John 7:1-8 reads:

1 "After this, Jesus went around in Galilee, purposely staying away from Judea because the Jews there were waiting to take his life. 2 But when the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles was near, 3 Jesus’ brothers said to him, “You ought to leave here and go to Judea, so that your disciples may see the miracles you do. 4 No one who wants to become a public figure acts in secret. Since you are doing these things, show yourself to the world.” 5 For even his own brothers did not believe in him. 6 Therefore Jesus told them, “The right time for me has not yet come; for you any time is right. 7 The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify that what it does is evil. 8 You go to the Feast. I am not yet going up to this Feast, because for me the right time has not yet come.” 9 Having said this, he stayed in Galilee. 10 However, after his brothers had left for the Feast, he went also, not publicly, but in secret."


At this point in his ministry Jesus had been a public figure for well over a year. His testimony, teaching and miracles generated both opposition and admiration. Indeed, He caused the falling and rising of many in Israel. Now we come home among His brothers, the other sons of Joseph and Mary, finding they too are numbered among the falling.

The brothers of our Lord bait Him to leave the rural obscurity of Galilee and make something of Himself down at Jerusalem, the big city. During the Feast of Tabernacles the city would be ripe for showmanship. The autumn celebration was the most popular of three national feasts bringing an abundance of Jewish pilgrims to the city for seven jubilant days. Here Jesus, if willing, could have the biggest crowds of His career.

It is not so clear in the passage whether the baiting brothers are nourishing resentment or recognition. Did they resent the attention Jesus brought upon the whole family? His provocative fame surely thrust them all into an awkward prominence. How many times can you be asked about your remarkable older brother before your own ordinariness begins to hurt?

If resentment does hide behind the brother's counsel, then these are also the brothers of another Joseph, hoping to be rid of a dearly beloved Son (Gen. 37:19-20).

But maybe resentment is reading the brothers too simply. There could be complex feelings at work here, both a biting resentment and a hunger for recognition. How much admiration from strangers or opposition from neighbors can obscure sons of a carpenter put up with? Maybe they are desperately weary from living in the tension of such a meek miracle-worker. Their counsel could be an unsubtle plea for Jesus to end everyone's angst and go shut down the opposition with mighty miracles to establish the family dynasty once and for all.

Whatever is driving their baited counsel, we can be sure of this: it is run through with unbelief (v. 5). For now unbelief keeps them from understanding Jesus and his mission. For now unbelief leaves them convinced that only the world can grant Jesus his legitimacy. For now the baiting brothers are far more comfortable with the world's testimony about Jesus than they are with Jesus’ testimony about the world.

And what is his testimony about the world? What it does is evil (v. 7).

Jesus did not come to earth to make us feel small (resentment) nor did he come to secure for us the esteem of our neighbors (recognition). Jesus did not come to cater miracles the way politicians cater charisma, intelligence, or military experience. No, he did not come to be admired by the world. Jesus came so that at the right time, while His scattered flock was still doing evil and unbelieving, He could die for us, delivering us from wickedness and everlasting destruction.