Jesus decided to leave Judea and to start going through Galilee because the leaders of the people wanted to kill him. It was almost time for the Festival of Shelters, and Jesus’ brothers said to him, “Why don’t you go to Judea? Then your disciples can see what you are doing. No one does anything in secret, if they want others to know about them. So let the world know what you are doing!” Even Jesus’ own brothers had not yet become his followers.
Jesus answered, “My time hasn’t yet come, but your time is always here. The people of this world cannot hate you. They hate me, because I tell them that they do evil things. Go on to the festival. My time hasn’t yet come, and I am not going.” Jesus said this and stayed on in Galilee.
After Jesus’ brothers had gone to the festival, he went secretly, without telling anyone.
During the festival the leaders looked for Jesus and asked, “Where is he?” The crowds even got into an argument about him. Some were saying, “Jesus is a good man,” while others were saying, “He is lying to everyone.” But the people were afraid of their leaders, and none of them talked in public about him.
When the festival was about half over, Jesus went into the temple and started teaching. The leaders were surprised and said, “How does this man know so much? He has never been taught!” John 7:1–15
Was Jesus a liar? His brothers, who didn’t believe he was the Messiah, told him that if he wanted to become public figure, he had to appear in public. So why not come to the Festival of Shelters (also called Succot)? Jesus told them it wasn’t his time, but then snuck there without telling anyone.
When a quarterback misleads the opposing team, has he lied? When the general misleads the enemy, has he lied? When the undercover police officer keeps his cover, has he lied? No, we’d say they were all doing their jobs. Jesus’ behavior must be seen in that light. Jesus’ brothers did not yet believe. That means they were still playing for the other side.
Jesus had a specific plan in mind for the Feast, a plan that did not involve his brothers or their expectations. By misleading his brothers, he ensured the successful outcome of God’s will.
Jesus’ critics, like the Pharisees, were always quick to find fault with his behavior, behavior that often seemed at odds with God’s law. We must be careful not to start thinking like the Pharisees. And we have to be willing to understand that sometimes we don’t know all the answers.