In his letter to the Galatians, Paul wrote, “But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship” (4:4–5, emphasis added). God is not bound by time, but He plans certain events so that they happen on His timetable, not ours. He sent Jesus at just the right moment in history to be born of Mary and be the Savior of the world.
When it comes to God’s plans, we usually don’t get to know specifically why one time is better than another; we simply know God always chooses the best possible time for the most possible good.
Here in John’s Gospel, there is a constant current of time that’s hard to miss. John the Baptist was chosen to be “the voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord’” (John 1:23). That only makes sense if the coming of the Lord was imminent. When Jesus’ mother, Mary, saw her friends in need at a wedding, she asked Jesus to help. Jesus’ initial response was, “My hour has not yet come” (2:4). And here in John 7, Jesus’ brothers urge Him to head down to Jerusalem and become a public spectacle. Jesus tells them, “My time is not yet here” (v. 6).
Jesus’ mission is proceeding according to God’s timetable, and He is aware of the schedule. His brothers, however, are not concerned with God’s calendar and press Jesus to take a leap forward into fame by showing up at the Feast of Tabernacles celebration in Jerusalem and publicly causing a stir. John tells us they don’t believe in Him, and so, their suggestion seems mean-spirited, born out of jealousy. It’s actually not unlike the devil’s temptation to jump from the pinnacle of the temple—instant fame without doing things God’s way (Matthew 4:5–7).
This passage is brief and strange. After initially declining His brother’s invitation to head to Jerusalem, Jesus later goes in secret, so the whole thing seems much ado about nothing. But there’s something in Jesus’ example that reveals a deep truth about the Christian life, a truth many of us ignore.
Seeing past the pettiness of His brothers, Jesus reveals something about how this world works. For His brothers, who are part of the world, “any time will do” (v. 6). But for Jesus and those who follow Him, God’s timing matters. To walk with the Father is to walk according to His plans, seeking His guidance and wisdom along the way.
The Christian life is not about following a set of rules to earn, or keep, God’s favor. It also can’t be reduced to a transaction that saves us and leaves us free to live pretty much however we’d like, keeping the big sins to a minimum as we wait for the kingdom to come. Both ways of living are foreign to the true gospel. Both make a mockery of Jesus’ sacrifice.
The Christian life is an adventure in following Jesus and walking in His Spirit. As we take up our cross, we yield our plans. We give up our own timetable and wait on His. We seek first His kingdom, not our own (Matthew 6:33). We live to please Him, not other people.
This kind of life may seem scary to some. It means giving up control and trusting the Lord to provide for our needs. But that’s to misunderstand reality. We are but sheep: “The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake” (Psalm 23:1–3).
There is peace and rest in God’s care. There is joy and refreshment on His schedule. All that’s been given for us to do is listen to His voice.