Night is Coming
Our readings last Sunday alluded to Jesus’ “hour.” When Jesus taught the people of Jerusalem that the Father had sent Him, we read, “So they were seeking to arrest him, but no one laid a hand on him, because his hour had not yet come” (John 7.30). When Jesus disputed with the Pharisees in the temple, we read, “These words he spoke in the treasury, as he taught in the temple; but no one arrested him, because his hour had not yet come” (8.20).
We first heard of Jesus’ “hour” from Jesus Himself during the wedding feast at Cana. When Mary told Jesus that the wedding feast had run out of wine, He responded, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come” (John 2.). In each of these three passages, Jesus’ “hour” is close enough that we should be aware of it, but it is not yet here.
The primary meaning of Jesus’ “hour,” the most obvious one, is His crucifixion. The instances in John 7 and 8 are both about the Pharisees’ failure to arrest Jesus, and they both appear in contexts in which the Pharisees want to kill Jesus.
The instance in Cana foreshadows the crucifixion if we think about the miracle in light of the Lord’s Supper. Jesus turns water into wine for the wedding feast. The wine, of course, corresponds to the blood of Christ that we receive in the Lord’s Supper. We have seen Jesus call His blood “true drink” (John 6.55) that will make it so that believers “never thirst” (6.35), and we know that His pierced body bore forth both water and blood (19.34). The correspondence of water, wine, and blood allow us to read the wedding feast at Cana in light of Christ’s crucifixion.
The “hour” includes Jesus’ crucifixion, but it is not the only “hour” of which Jesus speaks in John’s gospel. Jesus said to the Samaritan woman, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. … But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him.”
Another example: After healing the invalid on the Sabbath, Jesus taught, “Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. … Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment” (John 5.25, 28-29).
Taken together, the bigger picture is that Jesus has come to inaugurate a great work from God. The death of the Son of God is part of that great work—even the focal part—but it is not the entire picture. Jesus’ death will be followed by His resurrection, which will be the prototype for the more expansive resurrection that Jesus talks about in John 5. Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension will be followed by the establishment of His church, which He alludes to in John 4. Thus, Jesus’ “hour” is not a single event but a confluence of events centered around His crucifixion.
Just as the “hour” contains more than a single act, it also contains more than one actor. Jesus is, of course, the centerpiece of God’s great work, but His sayings in John 4 and 5 show us that others will join Him in His hour, including “true worshipers” who “will worship the Father in spirit and truth” and “the dead” who “will hear the voice of the Son of God… and live.”
Jesus makes that participation explicit when He talks about yet another coming hour at the beginning of this morning’s text, John 9:
As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him. We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work.
Jesus has spoken often in John’s gospel about His work, which He always says was appointed to Him by the one who sent Him. Here, He puts that work in the plural: “We must work.” Just as the Father sent His Son into the world, so too does the Son send His disciples into the world.
We are included in Jesus’ hour. More than that, our whole Faith is about Jesus’ hour: His death and resurrection, the founding of the church to worship the Father in spirit and truth, and the resurrection of life which we all hope to attain.
But if we hope to attain to that resurrection, then we must do the works of Him who sent us. We must do them now, while it is day. Night is coming, when no one can work.