Please read John 7:1-9 in your favorite Bible. I used the NLT in preparing these remarks.
Even if I weren’t more interested in sleep, I would still not bother watching late-night TV talk shows. I personally believe most late-night talk show hosts are a waste of valuable air. Still, once in a while, they do perform a public service by making us laugh. A little.
One of them - whom I will not name - did us a favor when he asked viewers to send in examples of the worst advice they have ever received. I found a website that lists 159 of the “top” responses. I found that dads were unfairly singled out as givers of bad advice and decided to ignore those. However, brothers were also frequently mentioned, and as this fits thematically with our passage for today, let me share the best of the worst advice offered by brothers.
“As a kid I got dizzy from spinning around. My brother told me to spin in the opposite direction to cancel it out.”
“When I was five my brother told me to put my head under the recliner while he jumped on it because ‘It will be fun!’”
“In childhood, my brother told me to put my fingers in the electrical socket. My teeth would start glowing and I would never have to brush them again.”
“My brother told me to always be myself when I talk to girls, so I dress up as Batman.”
“My brother told me the speed limit was just a suggestion and I repeated that to the cop who pulled me over. He wanted my brother’s information.”
All of these examples warn us we should all greet advice from our brothers with a healthy bit of skepticism. They may not actually have our best interests at heart.
You can say what you will about the motives of Jesus’ half-brothers in this part of John 7. My guess is they didn’t really have His best interests at heart. The bad advice they gave him, and the attitude of the religious leaders all underscore the main point of this passage:
Not everyone will receive Jesus or His followers.
CONTEXT = After the miracles of the feeding of the 5000 and His walking on water (6:1-21) Jesus’ popularity soared. Not much later, however, Jesus experienced a big loss of followers (6:66) due to the difficulty of His teaching (6:60). We learned in 5:18 that the JEWISH LEADERS were working harder to try to kill Him. All these things taken together, Jesus wisely announced His intention to STAY OUT OF JUDEA, where they were looking for Him (7:1).
1. Jesus’ own brothers did not believe in Him. (2-5)
The FESTIVAL OF SHELTERS (2) was one of the three yearly feasts demanded by the Law of Moses. It was a way of remembering the 40 years God’s people spent wandering in the wilderness, living in tents. Worshipers built temporary dwellings and were to live in them for a few days to experience for themselves life as their forefathers lived it.
It was held in October each year and was a harvest feast celebrating the crops of grapes and olives. You mighty say it was a Jewish precursor to our Thanksgiving. As it involved camping and food, you might guess this was the most popular of the 3 festivals and you’d be right.
On one occasion, Jesus’ brothers mocked Him, urging Him to go to Judea (3+4). They told Him to put His MIRACLES and WONDERFUL THINGS on display in Jerusalem during the festival so more people would see them. It was a commonly held belief that the Messiah would reveal Himself with miraculous works in the city of Jerusalem. This is what they appear to be urging Jesus to do. Also, it would be a natural enough desire for Jesus to see more people come to have faith in Him. So there is some logic in what they’re saying.
However, we know they didn’t believe in Him, so it requires little imagination to hear the sarcasm in their comments. It’s sad to think Jesus would have to endure verbal abuse on the cross and now He’s getting a taste of it from His own family.
In addition to all the disciples that deserted Him in chapter six, Jesus’ own brothers chose disbelief. The mention of their disbelief in verse five lets us know there is more than just brotherly joshing going on here. They did not accept His statements about His person and purpose and had no reason to support this ministry on which Jesus had suddenly embarked after 30 years of quiet living in Nazareth. Having grown up with Jesus, they may or may not have already seen Him doing miracles, but they certainly knew His character, so this kind of joking seems out of place. You can imagine how hard it would be to have a sibling declare themselves to be God. In Genesis we read it was hard enough for Joseph’s brothers to believe his predictions of his future glory over them, this would be harder still to accept.
Matthew 13:55 names James, Joses, Simon, and Judas as Jesus’ brothers. (Technically, these were Jesus’ half-brothers. They had the same mother, but a different father.) Acts 1:14 & 1 Corinthians 15:7 tell us the brothers would later have faith in Jesus. Jesus’ half-brother James authored the epistle that bears his name and was leader of the church in Jerusalem. His half-brother Judas wrote the epistle called “Jude.”
2. Jesus was keenly aware of the world’s hatred of Him. (6-9)
Rather than respond angrily or even call them out as goofballs, Jesus’ reply to their jibes is remarkably understated. Jesus’ reply, part one was practical: “You can go to the festival any time.” The reason His brothers had more freedom of choice; “THE WORLD CAN’T HATE YOU” (7). This statement implies that His brothers were in agreement with the world’s attitude toward Jesus because they were being worldly-minded. Nobody was looking to kill Jesus’ brothers; they were free to go to Judea if they wanted.
On the other hand, regarding Jesus; “THE WORLD does HATE ME BECAUSE I ACCUSE IT OF DOING EVIL (7).” Jesus, by contrast, was not worldly-minded. He told the truth and faced the world’s hatred because people typically hate those who tell the truth. (cf John 15:18-21; 17:14+16)
The second part of Jesus’ reply related to His mission: “This is not the right time for me to go” (6+8). This sounds a lot like Jesus’ reply to His mother when she asked Him to help out the bridal party at the wedding in Cana (John 2:4). What’s different here in chapter seven is that Jesus was increasingly being made “public enemy number one” by religious leaders who saw Him as a threat to their status quo.
There would be an appropriate time for Jesus would go to Jerusalem, a time for Him to die on the cross. Then He would surrender His life as a sacrifice for sin. As He stated plainly in John 10:18, “NO ONE CAN TAKE MY LIFE FROM ME. I SACRIFICE IT VOLUNTARILY. FOR I HAVE THE AUTHORITY TO LAY IT DOWN WHEN I WANT TO AND ALSO TO TAKE IT UP AGAIN. FOR THIS IS WHAT MY FATHER HAS COMMANDED.”
As we will see next week as we look at verse ten, what eventually happened was Jesus went to Jerusalem, but he did so SECRETLY, not publicly. It was then He made the big splash His brothers suggested on this occasion.
Not everyone will receive Jesus or His followers.
Whatever their motivation for saying what they did, Jesus’ half-brothers held forth a plan that made some sense from a human point of view. Jesus, however, was obedient to God the Father: we saw this in last week’s passage in John 5. The Bible often observes the difference between God’s will and His ways and the will and ways of human beings.
As Jesus’ followers we are to be wary of things that have a worldly sense of accuracy but are contrary to God’s will. Like Jesus, our first motive and greatest desire must be to find and follow God’s will in every situation.
It follows, then, that the actions we take will occasionally put us at odds with the world. God may ask you to do something that is contrary to what our secular culture says is “politically correct” or may be seen as illogical. Jesus’ half-brothers may’ve actually thought they’d figured it out and that they were helping Jesus. The fact was, however, they were not speaking for God when they said those things.
On those occasions, we need to rely on our faith and trust that God knows better. Our choice to obey should not depend on our being able to make sense of a thing or to anticipate all the ramifications of our decision. We need to be in the moment enough to hear God speaking and courageous enough to agree with Him and obey whatever He commands.
The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 9, John, Merrill C. Tenney
The Bible Knowledge Key Word Study, The Gospels, W. Hall Harris
One Perfect Life: The Complete Story of the Lord Jesus, John MacArthur