Not Going to Sukkot?

Sukkot celebration at the Western Wall, Jerusalem (Pinterest)

Yeshua’s brothers stopped to pay Him a visit in Capernaum as they traveled to Jerusalem for the festival of Sukkot (Booths). His brothers invited Him to join them for the pilgrimage, for the “the Feast of Booths was at hand” (John 7:2). They chided him, saying, “Leave here and go to Judea, that your disciples also may see the works you are doing. For no one works in secret if He seeks to be known openly. If you do these things, show yourself to the world.” (John 7:3-4).

Herod Antipas wanted Him arrested, and the Pharisees and Sadducees on the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem had also taken an interest in him. He knew that His life was at risk in the Galilee, how much more so in Judea and Jerusalem. For that reason, He avoided Judea and spent most of His time in the remote north, but He could not stay in the Galilee indefinitely. The three annual pilgrimage festivals necessitated trips to Jerusalem.

His brothers argued that the festival of Sukkot would provide the perfect opportunity for a grand debut. He could expect all of His followers from Galilee and Judea to gather for the festival in Jerusalem. If He was the Messiah, why not do some signs and wonders in the sight of all Israel?

For the last several years, Yeshua had conducted His miraculous ministry clandestinely. Rather than seeking recognition as a public figure, He warned those He healed to “tell no one.” He retreated from crowds and hushed the voices that sought to proclaim His identity. His brothers interpreted the secrecy as evidence that He must be less than He claimed to be. They suspected He simply wanted to extend the charade as long as He could.

Yeshua responded, “My time has not yet come …You go up to the feast. I am not going up to this feast, for my time has not yet fully come” (John 7:6-8). He told them, “Your time is always here. The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify about it that its works are evil” (John 7:6-7). That is to say, “Anytime is fine for you to go to Jerusalem because you are not being hunted by the government for speaking out against injustice, corruption, and sin.”

On a deeper level, His reply implied that the right festival (appointed time) for Him to make a public claim had not yet arrived. He referred to the Passover (still six months away) when He intended go public and accept the popular acclamation as King Messiah—King of the Jews—during His triumphal entry into the city. When that fateful Passover did arrive, He referred to it as “My time” (Matthew 26:18). In John 7, the time for that grand entry and the unveiling of His messianic identity had not yet arrived. He said, “My time has not yet come.”

The Master waited until after His brothers and the pilgrims traveling with them had set out. He acted as if He did not plan on attending the festival at all. When at last the way was clear, He and His disciples made a private pilgrimage. Arriving in Jerusalem, they kept a low profile for the first half of the eight-day festival.

This article originally appeared on First Fruits of Zion and is reposted with permission.