Daily Readings in John – Day Twenty-Three
October 30, 2017
John 7:1-9 (NRSV)
7 After this Jesus went about in Galilee. He did not wish to go about in Judea because the Jews were looking for an opportunity to kill him. 2 Now the Jewish festival of Booths was near. 3 So his brothers said to him, “Leave here and go to Judea so that your disciples also may see the works you are doing; 4 for no one who wants to be widely known acts in secret. If you do these things, show yourself to the world.” 5 (For not even his brothers believed in him.) 6 Jesus said to them, “My time has not yet come, but your time is always here. 7 The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify against it that its works are evil. 8 Go to the festival yourselves. I am not going to this festival, for my time has not yet fully come.” 9 After saying this, he remained in Galilee.
This festival of Booths, called Sukkot in Hebrew, happened this year in early October. It’s a harvest festival, and also a time for Jews to remember their pre-national, post-slavery, nomadic days in the desert, when God had liberated them from the oppression of the Egyptian empire and they lived in tents in the desert. Many Jews remember this holiday by working less this week, eating and relaxing more, and spending at least part of their time in a kind of backyard fort, meant to evoke the days when their ancestors lived in tents.
So it’s a holiday to separate a bit from life in Empire. Life in civilization, life in the economically developed urban state has its advantages – in older times, we’re talking about water supply, commerce, and security, among other things. Nowadays, where do we start? Electricity, schools, banking, hospitals, credit, wireless internet and streaming videos, the whole world’s food culture available via delivery in under an hour. Wow – the beauty of civilization!
Except that Sukkot gives one pause. What is some things are better in the wilderness? What if freedom and harvest, and non-anxious remembrance that everything is a gift, is more important than the luxuries of empire, which both liberate us and imprison us in different ways?
Given this context, it’s funny that Jesus’ brothers see the Sukkot festival as his opportunity for a Palestine’s Got Talent big moment in the spotlight.
Jesus resists. He stands against the evil and corruption of this world and isn’t especially interested in celebrity status by means of it. He’ll stay out of the spotlight for now, he says, because he’s not anxious for attention, and he’s not addicted to what Empire has on tap.
What about Sukkot do you hope to remember and celebrate this fall? How will you do that?