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Radical Jesus

I think I have a great strategy for Jesus. So did the brothers of Jesus.

Does Jesus need my advice? Nope, not at all. Jesus has a plan. As God’s Son, Jesus knows what to do. My elitist attitudes have no influence on Jesus. My arrogance in thinking I know best falls on deaf ears. Jesus just isn’t interested. I don’t blame Him at all. It’s not that I am ignorant, it’s just that I don’t know enough about God to be useful.

After this, Jesus traveled in Galilee, since he did not want to travel in Judea because the Jews were trying to kill him. The Jewish Festival of Shelters was near. So his brothers said to him, “Leave here and go to Judea so your disciples can see your works that you are doing. For no one does anything in secret while he’s seeking public recognition. If you do these things, show yourself to the world.” (For not even his brothers believed in him.) | John 7:1-5 (Christian Standard Bible)

The Festival of Tabernacles lasted eight days, took place in late September — early October, and celebrated the harvest from fruit trees and vines. In the spring, Passover had celebrated the start of the grain harvest. Seven weeks later, Pentecost celebrated the end of the grain harvest. These were the three festivals for which pilgrims streamed up to Jerusalem in the hill country of Judea.

As Passover recalled the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt, Tabernacles recalled their living in tents during their wandering in the wilderness (the Sinai desert) on the way from Egypt to Canaan. For Tabernacles, then, the Jews built temporary booths to live in for the duration of the festival.

Two further features bear mention:

  • Tabernacles came at the climax of a summer-long drought, so that by way of counterpoint, Jesus will proclaim himself the source of living water.
  • Tabernacles came at the autumnal equinox, after which darkness prevailed over light, so that Jesus will say, again by way of counterpoint, “I am the light of the world.”

Speaking of Jesus’ biological half brothers, John doesn’t name them, and he attributes their advice to unbelief in Jesus. Precisely because the advice stems from such unbelief, the advice that Jesus do his works in public doesn’t make sense. Moreover, the disciples of Jesus have already seen his works both in Judea and in Galilee. He hasn’t been doing them in secret—rather, in public. He has already manifested himself to the world.

Such is the stupidity of not believing in Jesus: it misses the significance of what has happened in plain view. The redundant addition of “which you’re doing” to “your works” emphasizes this stupidity by highlighting that the brothers themselves are acknowledging Jesus’ works.

Mary bore other children, with Joseph as their natural father; so Jesus would have been their half-brother. It seems incredible that His brothers could have lived with Him all those years and not realized the uniqueness of His person. Certainly, they knew about His miracles since everybody else did. Having been in the closest contact with Him, they had the best opportunity to watch Him and test Him; yet they were still unbelievers.

Here were men going up to a religious feast yet rejecting their own Messiah! How easy it is to follow tradition and miss eternal truth. The publicans and sinners were rejoicing at His message, but His own half-brothers were making fun of Him.

These men certainly had the world’s point of view: if you want to get a following, use your opportunities to do something spectacular. Jerusalem would be crowded with pilgrims and this would give Jesus the ideal “platform” to present Himself and win disciples. No doubt the brothers knew that the multitude of disciples had deserted Jesus. This was His opportunity to recoup His losses. Satan had offered a similar suggestion three years before.

Jesus had already turned down the crowd’s offer to make Him King, and He was not about to yield to them in any way. Celebrities might ride to success on the applause of the crowd, but God’s servants know better. By doing miracles during the feast, at the “official city,” Jesus could muster a crowd, reveal Himself as Messiah, and overcome the enemy.

The suggestion, of course, came from hearts and minds blinded by unbelief. This unbelief had been prophesied in Psalm 69:8 —

“I am become a stranger unto My brethren, and an alien unto My mother’s children.”

It was not the right time for Jesus to show Himself to the world. One day He shall return, and “every eye shall see Him”. We have noticed that our Master lived on a “divine timetable” that was marked out by the Father. We must live on God’s timetable and resist imposing our own.

Jesus was exercising caution because He knew that the Jewish elitist leaders wanted to kill Him. Though they were “religious” leaders, they were a part of “the world” that hated Jesus because He exposed their evil works.

By His character, teaching and His ministry, Jesus revealed the shallowness and emptiness of their futile religious system; He called the people back to the reality of life in God. History reveals that the “religious system” often persecutes the very prophets of God who are sent to save it!

Sources:

  1. Christian Standard Bible. (2017). (Jn 7:1–52). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.
  2. Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 1, pp. 314–315). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
  3. Gundry, R. H. (2010). Commentary on the New Testament: Verse-by-Verse Explanations with a Literal Translation (p. 388). Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers.