I have been preaching through John’s Gospel for the last year and have been struck by how much of the action in John takes place during the Great pilgrim feasts of the Old Covenant. Jesus, God’s own Son, submits himself to the Mosaic festal calendar, which he, as the Word, instituted.
Even more striking, Luke tells us that Jesus attended synagogue worship every sabbath. I wonder what that was like for him? I have heard Christian people say, ‘I stopped going to church because there are too many hypocrites.’ Or, ‘I just can’t go anymore because the board or the vestry voted to do this or that thing I disagree with.’ Or, ‘I just can’t sit in the same building with that person.’ Or even, if you can believe it, ‘I don’t like listening to sermons.’
But think about Jesus attending these feasts and participating week by week in synagogue services. The entire religious system in Israel was corrupted in his day. The chief priests, many of them, were making exorbitant profits off the sacrificial system that the Divine Son himself instituted. The rabbis in the synagogues burden the people with extra-scriptural regulations, regulations that serve only to obscure the law and produce self righteousness. There has been only one non-hypocritical human being, one incorruptible, sinless Man, the Man Jesus Christ. And there he is, feast by feast, participating in worship with these corrupt, sin-addled hypocrites.
The Son breathed out the Old Testament. Every word is his. Can you imagine him listening to the rabbis preach Sabbath after Sabbath. He would catch every mistaken interpretation, every bad illustration, every strange application. How it must have hurt his pure and perfect ears. Can you imagine him sitting in the synagogue, knowing all the gossip and the gossipers, seeing all the petty fights, the hypocrisy, the foolishness of both leaders and people. If anyone has reason to forsake the weekly gatherings, the yearly feasts, Jesus does.
But every Sabbath, every feast, he’s there, gathering with the people of God. His people. And, you know, he still does. Every Lord’s day, he shows up. He never lets our hypocrisy, pettiness, gossip, backbiting, foolishness, unwise leadership or my bad preaching, stop him. And yet many who call themselves his followers, refuse to follow him to church. Jesus’ Bride, his beloved, for whom he died, is just not good enough.