“His Hour Had Not Yet Come”
“No one laid a hand upon him, because his hour had not yet come.”—JOHN 7:30.
“THE Son of man came, not to be ministered to, but to minister and to give his soul a ransom in exchange for many,” Jesus Christ told his apostles. (Matthew 20:28) To the Roman governor Pontius Pilate, he said: “For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth.” (John 18:37) Jesus knew exactly why he would die and what work he needed to do before his death. He also knew how much time he had to fulfill his mission. His ministry on earth as the Messiah was to be only three and a half years long. It began with his water baptism in the Jordan River (in 29 C.E.) at the start of the foretold 70th symbolic week and ended with his death on a torture stake in the middle of that week (in 33 C.E.). (Daniel 9:24-27; Matthew 3:16, 17; 20:17-19) Hence, Jesus’ entire course of action on earth was essentially governed by two factors: the purpose of his coming and a keen sense of timing.
2 The Gospel accounts portray Jesus Christ as a man of action who traveled the length and breadth of the land of Palestine, declaring the good news of God’s Kingdom and performing many powerful works. During the earlier part of Jesus’ dynamic ministry, it is said of him: “His hour had not yet come.” Jesus himself made the statement: “My due time has not yet fully come.” Near the end of his ministry, he used the expression “the hour has come.” (John 7:8, 30; 12:23) Jesus’ awareness of the hour, or the time for his assigned work, including his sacrificial death, must have affected what he said and did. Understanding this can give us insight into his personality and the pattern of his thinking, helping us “to follow his steps” more closely.—1 Peter 2:21.
Determined to Do God’s Will
3 The year is 29 C.E. Only a few days have passed since Jesus personally selected his first disciples. They have all now come to the village of Cana in the district of Galilee to attend a wedding feast. Jesus’ mother, Mary, is also there. The wine runs short. Suggesting that he should do something, Mary tells her son: “They have no wine.” But Jesus answers: “What have I to do with you, woman? My hour has not yet come.”—John 1:35-51; 2:1-4.
4 Jesus’ reply, “What have I to do with you, woman?” is an ancient form of question that indicates an objection to what is suggested or proposed. Why does Jesus object to Mary’s words? Well, he is now 30 years of age. Just a few weeks earlier, he was baptized, anointed with holy spirit, and introduced by John the Baptizer as “the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29-34; Luke 3:21-23) Now his direction must necessarily come from the Supreme Authority who sent him. (1 Corinthians 11:3) No one, not even a close family member, could be allowed to interfere with the work Jesus came to earth to do. What determination to do his Father’s will is expressed in Jesus’ answer to Mary! May we be similarly determined to fulfill our “whole obligation” to God.—Ecclesiastes 12:13.
5 Grasping the point of her son’s words, Mary immediately steps aside and instructs the attendants: “Whatever he tells you, do.” And Jesus solves the problem. He has the attendants fill the jars with water, and he turns the water into the finest of wine. This occurs as an introduction to Jesus’ miracle-working power, giving a sign that God’s spirit is upon him. When the new disciples see this miracle, their faith is strengthened.—John 2:5-11.
Zealous for Jehovah’s House
6 Soon it is the spring of 30 C.E., and Jesus and his companions are on their way to Jerusalem to observe the Passover. While there, his disciples see their Leader acting in a manner they have perhaps never seen him act before. Greedy Jewish merchants are selling animals and birds for sacrifices right inside the temple. And they are charging faithful Jewish worshipers very high prices. Filled with indignation, Jesus goes into action. He makes a whip of ropes and drives the sellers away. Pouring out the coins of the money changers, he overturns their tables. “Take these things away from here!” he commands those selling the doves. When Jesus’ disciples see him act with such fervor, they remember the prophecy about God’s Son: “The zeal for your house will eat me up.” (John 2:13-17; Psalm 69:9) We too must zealously guard against allowing worldly tendencies to contaminate our worship.
7 While in Jerusalem, Jesus performs remarkable signs, and many people put faith in him. Even Nicodemus, a member of the Sanhedrin, or Jewish high court, is impressed with Jesus and comes to him in the night to learn more. Then, Jesus and his disciples stay in “Judean country” for about eight months, preaching and making disciples. Following the imprisonment of John the Baptizer, however, they leave Judea for Galilee. As they travel through the district of Samaria, Jesus seizes an opportunity to give a thorough witness to a Samaritan woman. This paves the way for many Samaritans to become believers. Let us too be alert to opportunities to speak about the Kingdom.—John 2:23; 3:1-22; 4:1-42; Mark 1:14.
Extensive Teaching in Galilee
8 Before the “hour” of Jesus’ death, he has much to do in his heavenly Father’s service. In Galilee, Jesus commences an even greater ministry than in Judea and Jerusalem. He goes “throughout the whole of Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and preaching the good news of the kingdom and curing every sort of disease and every sort of infirmity among the people.” (Matthew 4:23) His challenging words: “Repent, you people, for the kingdom of the heavens has drawn near,” ring out in the entire district. (Matthew 4:17) In a few months, when two disciples of John the Baptizer come to get a firsthand report about Jesus, he tells them: “Go your way, report to John what you saw and heard: the blind are receiving sight, the lame are walking, the lepers are being cleansed and the deaf are hearing, the dead are being raised up, the poor are being told the good news. And happy is he who has not stumbled over me.”—Luke 7:22, 23.
9 ‘Good talk concerning Jesus spreads out through all the surrounding country,’ and great crowds flock to him—from Galilee, Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea, and the other side of the Jordan River. (Luke 4:14, 15; Matthew 4:24, 25) They come to him not only because of his miraculous healings but also because of his marvelous teachings. His message is appealing and encouraging. (Matthew 5:1–7:27) Jesus’ words are winsome and delightful. (Luke 4:22) The crowds are “astounded at his way of teaching,” for he speaks from the Scriptures with authority. (Matthew 7:28, 29; Luke 4:32) Who would not be drawn to such a man? May we too cultivate the art of teaching so that honesthearted individuals will be drawn to the truth.
10 However, not all of Jesus’ hearers are receptive. Even early in his ministry, when he is teaching in his hometown synagogue in Nazareth, there is an attempt to kill him. Although the townspeople marvel at his “winsome words,” they want to see miracles. Rather than performing many powerful works there, however, Jesus exposes their selfishness and lack of faith. Filled with anger, those in the synagogue rise up, seize Jesus, and rush him out to a mountainside to hurl him headfirst over the cliff. But he escapes from their grasp and safely slips away. The “hour” of his death has not yet come.—Luke 4:16-30.
11 Religious leaders—scribes, Pharisees, Sadducees and others—are also often present where Jesus preaches. Many of them are there, not to listen and learn, but to find fault and try to entrap him. (Matthew 12:38; 16:1; Luke 5:17; 6:1, 2) For example, while visiting Jerusalem for the Passover of 31 C.E., Jesus cures a man who has been sick for 38 years. The Jewish religious leaders accuse Jesus of breaking the Sabbath. He replies: “My Father has kept working until now, and I keep working.” Now the Jews charge him with blasphemy for claiming to be God’s Son by calling him Father. They seek to kill Jesus, but he and his disciples leave Jerusalem for Galilee. Similarly, we are wise to avoid undue confrontations with opposers as we devote our energy to the Kingdom-preaching and disciple-making work.—John 5:1-18; 6:1.
12 For the next year and a half or so, Jesus confines most of his ministry to Galilee, visiting Jerusalem only to attend the three annual festivals of the Jews. All in all, he has undertaken three preaching tours in Galilee: the first with 4 new disciples, the second with the 12 apostles, and an expanded one with the trained apostles also being sent out. What an extensive witness to the truth is given in Galilee!—Matthew 4:18-25; Luke 8:1-3; 9:1-6.
Witnessing Courageously in Judea and Perea
13 It is the autumn of 32 C.E., and Jesus’ “hour” is yet future. The Festival of Tabernacles is near. Jesus’ half brothers now urge him: “Pass on over from here and go into Judea.” They want Jesus to show his miraculous powers to all those gathered at the festival in Jerusalem. Jesus, though, is aware of the danger. So he says to his brothers: “I am not yet going up to this festival, because my due time has not yet fully come.”—John 7:1-8.
14 Delaying in Galilee for some time, Jesus goes up to Jerusalem “not openly but as in secret.” The Jews indeed are looking for him at the festival, saying: “Where is that man?” When the festival is half over, Jesus goes into the temple and courageously begins teaching. They seek to get hold of him, perhaps to put him in prison or to have him killed. Yet, they do not succeed because ‘his hour has not yet come.’ Many now put faith in Jesus. Even the officers that the Pharisees have dispatched to get hold of him return empty-handed, saying: “Never has another man spoken like this.”—John 7:9-14, 30-46.
15 The clashes between Jesus and his Jewish opposers continue as he teaches about his Father at the temple during the festival. On the final day of the festival, enraged at Jesus’ statements about his prehuman existence, the Jews pick up stones to hurl at him. But he hides and escapes unharmed. (John 8:12-59) Staying outside of Jerusalem, Jesus launches an intensive witnessing campaign in Judea. He selects 70 disciples and, after instructing them, sends them by twos to work the territory. They go in advance to every place and city into which Jesus, accompanied by his apostles, is planning to go.—Luke 10:1-24.
16 In the winter of 32 C.E., Jesus’ “hour” is drawing closer. He comes to Jerusalem for the Festival of Dedication. The Jews are still seeking to kill him. While Jesus is walking in the temple colonnade, they encircle him. Accusing him again of blasphemy, they pick up stones to kill him. But as he did on previous occasions, Jesus escapes. Soon he is on the road teaching, this time from city to city and village to village in the district of Perea, across the Jordan from Judea. And many put faith in him. But a dispatch concerning his beloved friend Lazarus calls him back to Judea.—Luke 13:33; John 10:20-42.
17 The urgent message is from Martha and Mary, sisters of Lazarus, who live in Bethany of Judea. “Lord, see! the one for whom you have affection is sick,” the messenger relates. “This sickness is not with death as its object,” answers Jesus, “but is for the glory of God, in order that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” To accomplish this purpose, Jesus deliberately remains where he is for two days. Then he says to his disciples: “Let us go into Judea again.” Incredulously, they respond: “Rabbi, just lately the Judeans were seeking to stone you, and are you going there again?” But Jesus is aware that the remainder of the “hours of daylight,” or the time that God has allotted for his earthly ministry, is short. He knows exactly what he must do and why.—John 11:1-10.
A Miracle No One Could Ignore
18 In Bethany, Martha is the first one to meet Jesus, saying: “Lord, if you had been here my brother would not have died.” Mary and those who had come to their house follow. All are weeping. “Where have you laid him?” Jesus asks. They answer: “Lord, come and see.” When they arrive at the memorial tomb—a cave with a stone lying against its opening—Jesus declares: “Take the stone away.” Not understanding what Jesus intends to do, Martha objects: “Lord, by now he must smell, for it is four days.” But Jesus asks: “Did I not tell you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?”—John 11:17-40.
19 As the stone covering the entrance of Lazarus’ tomb is removed, Jesus prays out loud so that the people will know that what he is about to do is accomplished through the power of God. Then he cries out with a loud voice: “Lazarus, come on out!” Lazarus comes out with his feet and hands still bound with burial wrappings and his face covered with a cloth. “Loose him and let him go,” says Jesus.—John 11:41-44.
20 On seeing this miracle, many of the Jews who had come to comfort Martha and Mary put faith in Jesus. Others go off to tell the Pharisees what has occurred. Their reaction? Immediately, they and the chief priests call an emergency meeting of the Sanhedrin. In panic, they lament: “What are we to do, because this man performs many signs? If we let him alone this way, they will all put faith in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.” But High Priest Caiaphas says to them: “You do not reason out that it is to your benefit for one man to die in behalf of the people and not for the whole nation to be destroyed.” Therefore, from that day on they take counsel to kill Jesus.—John 11:45-53.
21 So it is that by delaying his arrival in Bethany, Jesus is able to perform a miracle that no one can ignore. Empowered by God, Jesus resurrects a man who has been dead for four days. Even the prestigious Sanhedrin is forced to take note and pass a death sentence upon the Miracle Worker! The miracle thus serves as a prelude to an important turning point in Jesus’ ministry—a shift from the period when “his hour had not yet come” to the time when “the hour has come.”
How Would You Answer?
• How did Jesus show that he was aware of his God-assigned work?
• Why does Jesus object to his mother’s suggestion about wine?
• What can we learn from the way Jesus often dealt with opposers?
• Why does Jesus delay in responding to Lazarus’ illness?
1. What two factors governed Jesus’ course of action?
2. How is Jesus Christ portrayed in the Gospels, and how did he show awareness of his mission?
3, 4. (a) What happens at a wedding feast in Cana? (b) Why does the Son of God object to Mary’s suggestion that he should do something about the shortage of wine, and what can we learn from this?
5. What miracle does Jesus Christ perform in Cana, and what effect does it have on others?
6. Why is Jesus indignant at what he sees at the temple in Jerusalem, and what action does he take?
7. (a) What prompts Nicodemus to visit the Messiah? (b) What do we learn from Jesus’ witnessing to a Samaritan woman?
8. What work does Jesus commence in Galilee?
9. Why do the crowds flock to Christ Jesus, and what lesson may we draw from this?
10. Why do the townspeople of Nazareth try to kill Jesus, and why do they fail?
11. (a) Why do some religious leaders come to hear Jesus? (b) Why is Jesus accused of breaking the Sabbath?
12. How extensively does Jesus cover the territory in Galilee?
13, 14. (a) On what occasion are the Jews seeking to get hold of Jesus? (b) Why do the officers fail to arrest Jesus?
15. Why do the Jews pick up stones to hurl at Jesus, and what preaching campaign does he launch next?
16. From what danger does Jesus escape during the Festival of Dedication, and with what work is he busy once again?
17. (a) What urgent message does Jesus receive while preaching in Perea? (b) What shows that Jesus is aware of the purpose of the action he must take and of the timing of events?
18. When Jesus arrives in Bethany, what is the situation there, and what happens after his arrival?
19. Why does Jesus pray publicly before resurrecting Lazarus?
20. How do those who see Jesus resurrect Lazarus respond?
21. To what is the miracle of the resurrection of Lazarus a prelude?
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Jesus devoted his energy to his God-assigned responsibility