“After this, Jesus traveled around Galilee. He wanted to stay out of Judea, where the Jewish leaders were plotting His death. But soon it was time for the Jewish Festival of Shelters, and Jesus’ brothers said to Him, ‘Leave here and go to Judea, where your followers can see Your miracles! You can’t become famous if you hide like this! If You can do such wonderful things, show Yourself to the world!’ For even His brothers didn’t believe in Him. Jesus replied, ‘Now is not the right time for Me to go, but you can go anytime. The world can’t hate you, but it does hate Me because I accuse it of doing evil. You go on. I’m not going to this festival, because My time has not yet come.” – John 7:1-8 (NLT)
An interesting passage today. This is one of those that has stumped a lot of people over the years. A lot of people read this passage and they go, “Did Jesus lie here? Because He ended up going to the festival after all, even though He told His brothers He wasn’t going.”
Obviously we know that because Jesus never sinned, He didn’t lie. But it does raise the question of, why did this story play out like this? Why did Jesus tell His brothers (Jewish brothers, not actual brothers according to marriage) that He wasn’t going, but then seemingly change His mind? For in verse 10 we are told, “But after His brothers left for the festival, Jesus also went, though secretly, staying out of public view.”
I feel that the NKJV explains verse 8 in a more appropriate manner, giving clarity to the why behind Jesus’ words. This verse in the NKJV says, “You go up to this feast. I am not yet going up to this feast, for My time has not yet fully come” (John7:8 NKJV). This is how I understand this passage when I read it. It is not necessarily that Jesus said He wasn’t going at all, but that He was not yet going to go. And I feel that John so clearly gives us the reasoning behind why He did not go at the same time as the rest.
In verse 5, John clearly states that Jesus’ brothers lacked belief in Him. Now again, when the word “brothers” is used here, it is referring to Jesus’ Jewish brothers, not His literal brother from His mother. As for who specifically it is referring to, that is a question that can only be answered by speculation. He was clearly in Galilee, which means that His disciples were also there with Him. But then there were also the people of Galilee who knew Jesus, and they knew of His miracles. Their familiarity with Him bred contempt towards Him. Sometimes the ones who lack faith in us end up being the ones most familiar with us.
Back to the main topic at hand. So Jesus told His brothers He wasn’t yet going, but then after they left for the festival, He decided to go in secret. Why? It is clear that whoever is referred to by “brothers” did not have pure motives for wanting Jesus to go. They were caught up in the fame that was being brought on by Jesus’ miracles. They were so caught up in it, in fact, that they were blind to the reality of Jesus’ purpose. And Jesus knew this. He saw their hearts, the motives that were in them. They wanted to not bring attention to Jesus and themselves, but they also lack full belief in who He was. This lack of belief cause their motives to turn into something impure, which is what bred the focus on fame. They lived in a society and a culture where, if you were able to do something great, you did it in public view to gain fame and glory (sound familiar?). Yet Jesus was against this. He never sought the glory for what He did. He even went so far as to tell some that He healed to not reveal what He had done. Yet no one could understand the reasoning behind this. This is the purest form of humility displayed clearly for us all, yet we turn a blind eye to it.
“Look beneath the surface so you can judge correctly.” – John 7:24 (NLT)