John 7:2-5 (ESV)
Now the Jews’ Feast of Booths was at hand. So his brothers said to him, “Leave here and go to Judea, that your disciples also may see the works you are doing. For no one works in secret if he seeks to be known openly. If you do these things, show yourself to the world.” For not even his brothers believed in him.
The Feast of Tabernacles was a joyful, weeklong celebration in September or October when families camped out in temporary shelters to remember God’s faithfulness to Israel in the wilderness on the way from Egypt to Canaan under Moses. It would provide a great opportunity for Jesus to “show off” what he could do and make himself known…or famous…amongst the Jews. This is where Jesus’ brothers got it wrong.
It is worth noting that in these passages, the word “brothers” is not a general term for friends or fellow travelers but is literal and supports the position that Jesus had half-brothers, one of which was James. “Many a man faced with cruel opposition in public life has been sustained by the faith and faithfulness of his kith and kin. Jesus was denied this solace.” (Morris) Has your faith been rejected by your own family? Take heart. Jesus knows exactly how that feels.
Another factor at play in this exchange is the fact that the people of Jerusalem often looked down on the Jews of Galilee. Since Jesus did most of His miraculous works there, it gave the religious leaders in Jerusalem another reason to say that Jesus wasn’t the Messiah, because He didn’t do most of His work in front of the right audience. They wanted a Messiah on their own terms and/or based on their misinterpretation of the Messianic prophecies. The Living Bible provides a rather powerful interpretation of these verses:
You can’t be famous when you hide like this! If you’re so great, prove it to the world!
I think every Believer on earth would love to see some irrefutable and magnificent miracles attributed to the power of Jesus Christ. Wouldn’t that be awesome! Imagine the Tweets that would circulate…the Instagram pictures…the Facebook posts! We could just point people to the worldwide, 24/7 media coverage and say, “Surely you will believe in Jesus now, right?”
Most people simply don’t want to believe…and it doesn’t matter what you show them. Because mankind’s deeds are dark, they have little interest in exposing them to the Light (Jn. 3:19). Anglican theologian Peter Tasker said, “They imagined His glory to be limited to demonstrations of His miraculous powers, whereas in reality it could only be supremely displayed by His crucifixion.” What people need to know about Jesus has already been fully displayed. His brothers, Disciples, countrymen, and the Jewish leaders would see what they needed to see soon enough…but still, that would not be enough for most of them.
I hope it is enough for you.