If you want to be relevant then you’ve got to “go big!” If you want to capture the attention of the masses you’ve got to abandon your small minded mentality and super-size your vision. You’ve got to separate yourself from the pack and stand out, stop looking and talking so sanctified, and start sporting some swag. Rise up, bow up, and watch it blow up! Seize the moment. In the words of that great American theologian, Eminem, “You only got one shot! This opportunity comes once in a lifetime!” That was the advice of Jesus’ brothers as we turn the page and peek into John 7. “Now is the time, Jesus! Go big Jesus! You can’t afford to blow this opportunity to take it to another level. If you’ll play your cards right, market it right, pull out your best miracles for the masses, then your little backwater tent meeting ministry can blow up and fill arenas and stadiums all across the country. Just think of the fame! You’re going to need an agent! Your picture will be on billboards and magazine covers. Pass the plate and call in the Brinks’ truck! Now is your time Jesus, go big!” Jesus had a different idea. Let’s take a look at our Scripture for today found in John 7:1-13.
1 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. 2 But when the Jewish Festival of Tabernacles was near, 3 Jesus’ brothers said to him, “Leave Galilee and go to Judea, so that your disciples there may see the works you do. 4 No one who wants to become a public figure acts in secret. Since you are doing these things, show yourself to the world.” 5 For even his own brothers did not believe in him. 6 Therefore Jesus told them, “My time is not yet here; for you any time will do. 7 The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify that its works are evil. 8 You go to the festival. I am not going up to this festival, because my time has not yet fully come.” 9 After he had said this, he stayed in Galilee. 10 However, after his brothers had left for the festival, he went also, not publicly, but in secret. 11 Now at the festival the Jewish leaders were watching for Jesus and asking, “Where is he?” 12 Among the crowds there was widespread whispering about him. Some said, “He is a good man.” Others replied, “No, he deceives the people.” 13 But no one would say anything publicly about him for fear of the leaders. (John 7:1-13 NIV)
Some of you heard, “Jesus’ brothers,” and wondered what that’s all about. Were they “brothers” like we say to one another, “My brother! I’m praying for you brother.” Or, were they literal brothers of Jesus? That’s a great question and we can find the answer in God’s Word. We can find a list of Jesus’ brothers in Matthew 13:55. Jesus had just arrived back in His hometown and was teaching when the people began to talk. Read along with me.
55 “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother’s name Mary, and aren’t his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas? (Matthew 13:55 NIV)
They were actually Jesus’ half brothers. Jesus was born to a Virgin, the virgin Mary, who was set to marry Joseph. They did go ahead and get married and had other kids after Jesus was born. Two of Jesus’ brothers, James and Jude, wrote two of the books of the New Testament. James became the leader of the church in Jerusalem after Jesus’ death and resurrection.
Jesus’ brothers knew that if He was ever going to really make it He had to get out of that countrified Galilee and head to the “Big Apple” of Israel, Jerusalem, where a massive crowd had gathered for the Feast of Tabernacles. They said, “Jesus, show yourself to the world! Mesmerize ’em with Your miracles, Jesus!” In the first 13 verses of John 7 we find divergent opinions, philosophies, and approaches as to what should be done. This isn’t the first time we’ve run into these two opposing views. As a matter of fact, throughout God’s Word we see that there are two ways to do things: There’s God’s way and then there is our way. God made this more than clear in Isaiah 55:8-9 when He said,
8 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. 9 “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8-9 NIV)
We need to be really careful about who we take advice from in this life. Just because someone says they are a pastor, professor, prophet, holds a Ph.D., is a teacher, life guide, or spiritual guru doesn’t mean a thing. Just because something is being done, advice is being offered and encouraged, teaching is being dispersed, dispensed, and distributed, or counsel is being provided under the auspices of a church doesn’t mean a thing. There has always been and there will forever remain God’s will and ways and the ways of the world, or our way, and almost always the two are diametrically opposed. Everything Jesus’ brothers suggested makes perfect sense when you view them through the lens of achieving success by the world’s standards. Take a look at John 7:2-4 once again.
2 But when the Jewish Festival of Tabernacles was near, 3 Jesus’ brothers said to him, “Leave Galilee and go to Judea, so that your disciples there may see the works you do. 4 No one who wants to become a public figure acts in secret. Since you are doing these things, show yourself to the world.” (John 7:2-4 NIV)
Since the Feast of Tabernacles was drawing near it made perfect sense to go where all of the people would be. The Feast of Tabernacles, according to the famous Jewish historian, Josephus, was the most popular of the three major Jewish feasts that required all Jewish men to make a pilgrimage to the temple in Jerusalem. It was celebrated each year for seven days beginning on the 15th day of the Jewish month of Tishri. The Jewish calendar is a lunar calendar, the first day of each month is tied to the new moon. We use the Gregorian calendar which is a solar calendar so it is impossible to make the two calendars line-up. The month of Tishri, when the Feast of Tabernacles took place, covers part of September and part of October on our calendar. By this time of year all of the harvests were over, the barley and wheat had been gathered, the olive and grape harvest was finished, and it was time to celebrate God’s provision for His people. The Jews remembered how God provided for their ancestors and how He had provided for them.
Part of the celebration required the Jews to live in makeshift huts made of branches, like the ones their ancestors lived in when they left Egypt. The huts were built on their flat roofs or out in the open. It was a huge celebration and Jerusalem would be packed. What better place or time could there possibly be for Jesus to strut His stuff and make a name for Himself? People spend tons of money to draw a crowd so they can get their point across. All Jesus had to do was show up.
I read this past week about a church in Texas that a few years ago planned the mother of all Easter celebrations to try and draw a crowd. They gave away flat-screen televisions, skateboards, Fender guitars, furniture, and 15 cars at their Easter services. To draw even more folks, they promised the first 15,000 people that they would receive a “goody bag” worth $300 in goods and services just for showing up. The goods and services in the gift bags were worth $4.5 million! Now, that’s how you draw a crowd! Jesus’ brothers would have loved the plan, but Jesus had other ideas.
Jesus’ brothers didn’t want Him to give away Shekels or sponsor a drawing for merchandise like chariots, a weekend at a Roman all-inclusive resort, the prized scrolls of a famous rabbbi, or the latest designer robes from Tommy Hilfiger or Versace—they wanted Him to put on a show. Oh, could Jesus put on a show! Don’t you remember the miracles we’ve read about so far? He turned water into wine, He healed the man who had been paralyzed for 38 years who was by the Pool of Bethesda, and who can forget how Jesus fed thousands and thousands of people with nothing more than five barley loaves and two fish. Show ’em Jesus! Wow ’em Jesus! Make ’em beg for more Jesus! Jesus had other ideas.
Make no mistake about it, Jesus did do miracles during His ministry, many miracles. Jesus’ miracles weren’t done to wow the crowd or draw the masses. Jesus had already seen how the vast majority of people had responded to His miracles. In John 6, when Jesus fed the masses they immediately wanted to make Him king. That wasn’t God’s plan. How can we forget what John told us about Jesus’ response to the people back in John 2:23-24. Read it with me. John wrote,
23 Now while he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Festival, many people saw the signs he was performing and believed in his name. 24 But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all people. (John 2:23-24 NIV)
Those in Jerusalem saw Jesus perform miracles and they became His biggest fans, but Jesus wasn’t looking for fans, He was looking for followers. The crowds got caught up in the miraculous and missed the call of Jesus to come and die.
There’s a Scripture that has made a deep impact on my life through the years. In Luke 9, Jesus tells His followers what is going to happen to Him. He is going to suffer at the hands of men, He is going to be killed, but He will rise from the dead on the third day. Immediately following this, Jesus said,
23 Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23 NIV)
It’s one thing to be awed by Jesus’ miracles. It’s an altogether different deal to say, “Lord, I’ll follow You even if it costs me my life.”
Jesus didn’t perform miracles to demonstrate His power, His miracles were performed to validate His claim to be the Messiah sent from God, and to authenticate His teachings. The masses and the miraculous were not the heartbeat of Jesus’ ministry. Do you want to know what was? All we have to do is glance back at John 6 and we will discover what was of greatest value to Jesus in His relationship with others. If you will remember, Jesus’ feeding the massive crowd who was hungry and Jesus’ walking on the water of the Sea of Galilee are miracles that are reported in John 6. I want to show you something really interesting about the relationship of John 6 and John 7 regarding how Jesus spent His time.
In the opening verse of John 7 we read, “After this…” This phrase refers to the events of John 6, which took place just before the Passover. We know this because of John 6:4 where we read, “The Jewish Passover Festival was near.” (John 6:4 NIV) Do you remember what Jewish festival was nearing in John 7? It was the Feast of Tabernacles. The Feast of Tabernacles took place about six months following the Passover. What was Jesus doing during that six month period of time that passed from the feeding of the 5,000 to the opening verse of John 7. John MacArthur writes,
That Jesus spent only two days with the large crowd (perhaps 20,000 people) mentioned in chapter 6 but six months predominantly involved with the Twelve is highly significant. It shows that the primary focus of the Lord’s ministry was not on mass meetings, but on discipleship. He devoted His time and effort to the small core group of men who would carry on His ministry after He was gone. The Christian church is in large measure the legacy of those eleven men (plus Matthias [Acts1:26] and Paul [I Corinthians 9:1]), who faithfully discipled their followers who discipled others and so on, down through the centuries to our own day. (MacArthur, John. The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: John 1-11. pg. 279).
During the 6 months following the feeding of the 5,000 and leading up to the opening of John 7, Jesus spent time with His disciples. He traveled, walking around the Galilee, from the Decapolis up to Tyre and Sidon. Jesus did more miracles during this six month period of time and they are reported in Matthew, Mark, and Luke, but they were done in the context of spending time with the disciples. You can read some of the great lessons He taught them in Matthew 16-18.
I’ve taken the time to point this out for us because I think it is crucial that you and I remember that the foundation of Jesus’ three year ministry was teaching. Jesus brothers said, “Show the world! Do your miracles! Do it again!” Jesus had a different idea.
I want to point out something to you. Saying that Jesus’ heartbeat, His passion, was teaching in no way denies the importance of Jesus’ miracles. As a matter of fact, if anything, it accentuates the importance of the miracles of Jesus. Let me explain what I’m talking about. When Jesus healed a sick person, raised Lazarus from the dead, or fed the 5,000 it was for a greater purpose than to simply get someone out of the mess they were in or to impress people.
In John 11, Jesus told Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die;” (John 11:25 NIV) After claiming to be the Resurrection and the Life, Jesus then raised Lazarus from the dead. In John 6, Jesus fed more than 5,000 people with 5 barley loaves and 2 small fish. Wow! What an amazing miracle, but the truth of the miracle, the importance of the miracle, was not “How did He do it?,” the real truth, the lesson if you will, of the miracle was Jesus announcing,
35 Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. (John 6:35 NIV)
Do you see how recognizing teaching as the foundation of Jesus’ ministry makes the miracles of Jesus all the more significant? The miracles validated Jesus’ claim to be the Messiah, the Resurrection and the Life, the Living Waters, the Bread of Life, and much more.
This wasn’t the mindset of Jesus’ brothers when they wanted Him to go to Jerusalem and show the world. But then again, we have to remember that even His own brothers didn’t believe in Him. John tells us, in John 7:5, “For even his own brothers did not believe in him.” (John 7:5 NIV) We need to talk about this before we leave here this morning. How could these brothers of Jesus grow up in the same household as Jesus, witness the beginning of His ministry, watch Him heal the sick, and teach like no one they had ever heard before, but then refuse to believe what He was saying about Himself?
Mark tells us that on one occasion Jesus had gone into a house to eat with some folks and it was so crowded His own disciples couldn’t enter. Jesus’ mother and brothers came to get him. Listen as I read Mark 3:21.
21 When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.” (Mark 3:21 NIV)
They were much like many of those in the crowd who had gathered in Jerusalem. Jesus did go Jerusalem. He didn’t go with His brothers. He went a little later. He didn’t arrive with an entourage and “go big” like they wanted Him to either. John tells us Jesus went secretly, keeping things on the down low, so as not to make a scene. When He arrived folks began to talk. In John 7:12 we read,
12 Among the crowds there was widespread whispering about him. Some said, “He is a good man.” Others replied, “No, he deceives the people.” (John 7:12 NIV)
The brothers of Jesus, James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas, would have been like those who said, “He is a good man.” They had watched their brother do many great things. They knew that He had a good heart, He helped many people, He was a miracle worker, and He was a teacher unlike any rabbi they had ever heard before. If only He would keep quiet about the Messiah “stuff.” If only He would stop saying things like, “Anyone who has seen Me has seen the Father.” (John 14:9 NIV) and “I and the Father are one.” (John 10:30 NIV) They loved their brother, they respected their brother, they wanted their brother to make the most of His opportunity, but when it came to the thought of Him being the Messiah…that’s where they had to draw the line.
The brothers of Jesus and the crowd of admirers in Jerusalem are much like many people in our society today. They say Jesus was a good man. They love the teachings of Jesus about love, grace, mercy, and forgiveness. Some even believe in the miracles of Jesus. But, when it comes to answering the question, “Do you believe that Jesus was God Incarnate, the Only Savior of lost humanity, and the long awaited Messiah sent from God?” They stammer and stutter and look down at their shoes. They shoot back, “But what about all of the other religions of the world? Are you saying that they are wrong? Are you saying Jesus is the only way to God? What about all of those people who have never heard about Jesus? Don’t you think it’s narrow-minded to say that Jesus is the only way to God?” Sadly, this mindset is becoming more and more prominent in the church. A growing number of those who identify themselves as followers of Jesus would agree that Jesus was a good man, but He wasn’t God and He isn’t the only way to God. This isn’t a new phenomenon, but it is a growing trend in the modern-day church.
When I was in seminary I had an evangelism class which was really the furthest thing from evangelism. We spent a considerable amount of time discussing the idea that there are many ways to God and that what is most important is for people to find which path best fits them and be true to that path. You may be one of those people who have your doubts. You are attracted to Jesus’ teaching. You love the way that He seemed to reach out to all kinds of people with love and grace, but when it comes to considering whether Jesus was who He claimed to be, the only Son of God who came for the express purpose of giving His life as an atoning sacrifice for your sins…you have your doubts. Welcome to the club. Jesus’ own brothers had their doubts, they didn’t believe it either. Then it happened, those who were closest to Jesus, had their doubts transformed into faith. I mentioned that two of Jesus’ brothers wrote books of the New Testament, James and Jude. James became the leader of the church in Jerusalem and when he sat down and penned his letter he wrote,
1 James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes scattered among the nations: Greetings. (James 1:1 NIV)
The skeptic became a servant. The doubts were transformed into devotion. After the death and resurrection of James’ brother, Jesus, James was appointed by the Apostles as the overseer of the Jerusalem church. James’ influence became so strong that the Jewish leaders feared that more and more people would become followers of Jesus. They decided to try and use James to quiet the growing number of people who were coming to Jesus. They asked James to stand on the pinnacle of the temple at Passover and speak. James agreed and while he was standing above the crowd who had gathered for Passover, the religious leaders said, “Oh, righteous one, in whom we are able to place great confidence; the people are led astray after Jesus, the crucified one. So declare to us, what is this way, Jesus?” James spoke up and said, “Why do you ask me about Jesus, the Son of Man? He sits in heaven at the right hand of the great Power, and he will soon come on the clouds of heaven!” The people down below began to shout, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” The Pharisees were livid! They began to try and shout over the crowd, “Oh! Oh! The righteous one is also in error!” Some of the Pharisees climbed the temple and threw James from the pinnacle of the temple as the crowd chanted, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” When they saw what was happening, the crowd was silenced.
The fall should have killed James, but it didn’t. He rose to his knees and began to pray, “I beg of you, Lord God our Father, forgive them! They do not know what they are doing.” Does that sound familiar to you? James must have heard his brother, Jesus, as He spoke those words from the cross. Then some of the Pharisees began to pick up stones and stone James to death. Church tradition records that a fuller, a launderer, took one of the clubs that he used to beat clothes and hit James in the head, killing him with one blow.
The grace of God transformed the skeptic into a servant who was willing to give up his own life rather than betray his brother, his Lord, and his God. The same grace that transformed James, the brother of Jesus, is working in this sanctuary this morning to soften your hard heart. Won’t you cry out to Him and invite Him to come in and melt your skepticism and doubts?
Britton Christian Church
922 NW 91st
OKC, OK. 73114
September 14, 2014
More than nineteen hundred years ago there was a Man born contrary to the laws of life. This Man lived in poverty and was reared in obscurity. He did not travel extensively. Only once did He cross the boundary of the country in which He lived; that was during His exile in childhood. He possessed neither wealth nor influence. His relatives were inconspicuous, and had neither training nor formal education. In infancy He startled a king; in childhood He puzzled doctors; in manhood He ruled the course of nature, walked upon the billows as if pavements, and hushed the sea to sleep. He healed the multitudes without medicine and made no charge for His service. He never wrote a book, and yet all the libraries of the country could not hold the books that have been written about Him. He never wrote a song, and yet He has furnished the theme for more songs than all the songwriters combined. He never founded a college, but all the schools put together cannot boast of having so many students. He never marshalled an army, nor drafted a soldier, nor fired a gun; and yet no leader ever had more volunteers who have, under His orders, made more rebels stack arms and surrender without a shot fired. He never practiced psychiatry, and yet He has healed more broken hearts than all the doctors far and near. Once each week the wheels of commerce cease their turning and multitudes wend their way to worshiping assemblies to pay homage and respect to Him. The names of the past proud statesmen of Greece and Rome have come and gone. The names of the past scientists, philosophers, and theologians have come and gone; but the name of this Man abounds more and more. Though time has spread nineteen hundred years between the people of this generation and the scene of His crucifixion, yet He still lives! Herod could not destroy Him, and the grave could not hold Him. He stands forth upon the highest pinnacle of heavenly glory, proclaimed of God, acknowledged by angels, adored by saints, and feared by devils, as the living, personal Christ, our Lord and Saviour!