Summary: Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ. John 7 shows us the struggle many had with hearing Jesus, even his brothers.
Chapter 7 opens with Jesus having to stay clear of Judea because he was in danger of being killed there. Is there anywhere you know of that people are looking to kill you if you show up?
Just imagine that.
Next we learn that there is a feast of Tabernacles coming up and Jesus’ brothers tell him that he really ought to go show off his works publically back in Judea. It appears that they are actually taunting him. John says in verse 5: Even his own brothers did not believe in him.
Think about that… Jesus’ own brothers did not believe in him. Why, I wonder, does John’s gospel tell us that? What is the purpose and what lesson can we learn from this? Mark 3:21 tells us that at one point Jesus’ mother and brothers went to take custody of him because they said, “He has lost his senses!” What does that tell you about Jesus’ family support for his ministry?
How important is it to you to have your family believe in you? It is true that brothers are notoriously unsupportive of each other at times, and the Bible has plenty of examples of brothers who didn’t get along, much less give support by believing in one another. Remember Cain and Abel? That didn’t work out very well, did it? Jacob and Esau, Joseph and his brothers… brothers have often had a difficult time appreciating and helping each other’s spiritual growth. There are exceptions, but they are rare. The image the gospels give us indicates that Jesus lived with just such a difficult relationship with his brothers. Not until after the resurrection do we see them coming to faith. But thankfully, at least some did. Acts 1:14 tells us that Jesus mother and brothers were there praying with the 120 who gathered in Jerusalem after Jesus was raised. They were with the others who waited on the Power of the Holy Spirit to come. Most notably among them is Jesus’ brother, James. He eventually became a pillar in the church and even wrote a book in our New Testament! So things eventually changed from what we see here in John 7.
But back to John 7… John does not hide anything here. Jesus is losing his approval ratings by huge percentage points at this time in his ministry. In chapter 6, after claiming to be the bread of life and preaching that his own flesh and blood are the food and drink that brings eternal life, many disciples leave Jesus and no longer follow. Next in John is a low time in Jesus’ popularity. He even asks his 12 chosen disciples if they intend to leave too.
Why are people abandoning Jesus? Why are they no longer following him? Look closely at John and you see it plainly. It was his words. It was his words, not his works that turned their hearts away. It may have been his words that won the Samaritans, but here his words caused the Jews to hate him. Why? Jesus exposes them for who they are and they don’t want to hear it. John 7:7 tells us that Jesus’ words reveal that our deeds are evil! Jesus, the Word of God who speaks for God shows us all how far from God we are. Unless we let Jesus critically reveal our sinful character, we can not enjoy his cleansing us. If we do not allow Jesus to point out our flaws and failures, neither can he purify our hearts and heal us. Resistance to his correction is fatal. Jesus shows us our sin as he unveils his identity and shares his saving work with us.
Listen to what happened in John 7. Jesus brothers tell him that he needs to put this show on the road! Go public! Show everyone your works so they can see what you are doing! But, that’s not the way faith is built. God is not so interested in impressing you and me with his miracles as he is in winning your hearts through his message. Before God can win our hearts, he must show us who he is… and also who we are. It is necessary that we face the evil in our lives. Have you faced the fact that your deeds are evil? Are you willing to listen to Jesus when he tells you how bad you are? Did you know that this is a crucial part of saving faith? Those who are unwilling to do this will never be won to Jesus… ever.
We live in a time when saying anyone is bad is anathama. In fact, the only really bad thing you can do is point out what is bad in others. I read that some teachers are giving up grading with red ink because it might negatively affect a child’s learning. Hello??? No one is wrong today, it’s just that some are LESS RIGHT than others! My how things have changed! I remember a paper I turned in once, when I got it back it looked like the teacher bled all over it! She must have gone through at least three red pens. But back then, and I know this is hard to imagine, my parents backed my teachers! Actually, in my case, my parents were pretty selective about who taught me, they sent us to Mars Hill Bible School where we would be taught God’s word as part of our education. So, except for rare occasions, and I can’t remember a single one, the teacher was considered right and had the authority to teach me and show me clearly when I was wrong. Looking back, it was the tough teachers that I recall learning the most from.