Read: John 7:1-9
One time when I was much younger, my siblings Rachel and Tom were wrestling on the grass in our front yard. Tom accidentally pushed Rachel too hard and she landed on her hand. She put a stop to their rough-housing, complaining that her finger hurt. Rachel went into the house, and after a while, Mom asked her for help with some yard work. “Mom, my finger hurts. I think it’s broken,” Rachel protested. (A side note about Rachel is she’s our musical theater kid, and she’s always been a little dramatic). Mom disregarded her statement and sent her off to the garden, knowing that Rachel sometimes exaggerated. However, within a few minutes, Rachel came back inside, her pinky finger swollen and blue. Mom immediately knew that she had misjudged Rachel and they dealt with the broken finger.
Have you ever faced a situation where someone didn’t believe your words? It can be particularly hurtful to be misunderstood or misjudged by those who are close to you, even if it’s something as minor as a broken pinky.
In the start of John 7, we see Jesus’ brothers reject His words and misunderstand His purpose. During one of the largest Jewish holidays, the Feast of Booths, Jesus refuses to travel to Jerusalem with his family. He knows that the Jewish authorities wanted to kill Him, and that to go to Jerusalem would be to invite his death. Jesus’ brothers question his decision to refrain from going and add a little challenge.
“Leave here and go to Judea…that your disciples also may see the works you are doing… If you do these things, show yourself to the world,” they said to Him. They spitefully tease Jesus, challenging Him to display His power and to glorify Himself. Perhaps they interpret His hesitation to go to Jerusalem as a sign of weakness, which is certainly not something that the long-expected Savior of the world would display.
John gives the key to this dialogue in verse 5, “Not even his [Jesus’] brothers believed in him.” Jesus’ own family profoundly misunderstood the purpose of His life and ministry. Knowing this full well, Jesus responds to their challenge saying, “The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify about it that its works are evil.” The contrast Jesus draws here implies the fundamental problem with His brothers: they are aligned with the world, while Jesus belongs somewhere greater. Some members of His own family do not recognize God the Son among them. They are content to belong to the world.
Jesus knew his own purpose, that he had come to the world to die for its sins. In one of the most well-known verses in John’s Gospel, Jesus states, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son…” Jesus knows exactly what He must do in just a short time–give Himself up to the judgment of the world and be killed. However, in John 7:8, we see that He also knows it’s not yet time for Him to die. What a heavy fate He had ahead of Him. His brothers misinterpret Jesus’ refusal to go to Jerusalem as cowardice, clearly misunderstanding His divine power. Jesus remains true to His calling though, and doesn’t go to Jerusalem until He knows it’s time, despite their unbelief and sharp words.
Have you ever felt misunderstood and belittled by others for following God’s path for you? I invite you to meditate for a few minutes on the knowledge that Jesus Himself felt the rejection and ridicule of His own beloved family, and that He is able to perfectly understand and comfort you in light of His own personal experience.