Rumbles At Tabernacles I: Some Teflon to 20 Questions


I was surprised when I heard about the “Five Dysfunctions of A Team” by Francis Lencioni how one of the points in a professional group was “fear of conflict”.  He actually stood up for conflict in the sense of how it can be seen in a strengths-based context because this is how things can be more clear between parties where ideas class and the best solution can come to the surface fully in the light.  In a similar vein, Penn Jillete who is famous partly for his atheism makes a valid point that the universe is better off when one party does their best to convert the other party to their point of view because otherwise no one can truly understand each other.

In that sense, one person who did not have such a shy problem was Jesus but with a unique style in that he did not make his interactions like a classroom and wanted the spiritual, holistic health of others so much he would not want them to stay in their head.  Jesus had to provoke and go against the trend of the world since he did not identify himself as of the world.

Jesus was asked 183 questions in the Gospels, but he only answered three of them directly: one concerning his authority, another about being a king, and the third about how to pray. Jesus reframed questions into stories, riddles, dramatic theater, or he simply remained silent, but did not feel compelled to offer answers. We are convinced that Jesus wanted to subvert our human addiction to explanations wherever possible, opening us up to the possibility of communion with the Father and the promise of transformation that such communion holds for us all.” (Geography of Grace, Kris Rocke & Joel Van Dyke).

Therefore, questions that would put him in a box tended to roll right off of him. Such was his style as we will see during a holiday week in Jerusalem.

After this, Jesus moved about within Galilee; but he did not wish to travel in Judea, because the Jews were trying to kill him. But the Jewish feast of Tabernacles was near. So his brothers said to him, “Leave here and go to Judea, so that your disciples also may see the works you are doing. No one works in secret if he wants to be known publicly. If you do these things, manifest yourself to the world.” For his brothers did not believe in him. So Jesus said to them, “My time is not yet here, but the time is always right for you. The world cannot hate you, but it hates me, because I testify to it that its works are evil. You go up to the feast. I am not going up[ to this feast, because my time has not yet been fulfilled.” After he had said this, he stayed on in Galilee. But when his brothers had gone up to the feast, he himself also went up, not openly but [as it were] in secret (John 7:1-10)

But the Jewish feast of Tabernacles was near-  Sure, there was intent of some to kill him.  For Jesus, that came with his job description but for later.  However, the juicy opportunity for him was people in town for a spiritual context of encountering God and thus on spiritual business.  Jesus came to do the business of the Father.  Even with conflict this was too good to pass up.

If you do these things, manifest yourself to the world- Their premise is that when something of God encounters the world that the world’s terms must be the standard and one needs to perform for it.  Adding to that, these kinsmen of Jesus were cynics to begin with.  They just saw Jesus as the son of Mary.  To add insult to injury, pilgrims tended to come to this feast also called Feast of Booths to camp out together in a communal way so it is with painful irony that Jesus goes without his family wished well with only a cynical dare.

With such a wrong premise, there comes a wrong conclusion.  The premise of Jesus is based on different values than that of the world.  In the history of Christianity, a different ethic has been a recurring rallying point by way of the Cross.  In context of this specific interaction Augustine wrote,  “See how profound it is: they were advising Him as to glory; but He would have loftiness preceded by humility, and willed to prepare the way to elevation itself through humility” (Augustine, Tractate 28).

My time is not yet here, but the time is always right for you- Jesus here addresses their want of instant gratification.  This goes to a larger point about the proof of God that cynics pine for of the loving God that is believed in by so many.  Such cynics daily to see that if God were an instant oatmeal in the microwave God for all requests then inherently he would not be loving.  Where is the beauty of faith if ones socks are blown off?  Though God is into miracles, one must understand that faith is elicited from us in a proposition and not an imposition.

but it hates me, because I testify to it that its works are evil- Jesus was a buzz kill to the party.  But really not to the parties of sinners.  Jesus testified more often to the weighing down of burdens by the religious elites that departed from the Jewish deposit of faith into man-made traditions.  Jesus had only compassion for the broken but had to express a provocation for the hypocrites.

he himself also went up, not openly but [as it were] in secret- Jesus was to be rejected by many so he could shine even brighter.  Just as light was separated from darkness, this gospel shows us that Jesus had to be distinct from unbelief even from his own family.  It is not as though he hated them, but his priorities had be based on an obedience towards Father.

Such is the nature of what Jesus was about to do then, again,  and what Jesus also does now through the power of the Holy Spirit and through the Church:  he will propose and provoke humanity to changes beyond their assumptions.  Jesus is about to have about 8 or 9 days without his disciples but not long without believers.  This is because he is about to afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted.  The people he will encounter, whether they love him or hate him, will be witnesses of sorts for the design of a coming change with Jesus and a Church that he is founding and will rock the world.


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