John 7:2-10 (autumn, AD 29)
Jesus’ brothers didn’t get it. Simon, Jude, Joseph and James must have known he was an exceptionally good person, but he also seemed like an attention-seeker with a bad agent. There they were in the under-populated, under-recognised north, with a trip to the big city begging, and Jesus didn’t seem interested.
Whhyyy, big bro? You want the attention, don’t you? Go to the Festival! Everyone will be there!
The annual Festival of Tabernacles took place a the temple in Jerusalem. It celebrated God’s provision during the 40 wilderness years after the Exodus, and was also used as an annual harvest celebration. His brothers figured that was a perfect opportunity to “show yourself to the world”; after all, “No-one who wants to become a public figure acts in secret” (v.4).
It wasn’t simply that Jesus’ brothers didn’t get it. As if, bless ‘em, how COULD they expect to believe that their older brother was God himself? John didn’t say, ‘they didn’t know’, or ‘they hadn’t realised’. He said they “did not believe in him” (v.5). It was an act of disbelief. (There’s no mention of what attitude Jesus’ sisters took.)
Jesus’ words to them were a stinging criticism: “The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify that its works are evil” (v.7).
Contrast that with what Jesus said to his disciples: “Everyone will hate you because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved” (Mark 13:13).
The inference is clear. His brothers, who were perfectly content to attend a religious festival at the other end of the country to keep up the appearances of godliness, were not godly but worldly. That’s why the world ‘could not’ hate them. The world hates Jesus and everyone who follows him. But the world loves those who agree with its sinful principles.
We don’t know how or when things changed for those three men. But for at least two of them, change they most definitely did, and a post-resurrection visitation by Jesus to James may have been his moment (1 Cor 15:7). James was the leader of the early church in Jerusalem, and was joined by his brother Jude in writing part of the Bible.
They were so close to God – exposed to perfection on a daily basis – yet rejected it for perhaps 33 years or even more. Being immersed in a Christian environment didn’t save them and it won’t save you. Having Christians parents doesn’t mean your sins are forgiven, and having godly people who care about you doesn’t keep you safe from your own sin. Going to church justifies nobody, never has someone been redeemed by saying religious things.
Even Jesus’ biological brothers had to put their trust in Jesus for themselves and turn against their culture of hypocrisy and religiosity. Whether the culture around you is the idol of self-indulgence or the shackles of religious slavery, your need to put your trust in Jesus is the same.
And then you will no longer fit in, because the world hates your Saviour and all he stands for – now, as much as ever.