Scripture Reading: John 7:1-6
Did Jesus ever have family problems? That question might sound a bit silly, but the answer is yes. Not that Jesus ever sinned, but Jesus was part of a rather large family by today’s standards and as we will see in John 7:5, even his own brothers did not believe in Him, at least during the time recorded in this passage.
One of the most interesting dynamics in the Scriptures is that holiness has a way of uncovering sinfulness. The negative treatment of Jesus, as severe as it got from the various parties involved, was because of the sin in them. As we go through today’s passage, we may actually be hearing words spoken from insecurity, jealousy, perhaps even a bit spiteful; tone is not necessarily conveyed in words on a page, but there are always tones embedded in the conversations of the Bible.
Starting at John 7:1, we read: “After these things Jesus walked in Galilee; for He did not want to walk in Judea, because the Jews sought to kill Him.” As large of a parenthesis as it was, John 6 fills in a time gap between chapters five and seven, when Jesus healed the lame man at the pool of Bethesda and the fallout that ensued. Jesus Christ was on the move a lot, and never just a short jaunt around a local area. The region of Galilee was the site of His hometown, Nazareth, where His family lived. His visit was in timing with the coming Feast of Tabernacles.
Going through this Gospel, we can see that feasts came up on multiple occasions throughout the book, and when those feasts were at hand, Jesus would seek to be in Jerusalem. The Feast of Tabernacles was also known as Succoth (the name means huts) and comes from the call for feasts in Leviticus 23:33-44. It was one of three pilgrimage festivals, and knowing this should help understand why Christ and others would need to be in Jerusalem for a feast. Even Paul would mention hoping to make it to Jerusalem for feasts in the book of Acts. The Jews at this eight day celebration would remember the days of being led in the wilderness and living in temporary dwellings on their way to the Promised Land. This festival forms the backdrop of the conversation with Jesus’ brothers.
“His brothers therefore said to Him, ‘Depart from here and go into Judea, that Your disciples also may see the works that You are doing.’” There are perhaps three directions that we can go with the words of Jesus’ brothers to him: they are either hoping to thrust Him to the forefront, they are hoping to trip Him up, or they would just like him to leave from their presence. The crux of all of their words will be summed up in v. 5, that they did not believe in Him. If they did not believe in Him, why would they support His promotion? There is an eerie tinge to their proposal, reminiscent of Satan’s words in the temptation in the wilderness. As Satan would repeat, “If You are the Son of God,” the temptations were each meant to have Jesus prove Himself in the three challenges suggested but ultimately to fall from obedience. The parallel is found in pressuring Jesus to do something that was out of its time by being outside of God’s will for the moment.
“For no one does anything in secret while he himself seeks to be known openly. If You do these things, show Yourself to the world.” If Jesus wanted to be known, he’d have to go public, at least in their suggestion. What did they think He was doing all of this time? We’ll find that He did go, but not because of their pressure. It’s hard to know whether they were aware of the hostility Jesus faced in Judea (John 6), but He tells them of being hated in verse 7. If they did know what could happen, then these words of encouragement become questionable as more of a plot to diminish Jesus. More than likely, they never would have wanted Him to die. The envy of the brothers of Joseph found in Genesis 37 is called to mind in reading this passage. Regardless as to their ultimate intentions, we should keep in mind that the potential for betrayal existed even with Jesus’ own brothers. His interactions with them in His ministry were relatively few but not necessarily positive.
“For even His brothers did not believe in Him.” What a strange summary to the things they said. “Make yourself known!” is highlighted by disbelief. There was a motive behind these words, and the verses are trying to reveal that. This is a great place to insert Luke 4:24:
“Then He said, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, no prophet is accepted in his own country.'”
The four brothers of Jesus are mentioned in Matthew 13:55: “Is this not the carpenter’s son? Is not His mother called Mary? And His brothers James, Joses, Simon, and Judas?” Matthew 13:56 tells us that he had sisters, too, though they are not named or counted. At the least, Jesus came from a family with four other brothers and two sisters, seven children in total. This closeness very well caused them all to stumble, familiarity shaping how they related to Jesus.
We need to remember that Jesus grew up in a family of sinners, even though He wasn’t one Himself. His mother, often elevated to a status of pure perfection and worshiped in the Catholic church as “Mary, Mother of God”, was a sinner, too, who needed salvation by faith in the Son that she at one time carried. His siblings, who were conceived by Joseph and Mary, did not have miraculous origins of a virgin birth.
Surely, we might suppose, the family of Jesus must have a leg up on heaven, right? James and Jude are historically attributed with writing two of the New Testament letters. James would write in his rather brief letter that “faith without works is dead” and explained that further in the latter part of James 2.
Jude would write in Jude 3-4, “Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ.” Neither of these two brothers assumed righteousness; they affirmed faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as a necessary prerequisite to eternal life. Something had changed in how they viewed Jesus some time beyond the disbelief recorded in John 7.
Finally, another instance of Jesus and his siblings is found in Mark 3:31-35: “Then His brothers and His mother came, and standing outside they sent to Him, calling Him. And a multitude was sitting around Him; and they said to Him, “Look, Your mother and Your brothers are outside seeking You.” But He answered them, saying, “Who is My mother, or My brothers?” And He looked around in a circle at those who sat about Him, and said, “Here are My mother and My brothers! For whoever does the will of God is My brother and My sister and mother.” Jesus drew a distinction between His earthly family and His spiritual family. His loyalty was to the Father’s will above all else, and despite their closeness, He would not abandon His ministry for anyone.
John 1:10-13 says, “He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”
Just a few applications to be made today:
1. We must keep your priorities in check. Who are we trying to please? Is it God, or someone else?
2. Pray for loved ones that may not believe. Live a life of faith before them, and as opportunities arise, have those necessary conversations.
3. Wait on the Lord. You never know when someone who has no interest today in Christ may change their course. Be confident in God’s power to save.
Prayer from Pastor Sam:
Lord, help us to keep our eyes on You. Grant us wisdom and grace today, and guide us in the choices we make. Help us to evaluate our priorities and to live for You. I pray this in Jesus’ name, Amen.
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.