(Read John 7:1-9)
Our text begins with Jesus teaching and healing in Galilee and intentionally staying away from Judea. He does this because of the threat from the Pharisees. Jesus healed people on the Sabbath, and also declared himself to be deity when he said he is God’s own Son. The timing of the healings and the declaration of deity both offended the Pharisees, and these were the reasons they gave for plotting Jesus’ murder. (Although envy and a desire to preserve their own power base were likely the root motivations.) During Jesus’ time on earth, Galilee and Judea were under separate jurisdictions: Antipas ruled Galilee and the Roman prefect ruled Judea. So remaining in Galilee was a means for Jesus to stay out of harms way. (Matthew 27:18, Mark 15:10) (Keener)
How Jesus’ Family Didn’t Get Him
But it was the time of the Feast of Booths, a feast that was celebrated for eight days in Jerusalem. Jewish families and even entire Jewish neighborhoods from all over would travel together to Jerusalem for this feast. So Jesus’ (half) brothers are going, and, as brothers sometimes do, they goad him. In a provocative way they tell Jesus what he should do. They criticize him for remaining in the relatively obscure community of Galilee. And they give him the marketing wisdom of the day: Go to a major population center. Go to the big city so you can show all your disciples at the feast these works you’re doing. You need to make yourself visible. You need to show yourself to the world. Verse five of our text clues us in as to why this was said in a provocative tone. “For not even his brothers believed in him.” (John 7:5)
Jesus responded, “My time has not yet come, but your time is always here. The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify about it that its works are evil. You go up to the feast. I am not going up to this feast, for my time has not yet fully come.”
Jesus’ half-brothers didn’t get it. They didn’t get why he was staying in Galilee, and they didn’t get it that he was the Messiah, the Son of God, the Christ. Jesus wouldn’t go to Judea because he was operating in the Spirit, while the rest of the Jewish community, including his brothers, just did whatever the rest of the Jewish community did. The Feast of Booths commemorated the time the Jews lived for forty years in the wilderness. In celebration they constructed shelters from tree branches and dwelled in them during the festival. Jesus, operating in the flow of the Holy Spirit, would allow himself to be taken by the authorities six months later during the Passover. This would complete the prophetic picture of Jesus’ sacrifice for the world. The Passover celebrated the time when each family sacrificed a lamb and sprinkled its blood over the doorposts. It was the blood of the lamb, it was the sacrifice of the lamb, that saved the people from the Angel of Death and the judgment of God shortly before they were liberated from Egypt. So the picture created by the sacrifice of the Lamb of God, Jesus, coinciding with the Passover was an important part of God’s plan. But Jesus’ half-brothers didn’t understand that. Their immediate concern was the tradition of the Feast of Booths.
Jesus said to them: “The world cannot hate you,” [because you fit in with the world.]
And he said, “But it hates me because I testify about it that its works are evil.” [I share my Father’s truth about the world, and the world is offended, so it hates me.]
How Your Family Doesn’t Get You
Maybe you’re a person who’s sold out to Jesus. You live your life to please him, you live your life to bless him, you live to do his will. Maybe you’re a person who seeks to operate under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, even if it means going against the flow of the world around you. If you’re that person, you’ve experienced a reaction at least a little bit similar to that of Jesus’ brothers. Your family or close friends just don’t get it.
I’ve written before about the power of social norming. Each of us likes to imagine we’re independent thinkers unaffected by the thoughts and opinions of those around us. But science conclusively proves otherwise. I’ve cited the Freakonomics podcast as one source for my information on social norming. They’re some of the smartest people around and I enjoy learning from them. An occasional topic of discussion on their podcast is persuasion. One time I heard a guest on Freakonomics say that a surefire way to persuade someone to do something is to have a family member recommend the opposite. That’s just how relatives can be sometimes.
Family members seem to have a default position opposite that of any relative whose direction is even the least bit outside of the social norm of the family culture. You might remember that Jesus’ family is said to have thought Jesus was “out of his mind” in Mark 3:21. And Jesus also said, “A prophet is not without honor, except in his hometown and among his relatives and in his own household.” (Mark 6:46)
Three Things To Do When Your Family Doesn’t Get You
So what are we to do then? How should we react when family or close friends oppose our efforts to walk in the Spirit? Here are three ways we can respond to family when they don’t understand us.
1) Expect Opposition
If that’s you, if you’re one who’s trying to walk in the Spirit, if you’re one who’s trying to become conformed to the likeness of Jesus, take heart! Take comfort in the reaction from Jesus’ brothers. I mean, this is Jesus, the Christ, the Living Word, the Son of God Himself. If his family doesn’t get him, there’s bound to be certain family members who don’t get what we do, when we seek to walk a path inspired by the Holy Spirit, instead of going with the flow of the world.
So expect that kind of opposition.
Just knowing it will come is helpful.
2) Keep Walking In The Spirit
Keep going. Keep praying for the Holy Spirit to inspire you, to lead you in all things, to be poured out upon you in the fullest measure possible. Pray for the Holy Spirit’s leading often, pray for His leading every day, pray for His leading three times a day. (see previous post, The Holy Spirit: How to Know if You Have Him)
If you do, your Father will fill you with the love of Jesus. He will help you to love your family members and show them great grace even when they oppose you. And he’ll fill you with love for others outside your family too. As your family watches your transformation into a person who is more like Jesus, you may see changes in some of your family members. As we’ll see at the end of this blog post, Jesus’ continued walk in the Spirit brought changes in his family.
3) Find Strength In Your Other Family
Find strength in your other family, the one Jesus talks about in Mark 3:20-35. When his biological family said he’s out of his mind, Jesus spoke of prioritizing time with his family of believers. “Who are my mother and my brothers?” Jesus said. And looking about at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.”
We see the results of this approach in the life of Jesus himself. As he continued walking in the Spirit, and as he continued to surround himself with those who loved God with all their hearts and with all their souls and with all their minds, we eventually see his brothers become believers. Two of the epistles in the New Testament are written by the same brothers that provoked Jesus about attending the Feast of Booths: James and Jude.
So continue to pray for the leading of God’s Holy Spirit.
Gain strength from a group of people who love Jesus more than you do.
And walk in the Spirit anyway.
Eventually, if you continue to go deeper and deeper into God’s Spirit, you could see family members come around too.
[Image via Pixabay – Public Domain]