Post Author: Bill Pratt
Patti, a reader of Tough Questions Answered, asked the other day if Jesus lied to his brothers in John 7:8-10. She claims that an atheist pointed these verses out to her.
So, what’s going on here? Must we read these verses in John 7 as Jesus purposely deceiving his brothers? First, let’s look at the passage in question, starting at John 7:1:
After this, Jesus went around in Galilee, purposely staying away from Judea because the Jews there were waiting to take his life. But when the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles was near, Jesus’ brothers said to him, “You ought to leave here and go to Judea, so that your disciples may see the miracles you do. No one who wants to become a public figure acts in secret. Since you are doing these things, show yourself to the world.” For even his own brothers did not believe in him.
In these verses, Jesus’ brothers are taunting him. They are urging him to go to the Feast and perform public miracles instead of avoiding Judea, where the Feast would be held. What was Jesus’ response to them?
Therefore Jesus told them, “The right time for me has not yet come; for you any time is right. The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify that what it does is evil. You go to the Feast. I am not yet going up to this Feast, because for me the right time has not yet come.” Having said this, he stayed in Galilee.
Jesus tells his brothers twice that “the right time has not yet come.” He tells them to go to the Feast without him. What does Jesus do next?
However, after his brothers had left for the Feast, he went also, not publicly, but in secret. Now at the Feast the Jews were watching for him and asking, “Where is that man?” Among the crowds there was widespread whispering about him. Some said, “He is a good man.” Others replied, “No, he deceives the people.” But no one would say anything publicly about him for fear of the Jews.
Here is where the alleged deception occurs. In verse 10, Jesus goes to the Feast after all, but in secret. Did Jesus ever publicly reveal himself at the Feast or did he remain at the Feast in secret?
Not until halfway through the Feast did Jesus go up to the temple courts and begin to teach. The Jews were amazed and asked, “How did this man get such learning without having studied?”
Jesus chose to publicly reveal himself halfway through the Feast, or about the fourth day. So, did he purposely try to deceive his brothers? I think not.
As is clear from the context of the passage, Jesus’ brothers were encouraging him to make a public spectacle of himself at the beginning of the Feast.
Jesus tells them, simply, that his timing for a public appearance at the Feast is not their timing. He arrives at the Feast in secret and he does not appear publicly until halfway through the Feast. Verse 14 pointedly refers to Jesus’ timing, a piece of information that would seem irrelevant if we did not know about Jesus’ conversation with his brothers.
There is simply no deception going on here. If Jesus were lying to his brothers, and did not want them to know he was going to the Feast, then why did he appear publicly in the middle of the Feast, where he could be sure his brothers would see and hear him preaching? That scenario does not make sense.
The straightforward reading of this text indicates that the author (John) is trying to contrast Jesus’ timing with his brothers’ taunting. In order to show that Jesus lied, one has to prove that Jesus told his brothers that he was not going to the Feast at all, and that interpretation of these verses is highly implausible.