Hiding From Fame: John 7:1-9

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When we imagine Jesus traveling throughout the countryside healing, teaching, and preaching to the crowds, in our minds, we always see the rag-tag group of disciples traveling alongside with Him. We don’t ever get the picture that the disciples were anywhere but with Jesus.

However, in an odd turn of events, the gospel of John gives us a glimpse into a brief moment where Jesus was not with His disciples, but instead, He was with His brothers. While I don’t know what the context for this event was, it is interesting in my mind that John chose to include it in his gospel.

Our event can be found in the gospel of John, chapter 7, and for our time together, we will be reading from the New American Standard Bible translation. Starting in verse 1, John tells us that:

1 After these things Jesus was walking in Galilee, for He was unwilling to walk in Judea because the Jews were seeking to kill Him. 2 Now the feast of the Jews, the Feast of Booths, was near. 3 Therefore His brothers said to Him, “Leave here and go into Judea, so that Your disciples also may see Your works which You are doing. 4 For no one does anything in secret when he himself seeks to be known publicly. If You do these things, show Yourself to the world.” 5 For not even His brothers were believing in Him. 6 So Jesus said to them, “My time is not yet here, but your time is always opportune. 7 The world cannot hate you, but it hates Me because I testify of it, that its deeds are evil. 8 Go up to the feast yourselves; I do not go up to this feast because My time has not yet fully come.” 9 Having said these things to them, He stayed in Galilee.

The big thing I find fascinating in this passage is what Jesus’ brothers imply through their words. In verse 4, Jesus’ brothers challenge Jesus by saying, “no one does anything in secret when he himself seeks to be known publicly”.

In essence, while Jesus’ brothers probably realize that Jesus is significant, and they probably grew up with the knowledge of Jesus extraordinary birth, and they also probably grew up hearing from Mary and Joseph that Jesus was the Messiah God had promised, none of these extraordinary things from Jesus’ past or present made sense to them when Jesus was not willing to be open or public about who He was.

In Jesus’ brothers’ minds, Jesus was going about the role of Messiah in the completely wrong way. If He was to be rallying people together in an effort to overthrow the Romans, staying out of Judea was not a practical plan, because while Judea included people who wanted to kill Him, it also contained some of the people who were most likely to join a rebellion. In Galilee, which had a much higher concentration of Gentiles than other parts of the country, Jesus wouldn’t have as much support, nor would He be as visible to the Jews that Jesus’ brothers believed He came to exclusively save.

But the error Jesus’ brothers make is that Jesus wanted to be known publicly. It is this error that catches many Christians and believers off guard, because while Jesus was famous because of the counter-cultural message He was sharing, and because He was able to heal almost anyone from almost anything that was bothering them, Christians today might incorrectly assume that fame was part of Jesus’ goals.

However, Jesus counters this very point by saying in verse 7, “The world cannot hate you, but it hates Me because I testify of it”. In these words, Jesus separates those present into two groups: Others and Himself. In this statement, Jesus also gives the counter-cultural message that the world hates Him.

Not everyone living in the first century hated Jesus, but there was a significant number of people who did. Probably the biggest source of hate towards Jesus both then and now is that His perfect life and selfless character conflict with the sin inside all of us. To reconcile this, we have to either accept Jesus’ offer of His new life, or try and fail to live up to the standard that He set through His life, or give up and not even try at all.

Jesus is hated because He calls evil by its true name, and His perfect life was modeled after the idea of loving the sinner while rejecting the sin. Jesus saw people as special, regardless of their past choices and sinful lifestyles. This love resonated with some, while it repelled a majority of others.

The majority of people who rejected Jesus did so because He either said things they did not agree with or feel they could live up to, or because they routinely built themselves up by putting others down.

Any fame Jesus received through His counter-cultural message and through the miracles He performed was not because He was trying to build a name for Himself. Instead, everything He did was because God directed Him to do so and because He wanted to give the glory to God. None of Jesus’ miracles was intended to bring glory or praise onto Himself; but every one of Jesus’ miracles was intended to focus the glory onto God who had worked in a mighty and powerful way.

In our own lives, for those of us who call ourselves followers of Jesus, Christians, or disciples, we are to reflect Jesus in our daily lives, and the only way we can truly reflect Him is if we are focused on Him, if we regularly spend time with Him, and if we intentionally love others like Him. The only way we can hope to accomplish anything for God is by doing what Jesus did and living like Jesus lived: Jesus depended on God for direction, guidance, power, love, humility, and He gave up self at every opportunity He could. When tempted, Jesus always pointed the focus elsewhere, and He never directed glory towards Himself.

Jesus’ brothers did not understand this because His brothers didn’t understand what God’s Messiah would be like. Similar to most everyone living in the first century, Jesus’ brothers believed He would be the military leader who would overthrow the Romans.

Only after Jesus’ death and the mold for their idea of Messiah was broken do His closest followers, friends, and family realize that God’s Messiah came in a different way than they had imagined.

As we come to the close of another podcast episode, here are the challenges I want to leave you with:

Continue to place God first and seek to do His will. Commit each day to living as selflessly as Jesus lived and loving others like Jesus loved. Know that you cannot succeed without God’s help, so lean on Him for the strength to reflect Jesus each day.

Also, prayerfully study the Bible for yourself to learn and grow more like Jesus. The only way for you to truly be like Jesus is to learn, and discover who Jesus was. While you could take a podcaster’s or pastor’s word for it, it’s much better to study and learn personally, because God wants to know you personally and not as a “friend of a friend”.

And as I always end each set of challenges by saying in one way or another, never stop short of where God wants to lead you to in your life with Him!

Season 3 – Episode 23: Cam discusses a rare moment when Jesus was with His brothers and His disciples were elsewhere. Learn why even Jesus’ brothers didn’t believe in Him, and why this matters to us living today.

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