John 7:1-13 Jesus traveled around Galilee. He wanted to stay out of Judea, where the Jewish leaders were plotting his death. But soon it was time for the Jewish Festival of Shelters. Jesus’ brothers said to him, “Leave here and go to Judea, where your followers can see your miracles! You can’t become famous if you hide like this! If you can do such wonderful things, show yourself to the world!” For even his brothers didn’t believe in him. Jesus replied, “… You go on. I’m not yet going to this festival, because my time has not yet come.” After saying these things, Jesus remained in Galilee. But after his brothers left for the festival, Jesus also went, though secretly, staying out of the public view. … There was a lot of grumbling about him among the crowds. … No one had the courage to speak favorably about him in public, for they were afraid of getting in trouble with the Jewish leaders.
Jesus was in control. He didn’t allow pressure from his family, from those who were actively trying to kill him, from those who wanted him to be popular politically, or even from those who loved him to force his decisions. He wasn’t a people-pleaser. His motivation was to please his Father. When he does begin to speak at the festival, his main theme is God who sent him: the source of his message (v. 17) and his miracles (v. 21-23). The one who sent him speaks truth, not lies (v. 18—how much political pressure is rebuffed here!). “Look beneath the surface so you can judge correctly,” Jesus says to those trying to kill him (v. 24).
What pressures do you feel? Are you able to look beneath the surface and judge them correctly, anchored in your “audience of one,” the only One to whom you’re ultimately accountable? I don’t find that easy to do. I easily allow myself to be unduly influenced by what I think are other people’s preferences and expectations of me, even though no one else sees or understands the whole picture of what I’m dealing with.
I wish I had been capable of the Jesus kind of control when I was mothering four young children: my eyes so fixed on God, my desire so strong to follow his direction, that I could make decisions in favor of my children and against the intense pressures I felt. Both my mother and my mother-in-law were critical of me, both telling me I was “spoiling” my children and not disciplining them appropriately. Karis’s illness, frequent hospitalizations, surgeries, and crises put immense pressure on me to care adequately for my other three.
When we moved to Brazil, schoolteachers judged me for challenges my children experienced with adaptation to their new environment, and our mission team didn’t expect us to survive the first year. Too often I tried to please everyone else (I AM a good mother—can’t you see how hard I’m trying?), rather than focusing on my children’s needs and what I could do to ease their way through the pressures Dave’s and my decisions and our circumstances put on them.
My spiritual director is fond of telling me, “There’s only One you need to please. And He is so easily pleased. He delights in you, as a good father delights in his precious child.” Perhaps these words can encourage you today, as they do me. He knows your vulnerabilities and weaknesses and immaturities, but offers support and encouragement, not scolding and criticism. As I anchor myself in him today in the secret place I share only with him, everything else will shrink to its proper dimension of influence over me.
We have an anchor that keeps the soul
Steadfast and sure while the strong winds roll,
Fastened to the Rock which cannot move,
Grounded firm and deep in the Savior’s love.