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. But 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.
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.
However, after his brothers had left for the festival, he went also, not publicly, but in secret. Now at the festival the Jewish leaders were watching for Jesus and asking, “Where is he?”
Among the crowds there was widespread whispering about him. Some said, “He is a good man.”
Others replied, “No, he deceives the people.” But no one would say anything publicly about him for fear of the leaders.
- John 7:1-13
This is a rather strange passage in Scripture. Did Jesus lie to His brothers? It could be that Jesus changed His mind after they left. It could be that ‘a little white lie’ is okay when Jesus realized that His younger brothers were mocking Him, and He wished to avoid the social display that they would cause upon His entrance into Jerusalem.
As a pastor once said in a Bible study, the commandment to not provide false testimony might be translated as not to lie, but there are limitations. If you are being chased by evil people, intent on your harm, and I hide you in my closet, what should I say when the evil men knock on my door and ask where you are? Should I tell a lie and say that I haven’t seen you in a while, careful to not say how long a while should be defined, or should I usher them down the hall and open the closet door for them? Most of those, who heard the pastor’s argument, in the “don’t tell a lie under any circumstances crowd” said nothing and cleared their throats uncomfortably. One that was teetering on the fence said that the pastor had given a ridiculously absurd argument. I almost laughed. Have you ever had a pastor look you in the eye and think “Stifle your laugh!” without saying it, and you understood? That was the time for me.
I could quote the Scriptures here where Jesus said that He came to make war and that one family member would hate another family member. There are several such quotes about ‘hating’ from Jesus. He knew well what He was saying. He had the problem with his younger siblings. He was willing to go against the wants and desires of His earthly family in order to carry out God’s will for Him on earth, and He taught us to do the same. Yet, “hating” his brothers, as we might misinterpret what Jesus said, was the furthest thing from the truth. The book of James was written by one of Jesus’ younger half-brothers. (Half-brother in that God conceived Jesus while Joseph was the biological father of James.) Jesus knew that James would convert and believe, in time, but at the time, James was among those mocking their older brother. And isn’t that a switch, it’s usually the older siblings that mock the younger – or was that just me, being considerably younger than my siblings?
But now that we have that “controversy” behind us, since Jesus went in secret, He was able to learn what others were saying about Him. There were those on both sides, but the telling thing is in John 7:13, the last sentence in the quoted Scripture above. No one dared say anything, because of the leaders.
Everybody knew that the leaders wanted to kill Jesus, but the religious leaders still had plausible deniability. Politicians of every age think that they invented “Plausible Deniability,” but I think it started with Adam claiming that he only ate from the tree after the woman that God had given him gave him the fruit. Adam gave an excuse that was a true statement, and, with someone less intelligent than almighty God, it might be means for leniency – okay, all of it except for the part about blaming the person who is standing in judgment – that might make the weak-minded judge angry.
Where am I? Oh, yeah, the religious leaders wanted to kill Jesus and everybody knew. And some played it safe and followed their leaders. Others defended Jesus, but were afraid to say anything in fear of those who were in charge. So, there were three camps: Jesus’ followers, those who wanted to be but were too afraid, and those who sided with the religious leaders.
I have marveled over the difference in the crowds on Palm Sunday and Good Friday. On Palm Sunday, Jesus had enough people who were shouting “Hosanna” to have an army that could have overthrown Jerusalem, but all were mute five days later. I have even heard sermons on the subject, but I don’t think they touched on the three groups of people in Jerusalem. And the pastors who have preached on the topic avoided the concept of the “fix being in.” I wrote a couple of years ago about how people who wish to manipulate church votes guarantee a vote going one way or another by pulling in ringers that rarely, if ever, attend church, in order to say “The Fix is in.” You do not rely upon the Holy Spirit to make the decision when you “Fix” the outcome of the vote. God doesn’t decide in that case; you did, and you get what you get, usually something that falls apart, in time.
Okay, my first diversion was “Plausible Deniability.” My second diversion was “The Fix is In.” How else will my point get obscured? And I haven’t even gotten to it yet!!!!
Let me do it quickly, maybe even bluntly.
My wife talked to a friend of hers who was a faithful churchgoer, but this friend had no clue why she went to church. She did not have any faith at all. My wife would explain something, usually because this woman asked her the question, and this woman would say, “That’s the dumbest thing that I’ve ever heard.”
Once, after dropping this friend off at her house and then driving several miles back to our home, she prayed, “Why doesn’t this woman listen?” Then, she heard a clear voice in return, so clear that she nearly ran off the road. The Voice said, “They didn’t listen to My Son. Why do you think that they will listen to you?”
So, to tie in with the post title… Let’s say that you have chosen your street corner on which to preach, and people do not listen. Maybe some spit at you. Maybe some jeer you with hateful epithets. And what if that “street corner” isn’t a street corner at all? What if it’s those you work with? Or sit next to in a pew in church? What if it’s your own family? Jesus told His brothers that He would skip the festival to avoid the inevitable conflict.
Doesn’t it get you frustrated when people do not listen, maybe even a little angry? And when you love that person, does it not cause more anguish? Do you ask God, “Why?” Or, do you realize that Jesus was spat upon. Jesus was jeered. And worse than what you might go through, but maybe as bad in some places of this world, they killed Jesus. And you ask why they don’t listen?
Some listened to Jesus and followed Him. Some were so dead set on following the leaders who had the power within the government that they never listened. And some listened, but were too afraid to speak, and thus, flowed with the crowd, one day shouting “Hosanna” and a few days later shouting “Crucify Him.”
We have all three types of the first century Jerusalem in nearly every church. No church is perfect. But the important thing is this, “Which group are you in?”
And when you get frustrated when you share the Gospel with those who do not listen, remember that they did not listen to Jesus. It is hard when it is someone that you love, but focus on those who listen, and trust those who don’t listen to God. Pray that someone else can get through to them.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.