By porthkerryandrhoose, Nov 22 2017 08:16PM
This week our youngest daughter became a teenager, meaning that I live in a house with not one but 2 teenage girls. There is plenty of advice out there for parents of teenagers. Take this one 'when your children are teenagers it's important to own a dog, so that someone in the house is happy to see you'. Or this one: 'If you ever want to call a family meeting, turn off the wifi router and wait in the room in which it's located". This one is a bit thought provoking: 'Do you remember when you became a parent and you thought you were going to be the perfect parent to the perfect baby? And then you had that baby and realised you knew nothing? That is exactly what raising teenagers is like. Except that teenagers point out to you the fact that you know nothing." But this is my favourite: 'Adolescence is a period of rapid changes. Between the ages of 12 and 17, for example, a parent ages as much as 20 years.'
There's lots of advice out there on parenting or any other area of life we might struggle with. And if we don't seek out advice, you can guarantee that someone will want to give it to us, whether we like it or not. If you don't believe me, why not drop into the next conversation you have a bad back or difficulty sleeping. I guarantee that you will have more pieces of conflicting advice than you ever dreamed possible.
But, good advice isn't necessarily God advice. And that's our first point this morning.
Even Jesus wasn't immune to the advice givers, and that's the backdrop to our reading from John today. v3 "Jesus’ brothers said to him, ‘Leave Galilee and go to Judea, so that your disciples there may see the works you do. 4 No one who wants to become a public figure acts in secret. Since you are doing these things, show yourself to the world.’ If you've been around for the last few sermons on John, you will remember that things hadn't been going so well for Jesus. After miraculously feeding the 5000, first the crowds, then the Jewish leaders and finally Jesus' own disciples grumbled and left him, leaving only the 12 as faithful followers (though, of course, even one of those had other plans). Jesus' popularity was at an all time low and so his brothers, who themselves didn't believe in him yet, suggested he go to Judea for the Festival of Tabernacles and drum up support for himself there. On the surface it seems like sensible advice. Jesus can work miracles, so if this crowd doesn't like him, try the miracles somewhere else. The festival of Tabernacles would seem like just the time. It was a joyful occasion where people gathered to remember their time in the wilderness, living in tents, and when they looked forward to the fulfilling of all God's promises. Jesus could burst onto the scene, magic up some bread, heal a few people and his popularity would be restored. Great! It had to have been a little tempting to Jesus. After all, when the devil came to tempt him, one of those temptations was to seek recognition and glory by leaping off the temple and being caught by angels. But this advice was only good advice, not God advice. Jesus knew it and turned it down. I wonder how often do we? When faced with good advice from our family or friends or colleagues, how often do we check if it's God's advice before following it? It can be very easy to get sucked into the same way of thinking as the world around us, even though the advice could be based on an ideology which conflicts with Christianity. Do we wait for karma to get someone, for example? Or is reflexology really the solution to anxiety? Listening to other people's experiences is great, and often we need advice and help. But listen prayerfully so you can discern what is God's advice in the midst of it all. Jesus was able to know the difference because he knew how his mission would roll out, that the point he was working to was his death on the cross, and courting fame wasn't a part of that. The cross was the most important thing and it would happen at the right time.
That takes us to the second point: God's timing is what matters, not ours. v6 "Jesus told them, ‘My time is not yet here; for you any time will do. 7 The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify that its works are evil. 8 You go to the festival. I am not[b] going up to this festival, because my time has not yet fully come.’ 9 After he had said this, he stayed in Galilee." Jesus knew that his appearance in a flourish at the start of the feast wouldn't result in more followers, but in his death. The clue was there at the start of the chapter, v1 "He did not want[a] to go about in Judea because the Jewish leaders there were looking for a way to kill him". His death would happen, but at the appointed time and in the right way. Jesus knew what lay ahead of him, and how important it was, not just for him but for every man, woman and child. The cross, where he would die to pay for the sins of the world, was his target and destination and it would happen at the proper time.
We can sometimes struggle with God's timing. We pray for something and it seems like God isn't answering. To our minds things are so clear: God needs to do things in this way to solve this particular problem, and when he doesn't we get disillusioned. The older version of the NIV had Jesus' brothers saying "You ought to leave Galilee and go to Judea". Do we say "Jesus you ought to be doing this or that"? I find myself falling into it on occasion: "I've worked hard and tried to follow you. This church should be growing", or "This person is lovely and would be a great addition to church, why are you not converting them?", or "My friend has suffered so much this year, why would you give her more trouble?" Those are all understandable sentiments, but they show a 'Jesus, you ought to . . . ' attitude. It's also there in the wider church where decisions are made as to what God is like and how he views certain activities. We might hear things like "If Jesus were here today, he would promote this, or he'd approve of that." and what he has actually said is disregarded. A 'Jesus you ought to' attitude to faith is very dangerous because it places us in the position of thinking that we know what is best. But we don't. When God answers our prayers he can see the ramifications of those answers way into the future along with all the people they affect. And we can't. We're only human. Jesus' brothers, however well intentioned they were, couldn't possibly see that God's plan would be the cross, nor the impact it would have. They could just see their little bit. Jesus would go up to the feast, but in his way, at the time appointed by God.
There's a third thing to note in these verses. v7 "The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify that its works are evil." The world is naturally in opposition to Jesus. Jesus' brothers would have no problem going up to the festival because they were like everyone else. Nothing to cause offence, just people in the crowd. And that's usually the easy place to be; just one of the crowd. Most people gravitate in that direction. A famous experiment was done in 1962 on 'Candid Camera' where people were primed to enter a lift and then turn to face the back. Everyone who got into the lift also followed suit even though there was no reason to. There have been many experiments carried out since which show that in the main, people will conform to the group think. Jesus didn't conform to the group think of the day, but instead he challenged it and he was hated because of it. The issues in society might have changed over the centuries, but the state of the human heart hasn't. So don't be surprised if the Jesus you love is hated and ridiculed by others. It happened when Jesus walked the earth, should we expect any different today?
So, we've had a change of festival from Passover to Tabernacles, and the significance of that will become apparent as we journey further into the gospel. But what is constant is the growing opposition to Jesus. In his conversation with his brothers this morning we've seen that good advice isn't always God advice, that God's timing is what matters, not ours and that the world is naturally in opposition to Jesus. May God help us to discern his will and his timings in our lives that we might follow him courageously no matter what the world might say.