It’s a matter of time (part 1)

clock-865969_640Time. Somehow, there just never seems to be enough of it.

Or to put it differently, it doesn’t feel like there’s enough of it. Usually, it’s not really a matter of whether there are enough hours in a day to accomplish the things that truly need to get done. It’s the constant background stress of feeling pressed for time.

In a way, I suspect that it has to do with my lack of faith. By that, I don’t mean whether I believe that all the things on my mental list of things to do will actually get done. It’s a matter of how I perceive time itself.

As we saw in the previous post, Jesus’ brothers were urging him to go down to Jerusalem for the Festival of Tabernacles. Don’t hide yourself here in Galilee, they insisted. If you want followers, brother, you’ve got to strut your stuff in front of a crowd.  And there will be people aplenty in Jerusalem this time of year. If you’re serious about this, you can’t afford to miss the opportunity!

According to John, their comments were faithless; I imagine them being said with mockery. But Jesus wasn’t about to take the bait. He replied:

For you, anytime is fine. But my time hasn’t come yet. The world can’t hate you. It hates me, though, because I testify that its works are evil. You go up to the festival. I’m not going to this one because my time hasn’t yet come. (John 7:6-8, CEB)

“My time hasn’t come.” It’s reminiscent of what he said to his mother when she asked him to take care of the wine shortage at the wedding in Cana (John 2:4). There, Jesus used the word “hour”; here, it’s “time.”

But it’s a particular word for time. The Greek word chronos is the one meaning what we usually think of as time — chronological time, a commodity of which you can have too much or too little. But Jesus uses the word kairos, which suggests something more like the right or most opportune time. It’s less “time” per se than “timing” — and Jesus obeyed his Father’s timing in all things. Thus, Jesus told them he wasn’t going to the festival, not because he didn’t have time, but because it was the wrong time.

He seemed to suggest that his brothers couldn’t possibly understand the intensity of the hatred he would face there. The world, after all, didn’t hate them. They were already too much like the world. John often used the word “world” to signify a way of life that is oriented in opposition to God. Jesus’ brothers, even in their way of thinking about time and timing, were worldly.

Not so Jesus. He made a lot of people nervous and defensive. He came as light to darkness, and the darkness was ready to fight rather than flee.

There is, I think, a worldly way of perceiving and thinking about time, one that permeates our time-starved culture. And I suspect that it’s at the root of a great deal of our experience of stress.

Or mine, at least. More in part two of this post.