Daily Office Gospel ( John 7:1-13 )
A few things jumped out at me in today’s reading. One was that Jesus’ brothers told him to go to Judea and do miracles there where people could see him.
That first bit about his brothers gets into a theological argument that has nothing to do with Jesus’ divinity or his role as Messiah. Instead, the arguments about whether Jesus’ brothers are actually just cousins or step brothers through Joseph is all about making sure that we can uphold the Perpetual Virginity of Mary. This is a theological point that doesn’t really have bearing on any of the teachings of Jesus, so I’ve never really gotten too concerned about whether someone believes it or not.
The second thing that jumped out was that the brothers of Jesus didn’t believe in him either. Apparently they hadn’t seen him do the miracles and didn’t think that he was who he said he was. And so they tried to get him to go up to the Festival of Booths in Judea so that he could be seen by many. Jesus told his brothers to go without him, and that he wouldn’t be going. But then, as soon as his brothers went, he too headed out for the festival.
So, Jesus says he’s not going, but then goes in secret. Did he lie right there? I mean, telling everyone you’re not going, but then going anyway and hiding from them while they’re there?
Apparently, some manuscripts have the word “yet” in verse eight, making the sentence, “I am not [yet] going to this festival, for my time has not yet fully come.” So that would make it not a lie. Other arguments are that Jesus is responding in the context of his brothers who don’t believe in him. In other words, Jesus’ words are more along the lines of “I’m not going to this festival with you.” This makes it more of a statement in the context of not wanting to go to the festival with a bunch of people who would try an force him to prove himself. To me, the context argument sounds better, since it isn’t always easy to indicate attitude in written text, especially text that has been translated multiple times. But it still certainly makes you stop and think.
The final thing that jumped out is that Jesus wanted to go in secret. Apparently, the in secret really just means alone, or privately, but even then it makes you wonder. The next few verses say that the Jews were looking for him at the festival, and that some people spoke well of him, and that others were saying that he was deceiving the crowds that followed him. A few verses above, Jesus said that people hated him because he was calling them out and letting them know that their actions were evil. But if you couple this with the context of not wanting to go to the festival with his brothers, then why on earth was Jesus there after all? He knows his brothers don’t believe in him, and he also knows that some people hate him for calling them out. Why go at all, even if it is privately or alone?
It seems the whole thing can be neatly wrapped up with the idea that Jesus was not yet ready to make his ministry public. Spending time with a bunch of brothers that would want to be “publicly known” not for the sake of your ministry, but in order to prove yourself to them would make going with your brothers a bit of a chore. Going privately would allow you to enjoy the festival without drawing attention to yourself, especially if you aren’t ready to take your ministry public.