’t need another dog and pony show; we just need to show people Jesus.