“Now the Jews’ Feast of Booths was at hand. So his brothers said to him, “Leave here and go to Judea, that your disciples also may see the works you are doing. For no one works in secret if he seeks to be known openly. If you do these things, show yourself to the world.” For not even his brothers believed in him.” (John 7:1-5).
Do you realize that one of Jesus’ goals in coming to earth was to divide families and create conflict within the home? Yes, it’s true! Before we explore this startling truth, let us first examine the background of today’s text.
The Feast of Booths was also known and referred to as the Feast of the Tabernacles. Along with the Feasts of Passover and Pentecost, it was the third of the three principle and mandatory annual Jewish feasts (Exodus 23:14-16). It was also the most popular. It occurred during the month of October.
So as to get a sense of the context of John 7, we need to remember the historical context of John 6. While John 6 occurred during the time of the Passover (March/April), John 7 occurred during the time of the Feast of Tabernacles (October). Therefore, some six to seven months have passed between these two chapters.
Unlike current biographies, or even autobiographies, which seek to chronicle every event in the subject’s life, the Apostle John does not record what happened during those seven months which divide these two chapters of his gospel account of Jesus’ life. The only thing John says is in John 7:1 where he writes, “After this Jesus went about in Galilee. He would not go about in Judea, because the Jews were seeking to kill him.” Jesus went about, or walked, in Galilee. Consequently, where Jesus walked, His disciples followed. This is what Jesus did for seven months until the Feast of the Tabernacles. During His walking, Jesus would be teaching and making disciples of the twelve.
The Feast of the Tabernacles observed the annual harvest of grapes and olives (Exodus 23:16; Leviticus 23:33-43; Deuteronomy 16:13-15). Many people would come to Jerusalem for the festivities which lasted seven days.
One commentator writes, “People living in rural areas built makeshift structures of light branches and leaves to live in for the week (hence, “booths” or “tabernacles”; cf. Lev. 23:42) while town dwellers put up similar structures on their flat roofs or in their courtyards. The feast was known for water-drawing and lamp-lighting rites, to which Jesus makes reference (“If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink”—7:37–38 and “I am the light of the world”—8:12).”
It was also at this time that Jesus’ half-brothers told Him that He should go to Judea, or more specifically Jerusalem, so that His disciples could see the works He was doing. Matthew 13:55 (see Mark 6:1-3) identify Jesus’ brothers as James, Joses, Simon and Judas. Matthew and Mark also indicate Jesus had at least two sisters.
John comments that Jesus’ brothers did not believe in Him at this time. However, James and Jude would eventually become leaders in the church along with being writers of the biblical New Testament books which bear their names.
Jesus’ brothers wanted Him to put on a public display of miracles. Sort of a program of entertainment. Perhaps this was so (1) they might believe themselves as to Jesus’ identity or (2) it would position them to accept a political position or office under Jesus’ earthly kingship. Either way, Jesus’ brothers did not become disciples until after His resurrection (Acts 1:14; I Corinthians 15:7).
It should not surprise us that even Jesus’ immediate family was divided as to His real identity. Matthew 10:34-39 explains it this way: “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”
Sometimes, the holidays, like the Feast of the Tabernacles, brings out the real emotions from members of our family regarding our commitment to Christ to be one of His disciples. Our family members may question, critique and/or perhaps even condemn our faith. Realize that even Jesus’ family did this. This in part is what it means to take up our cross and follow Jesus.
Soli deo Gloria!