7 After this, Jesus traveled around Galilee. He wanted to stay out of Judea, where the Jewish leaders were plotting his death. 2 But soon it was time for the Jewish Festival of Shelters, 3 and Jesus’ brothers said to him, “Leave here and go to Judea, where your followers can see your miracles! 4 You can’t become famous if you hide like this! If you can do such wonderful things, show yourself to the world!” 5 For even his brothers didn’t trust him.
6 Jesus replied, “Now is not the right time for me to go, but you can go anytime. 7 The world can’t hate you, but it does hate me because I accuse it of doing evil. 8 You go on. I’m not going to this festival, because my time has not yet come.” 9 After saying these things, Jesus remained in Galilee.
10 But after his brothers left for the festival, Jesus also went, though secretly, staying out of public view. 11 The Jewish leaders tried to find him at the festival and kept asking if anyone had seen him.12 There was a lot of grumbling about him among the crowds. Some argued, “He’s a good man,” but others said, “He’s nothing but a fraud who deceives the people.” 13 But no one had the courage to speak favorably about him in public, for they were afraid of getting in trouble with the Jewish leaders.
When we started reading John, I told you that one of the main themes is the world’s hostility to God. We have seen glimpses of this already, but over chapters 7 and 8, we are going to see this fully expressed. Jesus is opposed by a variety of people, ranging from those very close to him (his own brothers today) to authorities distant from him. John uses these conflicts to more clearly define both the nature of the world’s hostility and the nature of God’s loving response, as Jesus refuses to be defined by the world or its hostility.
We see this played out in today’s reading and we also see a good example of why we are using “trust” instead of “believe in” to translate the Greek word pisteuo. If we read, “For even his brothers didn’t believe in him,” that suggests they were skeptical about his claims and/or his miracles. But this is clearly wrong since they advise him to take his show on the road to the big city so everyone can see his miracles and buy into his claim. What his brothers fail to do is to trust that Jesus knows what he is doing, that he is taking the proper approach to using his powers and fulfilling his role as Messiah.
Jesus’ power is not the issue here. Jesus’ way is the problem. The brothers give good, common sense advice. They point Jesus down the road of success. Their way would make him famous. But common sense is not Jesus sense. Success strategies are not the cross strategy. The world is fine with power, with miracles, even with believing in things. All those can be made to fit within what we call success. But waiting, timing, self-sacrifice, and trust don’t fit at all. Jesus refused to settle for establishing a cult of personality because those never overcome the world’s hostility, they capitulate to it, exploit it for personal gain, and thus only re-entrench it. The world’s hostility – our hostility, yes we all share in it – is only overcome by love that gives itself away freely. This is what we are called to trust – and by trust I mean participate in.
There is a lesson here for the (especially American) church. I hope we don’t miss it.
New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale HousePublishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.