After this Jesus went about in Galilee. He would not go about in Judea, because the Jews were seeking to kill him. 2 Now the Jews’ Feast of Booths was at hand. 3 So his brothers said to him, “Leave here and go to Judea, that your disciples also may see the works you are doing. 4 For no one works in secret if he seeks to be known openly. If you do these things, show yourself to the world.” 5 For not even his brothers believed in him. 6 Jesus said to them, “My time has not yet come, but your time is always here. 7 The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify about it that its works are evil. 8 You go up to the feast. I am not going up to this feast, for my time has not yet fully come.” 9 After saying this, he remained in Galilee.
10 But after his brothers had gone up to the feast, then he also went up, not publicly but in private. 11 The Jews were looking for him at the feast, and saying, “Where is he?” 12 And there was much muttering about him among the people. While some said, “He is a good man”, others said, “No, he is leading the people astray.” 13 Yet for fear of the Jews no one spoke openly of him.
It is attested that Jesus’ brothers didn’t believe in him. In other passages it seems that they thought he was insane. If Jesus was sinless, wouldn’t that have clued them in to who he was? I am not sure it would have. Look at the language he uses in today’s passage. He speaks to them as outsiders who conform to the world. They think he is being petty about Jerusalem. When he secretly goes to Jerusalem the crowd is talking about him leading people astray. Jesus is righteous because he is right, however to those who are protecting their own ego and have their own agenda, Jesus falls short. Jesus’ brothers probably see him as a prig. Those in the community may see him as a trouble-maker.
I have grown to like these accounts, not just because Jesus’ family comes to believe after his resurrection, but because they smack of authenticity in the retelling. I would have written a history where Jesus’ close family always saw how righteous he was. I would have written a one-dimensional hero. However, the gospel writers show the disciples as deluded and the people close to Jesus as unbelieving. This all takes a miraculous reversal at the cross or at Pentecost, but the isolation of Jesus highlights his singularity. There is no-one like Jesus and we must interpret that appropriately.
Many today see Jesus as impossible to know. The accounts in the gospels are fictions, in their view, constructed to create a Jesus who can be worshiped as God. Many dismiss Jesus on the grounds that we can not know who he was. However, as I read John this time I find a Jesus who walks an isolated path, but he cultivates a sustaining relationship with his Father. We must be unafraid to look to the Father through Christ and walk that isolated path, too. What we will find is that we are in the company of the one who has the words of eternal life. What we will find is purpose and a hope.
No-one ‘got’ you Jesus. Your disciples longed to be with you, but they did not know what Messiah had to be. Your family mocked you and thought you were insane. However, you had a resolve that came from your intimacy with the Father and the Spirit. help us to walk in the same way. Help us to be disciplined in the way we walk with you, never losing sight of the goal.
- With whom does Jesus dialogue in this passage?
- How would you expect these people to feel about Jesus?
- Why do you think Jesus went up to Jerusalem for the Feast of Booths?
- How do people today who know a lot about Jesus still fail to know him?
- How does Jesus’ isolation from his family help believers today?