“Jesus said to them, “... Go to the festival yourselves. I am not going to this festival, for my time has not yet fully come.” After saying this, he remained in Galilee.” (John 7:8-9)
Are You in “Prep Time” or “Go Time”?
Jesus’ brothers ask him if he is going to the Festival of Booths in Jerusalem, an annual harvest festival observed in October. He says, “I am not..., for my time has not yet fully come.” Jesus’ time or Jesus’ “hour”, in John’s Gospel, is a reference to his crucifixion. In fact, Jesus does end up going - a little after his brothers do - to the Festival of Booths. (See John 7:10) So his response to his brothers did not have anything to do with the Festival of Booths. (This also occurs frequently in John. The person he is talking with is speaking on one level, and Jesus is speaking about something seemingly related, but on a very different level. See, for example, Jesus and his mother in John 2, Jesus and Nicodemus in John 3, or Jesus and the Samaritan women in John 4.)
In any event, Jesus had a sense of timing, specifically with regard to when his crucifixion (“my hour”) was approaching. My sense is that he understood both when the level of opposition to his work was reaching a level where people were going to respond violently, and, more importantly, when God, his Father, was saying, in effect, “Now is the time.” For Jesus, his connection to the Father was incredibly close, and being obedient to his Father’s will was his primary concern. This led, I believe, to him being very clear about the difference between a time of preparation and a time of action, when it came to fulfilling his mission.
As always, I am interested in what you and I can learn, as followers of Jesus. When is it the time to do the preparatory part of a task, and when it is time to do the main task itself?
I notice that quite a bit of life is preparation, both in the short run and the long run. I have the time of preparing a sermon, but way before giving the sermon, there was the preparation of my general education, the preparation of going to seminary, the preparation of studying the Bible over time, the preparation of developing the spiritual practice of prayer, the preparation of paying attention to life - my life and the lives of others. There has been a similar amount of preparation for you in your chosen field. For most people, there is a lot of preparation before they run in their first race or run for political office or become a top athlete, musician, or writer. There is the preparation for marriage (some do more than others!), the preparation for having a baby, etc. What I notice, too, is that these preparatory steps involve a lot of action, a lot of “doing”. Jesus hung out in a lot of synagogues, observed the Sabbath and Holy Days, observed nature, observed people, and even engaged in a lot of praying and teaching and healing and debating before it was time for him to go to the cross.
Maybe this is why you and I are most frustrated when we are engaged in some form of waiting. We don’t think we are doing anything “productive”, unless there is some kind of active work that we can do... while we are waiting.
Like Jesus, we can be listening for guidance from the Father - through the Spirit that has been given to us - as to when the time is ripe for stepping into a bigger task. Think about marriage, think about advanced education, think about saying “yes” to parenting or “yes” to a particular job, a particular leadership role, or a particular calling. Most likely, it was when you had a sense of the Spirit whispering (or shouting) in your ear, “Now is the time!”, that you knew it was time to act.
Up until those moments, you were likely in a time of preparation, and could have said to another person, “No, I am not going to do that right now, for my time has not yet fully come.”
Today - August 29, 2018 - has your hour come? Has the time come for you to say “yes” to something that God is calling you to do? Or, are you still in a time of preparation? If you are still preparing, how will you know when it is time to leave the preparation behind, and “go to Jerusalem”?