Dealing with that difficult family member – John 7:1-52, Part 1

What does your Jesus box look like?  You all have one.  In fact, it is something that you created.  It has a unique shape and size, based on what you think Jesus is like.  Take a moment and think about it.  What do you think Jesus is like? 

Is your perception of Jesus correct?

As we continue learning about the life of Jesus, as told by his friend John, we’re going to how easy it is to be wrong about Jesus.  In John chapter 7, verse 1 we read,

“After this, Jesus went around in Galilee. He did not want to go about in Judea because the Jewish leaders there were looking for a way to kill him.”

Kill him?  Is it shocking to you that the Jewish leaders wanted to kill Jesus? 

On the one hand, there is the sick reality that people who were supposed to be God-lovers were thinking about murdering another person who was also a God-lover.  Which actually should be shocking to us. 

On the other hand, maybe it is not shocking because we’re used to the idea that, while very popular with the people, Jesus was hated by the religious leaders.  We’ve already seen this in our study of the Gospel of John.  Turn back a few pages to John chapter 5, verses 16-18. 

“So, because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jewish leaders began to persecute him. In his defense Jesus said to them, ‘My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working.’ For this reason they tried all the more to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.”

The religious leaders had an iron grip on society, controlling the religious, cultural and political lives of the nation.  If you tried to buck the system, it usually didn’t go well.  Jesus bucked the system, and he did so often, right in the leaders’ faces, even right on their front door.  In chapter 2, we learned in the series of posts starting here that he set off a riot in the temple. In chapter 5, in a series of posts starting here, he did not abide by their Sabbath rules. Other times, he confronted the religious leaders, besting them at their biblical knowledge. 

He also did miracles, and he had huge crowds following him, so the religious leaders, though they wanted to take him out, couldn’t.  That doesn’t mean, though, that they gave up trying.  When John says that they persecuted him, that means not that they threw him in jail or did bodily harm to him, it means they hounded him, following his every move and word, ready for him to slip up, so they could swoop in and arrest him.  But he never slipped up. 

He also took precautions.  Here in John 7, verse 1, John tells us that Jesus laid low in the northern part of Palestine, his home region of Galilee.  He purposely stayed away from the capital city of Jerusalem in Judea in the south, because that’s where the Jewish religious leaders’ HQ was. 

But he couldn’t avoid the leaders forever, right?  Look at verses 2-5.

“When the Jewish Festival of Tabernacles was near, Jesus’ brothers said to him, ‘Leave Galilee and go to Judea, so that your disciples there may see the works you do. No one who wants to become a public figure acts in secret. Since you are doing these things, show yourself to the world.’ For even his own brothers did not believe in him.”

Have you ever been in a situation where it seems like the world is out to get you?  It could be that your boss is on your case, then a family relationship blows up, then you have a friend call you out for something.  You meant well, but it didn’t work out as planned. 

Think about what Jesus is going through right now.  Last week we learned that many of his disciples (not the Twelve) left him.  Then today we read that the religious leaders want to kill him.  Now his brothers are slamming him.  “Oh, so you want to be a celebrity, do you?  Why don’t you go down to Jerusalem and do your magic tricks there?  What are you hiding up here for?  Go do your miracles for the whole world to see, big guy.” 

Our families can be some of the most difficult people to express our faith to, can’t they?  At Faith Church, I have the role of pastor, and that colors how people think of me.  But at home, I’m just dad who sometimes says or does something stupid, and my kids make fun of me. 

When you and I think about Jesus, we think of someone who is perfect and amazing and likeable and hilarious and personable and wonderful.  But when Jesus’ brothers thought of Jesus, they scowled, rolled their eyes, and they certainly didn’t believe he was the Messiah, the savior of the world. 

How will Jesus respond to his younger siblings?  Look at verse 6,

“Therefore Jesus told them, ‘My time is not yet here; for you any time will do. The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify that its works are evil. You go to the festival. I am not going up to this festival, because my time has not yet fully come.’ After he had said this, he stayed in Galilee.”

Jesus is having a difficult interaction with his brothers who aren’t too happy with his popularity.  In their minds, there is no way he could be the Messiah.  He’s just their older brother whose life has taken a very uncharacteristic turn.  He always seemed like the homebody, never married.  Now he’s out there preaching to massive crowds, doing miracles, and saying he is from God?  This was too much, improbable, and even impossible, given the box they had created for Jesus.

Therefore, Jesus’ relationship with his brothers was tense.  If you have a difficult family relationship, you know the feeling.  Do you have your family members stuck in a box of your own making? Is it possible that God wants to shatter that box? Is it possible that God is able to do more than you could think or imagine in your family members’ lives? It is possible, isn’t it? Therefore, shatter your box, and support the work God wants to do in their lives, praying for them, encouraging them, helping them become all he wants for them.

Some family members, however, do not want to be all that God wants them be. Some family members are hurtful, and it can be very wise to impose boundaries on them, so they don’t continue to hurt you. Family relationships are often messy and complex. In this post, I don’t want to come across though it will be easy to heal all broken family relationships if we just see people like God sees them. You might have a broken family relationship that will never be restored. But no matter the complexity or messiness of a relationship, strive to see people as God’s sees them. Jesus’ brothers refused to do so, at least in this story. We know from other stories that at least some of them would have a change of heart. In fact, two of Jesus’ brothers became leaders in the Christian church, including authoring two New Testament letters: James and Jude. With God there is always hope for people. Is there someone you have given up hope on? Ask God to change your heart and mind to see them like he sees them.

Back to the story, after his brothers leave for the festival, Jesus comes up with a secret plan. We’ll find out what his plan is in the next post.

Photo by Uday Mittal on Unsplash

Published by joelkime

I love my wife, Michelle, and our four kids and two daughters-in-law. I serve at Faith Church and love our church family. I teach a course online from time to time, and in my free time I love to read and exercise, especially running,

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