John 7: 1-13: Family matters
“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.” NIV
It is a dangerous thing to be a Christian in this world (7, 11, 13).The world hated Jesus, and it will hate those who walk in His steps and speak His words; those who expose it; who show it up for the dark and dismal place it is. People do not like conviction of sin.
”The world has nothing against you, but it’s up in arms against me. It’s against me because I expose the evil behind its pretensions.” The Message.
So the opening verse of chapter 7 shows that it is fine to act wisely to protect yourself, so long as that does not conflict with doing God’s will. Jesus was willing to die, and He knew that He would, when it was the right ”time” (or ”hour”). This is a repeated theme in John’s gospel. (We will come across it again in verses 6-9). Jesus wanted all His movements to be according to a divine timetable. He wanted all He did to be in the will of God – not just His dying, but also His living. It seems that He could not have been too far behind His brothers in leaving for the ”Feast” (8). Even so, He was on a different timetable to them. Frank Laubach tells how he got to a place in life where regularly, during the day, he would ask God that he might do His will in what came next. To look to the Father in this way became a habit and pattern in this missionary’s life. Jesus was not going to take His orders from his brothers, however much He loved them. He was not under their authority.
”Live on God’s schedule and you will always have God’s help.” Warren W. Wieners be: ‘With the Word’, p.693.
There is encouragement here for all those who have family members who don’t understand them; who are out of sympathy with them because of their faith. Jesus’ brothers did ”not believe in him” (5). What they said to Him sounds hurtful. There is no indication in the Bible that Jesus ever ‘wanted’ to be ”a public figure” (4). They just did not ‘get’ Him at all. But it looks like later on, at some point – probably after His resurrection – his brothers came to faith (Acts 1:14). So don’t give up. Don’t stop praying for your family. Don’t lose heart. Keep living a life of dedication to God, and keep on shining His light into their darkness. It’s the kindest; most loving thing you can do for anyone.
There is, in this passage, another reminder that Jesus divides people (12, 13). So it will be until the end of time. This is one big reason why it is dangerous to be a believer.
”But I trust in you, O LORD; I say, ”You are my God.” My times are in your hands; deliver me from my enemies and from those who pursue me.” Psalm 31:14, 15.
Prayer: Lord, help me to be both courageous and wise. I don’t want cowardice to force me into hiding when I should be highly visible in my witness. But I do need the wisdom to know when to take a lower and quieter profile. Help me to know your will and timing in everything.