Short Meditations in John 2: 9. Following the Law
Jn 2:13 When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem.
Of course when the feasts were first inaugurated in the Law, Jerusalem did not exist as the capital of Israel (as they had not yet even entered the land!). Yet within the Law we find, “Three times a year all your men must appear before the LORD your God at the place he will choose: at the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Feast of Weeks and the Feast of Tabernacles. No man should appear before the LORD empty-handed.” (Deut 16:16) With the advent of kings of Israel and the taking of Jerusalem, it became usual for the various feasts to have their main focus at Jerusalem and for many this became a regular pilgrimage. Passover was one of the most important of the feasts.
Thus we now find that because it was the time for Passover Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Note John’s insertion of the word ‘Jewish’ because he is now writing for a world-wide audience and thus needs to spell out specific Jewish things. John mentions these feasts a number of time, e.g. 5:1(a feast), 6:4 (Passover), 7:2 (Tabernacles), 10:22 (Dedication – Hanukkah), 11:55 (Passover) and 13:1 (Passover). These feasts were firmly held by the Jews because they were one way that they held on to their identity under the yoke of Rome. It was also, of course, a way of keeping the Law.
For whatever the reason, Jesus appears to have faithfully attended the feasts in Jerusalem which, while he was fulfilling his ministry in the north in Galilee, was both an interruption and a threat. The Jews of Jerusalem clearly found him a threat and it was that which eventually caused the confrontation and his death. Nevertheless Jesus was confident in his safety and so continued to follow the Law and go to Jerusalem, perhaps also to be an example to his followers to remain good Jews.
Each time he appeared in Jerusalem something happened which perhaps just kept him before the attention of the powers in the city. Perhaps we might say, he just kept the kettle boiling over those three years until the crisis at the end of the third year. The feast of the Passover was particularly significant as it remembered the events of the Exodus and the deliverance from Egypt and God’s judgement on Pharaoh and his people, and also His means of saving His people from the destroying angel – the blood of a lamb. As John has recently declared Jesus to be the Lamb, this is perhaps especially significant.