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21 - Grumblings of the People

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.
But after his brothers had gone up to the feast, then he also went up, not publicly but in private. The Jews were looking for him at the feast, and saying, “Where is he?” And there was much muttering about him among the people. While some said, “He is a good man,” others said, “No, he is leading the people astray.” Yet for fear of the Jews no one spoke openly of him.

One of the worst feelings in the world is the feeling of isolation, that deep depression which says that the entire human race is against you. But if there’s one feeling Jesus is well acquainted with, it’s this one. Isaiah 53:3 refers to Him in this way:

He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

It is Jesus’ own brothers – His flesh and blood – who cannot bring themselves to believe in Him. One cannot help but notice the parallel here between Jesus and Joseph, those who are truly faithful in the sight of God and yet disregarded by the very ones who should be closest to them. His brothers’ statement seems innocent enough on the surface: “Go and let your works be known!” I see a unique parallel here between the words of the evil one in Jesus’ temptation and the words of Jesus’ brothers. In the temptation in the wilderness as recorded in Matthew 4, Satan’s first two temptations follow this formula: (a) “If you are the Son of God,” (b) “then do…” I see here a very subtle callback to this same idea. “If you do these things, show yourself to the world.” It seems good on the surface, but Jesus knows the reality – this is not from the Father. Had He chosen to work as His brothers insisted, would He have been killed prematurely? Would events not have unfolded according to the prophetic witness? All of this is ultimately speculation, but the fact remains that Jesus does not act according to His brothers’ wishes. What is wisest is to remain concealed during this particular celebration. The day will come for His works to be seen openly.

Sometimes isolation is necessary. We need to withdraw from the world so we can be safe, work on our hearts and minds, and recover in different ways. A hospital room may not be the most uplifting place in the world, but it serves a purpose – it gets us isolated so that we may one day rejoin society. Jesus knew how healthy isolation could prove beneficial, “often withdrawing to lonely places to pray” (Luke 5:16).

But isolation can also hurt us deeply. In fact, one of the key tactics of the enemy in overtaking a life is isolation. Being separated from our brothers and sisters in Christ can result in damage to our connection with the Body of Christ. When we lack the accountability and friendship which are characteristic of our interactions with other believers, our spiritual health can suffer.

Jesus eventually chooses to go up to the feast, but does so on His own terms. Although we often listen to those closest to us for insight and advice, it is also important that we keep their advice held in check by that which God has spoken to us. Anything which contradicts Scripture, we reject outright. We take the time to listen first to our heavenly Father. When we do this, all the rest is kept in its proper place.

Father, You know exactly how I have been knit together. You know exactly what I need in order to be healthy and obedient to You. In the moments where I need to recuperate, help me to find space to breathe and to recover. In the moments where I need to be with the people of God, help me to join with my brothers and sisters in worship of You. Above all things, let me listen for Your guidance and direction. Let me lean not on my own understanding, but let me walk in faithfulness to You in all circumstances.


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