At the Feast of Booths

“Jesus said to [the disciples], ‘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’ ” (vv. 6–7).

- John 7:1–13

The time of Passover, which occurs in the spring, was the setting for the feeding of the five thousand and our Lord’s subsequent Bread of Life Discourse (John 6). About six months after that time, the Feast of Booths would have occurred. That is what John writes about next (7:1–2). Taking place in the fall (September–October, depending on the year), the Feast of Booths was one of the most joyous of all the old covenant feasts. It was one of the great pilgrimage festivals that required Jews to travel up to Jerusalem to celebrate it. In addition to celebrating the fall harvest, the Feast of Booths was a time of rejoicing in God’s salvation of His people, for it commemorated the wilderness wanderings after the exodus and how the people of Israel dwelled in booths, or portable tents, during that time. Pilgrims in Jerusalem would build makeshift tents or booths out of branches during this festival and dwell in them for one week. They would also wave palm branches and rejoice before the Lord (Lev. 23:33–44).

Faithful Jews were expected to make the pilgrimage to Jerusalem, so it is no surprise that the brothers of Jesus implored Him to make the journey to the Holy City (John 7:3). But their intent was not merely for Him to fulfill His religious obligations; they wanted Him to do His works before others and show Himself to the world (v. 4). This request probably reflected their worry over His losing some of His followers (see 6:66) and not true saving faith. We know that Jesus’ family, at least His brothers, did not trust in Him for salvation until after His ascension (7:5; see Mark 3:21; 1 Cor. 15:7; Gal. 1:19), but that does not mean they did not see Him as a teacher before then or were unaware of His works.

Jesus’ response was that it was not time for Him to go up, which was not an absolute refusal to attend the feast, but rather His way of telling them that He was not ready to go to Jerusalem for the feast yet. On the other hand, they could go up at any time because there was no danger for them. The world did not hate His family, but they hated Him because He was exposing people for who they really were, eliminating their pretensions to goodness and showing that their works were evil. He would be going up to the feast, but not before the time was right (John 7:6–7). Jesus would go up when He was ready so as to avoid running into trouble before it was time for Him to die (vv. 8–13).

Coram Deo

The hatred of Jesus, John Calvin writes, shows that “the Gospel cannot be faithfully preached without summoning the whole world, as guilty, to the judgment-seat of God, that flesh and blood may thus be crushed and reduced to nothing.” People hated Jesus because His words exposed their evil hearts. When we preach the gospel, people may hate us as well. Let us make sure that they hate us because of the gospel message, not because of our offensive personalities.

Passages for Further Study

Isaiah 8:13–15
Romans 9:30–33; 12:18
1 Peter 3:15–16

First published in Tabletalk Magazine, an outreach of Ligonier. For permissions, view our Copyright Policy.