Jesus’ Unbelieving Brothers
John 7:2-10 MKJV And the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles was near. (3) Therefore His brothers said to Him, Move away from here and go into Judea, so that Your disciples also may see the works that You do. (4) For no one does anything in secret, while he himself seeks to be in public. If you do these things, reveal yourself to the world. (5) For His brothers did not believe in Him. (6) Then Jesus said to them, My time has not yet come, but your time is always ready. (7) The world cannot hate you, but it hates Me because I testify of it, that its works are evil. (8) You go up to this feast; I am not yet going up to this feast; for My time is not yet fulfilled. (9) And having said these things to them, He remained in Galilee. (10) But when His brothers had gone up, then He also went up to the feast, not openly, but as in secret.
The Feast of Tabernacles or “Feast of Booths was the “Jewish camping feast” (Goodenough) at the end of the harvest season and went for seven and after the exile for eight days, with people living in tents and in booths made of wicker branches. It was of such social significance that it was simply often called “The Feast”. Sociologically it was not unlike the Christmas-New Year celebrations in many nations, though it had a very different religious significance – of gratitude to God for His blessings and a remembrance of their dwelling in the wilderness. The dwelling in tents broke down social barriers and contributed to the general attitude of merriment. By the time of Jesus an eight day had been added and a water-pouring ceremony where every morning of the celebration a priest went down to the Siloam Fountain, whence he brought in a golden ewer water which was pored on the altar of burnt-offerings, amidst the singing of the Hallel (Pss, cxii-cxvii) and the joyful sound of musical instruments. This becomes the setting for “living water” comments Jesus makes later in this chapter.
The brothers of Jesus seem to be ironic in their comments; John makes clear they did not yet believe on Him and perhaps, like many siblings simply thought that Jesus was being self-promoting. “Go and make a star of yourself you big show –off” seems to be the line of their thoughts. There may have been an additional “and get yourself killed doing it” at the back of their thoughts as well. There is possibly some resentment at His popularity.
The brothers ask Jesus to: “reveal yourself to the world.” But Jesus in contrast makes clear that His job is to reveal the world to itself and to expose their deeds as evil. “The world cannot hate you, but it hates Me because I testify of it, that its works are evil.” Jesus us no Pollyanna optimist, He sees very clearly the evil in the hearts of men - from which they need to be redeemed. In Luke says we are still “evil” even in our best moments:
Luke 11:11-13 MKJV For what father of you, if the son asks for bread, will he give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a snake for a fish? (12) Or if he shall ask for an egg, will he give him a scorpion? (13) If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?
“Then Jesus said to them, My time has not yet come, but your time is always ready.” The unbelieving brothers are simply drifting with the tide of the times, going along with the “world” and its obligations. They exist outside of the times of the Spirit, but in contrast Jesus has “times” ordained by God.
John uses the Greek word “kairos” to denote time here. Kairos is the event-time word (in contrast to clock-time). Event time is “you can watch TV after you have washed up’ in contrast to “you can watch TV at 7:30”. One event (washing-up) determines the next (watching TV) - or in Scripture “first the gospel must be preached as a witness to all nations (first event) then the end shall come (second event)”. Thus “kairos” is used in Scripture to denote God’s special timing of divine events. Jesus must wait for God’s timing before He can go up to the Feast.
“And having said these things to them, He remained in Galilee. But when His brothers had gone up, then He also went up to the feast, not openly, but as in secret.” Jesus did not go up with the family caravan (see Luke 2) and did not announce Himself but simply mingled in, and went up in secret without any fanfare.
Jesus was aware of the populism of His cause, of thousands coming to hear Him and of some wanting to make Him their King. This could have derailed His agenda and seriously marred His training of His disciples. It was also at a point when reaction was building and people were seeking to kill Him. Thus wisdom dictated that He keep a low profile.
Jesus knew that “the world’ without a faith connection to God, is evil, and to be King of that disconnected world is no honor in eternity. Jesus was not trying to play “I am the King of the castle” or to be among the famous A-List Jewish celebrities. Instead He was trying to produce repentant, contrite, prayerful believing saints fit for Heaven. Jesus was interested in changing the spirit of a man for eternity, and not in exterior honors. So Jesus did not do the “normal” things that political aspirants did back then: “For no one does anything in secret, while he himself seeks to be in public. If you do these things, reveal yourself to the world; His agenda was on a far higher plane.