In the gospel of John after feeding the five thousand and subsequently chasing off many followers with His teaching on where true bread comes from, we find Jesus in Galilee having a very interesting conversation with his brothers, as in earthly brothers from his earthly mother.
After this Jesus went about in Galilee. He would not go about in Judea, because the Jews were seeking to kill him. 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.” Apparently Jesus’ disciples had gone into Judea for the festival if booths while Jesus stayed behind with his family. But disciples or not, people need healing, and Jesus healed whether anyone was watching or not. But…it seems Jesus presence made his brothers nervous. They don’t even want him around, despite the hearings and miracles they are witnessing. Or maybe because of the healing and miracles they are witnessing.
For not even his brothers believed in him. As Brian Zahnd tells us in his book “A Farewell to Mars“, it’s hard to believe in Jesus. Despite all the miracles, the crowds, the healings, not even his brothers believed in him.
What, exactly, did Jesus brothers not believe in? What was it James, Joses, Jude and Simon were tripped up over? Obviously John is not talking here about Jesus’ brothers believing in His deity, Jesus fully God. At this point that is not on the table for anyone, even though Jesus brothers would come to believe after his resurrection. The issue here is Jesus as Messiah. The issue his brothers had was believing that He was the true king of the Jews to rescue Israel. Jesus works and miracles were undeniable – it was obvious to all that God was with Jesus. This is why the crowds came and followed wherever he wen
Jesus brothers did not believe that He was Messiah. They didn’t believe because he simply was not going about it the right way! Everybody knew that to be Messiah you had to be like Joshua, David and Judah Maccabaeus. They were looking for a war hero. The Messiah was to be a conqueror, overcoming Israel’s enemies by force. It’s the only way anyone could imagine. It’s the way the world is.
But Jesus runs around talking about forgiving seventy times seven. He talks of praying for enemies. He teaches turning the other cheek. Obviously, God is with him. His miracle showed that beyond all reasonable doubt. But even Jesus own brothers couldn’t believe in a messiah who taught the things Jesus taught. Just as we to this day believe in the miracles of Jesus, but we don’t believe in what He taught.
What was Jesus response to his brothers disbelief? The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify about it that its works are evil. So, what is Jesus saying here? Why does the world hate him but it can’t hate his brothers? Do his brothers not know what sin is? Are they not properly opposed to immorality, drunkenness, and debauchery? Aren’t these the “evil” works if the world? Was James the brother of Jesus (as in the book of James, James) not willing to call out sin and immorality? What is it that Jesus testified about that his brothers did not? What evil did Jesus expose that would cause the world to kill Him?
Jesus spent very little time talking about individual, symptomatic sin. Jesus went straight to the core. Jesus didn’t spend much time at all trying to expose individual sinners, the tax collectors, prostitutes, adulterers, etc. Instead, Jesus went after systemic sin. He challenged the very underpinnings of society. He challenged the foundation of the world. “This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet: “I will open my mouth in parables; I will utter what has been hidden since the foundation of the world.”” Matthew 13:35 ESV. Jesus challenges those who were the guardians of systemic sin. This is why he was always at odds with the Pharisees, Sadducees and Sanhedrin, the religious leaders. Because just as much as Rome, they were the protectors of the underlying systems of sin. The system society was set upon was sinful. The system was set upon greed and violence, which could only bring about greedy and violent people. Of course tax collectors were greedy and violent…but they were simply a symptom of the underlying system. And system if greed and violence is “the world” Jesus was teaching and preaching about.
In such a world, then and now, loving enemies is a radical idea. We still don’t believe in it. We sing the hymns, we read the stories, we claim the salvation, but we do not believe the world can be organized around love and forgiveness rather than greed and violence. And yes, we fully believe in violence. We believe in shared hatred and collective murder. Nothing unifies a nation more than identifying a hated other, a hated them, and coming together to go to war to kill them.
The world is founded on hating enemies. Jesus says NO!!! Don’t do it!! Turning the other cheek is not about producing nice people. It’s about refounding the world, giving the world a new foundation. It’s about ridding the world of its “sacred violence”. Society cherishes, honors and salutes our sacred violence. We honor our violent wars against our hated enemies. This is what Jesus testified about that his brothers wouldn’t.
It’s why the world hates Him, but it can’t hate us.
“After this Jesus went about in Galilee. He would not go about in Judea, because the Jews were seeking to kill him. 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. Jesus said to them, “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.” After saying this, he remained in Galilee.”
John 7:1-9 ESV