John 7:4 No one who wants to become a public figure acts in secret. Since you are doing these things, show yourself to the world.
The Festival of Tabernacles was approaching, and many were going to Jerusalem for a week long celebration of Israel’s journey from Egypt to the Promised Land. The religious leaders wanted to kill Jesus, so he was keeping a low profile by living and preaching in Galilee, a few days north. But his brothers were mocking him for not taking his ministry to the big city.
John 7:5 For even his own brothers did not believe in him.
Jesus’ mother believed in him, and Joseph had believed in him, but his own brothers did not believe in him. Jesus was the oldest of at least seven children including James, Joseph, Simon, Judas, and two or more sisters (Matthew 13:55). After Jesus rose from the dead, James and Jude believed, and wrote the books that bear their names. But we do not know if his other siblings ever believed or not.
It is significant that John was not embarrassed to include the fact that Jesus’ brothers did not believe in him. If John’s account was fictional, he would have said that it was obvious to those who knew Jesus best that he was the Messiah. By including embarrassing facts, the gospel writers showed that they were only concerned to report the truth.
It is also clear that Jesus’ divinity was not obvious to everyone. He got hungry, thirsty and tired, just like everyone else. He did not have a halo; he did not glow in the dark; and he did not walk a foot above the ground. Jesus was truly God, but also truly human. He was one person with two natures, and they were not blended to produce a hybrid. Jesus seemed remarkably similar to everyone else.
We should also notice that it was possible to be very close to Jesus and not believe in him. Likewise, many grow up in church, and learn the Bible thoroughly, but never truly believe. Some even stay in church, and gain a Christian reputation, without ever coming to faith. Some even go into occupational ministry.
Familiarity with Jesus can even result in contempt for him, as it did with his brothers. Many who grow up in church later despise Christianity as unworthy of their time, talent or treasure. Imagine being extremely close to Jesus Christ but missing out on his salvation. The thought should make us shudder.
John 7:17 Anyone who chooses to do the will of God will find out whether my teaching comes from God.
When Jesus got to the festival, he discovered the crowds were whispering about him. Some thought he was a good man, others thought he was a deceiver. But how could they know for sure? Jesus could do another miracle, but that wouldn’t change anyone’s mind. Instead, he gave a universal way. Anyone who chooses to do the will of God will find out whether my teaching comes from God.
This is revolutionary. Even a child can know that Christianity is true simply by choosing to do God’s will. The truth of Christianity is not rationally discerned so much as it’s revealed by the Spirit. If we choose to do God’s will, the Holy Spirit will persuade us that Christianity is true.
This was important in Jesus’ day because believing in Christ often came with a price. You could be excluded from the synagogue, and shunned by family and friends. Employers might not want to hire you, and you could be forced to the margins of society. Becoming a Christian could even cost your life, so it was important to be sure that Christianity was true.
Thankfully, God is willing to guide anyone who chooses to do his will. If we simply pray, Dear God, I want to do your will no matter what—God will lead us directly to Jesus Christ. But God is under no obligation to those who reject his will. Intellectual objections are usually just an excuse for rebelling against God.
Several years ago I spoke with a young man who professed to be an atheist. He was quite above average intellectually, but his lifestyle could only be sustained if God did not exist. So I asked if he would be willing to follow Jesus Christ, if he could know for sure that Christianity is true. To my surprise, he said he would not. Then I understood that his first concern was not for the truth, but for his lifestyle. And that is how it usually works. We change our lives to fit the truth, or we distort the truth to fit our lives.
John 7:27 But we know where this man is from; when the Messiah comes, no one will know where he is from.
At this point the crowd was completely confused. They were surprised that Jesus had not been arrested, and were wondering if the religious leaders had changed their minds about him. Jesus could not be the Messiah, of course, since they knew where Jesus was from. And no one would know where the Messiah was from. Right?
Actually, the prophet identified Bethlehem as the place of Messiah’s birth. But you, Bethlehem . . . out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel (Micah 5:2), wrote Micah. We understand ignorance at the popular level, but even the experts were confused. Look into it, and you will find that a prophet does not come out of Galilee (John 7:52), they said. Never mind that Jonah was from Galilee (2 Kings 14:25), and possibly others.
And never mind that Isaiah identified Galilee with the Messiah. [I]n the future he will honor Galilee . . . . The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned. . . . For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:1-6), he wrote.
The religious leaders did not reject Jesus because of their great knowledge of the Bible, but because of their ignorance of the Bible. Some think ignorance is bliss, but ignorance of what we ought to know can be fatal. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also reject you as my priests; because you have ignored the law of your God, I also will ignore your children (Hosea 4:6), said God.
If reading the Bible is not part of your daily schedule, you need to adjust your schedule. Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ, and ignorance of Christ is sin.
Reflection and Review
Why didn’t Jesus’ brothers believe in him?
How can we know that Christianity is true?
Why did the religious leaders reject Christ?