John 7 captures the ominous nature of the conflict immediately.
John 7:1 (CSB) 1 After this, Jesus traveled in Galilee, since he did not want to travel in Judea because the Jews were trying to kill him.
Then Jesus’ own brothers are provoking him to some public displays of his claims, and according to verse 5, it’s because they don’t even believe in him themselves.
But Jesus is not knocked off his game. He’s squarely on time on the Father’s mission. “My time has not yet arrived…” (John 7:6).
The counter and inferior kingdom of darkness hates the light because the light will expose it for what it is, and ultimately make every effort to destroy it, and it is currently raging against Jesus the Light of the World, the Bread of Life in John 7.
There are lies and accusations and false reports flying around regarding Jesus in addition to the plot to actually kill him. But Jesus is not detered. Jesus confronts their plot in verse 19 as he shows up at the halfway point of the festival and begins teaching about the Father as the source of his teaching, and their guilt in breaking the law in trying to kill an innocent man.
Once again, they attempt to seize him, but it is unsuccessful because his appointed time has not yet come.
Jesus then proclaims glorious words:
John 7:37-39 (CSB) 37 On the last and most important day of the festival, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. 38 The one who believes in me, as the Scripture has said, will have streams of living water flow from deep within him.” 39 He said this about the Spirit. Those who believed in Jesus were going to receive the Spirit, for the Spirit had not yet been given because Jesus had not yet been glorified.
Some believe, and others question and doubt, and yet there is Nicodemus again at the end of the chapter seeking to defend Jesus before he gets rebuked as the powers that be don’t know he has been born in the town prophesied in the Scriptures simply because they refuse to believe and ask the correct questions. They don’t believe, so they won’t inquire. They just want to secure their power with Rome.
There is a tension in John 7 that is palpable. Plots. Belief. Unbelief. Accusations. Attempts to teach truth. Glorious gospel proclamation. Conflict. Threats. Berating.
What to make of this tension?
This tension is part of the working out of what the Lord told Adam and Eve so long ago: The day you eat of it you will die.
I imagine they, like us, underestimate the actual damage that is done in one act of sin. But Jesus is having to powerfully navigate through the tension of this conflict in order to set right what one act of sin broke so terribly.
What to take away from this tension?
- The end is never in doubt. Verse 6 and 30 give us another glimpse into the sovereign hand that is providentially guiding this mission to reveal glory, be lifted up on a cross to die for sin, be buried, be raised, ascend back to the Father and General those sent on mission like him to complete the gathering the hidden peoples of the earth that the Father has given the Son with the powerful help of the Holy Spirit. There is an appointed time, and it simply is never in doubt.
- Sin has really messed things up, to state it in an underwhelming way. Sin always causes tension.
- Look at Jesus’ love for us! He navigates this tension in order to rescue us from certain eternal death and just punishment for sin.
- Note the glimpse of the gospel in the promise of the Holy Spirit. In the middle of being on mission, Jesus executes the mission in showing us the glory of God in the promise of the Holy Spirit.
- Look at Nicodemus! I’m convinced that he is convinced, and he’s trying to persuade others, and in his interactions we learn what we can expect as we live in the world and try to persuade others to come after Jesus with us.
Part of the joy of navigating the season before Easter is not too quickly trying to escape the tension of the gospel texts. I know we want to run to the end of the account and point to the resurrection. Tension is uncomfortable. But God has good for us in the tension or he would not have inspired it to be written. Don’t bug out on that tension. Don’t run too quickly in this season to the end. Hang out a little right here.
It is sobering and good and healthy for us to walk this difficult road with Jesus in this season so that on that celebratory morning our experience of joy in Christ is all the more sweet. That tension also helps to prepare us to walk with Jesus in being sent like him. We have been sent as he was sent. Jesus himself has sent us all. The work is hard, and it’s also great fun. But it’s hard. So, hang out in the tension, learn from it, and savor all Jesus did to bring us to the Father so we won’t be victims of that dark tension.