While studying the book of John (in preperation for teaching the book next year) I noticed something that I hadn’t before. The text begins in John 7:3…
His brethren therefore said unto him, Depart hence, and go into Judaea, that thy disciples also may see the works that thou doest.
While in Galilee, Jesus apparently had spent time with His earthly family. We learn here that He was with His “brethren” (sons of Mary and Joseph; half-brothers to Jesus) but that they did not think much of Him. They asked Him to leave, using the upcoming Tabernacle Festival in Jerusalem as a good reason to kick Him out. “Go into Judea” they said to Him, “so that Thy disciples also may see the works that you do.” There’s likely a bit of sarcasm (or possibly contempt) in the way the word “disciples” was spoken by the Lord’s half-brothers here.
For there is no man that doeth any thing in secret, and he himself seeketh to be known openly. If thou do these things, shew thyself to the world.
The half-brothers of Jesus call for Him to go to Judea because, as they reckon it, if Jesus wanted people to believe in Him, He should go do His tricks during the festival when a big crowd is sure to be on hand. They go on to say “no man does anything in secret if He seeks to be known openly.” They didn’t understand the very well-coordinated and purposeful actions (and sometimes inactions) of the Lord. They figure: “if you want everyone to know you’re the Messiah then go prove it to them.”
It’s hard to tell from the text whether or not the half-brothers had actually witnessed the Lord doing a miracle (or if they had simply heard about it from third-parties). If they hadn’t, then they are merely skeptics of the boy they grew up with. If they had, then perhaps they simply refused to conclude that the amazing things He could do meant He was actually God in the Flesh. That might have been too big a leap for them to make (though they should have made that leap!). Either way, we learn one important thing about them…
For neither did his brethren believe in him.
…they did not believe in Him nor apparently even seek to learn more (in the hopes that they might come to believe). There’s a bit of sadness in the way John phrases this short statement. He could have simply said “…because His brethren did not believe in Him” and the point would still have been made. But instead he phrases it as “for neither did His brethren believe in Him.” The word “neither” invokes a connection others. Who else didn’t believe in Jesus? The many others He had been conversing with in John 5-6. With just one word, John manages to paint a sad picture of just how “rejected” the Lord was in these days.
It makes you want to be His friend, doesn’t it?