Summary: How often do we think we can run God's schedule better than He can?
It’s All in the Timing
Last week, we saw a decisive shift in the ministry of Jesus. Most of his “followers” had left Him because of the harshness of His message. They had wanted the free handouts, but were not interested in the scandalous yoke of discipleship. As long as they could follow on their terms, all was well. But when Jesus demands that his followers must follow on His terms, they were offended and left. Only a small number remained faithful, and as Jesus pointed out, even one of them was a devil (The Devil?). By human terms, Jesus had blown His opportunity to be the Messiah. The crowds had been willing to not just acknowledge Jesus as King and Messiah, they had tried to seize Him (arrest him) and make Him king. He was no longer the one they saw as the deliverer from Roman bondage who would also exalt the Jewish nation above all the nations of the earth.
Exposition of the Text
After the rejection of Jesus in Galilee, the text says He remained in Galilee for another six months, the time from Passover to the Feast of Tabernacles. The reason He remained there was that the Jews in Jerusalem were looking for an opportunity to kill Him. The situation in Galilee wasn’t all that great either as the crowds had left Him. During this time in the other Gospels, Jesus made at least two of his excursions into Gentile territory, to Syro-Phoenicia and to Caesarea Philippi. Jesus used the time to prepare the disciples who had remained with Him for the things which must come to pass concerning Him, including His crucifixion on the next Passover. Jesus was no longer hindered from this by the large crowds of casual seekers.
We know from the gospels that Jesus had at least four brothers and two sisters (Mark 6:3). These were the children of Joseph and Mary, although Catholic tradition makes them sons of Joseph by a previous marriage. Unlike the disciples who had known Jesus for only a couple of years, Jesus’ brethren had known him all their lives. They had to have known there was something special about their brother.
The brothers felt they needed to re-orient and remake Jesus. From the human Jewish viewpoint of the first century, they could see that Jesus’ was wandering in the wilderness of Galilee. Jesus needed to relocate to Jerusalem where things happened. So they invited Jesus to come up to the feast there. If He would just repeat the many miracles he had been doing in Galilee, the crowds and His fame would be restored. In other words, Jesus would regain His lost following and much more. Jesus’ brothers were being very worldly-wise and practical. Whatever they thought of Jesus’ abilities, they saw Him as being eccentric, perhaps if we read from the other gospels, a madman. To them, their brother seemed out of touch with reality. They told Him that if He wanted to be somebody, then He needed to get out in public and show them what He could do. This is the way the world works.
John tells us what lay behind the brother’s actions: “They were not believing in Him”. Despite the privilege of having lived with Jesus, they were completely blind to who their brother was. When we read from the first chapter of John’s gospel, we are reminded that He came unto His own, but his own people rejected Him. His own family who knew Him best by worldly terms had rejected Him. They came at one point to take Him away because they though Him to be mad as an embarrassment to the family (Mark 6) His home synagogue at Nazareth rejected Him and tried to kill Him (Luke 4). Galilee had rejected Him. And his own nation would soon hand Him over (same word as used of Judas’ betrayal) to the Romans for crucifixion. The very people who held the highest degree of privilege of being with Jesus were the ones who would ultimately blow the greatest opportunity ever offered to men in this world. “Truly He was despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrow and acquainted with grief.”
Jesus rebukes His brother’s idea strongly. The idea of what He is saying here is that as far as the world’s ideas, any time is the right time. By saying this, Jesus’ brothers are denying God’s sovereignty over time and creation. They like the world are willfully ignorant of what God is doing. Here they are in the dark, even though they are face to face with God.
His brothers had not been in touch with what Jesus was doing. If they had, they would have known that Jesus had already done many miracles in Jerusalem. Like the Galileans, they had seen and rejected Him. Jesus could have told them: “Been there, done that”. Jesus alludes to this rejection when He tells them that the world hates Him. The real rebuke was that the world was incapable of hating Jesus’ brothers. If they had been believers and followers of Jesus, they would have had to face the same hatred and rejection. Jesus is abundantly clear in all the gospels of the cost of discipleship. If the world does not hate someone who claims to be a follower of Jesus, it makes this claim to be a follower of Jesus false. If this is carried to the point that the world is incapable of hating the so-called follower of Christ, then the falsity of this claim is established beyond all doubt. The brothers of Jesus were no better than heathens.