John 7:1-13 Unbelieving Brothers

After this Jesus went about in Galilee. He would not go about in Judea, because the Jews were seeking to kill him. Now the Jews’ Feast of Booths was at hand. So his brothers said to him, “Leave here and go to Judea, that your disciples also may see the works you are doing. For no one works in secret if he seeks to be known openly. If you do these things, show yourself to the world.” For not even his brothers believed in him. Jesus said to them, “My time has not yet come, but your time is always here. The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify about it that its works are evil. You go up to the feast. I am not going up to this feast, for my time has not yet fully come.” 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.

Unbelieving Brothers

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.


  1. With whom does Jesus dialogue in this passage?
  2. How would you expect these people to feel about Jesus?
  3. Why do you think Jesus went up to Jerusalem for the Feast of Booths?
  4. How do people today who know a lot about Jesus still fail to know him?
  5. How does Jesus’ isolation from his family help believers today?

About Plymothian

I teach at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. My interests include education, biblical studies, and spiritual formation. I have been married to Kelli since 1998 and we have two children, Daryl and Amelia. For recreation I like to run, play soccer, play board games, read and travel.
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20 Responses to John 7:1-13 Unbelieving Brothers

  1. Kathleen says:

    Jesus is talking to his brothers in this passage. I would expect his brothers to be the first to believe him since they probably have spent a significant amount of time around him. You would think that they would notice that Jesus is different. I think people today can be filled with head knowledge about Jesus but miss the point completely. Jesus wants a relationship with us. Seeing that Jesus was isolated from his family can be an encouragement to believers who do not have support from their families for their faith. I am incredibly blessed to have grown up in a Christian home with believing parents. But this is not always the case for everyone. I would be encouraged to know that Jesus knows and understands how I am feeling if I was the only one in my family who believed.

  2. Janice Lee says:

    1. Jesus is talking with his brothers.
    2. I would expect them to know and believe in His identity as the Messiah.
    3. I think Jesus went up to the Feast of Booths to worship His Father.
    4. Some people have a lot of head knowledge about Jesus but do not have a personal, growing relationship with Him.
    5. Jesus’ isolation from His family encourages believers today to identify Him as our family. Because Jesus experienced the pain of isolation, He identifies with us and comforts us. We are never alone because He is with us.

  3. Jenna says:

    1. Jesus talked to His (half-)brothers.
    2. You would expect His family to recognize His deity – surely Mary knew it! Wouldn’t they have seen His sinlessness?
    3. Jesus had something to tell the people – we’ll see it later in the chapter. Jesus didn’t go down with His brothers because He needed to appear later, so that the Jews didn’t kill Him yet!
    4. Sometimes we don’t want to believe – we want to be self-sufficient and prove the “truth” – “God helps those who help themselves”.
    5. I should expect to be rejected and misunderstood – Jesus was, even by His own family! Even the worst rejection I could go through is not as bad as what Jesus has endured.

  4. Sara Cavitt says:

    1) Jesus speaks with his brothers.
    2) Because they are family, I would have expected them to believe and trust what He said.
    3) I think He went up to Jerusalem to worship and to also speak to the people.
    4) Even though people may know Jesus, they may not truly understand who He is, so they fail to have a true relationship with Him.
    5) It helps us in knowing that those closest to us may reject us and doubt us in our relationship with Jesus, because even Jesus was rejected by His family.

  5. Mary says:

    Note: Please see yesterday’s post for Part 1.

    In light of two courses I am currently taking where the professors have very different views on the whole T.U.L.I.P conversation, I have been thinking a lot about the effects of fall on mankind. Thus the reason for my extended rabbit trail.

    “Calvin maintained that the effects of the Fall are dramatic in that sin profoundly effects every dimension of the human person—including the intellectual, volitional, emotional, and moral dimensions.” What is the noetic effect of sin; how does sin affect the mind? To reason is to be human, to reason right is of grace. However, sin affects the ability to reason right, because it orients us toward self-lordship. (class notes).

    Some verses that come to mind regarding the state of mankind apart from Christ, and our state prior to knowing Him, are: they suppressed the truth, God gave them over to their sinful desires and a depraved mind, we are enemies of God, we do not seek him but flee him, there is no one who seeks God, we are dead in our sin and transgressions, we are unable to come to Christ unless the Father calls us, we are a slave to sin – “the evil I do not want to do I keep on doing.”

    In conjunction with the above, John chs. 1-6, and some other passages that are in my mind that I won’t look up for the sake of time, here is my interpretation.

    The Father eternally knew us and chose us to be his. Both the Father and the Son calls us (we did not seek Him first, He sought/called us!), and we come (6:37, 45), believing in the person and work of Christ and thus receiving life (5:24-25, 6:27-29). Until that point, we are condemned, only then do we cross over into life (5:24-26, 37-40). But once we are His, we are forever His, and nothing can change that (6:37-40, 56)!

    Alternatively, those who do not listen to the Father, do not have the love of God in their hearts; therefore, they reject Jesus, and thus will be condemned (5:36-47). Do they receive a call? According to various verses about predestination and calling (Rom. 1:6-7; 8:28-30; Eph. 1:5, 11), they do not, only those the Father has chosen receive a call. While I do not understand the full depth of this, and it hurts to think that not everyone is chosen and therefore perishes apart from Christ, I know that He is sovereign, holy, just, and loving, and my finite and broken mind must just not be able to comprehend the paradox of this.

    Another food for thought, based on one of those two classes I mentioned, but on a separate note, can we interpret the multiple verses that say “Faith without works is dead” in light of Jn. 6:26, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”

    If so, I would interpret the phrase “faith without works is dead” to mean the person who follows the laws of “religion” (or the laws of Moses respectively) but does not believe in the saving person and work of Christ (the law of grace respectively), whom God the Father sent, is headed for eternal damnation.

    Wow!!! This puts that whole faith without works debate into a whole new perspective for me. Any thoughts???

    Lord, I am still learning, and will always be learning. Please help me to “catch up” at the speed you feel is best for me and not what I think is best based on other’s level of knowledge of your Word. Remind me constantly to rely solely on you and your works and not on myself. Thank you for giving me a hunger and thirst for righteousness and for satisfying. Please also help me to get my school work done…Amen.

  6. karas says:

    I find it so interesting that Jesus’ brothers didn’t believe Him. I wonder how that must have felt and how He felt visiting Jerusalem during the Feast of Booths and hearing what everyone was saying about Him. He really made quite the mark in just a short amount of time, because people everywhere were talking about Him (and then He changed the world…and became the most significant figure in all of history.. 🙂 ). Some people will know about Jesus but not know Him, and this makes me think of the Apologetics class I am taking and the different approaches people advocate because of the danger of knowing facts without knowing the person behind Christianity.
    As for helping people today, knowing that Jesus was not accepted by His family is a huge comfort. It is proof that He really has suffered in every way and understands what we go through. What a great high priest we have.

  7. Beth Coale says:

    1. his own brothers. Wow, this is really personal.
    2. I wonder if they knew about his miraculous birth, and I wonder what they thought about His sinless life & character. At the same time, it would be hard to believe that someone so seemingly “ordinary” as your own brother would be the Son of God. This reminds me of Joseph and how his brothers responded to him telling about who he was.
    3. Probably for reasons similar to why He stayed at the temple when he was young – because where else would He be? Of course He would be in His Father’s house
    4. their knowledge is prepositional, not personal
    5. they know they are not alone in their feeling of isolation and that Jesus can sympathize with them

  8. Ashley says:

    1. Jesus was speaking with his brothers.
    2. I would expect his brothers to be his first followers.
    3. I wonder if Jesus wanted to go there in private. He was able to observe the people without them realizing he was there.
    4. People fail to know Jesus intimately. They know a lot of facts about him, but fail to have a relationship with him.
    5. There are many believers today who have been disowned by their families because of Jesus. He can identify with this.

  9. Lacy says:

    1. Jesus dialogued with his biological brothers.
    2. I would expect his own family to support him and know the truth about him.
    3. Well, I would assume he went up to preach and minister, but his agenda was different than the agenda his brothers wanted for him, so he went up separately from them.
    4. Knowing facts about Jesus is entirely different from having the gift of a faith-based, intimate relationship with him.
    5. Believers can be confident that, when they feel isolated from their own loved ones who don’t understand their faith, their Great High Priest can sympathize and is with them.

  10. Stephanie Luck says:

    1. With whom does Jesus dialogue in this passage?
    With His brothers
    2. How would you expect these people to feel about Jesus?
    One would think that His brothers and close family members would have believed (or at least respected) Jesus after watching Him grow up. Clearly something was very very different with Him!
    3. Why do you think Jesus went up to Jerusalem for the Feast of Booths?
    Jesus had a different plan, a different purpose, and different timing than His brothers, so He went to the Feast on His own terms. Jesus followed the direction of His father and went to the Feast and taught in the Temple. Later on He proclaimed that He is living water—the fulfillment of the Feast!
    4. How do people today who know a lot about Jesus still fail to know him?
    Their eyes and hearts were blinded—they did not believe.
    5. How does Jesus’ isolation from his family help believers today?
    Dysfunctional and broken families are so common today. Knowing that Jesus experienced many of the same feelings and hurts is a comfort and an encouragement to keep being faithful.

  11. How do people today who know a lot about Jesus still fail to know him? “Some can gain head knowledge of Christ, but not experience heart knowledge. Without the illumining of the Holy Spirit, one cannot grow in his true knowledge of the Scriptures. When one does not know the Scriptures, he cannot grow to know the Living Word (Jesus!). And without knowing Jesus, one cannot know God. There is one mediator between God and man and that is Jesus Christ, but we cannot know God unless we start with the Living Word through the word (Scripture!).”

  12. Amy McCashen says:

    1. His brothers.
    2. I would want them to believe in HIm, however I understand why it is hard not to. THey grew up with him, watched him always be the “perfect brother”. What a big brother to live up to!
    3. I think he went up anyway to hear what others were saying about him.
    4. Some people know lots of facts about Jesus, but they do not really know him personally or accept him as their Savior.
    5. Jesus is different than his family because he is perfect. Because of his sinless life, he was a perfect sacrifice for us and this helps all who believe in him today to have eternal life with God.

  13. Austin Brose says:

    Jesus dialogued with His brothers in this passage. I would expect these people to not believe in Him right away, for Im sure they just say Him as their deranged brother. I think Jesus went up to Jerusalem for the feast of Booths to preach the Good News, that He was the fulfillment of the feast. Many people may know the Sunday school answers, or know the actions to take to seem like a Christian, yet their heart is not in the right place to really know Him. Jesus’ isolation from His family help believers today because many believers are isolated from their families because of their beliefs. Therefore, Jesus can commiserate with us in all things.

  14. Rachel says:

    Jesus is talking with his brothers who are not recognizing his sinless righteousness, but rejecting him. Even those who were closest to Jesus misunderstood and rejected him. The same thing can happen today, when people know a lot about Jesus seem to criticize him most harshly. He has experienced the rejection that many believers today feel, even from their “religious” friends. It was the religious people who crush others under their hypocrisy, failing to recognize who they are.

  15. Bethany says:

    4. There are so many people, even at Moody, who know so many facts about the Bible. But, they don’t know him on a personal level. This is why many people who know so much about Theology and the Bible have major doubts because it is as if they know too much without feeling any of it.

  16. nataliaria says:

    In this passage, Jesus is converses with his brothers. In a perfect world, I would like to think that his brothers understood Jesus’ nature and role in the world, but part of me also wonders if there might have been some resentment in them over the fame He had accrued, and His claims to be the Messiah.

    Jesus going to up to Judea is an interesting move, especially after giving His brothers a somewhat vague response that almost made it seem as if He would not go up. I am sure that there was a greater motivation for His doing so; whether He knew there would be work for Him there, or maybe He wanted to demonstrate that God’s plans are so much higher than man’s thinking or plans.

    I think that many people- often myself included- get as far as knowing about Jesus, and mistake (or settle on) that as sufficient interaction with Christ. It’s a complex situation, because it costs effort and involvement and vulnerability on the part of the believer, but the benefits of knowing Christ intimately and personally- as we are able to do, amazingly- so far outweigh whatever effort or exertion we may put in. Also, when it comes down to it, He is the one who has initiated every step of our relationship with Him, and that alone is such a grace.

  17. Sarah Deurbrouck says:

    Through the book of John I have seen so much of Jesus’ life here on earth and it perplexes me so much. The crowd has such an interesting reaction to Jesus supposed absence from the festival. Why did Jesus go? Good question. To be faithful? Maybe, but probably not. Jesus was among the people yet they did not know it. Maybe that has something to do with it.

  18. Nick says:

    It is easy to know a lot about Jesus by simply reading the Gospels and learning about him in church growing up. I know people that can recite verses and facts about Jesus, but do not truly have a relationship with Jesus and do not truly know him. It takes a lot more work and sacrifice to follow Jesus than it does to memorize him.

  19. Rebekah Thompson (Bekah) says:

    1. He was talking to his brothers
    2. To know who he was exactly
    3. To speak to the people as well as spend time worshiping his father
    4. Because they just know facts…knowing facts doesn’t prove to know him in the same way you can know a friend or a best friend…you must form a personal relationship with him.
    5. Because Christ is our Family, he is our Home

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