Calvary Road Baptist Church

“THE SAVIOR’S DEALINGS WITH HIS UNSAVED BROTHERS”

John 7.1-10 

Unless you were born into a Christian home and had subsequently come to know the Lord Jesus Christ yourself, it is very likely that your Christian life has included a series of challenges that come in the form of beloved family members who do not agree with you about God, the Savior, the Holy Spirit, the Word of God, and the choices you make in your Christian life.

When my Uncle Leon and Aunt Pat came to Christ in 1967 and drove from Albuquerque, New Mexico to Warm Springs, Oregon to witness to his younger brother and his wife, who happened to be my father and mother, something new was introduced into the dynamic that I had never seen before. Though my dad never professed to be a Christian, his lifelong love and admiration for his older brother guaranteed his attentiveness as my Uncle Leon witnessed to him over the course of several days. And while my mother and Aunt Pat had always been close until their visit that summer, my aunt’s witness to my mom generated protests that my alcohol-enjoying, cigarette-smoking, dirty joke-telling, mother was already a Christian, which was a shock to me. After they returned to Albuquerque my mother’s bitterness that anyone would suspect her of not being a Christian boiled to the surface and the relationship between her and my aunt and uncle was effectively severed. My mother never again spoke of that sister-in-law in affectionate terms.

Then, approaching a decade later, when I came to Christ, a rift developed between me and my parents that lasted for decades with my mom and has never been fully restored with my dad. We are cordial, but he has kept me at arm’s distance from 1974 to this present day. I am reminded at this point of a conversation I once had with a teenage boy, who told me when I asked him what he would lose if he became a Christian, said to me, “I would lose my father, my grandparents, and my uncle.” Being so far removed from my family when I trusted Christ, I am grateful such concerns never entered my mind.

Thankfully, many who come to Christ who have unsaved family members enjoy far more cordial relationships than has been my experience. That said, it is wise to recognize that there is a spiritual gulf that separates the redeemed from the unreconciled, the Christ followers from the Christ rejecters, that cannot be ignored. Therefore, to give you some insight into even the best of such situations, I want you to turn in your Bible to John’s Gospel, where we will consider John 7.1-10, and observe our Lord Jesus Christ’s dealings with His half-brothers, who remained unbelievers until after His resurrection. Once you find our text, I invite you to stand with me for the reading of God’s Word: 

1  After these things Jesus walked in Galilee: for he would not walk in Jewry, because the Jews sought to kill him.

2  Now the Jews’ feast of tabernacles was at hand.

3  His brethren therefore said unto him, Depart hence, and go into Judaea, that thy disciples also may see the works that thou doest.

4  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.

5  For neither did his brethren believe in him.

6  Then Jesus said unto them, My time is not yet come: but your time is alway ready.

7  The world cannot hate you; but me it hateth, because I testify of it, that the works thereof are evil.

8  Go ye up unto this feast: I go not up yet unto this feast; for my time is not yet full come.

9  When he had said these words unto them, he abode still in Galilee.

10 But when his brethren were gone up, then went he also up unto the feast, not openly, but as it were in secret. 

Just a note to clarify something peculiar to the Bible and Jerusalem. Notice that verse 8 mentions going up to the feast twice, while verse 10 mentions going up once, despite the fact that from Galilee to Jerusalem is South. This is because in the Bible going to Jerusalem from any direction is referred to as going up, not only because of Jerusalem’s elevation but primarily because Jerusalem is the center of the world and up from any direction.

At this point in the narrative of Christ’s life and earthly ministry in the Gospel accounts, we are two-thirds of the way between His baptism by His cousin John the Baptist and His crucifixion. Between John 6.71 and John 7.1 about six months elapsed, and a great many things occurred that are recorded in the other Gospels but do not serve John’s purpose in his Gospel account. When the multitudes refused to follow Him anymore, and He left Galilee to go north, our Lord met the Syro-Phoenician woman,[1] went from there to Caesarea Philippi,[2] and then shined forth in great glory on the Mount of Transfiguration.[3] Despite these notable events, the Lord Jesus persisted in maintaining a relatively low profile and did not spend much time in the regions in and around Galilee that were occupied by Jewish people. The reason is simple to understand. With His dramatically declining popularity among the masses, the opposing religious establishment took note and became brave enough to want Him killed. John 7.1 reads, 

“After these things Jesus walked in Galilee: for he would not walk in Jewry, because the Jews sought to kill him.” 

It is in the context of our Lord’s decreasing popularity, which would certainly have been observed by members of His immediate family that we are informed of His resistance to His brother’s efforts to influence Him. I read again John 7.2-10: 

2  Now the Jews’ feast of tabernacles was at hand.

3  His brethren therefore said unto him, Depart hence, and go into Judaea, that thy disciples also may see the works that thou doest.

4  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.

5  For neither did his brethren believe in him.

6  Then Jesus said unto them, My time is not yet come: but your time is alway ready.

7  The world cannot hate you; but me it hateth, because I testify of it, that the works thereof are evil.

8  Go ye up unto this feast: I go not up yet unto this feast; for my time is not yet full come.

9  When he had said these words unto them, he abode still in Galilee.

10  But when his brethren were gone up, then went he also up unto the feast, not openly, but as it were in secret. 

As we proceed, I want to remind you of the realities that exist between a Christian and members of the believer’s family who are not believers in Jesus Christ. The Christian’s authority for faith and practice, the key determinate for making decisions, is or should be the Word of God (first), the wisdom and encouragement of the saints in your Church (second), and the considerations and opinions of family members (third). Then come your wants and desires (fourth). That is not the order of priorities of those loved ones in your family who are not believers. Their concerns are typically selfish (first), family (second), cultural influences (third), and then God’s will for their life (last) if God’s will is considered at all. Are you unpersuaded? Ask others in our Church how frequently their unsaved family members who used to schedule family events for Saturdays suddenly began to make sure that all such family celebrations were scheduled for Sundays, so the believer will either miss Church and make them happy or miss the family events in favor of faithfulness at Church and thereby incur their wrath. These are real challenges for God’s people.

Back to the Lord Jesus Christ and His half-brothers. I am confident that the word “brethren” in verse 3 refers to the Lord’s half brothers for four reasons: First, if these were disciples, they would likely be identified as disciples. Second, if they were disciples, it is unlikely that they would have challenged Him in the way we see Him challenged in this passage. Third, they were not His brethren, as in fellow Jews, since we are told in verse 1 that He is staying away from Jewish people at this point. Finally, of course, verse 5 clinches it. So, this is a record of some interaction that took place between the Lord Jesus Christ and His unbelieving younger half-brothers who might have come to Gentile country or to somewhere in Galilee other than Nazareth to see Him.

In the Jewish calendar, there were three feasts that observant Jewish men were required to attend to offer sacrifices to the Lord. In the Jewish calendar there was the Day of Atonement, which usually occurred in the Fall around the end of our month of September, then the Passover in late March or early April, then the Feast of Tabernacles, which lasted seven days and ended on the Day of Pentecost. Since we are informed that the feast of Tabernacles was at hand, John 7.2, this places us in the last year of the Lord Jesus Christ’s earthly ministry: 

“Now the Jews’ feast of tabernacles was at hand.” 

Pentecost is fifty days after Passover (which is what Pentecost means). The Feast of Tabernacles starts a week before Pentecost. Assuming it would take a week to get ready and travel to Jerusalem, this discussion is taking place approximately five weeks after Passover. That places the conversation roughly 47 weeks before the Lord Jesus Christ is crucified or about 102 months before the crucifixion.

One other thing about verse 2 before we move on. John wrote “the Jews’ feast of the tabernacles was at hand.” But in Leviticus 23, where the feast is mentioned by name for the first time, we see in verses 34-39 that the feast is referred to as the “feast of the LORD,” and not, as John writes, as “the Jews’ feast of tabernacles.” Why the difference? It could be that John was seeking to inform his readers in this last of the Gospel accounts to be written that this was a feast the Jews observed annually. Or it could be that as the Jews practiced it in the Lord Jesus’ day, this feast was no longer the solemn time of worship of the LORD that it had been designed by God to be.

Let me divide the remaining portion of our text into three parts; to consider what His brothers said, what our Lord said in response, and where they likely were located when this conversation took place: 

First, OUR LORD’S HALF BROTHERS’ ATTEMPT TO INFLUENCE HIM 

May I first establish in your mind that the Lord Jesus Christ had half brothers? This is necessary to counter the erroneous claims by some that the Virgin Mary was a perpetual virgin and had no children after delivering the Savior (related to the so-called Immaculate Conception theory).[4] This error flies away when it is shown that she had children by her husband Joseph after the Savior’s birth in Bethlehem. Five observations: First, take note of the fact that Mary’s visit to her cousin Elisabeth, is where she acknowledges 

“My soul doth magnify the Lord, And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour,” 

Luke 1.46-47. I seek to take nothing away from Mary, but by her admission, she acknowledges her sinfulness by testifying that God was her Savior. Thus, the notion that Mary was perpetually sinless is put to rest. Second, in both Matthew 1.25 and Luke 2.7, it is written that she “brought forth her firstborn son.” There is no need to identify the Lord Jesus Christ as her firstborn son unless she gave birth to sons subsequently. Third, I have already established that His brethren in John 7.3 are not fellow Jews but siblings, because our text pointedly informs us that the Lord Jesus was staying away from Jewish people “because the Jews sought to kill him,” John 7.1. If brethren are not countrymen, they must be siblings. Fourth, there is the prophecy of Christ found in Psalm 69.8, which reads 

“I am become a stranger unto my brethren, and an alien unto my mother’s children.” 

Strong proof that not only did the Lord Jesus Christ have siblings, but that Mary had children after His birth. If anyone disputes the connection of this psalm to Christ, John 2.17 relates the next verse in the psalm to Christ. Psalm 69.9 begins, 

“For the zeal of thine house hath eaten me up,” 

and connected to Him cleansing the Temple for the first time, John 2.17 reads, 

“And his disciples remembered that it was written, The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up.” 

A clear connection of the psalm to Christ is thereby established. Fifth, and most persuasive to me, is Matthew 13.54-56, which records events a year before the events in our text, and shows the reaction in His hometown of Nazareth the first time He visits after becoming well known: 

54 And when he was come into his own country, he taught them in their synagogue, insomuch that they were astonished, and said, Whence hath this man this wisdom, and these mighty works?

55 Is not this the carpenter’s son? is not his mother called Mary? and his brethren, James, and Joses, and Simon, and Judas?

56 And his sisters, are they not all with us? Whence then hath this man all these things? 

These people know who the Lord Jesus Christ is, though they are astonished by His wisdom and works. That said, they know who His stepfather is. They know His mother’s name is Mary. They know the names of His four stepbrothers. And they know He has at least two sisters. Mark 6.3 echoes Matthew’s account. Mary was a godly young woman, and a virgin when she gave birth to the Savior. However, her marriage was consummated following the Savior’s birth, producing the brethren to our Savior who are seeking to influence Him in our text.

We now consider John 7.3-5: 

3  His brethren therefore said unto him, Depart hence, and go into Judaea, that thy disciples also may see the works that thou doest.

4  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.

5  For neither did his brethren believe in him. 

Our Lord’s half brothers want Him to leave the region and go South. They said they want Him to go so His disciples in Judea can see His works. So, now they are suddenly interested in His ministry. It is likely that they are not interested in His welfare, but want Him to go because His presence and unpopularity are creating problems for them with their neighbors and the religious establishment in Galilee. Since He has been out of Galilee for several months, it is also possible that His half-brothers want Him to return to the hostile environment of Judea and Jerusalem again. In other words, they do not have His best interests at heart. And why do they not have His best interests at heart? They are not convinced of Who He is or of what He has done. Listen, again, to what they said to Him: 

“If thou do these things, shew thyself to the world.” 

It’s almost like, “You are a big man out here in the boondocks. Why don’t you go and prove yourself in the big city, if you are for real?” In so doing, they would be free of the negative feedback they were likely receiving owing to their relationship to Him. 

Next, OUR LORD RESPONDS TO HIS HALF BROTHER’S ATTEMPTS TO INFLUENCE HIM 

John 7.6-8: 

6  Then Jesus said unto them, My time is not yet come: but your time is alway ready.

7  The world cannot hate you; but me it hateth, because I testify of it, that the works thereof are evil.

8  Go ye up unto this feast: I go not up yet unto this feast; for my time is not yet full come. 

Three statements are uttered by our Savior in response to His half-brothers:

First, in verse 6 He speaks to them of “My time”: 

“My time is not yet come: but your time is alway ready.” 

The Lord Jesus Christ has just been challenged by His half-brothers to vindicate Himself. But to properly vindicate Himself the Lord Jesus Christ would have had to display His glory openly before one and all. Though we remember that three of His apostles have already had a glimpse of His glory on the Mount of Transfiguration, He points out to His siblings that the proper time for Him to fully display His glory and His majesty is not yet come. His earthly ministry was the time in God’s plan for the Lord Jesus Christ to show forth His humility and for Him to suffer humiliation. This was perfectly acceptable to the Savior since He is without sin and therefore has no pride of life. Thus, there was no motivation for Him to prove anything to anyone. What His half-brothers wanted, then, was for Him to do what was contrary to God’s plan for Him at that time. Of course, it is always the right time for glory to be displayed by man’s way of thinking. That’s what the Lord Jesus meant when He said, “but your time is alway ready.” But with God, there is a proper time, and there are appropriate circumstances. When will the Lord Jesus Christ put His glory and power on full display, His majesty and His might for all to see? Matthew 24.30 tells us when it will be, where He said, 

“And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.” 

It will be at His second coming. And Revelation 1.7 expands on the Lord’s prediction of people’s reaction when He returns: 

“Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen.” 

Had the Lord Jesus Christ complied with His half-brothers’ request the judgment of mankind would have commenced immediately, and the era of God’s grace extended to sinners would have been immediately cut short. Thankfully, God’s plan is unchangeable.

Then, in verse 7 He spoke to them of hatred: 

“The world cannot hate you; but me it hateth, because I testify of it, that the works thereof are evil.” 

The Lord’s half brothers were convinced the time was always right to do the worldly thing, to draw attention to yourself, to bask in the spotlight. And because they were as unsaved men worldly, and because they were a part of the world, the world could not hate them. Why could the world not hate His half brothers? Because no one hates themselves; not really. To think otherwise is Freudian nonsense and psycho babble.[5] However, the world does hate the Lord Jesus Christ. And hate is not at all too strong a word. Why does the world hate the Son of God? The world hates Jesus Christ because He “testifies of it.” Notice, our Lord did not say that the world hated Him because He testified against the world, but because He merely testified of the world. In other words, His life, His ministry, His conduct, His teachings, revealed the true nature of the world, that they of the world are evil, that the world is evil. For that they hate Him. And this is born out by other Scriptures. First John 2.15-16; 5.19: 

2.15 Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.

16  For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. 

5.19 And we know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in wickedness. 

The question, of course, is what is the “world”? By “world,” were the Lord Jesus and the Apostle John referring to geography, to national boundaries, or to locales? Or were the Savior and John referring to people? “World” here refers to unsaved mankind and his culture, his society, in their rebellion against the plan and purpose of God. Society, man’s culture, hates Jesus Christ because He testifies “that the works thereof are evil.” Why are the works of the world evil? Because the culture, because the society, because mankind is comprised of evil and wicked components, the sinful people who comprise its population.

Thirdly, in verse 8 He speaks to them again of “My time”: 

“Go ye up unto this feast: I go not up yet unto this feast; for my time is not yet full come.” 

Three phrases comprise this verse: First, our Lord encourages His half-brothers: 

“Go ye up unto this feast.” 

I think the Lord Jesus Christ is encouraging here, not insisting, that His half-brothers go on ahead to the Feast of Tabernacles. He doesn’t need to insist. It is, after all, a compulsory observance of the Mosaic Law. Second, He declares His immediate intent: 

“I go not up yet unto this feast.” 

Please observe that the Lord Jesus Christ is very precise in pointing out to His half-brothers what His intentions are. He does not suggest to them that He is not going to the feast; He doesn’t want to go with them. He is going to the feast, but not yet. You see, contained in His statement of intentions is the Greek word oupw, which means “not yet.”[6] The precise word order of this phrase in Greek is “I not yet go up unto this feast.” Third, He explains His immediate intent: 

“for my time is not yet full come.” 

Sometimes we can get confused by ignoring certain distinctions the Lord Jesus Christ made. Such is the case when we confuse the Lord’s reference to “my time” in this passage with His reference to “mine hour” in other passages. When He speaks of His “hour,” He is addressing issues related to His approaching death. But when He speaks of His “time,” He is referring to that more distant future event when He will return in clouds of great glory. 

Finally, WHERE THEY ARE LOCATED WHEN THIS CONVERSATION OCCURRED 

John 7.9-10: 

9  When he had said these words unto them, he abode still in Galilee.

10  But when his brethren were gone up, then went he also up unto the feast, not openly, but as it were in secret. 

Verse 9 can be taken in one of two ways, neither understanding giving us a great deal of clarity: Either it means the Lord Jesus Christ was still physically in Galilee when He made this statement, which is to say that He was on the West side of the Sea of Galilee. Or it could conceivably mean that while He may not have physically been in Galilee at the time He made the statement, Galilee was then still His place of residence.

Verse 10 informs the reader of the Lord Jesus Christ’s travel to Jerusalem: 

“But when his brethren were gone up, then went he also up unto the feast, not openly, but as it were in secret.” 

Lest someone think the Lord Jesus Christ is sneaking around and lurking behind bushes, keep something in mind. These are the days preceding television and photographs. In our Lord Jesus’ day, anyone could obtain complete anonymity by simply not traveling in caravan fashion with a group of other people who knew you. How so? Because the only way a stranger would know who you were was by the testimony of someone who knew you. Since it is certain that the Lord’s half brothers traveled in caravan from Galilee to Jerusalem with a whole bunch of other people, the only people who would have remained with the Savior would have been those who were His disciples, and they would have followed His instructions to not go out of their way to publish His identity. Thus, there is no reason to imagine the Lord Jesus Christ skulking about or traveling like a movie star moving through the airport with shades and a hat on and his collar turned up. He simply went where He was going to go, but without traveling cross-country as others did, in a caravan, or even traveling by the same route they usually took. 

There is no great doctrinal truth presented in today’s text. However, there is evidence that His siblings, the lads born to their mother after Him, who He no doubt looked out for and loved as they were growing up, did not have His best interests in mind when they suggested that He take actions that would have put Him in harm’s way.

There are two conclusions it is safe to draw from this: First, it is safe to conclude that His brothers were at that time in their lives more concerned about their welfare than they were for His safety. Otherwise, they would not have suggested what they did. Second, it is reasonable to draw the conclusion that His brothers were swayed by the world’s hatred for the Savior because being themselves unbelievers they were as much a part of the world as any other lost person.

How do we see the Lord Jesus Christ dealing with His unsaved family members? Well, He is certainly not hostile toward them. But neither is He naive or gullible. He has His agenda, and it is not their agenda. And that is something we should imitate. The Christian’s agenda is most certainly not the same agenda as anyone’s who is not a believer in Jesus Christ. Therefore, be careful when unsaved people, even family members who are unsaved, seek to influence you. Not that unsaved family members will always seek to influence you to do wrong. I am certainly not suggesting that. What I am suggesting is that you exercise wisdom and caution, keeping in mind that your first loyalty is to God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Do not expect that there will never be issues between Christian family members and family members who are not Christians, even in the case of someone whose spouse is unsaved. We see in our Lord’s family that there were times wisdom was required. So, too, in your family. This should not discourage you or cause you to think of your family members as your enemies, though anyone who does not know Christ is certainly God’s enemy, Romans 5.10.

Christians live in the real world. Our thinking should reflect reality from a spiritual perspective. We see that wisdom reflected in the Savior’s dealings with His as yet unbelieving brethren. You and I should behave similarly, exercising wisdom. Let us also prayerfully seek the salvation of our unsaved family members, so that our relationships with them will not come to an end when our time on earth comes to an end.

__________

[1] Matthew 15.21-28; Mark 7.24-30

[2] Matthew 16.13-20; Mark 8.27-38; Luke 9.18-27

[3] Matthew 17.1-13; Mark 9.2-13

[4] Loraine Boettner, Roman Catholicism, (Phillipsburg, New Jersey: The Presbyterian And Reformed Publishing Company, 1962), pages 158-162.

[5] Love of one’s self is assumed by the Savior, Matthew 19.19, 22.39, and the apostles, Romans 13.9, Galatians 5.14, Ephesians 5.28, 33, James 2.8.

[6] Bauer, Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature, (Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press, 2000), page 737.

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