John 7:1-13. Time in the Gospel of John

[New to our exegesis of John’s Gospel? Try starting at The Beginning John 1:1-2].

After this Jesus went about in Galilee. He did not wish to go about in Judea because the Jews were looking for an opportunity to kill him. Now the Jewish Festival of Booths was near. So his brothers said to him, “Leave here and go to Judea so that your disciples also may see the works you are doing, for no one who wants to be widely known acts in secret. If you do these things, show yourself to the world.” (For not even his brothers believed in him.) 6 Jesus said to them, “My time has not yet come, but your time is always here. The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify against it that its works are evil. Go to the festival yourselves. I am not going to this festival, for my time has not yet fully come.” After saying this, he remained in Galilee.

10 But after his brothers had gone to the festival, then he also went, not publicly but, as it were, in secret. 11 The Jews were looking for him at the festival and saying, “Where is he?” 12 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.” 13 Yet no one would speak openly about him for fear of the Jews.

Καὶ μετὰ ταῦτα περιεπάτει ὁ Ἰησοῦς ἐν τῇ Γαλιλαίᾳ, οὐ γὰρ ἤθελεν ἐν τῇ Ἰουδαίᾳ περιπατεῖν, ὅτι ἐζήτουν αὐτὸν οἱ Ἰουδαῖοι ἀποκτεῖναι. ἦν δὲ ἐγγὺς ἡ ἑορτὴ τῶν Ἰουδαίων ἡ σκηνοπηγία. εἶπον οὖν πρὸς αὐτὸν οἱ ἀδελφοὶ αὐτοῦ· Μετάβηθι ἐντεῦθεν καὶ ὕπαγε εἰς τὴν Ἰουδαίαν, ἵνα καὶ οἱ μαθηταί σου θεωρήσουσιν σοῦ τὰ ἔργα ἃ ποιεῖς· οὐδεὶς γάρ τι ἐν κρυπτῷ ποιεῖ καὶ ζητεῖ αὐτὸς ἐν παρρησίᾳ εἶναι· εἰ ταῦτα ποιεῖς, φανέρωσον σεαυτὸν τῷ κόσμῳ. οὐδὲ γὰρ οἱ ἀδελφοὶ αὐτοῦ ἐπίστευον εἰς αὐτόν. λέγει οὖν αὐτοῖς ὁ Ἰησοῦς· Ὁ καιρὸς ὁ ἐμὸς οὔπω πάρεστιν, ὁ δὲ καιρὸς ὁ ὑμέτερος πάντοτέ ἐστιν ἕτοιμος. οὐ δύναται ὁ κόσμος μισεῖν ὑμᾶς, ἐμὲ δὲ μισεῖ, ὅτι ἐγὼ μαρτυρῶ περὶ αὐτοῦ ὅτι τὰ ἔργα αὐτοῦ πονηρά ἐστιν. ὑμεῖς ἀνάβητε εἰς τὴν ἑορτήν· ἐγὼ οὐκ ἀναβαίνω εἰς τὴν ἑορτὴν ταύτην, ὅτι ὁ ἐμὸς καιρὸς οὔπω πεπλήρωται. ταῦτα δὲ εἰπὼν αὐτὸς ἔμεινεν ἐν τῇ Γαλιλαίᾳ.

10 Ὡς δὲ ἀνέβησαν οἱ ἀδελφοὶ αὐτοῦ εἰς τὴν ἑορτήν, τότε καὶ αὐτὸς ἀνέβη, οὐ φανερῶς ἀλλὰ ὡς ἐν κρυπτῷ. 11 οἱ οὖν Ἰουδαῖοι ἐζήτουν αὐτὸν ἐν τῇ ἑορτῇ καὶ ἔλεγον· Ποῦ ἐστιν ἐκεῖνος; 12 καὶ γογγυσμὸς περὶ αὐτοῦ ἦν πολὺς ἐν τοῖς ὄχλοις· οἱ μὲν ἔλεγον ὅτι Ἀγαθός ἐστιν, ἄλλοι δὲ ἔλεγον· Οὔ, ἀλλὰ πλανᾷ τὸν ὄχλον. 13 οὐδεὶς μέντοι παρρησίᾳ ἐλάλει περὶ αὐτοῦ διὰ τὸν φόβον τῶν Ἰουδαίων.

What Time Is It?

John chapter seven is one of my favorite parts of the Bible. It is packed full of meaning. Even the lead-off 13 verses are jammed with goodies. Since these exegetical blogs are very short, I’m going to use four blogs on the 13 verses alone. First, we’ll look at John’s sense of time, then a remarkable echo of Matthew and Luke’s Temptation narratives, then a look at the hostility of the “world” to Jesus, and finally a quick understanding of John’s chronology of Jesus’ life compared with that of the Synoptic Gospels.

On the surface, this passage may seem odd and even deceptive. Jesus’ brothers — not yet believers — say he should go to the Jerusalem Feast of Tabernacles to show himself to the world through the demonstration of miracles. In verse 6 Jesus says,  “My time (kairos) has not yet come.” He goes on to say in verse 8, “Go to the festival yourselves. I am not going (anabeino — going up) to this festival, for my time (kairos) has not yet fully come (pleroo — been fulfilled or completed).”

His brothers are simply urging him. to go and prove to the world who he is at one of the most popular annual feasts in the capital city. But Jesus’ words are filled with double meanings. He isn’t going to go up (anabeino) to Jerusalem because his time (kairos) has not been fulfilled (pleroo). The word for “going up” is the same word used for Jesus’ ascension (Jn. 6:62, 20:17). The word for time (kairos) is often used differently than another Greek word for time: chronos. Chronos normally refers to chronological time. Kairos often refers to a deeper qualitative kind of time — as in, My time of life. And “fulfilled” (pleroo) is a word packed with meaning, used eschatologically in the context of the fulfillment of all things, the completion of history, and the fulfillment of all hopes and dreams.

Put all of this together, and Jesus appears to be saying: I’m not going up to Jerusalem because it is not time for those events (death, resurrection, ascension) that result in the completion of what has been promised. So, instead, he goes in secret. He’s there but not yet there because when he will really will be there, all hell will break loose and the redemptive work of God goes into high gear.

At a recent Bible study, a gentleman wondered if he ever had a “Road to Damascus” experience. He experiences God in the ongoing events of his life (chronos), but wondered if he would ever be granted an extraordinary event such that a moment of his life was suddenly infused with kairos! I don’t think kairos needs to be so dramatic. Perhaps it is more like sinking into the Presence of God in such a way that you lose all sense of chronos. You simply are. With the Lord.

What a wonderful time that is!