In my translation and commentary on John’s Gospel, I’ve arrived at chapter 7.
After this Jesus went from place to place in Galilee. He would not do so in Judaea because the Judeans were trying to kill him. But the Judean’s Festival of Shelters was at hand, so his brothers said to him, “Go away from here and go into Judaea so that your disciples too may see the miracles you’re doing. For no one acts in secret if he wants to be known publicly. If you’re doing these things, show yourself to the world!” For even his brothers did not put their trust in him.
Jesus said to them, “My time of opportunity is not yet present but any time is good for you. The world will never hate you but it hates me because my evidence about it shows that its actions are evil. You go up to the festival. I will not go up to this festival because my time has not fully arrived.”
After saying these words, he stayed in Galilee, but after his brothers had gone up to the festival, then he also went up, not publicly but in secret. The Judeans were looking out for him at the festival and saying, “Where is that man?”
Indeed there was a good deal of chatter about him amongst the crowds, for some said, “He’s a good man,” while others said, “No, he’s deceiving the people.” Nobody however spoke openly about him for fear of the Judeans. But now, in the middle of the festival, Jesus went into the temple and taught. Then the Judeans were amazed and asked, “How come this man has book-learning without ever studying?”
So Jesus answered them, “My teaching is not mine but his who sent me. If anyone desires to do God’s will, she will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I speak from myself alone. If you speak from yourself alone you’re seeking your own glory, but if you seek the glory of the one who sent you, you’re without concealment and there is nothing wrong in you.”
This passage begins to define several linked themes that the author will develop throughout his gospel.
- Public, private, secret: The gospel describes Jesus PUBLIC ministry in which however he is not fully revealed, nor recognised by the religious authorities. Their failure to recognise him has already been explained: they belong to the world which cannot recognise the light because it dwells in darkness. In this sense even the PUBLIC ministry CONCEALS the reality of Jesus. But even in private his disciples do not fully understand; this is because, although they are open to the light, the ultimate reality of Jesus is veiled until his “time” has arrived.
- Jesus time, “Kairos” or hour: Those who are “of the world” are always tuned into the present age of the world, which is ruled by evil; Jesus is attuned to the time of the Age to Come, which presents him with an opportunity to reveal the goodness of God which will not be fully present until his death.
- When the author weaves these themes together we can see that there is a paradox: it will be in the greatest CONCEALMENT of the assumed attributes of God and his Messiah that Jesus and his father are most fully REVEALED. This truth generates repeated ironies in the story, as for example here, where Jesus’ PUBLIC teaching only produces greater misunderstanding and rejection. At the same time Jesus’ PRIVATE relationship with his brothers leads to no better understanding of him, because they belong to the “world”.
- The reader may feel that this is a very pessimistic view of human capacity to receive truth. For my part, as I view the current daily torrent of high- level lies from powerful people and low-level lies from the press and social media, I think the Gospel may be too optimistic.
- When someone attends to the facts and listens to the voice of God’s goodness, the author says, that person will speak the truth, and bring honour to God, the source of truth. Whereas those who speak from their own preferred truth, want to gain honour for themselves and promote lies. The Greek word for truth “a-letheia” meaning literally un-concealment, hence reality, is a key word in this author’s exposition of the struggle between Jesus and the religious leaders.
- Although most people see John as the most spiritual gospel, I see it also as the most political, as it continually deals with the issues of power and propaganda that are integral to politics then and now.