7 After this, Jesus went around in Galilee. He did not want to go about in Judea because the Jewish leaders there were looking for a way to kill him. 2 But when the Jewish Festival of Tabernacles was near, 3 Jesus’ brothers said to him, “Leave Galilee and go to Judea, so that your disciples there may see the works you do. 4 No one who wants to become a public figure acts in secret. Since you are doing these things, show yourself to the world.” 5 For even his own brothers did not believe in him.
6 Therefore Jesus told them, “My time is not yet here; for you any time will do. 7 The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify that its works are evil. 8 You go to the festival. I am not going up to this festival, because my time has not yet fully come.” 9 After he had said this, he stayed in Galilee.
10 However, after his brothers had left for the festival, he went also, not publicly, but in secret. 11 Now at the festival the Jewish leaders were watching for Jesus and asking, “Where is he?”
12 Among the crowds there was widespread whispering about him. Some said, “He is a good man.”
Others replied, “No, he deceives the people.” 13 But no one would say anything publicly about him for fear of the leaders.
(John 7:1-13 NIV)
As we open chapter 7, John provides a running narrative of Jesus’ life that we would not ordinarily see or understand.
In one short chapter (chronologically, in the course of two days), Jesus has gone from hero to zero. Jesus fed the masses one day and lost most of His so-called followers the next. If Jesus were trying to build a “brand” or gain a large following, He was going in the wrong direction. Thankfully, Jesus was all about doing the will of His Father, so nothing else mattered.
From John’s chronology, we know that chapter 7 finds us in Jesus’ final year of ministry. John records that this glimpse of Jesus’ life is around the Feast of the Tabernacles, which occurs in the fall (September / October timeframe).
John provides some insight into what it means to walk in Jesus’ shoes at this point in His ministry. Jesus is in the northern region of Galilee, where life is more rural than urban, more relaxed and real than politically and religiously correct. The Jews (specifically the scribes and the Pharisees) were after Jesus, and some even wanted to kill Him. Jesus stayed away from the region of Judea, where the would-be assassins resided. Jesus knew it was not His time to die – there was more ministry to perform, more examples to demonstrate to His disciples, more teaching to do, more hope to bring.
Jesus’ life was tough on the personal as well as the public fronts. John gives us a brief but poignant insight into Jesus’ relationship with His earthly family. Verses 3 -5 record that Jesus’ brothers did not believe in who He was at this point in His ministry. Based on His brothers’ comments, they assumed Jesus was trying to be a successful public figure as a rabbi/teacher.
Once again, Jesus was clearly misunderstood. It’s one thing to be mistaken by strangers; it’s entirely another thing to be misunderstood by your family. Even if your friends abandon you, a person hopes that their family will stand by them. John parenthetically comments that Jesus’ brothers did not believe He is Messiah.
Jesus gives His brothers a pass when they invite Him to go to the Feast of Tabernacles with them. Jesus tries to explain why He will not go with them; His words have no effect on them, and Jesus’ brothers leave without Him. Jesus says He will stay in Galilee for a while (which He does). John records that Jesus does go later, but privately and not publicly.
John ends this section with the murmurings of the Festival crowds. Everyone was looking for Jesus, but He was not in attendance so far. The festival attendees disagreed as to Jesus’ ministry, and the Jewish religious leaders wanted to know where He was so they could keep an eye on Him.
What are we willing to endure for the Gospel?
Lord, let me be more concerned about what You say and think about me than what others say and think about me. Faith is the willingness to look foolish in the sight of others to obey and follow You. Help me to walk the narrow, hard path of life rather than the broad, easy path of destruction.