In the previous post, Jesus’ brothers heckle him and then leave for Jerusalem to attend the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles. After his brothers leave, Jesus comes up with a plan. Look at verse 10.
“However, after his brothers had left for the festival, he went also, not publicly, but in secret. Now at the festival the Jewish leaders were watching for Jesus and asking, ‘Where is he?’ Among the crowds there was widespread whispering about him. Some said, ‘He is a good man.’ Others replied, ‘No, he deceives the people.’ But no one would say anything publicly about him for fear of the leaders.”
I wish I could see what Jesus did to disguise himself? Did he just wear a hood? Did he cover a scarf around his face? It had to be something like that. Why the secrecy?
First, we already know that he wants to avoid controversy, because his time has not yet come. Second, when his brothers say, “Show yourself to the world,” he does the opposite and hides. As we have seen in the past, Jesus does not behave like people want him to. There is good news in that, but there is also bad news. There is good news in Jesus’ small rebellion against his brothers, because in so doing he is choosing to follow the mission of the Kingdom of God, not caving-in to a selfish mission to grow a big crowd by enticing them with miracles. For Jesus the mission of the Kingdom is not about performance, so it is very good news that Jesus does not behave like people want him to.
But this might also be bad news because it means that Jesus might not behave like you and I want him to. In other words, we can believe that we have Jesus figured out. We can assume that we understand the Jesus way, the way he wants us to do things. But do we actually have him figured out? We shouldn’t assume that we have him figured out. More often than not, when we think we have Jesus figured out, we have made him into our likeness and image, rather than we ourselves striving to be made in his.
We might have to do some hard work of scraping away the corrosion that we have allowed to build-up on our image of Jesus so that we can little by little see him for who he truly is. And what we find might be shocking, and maybe even difficult for us to accept. But it will be good, because he is good. How do we do that work of scraping away the corrosion and see more of Jesus?
Jesus himself gives us a clue in Matthew 25, when he told the parable of the Sheep and the Goats, one of my favorites, because in it he shows us how to grow our knowledge of who he is. By serving others, by interacting with people on the margins of society, there we find him, there we see him in a new way. Jesus specifically mentions that we will find him when we feed the hungry, clothe the naked, encourage the sick, welcome the stranger, and visit the prisoner.
This is why we avoid being enamored with the rich and the powerful and the celebrity and the influential. Of course, they need Jesus too. But we do what Jesus himself did, and we find him in the least of these. This is why we have a heart for organizations striving to reach those on the margins in our community. As we serve those on the margins, just as Jesus describes in the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats, we do so asking God to show us his heart, not assuming we already know his heart, not assuming we are the savior of the people we serve, but looking for Jesus in them, because he is the savior.
Back to the story, we read that the people at the Feast of Tabernacles were not sure about Jesus’ identify. Look again at verses 12 and 13 and notice that the people were wrestling with who Jesus really was. Was he good? Was he a deceiver? No one wanted to go out on a limb, because the Jewish leaders had an iron grip on society. The people were afraid of them. Even if the people thought that Jesus really was a good man, they were scared to say so publicly because they knew the religious leaders were trying to kill Jesus, and the people were afraid to cross the religious leaders.
So there’s Jesus in Jerusalem, in secret, probably overhearing the talk about him, knowing there is a plot to kill him. What does he do? Look at verses 14-24,
“Not until halfway through the festival did Jesus go up to the temple courts and begin to teach. The Jews there were amazed and asked, “How did this man get such learning without having been taught?” Jesus answered, “My teaching is not my own. It comes from the one who sent me. Anyone who chooses to do the will of God will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own. Whoever speaks on their own does so to gain personal glory, but he who seeks the glory of the one who sent him is a man of truth; there is nothing false about him. Has not Moses given you the law? Yet not one of you keeps the law. Why are you trying to kill me?” “You are demon-possessed,” the crowd answered. “Who is trying to kill you?” Jesus said to them, “I did one miracle, and you are all amazed. Yet, because Moses gave you circumcision (though actually it did not come from Moses, but from the patriarchs), you circumcise a boy on the Sabbath. Now if a boy can be circumcised on the Sabbath so that the law of Moses may not be broken, why are you angry with me for healing a man’s whole body on the Sabbath? Stop judging by mere appearances, but instead judge correctly.”
I love that the Jews are amazed at his teaching, because, as they state in verse 15, he didn’t have training in ministry or Scripture, beyond what would have been customary in his childhood. So here is Jesus once again schooling the scholars.
I am not saying that education is unnecessary. Remember that you and I are not Jesus. Even if you or I could school the scholars, then I still think we would be wise to consider education to help us study the Bible, theology, culture and ministry. I think it is safe to say that while we strive to be as much like Jesus as possible, let’s not get arrogant about it and think that we don’t need education.
That’s why I’d like you to consider taking courses in the Institute for Church Leadership (ICL). Run by my denomination, the EC Church, the ICL is a series of twelve courses anyone can take. We offer an ICL certificate if you complete each course. For our pastors not in an ordination track, that ICL certificate is their educational credential. If a person doesn’t want to pay for the credit and do course assignments, they can pay a much cheaper rate and participate in courses as an auditor. How about getting out of your comfort zone and taking a class? The next one coming up in May is Old Testament Survey. More details are at the ICL webpage (though if that link doesn’t work, it is because the page is soon being moved…just comment below and I’ll be in touch.)
If you aren’t interested in those classes, that’s okay. But still think about how you can push yourself in another way, to dig deeper, have more understanding, learn more about the one who loves you so deeply. Do you like podcasts? I can give you suggestions. There are Bible reading plans, on apps, on audio, online.
In this post, we have seen two ways to get to know the real Jesus. First, we serve those on the margins of society, because in them Jesus says we will find him. Second, we study his word to know him better. What step will you take to go deeper?