When the Prime Minister announced yesterday that she was calling a General Election one of the inevitable questions that arose was how this related to her frequent statement that there was no need to hold one until 2020. Some commentators spoke about a U-turn, others about broken promises, while – among others – there is a recognition that people change their minds as circumstances change.
And, this is something we are having to get used to in many areas of life. A football club chairman expressing complete confidence in their manager leads to speculation as to how soon the manager will go while – back in politics – a Prime Minster expressing full support for a Minister starts speculation as to who will replace them.
This reminded me of an event in the life of Jesus (recorded in John 7) where the question arose as to whether he was going to go to Jerusalem to join in the celebration of one of their annual festivals. His brothers – who didn’t believe in who he really was or in what God had called him to do – encouraged him to go, to take a public role, to show his followers what he was capable of (John 7:2-5).
But Jesus was aware that the religious leaders wanted to kill him (John 7:1) so it wasn’t safe for him to go with them. While it was alright for them to go it wasn’t right for him:
You go to the festival. I am not going up to this festival, because my time has not yet fully come.’ (John 7:8)
But then, after they had gone he did go – not publicly as they had wanted but in secret (John 7:10).
So what caused him to change his mind, why did he do what he said he wasn’t going to do?
I think the key is in the phrase “my time has not yet fully come” – Jesus wasn’t going to act according to his brother’s agenda, nor even according to his own agenda, but according to what his Father told him to do, according to what would please his Father. He has previously made this explicitly clear:
By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me. (John 5:30)
So it’s reasonable to assume that between telling his brothers that he wouldn’t go to Jerusalem and choosing to go his Father had made it clear that this is actually what He wanted him to do.
The situation hadn’t changed – he was still in danger of being taken and killed – but he needed to be doing what his Father called him to do. And so he gets up to teach, stuns the crowd with what he says (John 7:14-15) and then as the feast drew to its close he stands up and calls out to everyone who will hear, offering them life and hope and God’s presence.
On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, ‘Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.’ (John 7:37–38)
Whatever the Prime Minister’s reasons are for calling a snap election it seems that what was motivating Jesus is fairly clear. He wasn’t concerned about his own personal safety, he wasn’t concerned about what those in authority would think of him. Rather he was totally committed to doing what his Father asked of him and prepared to do whatever he could to bring others into a refreshing, living relationship with God.
A much more important question than how we will respond to the issues of this general election is how we will respond to the offer of “life as it is meant to be lived” from Jesus – an offer he made then and continues to make today.
And another important question – for those of us who have made that commitment to follow Jesus – is whether we are prepared to live in a similar way to how Jesus lived and seek to follow what God calls us to do in every part of our lives whatever it may cost us, whatever the implications may be.