(A) Introduction. (Read the reference)

The Feast of Tabernacles was an October festival which lasted 8 days - from Sabbath to Sabbath. It was a celebration of the grape and olive harvests and also a commemoration of God's guidance of his people during the wilderness years following the exodus from Egypt. There was a ceremony when water was poured out to represent the sweet water that miraculously flowed from the rock at Meribah. See Exodus17v1to7. At night a great candelabra lit up the temple - a reminder of the pillar of fire that guided and protected the Israelites from dusk till dawn. For the duration of the feast many people lived in leafy booths to simulate the open-air life that their ancestors experienced in the desert.

The Feast of Tabernacles was a very popular occasions. Aspects of it were what we might call good fun. Many people in Galilee, including Jesus' own family, were getting ready to go to Jerusalem for the festival when James and the others offered their brother some advice.

After spending so long studying the Acts of the Apostles which is a record of the success of the gospel it is quite difficult to turn to these passages in John's record where Jesus encounters so much disbelief.

(B) Jesus brothers did not believe in him.

It is a shock to discover that the brothers of Jesus did not believe in him as the Son of God, the one sent from heaven to whom they must submit unconditionally for eternal life. They grew up with Jesus and were his familiars and yet they seem singularly unmoved by a perfect life - the rarest thing in the entire universe! Doesn't it seem incredible?

There are some lessons for us in this that we do very well to heed:

(1) If the perfect life made so little impact it is unlikely that people will be impressed by goodness. This is a subject I have mentioned before in my expositions. I was greatly impressed by Alexander Solzhenitsyn's short story entitled: 'Matryona's House.' Matryona was a poor, coarse, peasant woman who was killed on a level-crossing carting timber. This is what Solzhenitsyn writes of her: It was true - every other cottage had its pig, yet she(Matryona) had had none. What could be easier than to fatten up a greedy pig whose sole object in life was food? Boil it a bucketful of swill three times a day, make it the centre of one's existence, then slaughter it for lard and bacon. Yet Matryona never wanted one.....

She was a poor housekeeper. In other words she refused to strain herself to buy gadgets and possessions and then to guard them and care for them more than for her own life.

She never cared for smart clothes, the garments that embellish the ugly and disguise the wicked.

Misunderstood and rejected by her husband, a stranger to her own family despite her happy, amiable temperament, comical, so foolish that she worked for others for no reward, this woman, who had buried all her six children, had stored up no earthly goods. Nothing but a dirty white goat, a lame cat and a row of fig-plants.

None of us who lived close to her perceived that she was that one righteous person without whom, so the saying goes, no city can stand.

Nor the world.

There is a passage much like this in 'The Bookseller of Kabul' by Asne Seierstad. The author describes the life of Leila in her brother's home in the Afghani capital: Leila is a good cook. She is good at most things. That is why she is put to do everything. During meals she usually sits in the corner by the door, and leaps up if anyone needs anything, or fills up the plates. When she has seen to everyone else, she fills her plate with the remains, some fatty rice and cooked beans.

She has been brought up to serve, and she has become a servant, ordered around by everyone. In step with every new order, respect for her diminishes. If anyone is in a bad mood, Leila suffers. ....

When relatives invite the family to a party Leila turns up early in the morning, having made breakfast for her own family, to peel potatoes, make stock, chop vegetables. And when the guests arrive, she has barely time to change clothes, before continuing to serve and then spend the remainder of the party in the kitchen with the washing up. She is like Cinderella, except there is no prince in Leila's world.

Leila was by the far the best person in Sultan the bookseller's household but her worth was not recognised.

One of the essential qualities of goodness is humility. That is the virtue Matryona and Leila shared in common with Jesus. He was meek and lowly of heart and it meant that his brothers and the people of Nazareth took him for granted. Jesus probably lost respect as a carpenter because he was so obliging. I can just imagine his younger siblings taking advantage of his good nature. Jesus was never selfish. He never pursued his own interests.

(2) Great accomplishments in themselves do not always count for much. Jesus brothers acknowledged he did miracles but still they did not believe in him.

The achievements of Moses were remarkable. God performed miracles through Moses and he was able to lead the Israelites out of Egypt, through the Red Sea and into the wilderness. Over and over again Moses was on hand to deal with a crisis. God delivered to him the law and the old covenant. Yet he was singularly unappreciated by his people who grumbled about him and conspired against him. Even Miriam and Aaron complained about Moses. "Has the Lord spoken only through Moses?" they asked. "Hasn't he also spoken through us?" The reason Moses had to endure all of this is given in Numbers12v3: Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth. Moses rarely stood up for himself - but God stood up for him! The LORD taught Aaron and Miriam a lesson they would never forget!

Jesus' ministry of signs and wonders was offset by the humble way he conducted himself and the lack of publicity he sought.

I think it is very significant that if you look in the front of the Authorised Version or N.I.V. of the Bible the translators are not listed by name. The 47 men who produced the AV did a wonderful job. For nearly 300 years it informed the spiritual life and coloured the very language of the English-speaking world. Yet those men did not seek to have their names perpetuated in the Bible they worked so laboriously to complete. It was a great accomplishment but it did not bring them fame.

Jesus would undoubtedly have made more of a name for himself if he had been a better showman!

(3) Jesus brothers wanted Jesus to demonstrate his powers where it mattered - in the capital. They wanted their older brother to get recognition from the people who counted - the leaders of the Jews. If Jesus was the Messiah he would need to be endorsed by the establishment and acclaimed by the public. "You ought to leave here to go to Judea, so that your disciples may see the miracles you do. No-one who wants to be a public figure acts in secret." v3and4.

The brothers of Jesus wanted to see if Jesus was validated by the people qualified to judge - the pundits and politicians in Jerusalem. They thought his status depended upon the approval of the religious hierarchy. Little did they know!!

There are some lessons for us:

(a) In order to be famous today you need to be good at promoting yourself and publicising your achievements. I shall never forget the shock, as a naive young man from rural Suffolk in my first term at U.C.L., listening to a student running for President of the Union telling us what a wonderful fellow he was and how we should all vote for him. I really was appalled. Was my reaction laughable - the product of a sheltered upbringing in rustic simplicity? I don't think so. Self-publicity is not the Christian way. The translators of the Bible were right in choosing to remain anonymous. The apostle Paul preached Christ and him crucified. Christians promote Jesus and his great achievement in dying to save us.

(b) Many are still put off Christianity because it is not endorsed by modern politicians and pundits. They listen to Scientists who are unwilling to give the Creator credit for anything. The media does its best to undermine the faith in a great variety of subtle ways. On Sunday morning I listen regularly to the service broadcast on BBC radio. I cannot remember the last time I heard a stirring, challenging, uplifting sermon.

(c) We have to make our own minds up about Jesus and not be swayed by popular opinion. In the same way Christians should exercise personal discernment to arrive at a decision about truth. Too often the judgment of believers is swayed by the opinion of others. I am in dispute with the small association of churches to which my church belongs about their affirmation of fellowship which makes fellowship between the churches dependent upon a commitment to a set of doctrines. I am absolutely certain that fellowship between Christians is dependent upon one thing only - belief in Jesus. John writes: Yet to all who receive him (Jesus), to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God. John1v12. If God accepts all believers into his family who are we to exclude from fellowship those who differ from us on a few points of doctrine? The sad fact is that the members of my own church do not support me. They think: 'Our John is a maverick; the wise men of our association cannot all be wrong.'

(C) Jesus was hated by the Jewish religious establishment.

It is very depressing to read about the hatred of the Jews for Jesus. The Jews were waiting to take his life. v1. "The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify that what it does is evil." v7.

The Jews consisted of leading Pharisees, lawyers and Sadducees. They hated Jesus because he condemned their evil ways. He condemned their:

    (1) Hypocrisy. After healing a man on the Sabbath, to the evident disapproval of the Pharisees and lawyers, Jesus said to them: "If one of you has a son or an ox that falls into a well on the Sabbath day, will you not immediately pull him out?" Lk14v5. I have heard foolish Christians criticise a woman for hanging out her washing on a Sunday who think nothing of setting out on their annual holiday on the Lord's day and spending most of it travelling.

    (2) Greed. Jesus concluded his ironical parable of the unjust steward by saying: "You cannot serve God and money." Luke records the reaction of the Pharisees and Jesus' subsequent remarks: The Pharisees who loved money, heard all this and were sneering at Jesus. He said to them, "You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of men, but God knows your hearts. What is highly valued among men is detestable in God's sight." Lk16v14. That is a salutary lesson for us all! The things men value - fame and fortune - are detestable to God.

    (3) Desire for honour. This was a defining characteristic of the Pharisees. It was one that Jesus thought pathetic: "Woe to you, Pharisees, because you love the most important seats in the synagogues and greetings in the market places." Lk11v43. Many Christian pastors share this weakness with the Pharisees. They like to be made much of at conventions, conferences and assemblies. Just watch them and see.

    (4) Self righteousness. The parable in which Jesus describes the Pharisee and Publican in prayer is a devastating exposure of self-righteousness. The Pharisee had the audacity to thank God that he was not as other men were - he was so much better than the wicked Publican. But he was not.

    (5) Legalism. Jesus was a fierce opponent of legalism. He said: "You experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them." Lk11v46. The experts in the law and the Pharisees had got it all wrong. The Law did not exist to make life difficult for people but to bring benefits to them.

    (6) Ignorance of God and lack of devotion to him. Of all Jesus remarks this must have been one of the hardest for the Pharisees to take: "Woe to you, Pharisees, because you give God a tenth of your mint, rue and all other kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God." Lk11v42.

Some would say that Jesus was asking for trouble! You will usually be made to pay if you criticise or condemn people in public. On Saturday May 14th 2005 I read this in the Daily Telegraph: Jeremy Clarkson, the BBC motoring presenter, faced opposition from academics yesterday as they started a campaign to prevent him receiving an honorary degree.

The outspoken Top Gear broadcaster has been put forward for the honour at Oxford Brookes University.

But his love of fast cars and his views on the environment make him an unsuitable candidate, staff and academics say.

They have organised a petition against his appointment and are supported by workers at the Cowley BMW factory, who are angry at his repeated criticism of their former colleagues at MG Rover, which is now in administration.

Dr Kelly the former weapons inspector in Iraq made some incautious remarks about the intelligence report that Tony Blair quoted from to justify going to war against Iraq. He was spun against - dismissed as a middle ranking civil servant - threatened with the loss of his pension - and 'advised' to retract his allegations. The unhappy man found the situation intolerable and took his own life.

At a staff meeting near the end of my career the Headmaster encouraged us all to adopt the policy of a certain department for dealing with homework defaulters. I criticised the policy as slow, cumbersome, bureaucratic and a poor use of teacher's time. None of the members of that department turned up for my retirement party!

If you are foolish enough to publicly criticise the practices of individuals - watch out. You will undoubtedly suffer for it. This is true in the church. There are not many like Peter who accepted Paul was in the right when the apostle to the Gentiles spoke out against the Jewish Christians who were separating themselves from Gentile Christians at Antioch. Peter never resented Paul's sharp words. He never made Paul pay! Only the truly humble man can accept reproof. Peter practiced what he preached: Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. 1Pet5v6. See exposition on Acts15v1to5.

Jesus by highlighting the weaknesses of the religious elite gave them the opportunity to examine their lives and repent. Perhaps, some did but the majority did not. Many of the leading men in Jerusalem did not recognise Jesus' authority to say the things he did. I found during my years as a schoolteacher that very few children resented my blunt remarks about their idleness or lack of self-control because they accepted my right to make them.

The opinion of the general public was divided but unsatisfactory.

At least the people in Jerusalem were talking about Jesus! His ministry was stimulating discussion. Jesus was not ignored! Today in England hardly anyone outside the church talks about Jesus.

Some of the public said: "He is a good man." There was plenty of evidence to support this view - Jesus went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him. Acts10v38. Nevertheless, he must have been more than a good man if we consider the claims Jesus made about himself: "I am the bread of life." John6v35. "I have come down from heaven." John6v38. "No-one has seen the Father except the one who is from God." v46.

It was these very claims that prompted others to say: "No he deceives the people." v46. Jesus certainly deceived the people if the statements he made about himself were not true. Yet it is very difficult to read the account of his miracles, teaching and example in the synoptic gospels and reach the conclusion that Jesus was so fundamentally flawed that he would lie about himself. That is why some scholars believe the author of John's gospel is the one practising deception. However, John's gospel is true to human nature. It contains details that no-one could make up! It can only be properly understood if we understand ourselves.

Few people in Jerusalem were convinced that Jesus was all he claimed to be. How many genuinely believed him when he said: "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life."? John8v12. If the common people had been deeply committed to Jesus as the Son of God they would not have been silent for fear of the authorities. The thing that matters to the believer is what Jesus thinks of him - not what men think of him. That will certainly be the case if we take the words of Jesus seriously: "If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father's glory with the holy angels." Mk8v33.

(E) Jesus shows wisdom.

Jesus told his brothers that it was not the right time for him to go to the Feast in Jerusalem. They could go at any time because the authorities did not hate them. Jesus said that he wasn't going to the festival just yet. He stayed in Galilee and travelled secretly to Jerusalem a few days after his brothers to arrive half way through the celebrations. Why did Jesus act in this way:

(1) Jesus did not want to travel with a large group of Galilean supporters to Jerusalem. He knew what they were like - excitable and passionate. He foresaw the likelihood that they would engineer a triumphant entry into the capital where they would proclaim him king. He wasn't their sort of king! The inevitable result would be that the Sadducees and Romans would act together to put Jesus to death. The Sadducees owed their power and influence to the Romans with whom they collaborated. They no more wanted a rebel Jewish king than the occupying power. This is, of course, exactly what happened when Jesus rode into Jerusalem to popular acclamation 6 months later at the time of Passover. Jesus knew that the time for his death had not yet come and so he acts cautiously to arrive inconspicuously for the Feast of Pentecost.

(2) It was probably easier for the authorities to arrest Jesus before the Feast got under way. By arriving secretely Jesus is able to commence teaching in the temple before the Sadducees can get organised.

(3) Jesus was determined to attend the Feast in Jerusalem. He went there to teach. Not until halfway through the Feast did Jesus go up to the temple courts and begin to teach. v14.

We should never, never underestimate the value and importance of sound teaching. It does make a big difference. It made a huge difference to the disciples of Jesus. At times they seemed very slow to learn - so slow that they exasperated Jesus - "Don't you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time?" John14v9. But a lot of what Jesus taught his disciples stuck - we have only to read the gospels to discover the truth of this.

Christians should not take good Bible teaching for granted. We do! We get it virtually free! Indeed most people in England get taught almost everything free of charge! I wonder if that is the best policy? Well I suppose it must be in so far that Jesus never charged for the life changing teaching he gave. I hope one of the motivations for this website, which 300 to 500 people access every week, is to teach God's truth and do some good.