After the Feeding of the 5,000, Jesus’ life takes a turn. His popularity starts to wane, and the plot on his life grows in seriousness. In this text we hear about the unbelief: not everyone who knows Jesus believes in him.
Jesus is in Galilee, his home stomping-grounds, and where he is generally thought well of. But then the Feast of Tabernacles came up, when families travelled to Jerusalem. It turns out that his half-brothers did not believe in him. They had been around him his whole life, and they didn’t understand his nature and calling. They advised him to go to Judea, put on a show, and convince people that he was the Messiah. Most teachers taught in public places. Open speech was considered a virtue; secret acts were thought to be deceitful. If Jesus just stayed in the shadows, they reasoned, he’ll never get a following. It’s reasonable thinking from one standpoint, but their motives are not good, and their sarcasm isn’t helpful.
Jesus told them to go on their own, and he’d come later. If he’s with them, there’s no telling what inappropriate thing they might try to pull.
Later he followed, on his own time, and against their advice, in secret. Meanwhile the people in Jerusalem were looking for him. There was a lot of messianic excitement; the people were hoping for a warrior to come, free them from Rome, and establish Israel as a world power. We see here another glimpse of unbelief. Some were saying he’s a good man, and others thought he was a deceiver. After all, he wasn’t assembling an army. What kind of messiah is THAT?
But no one spoke publicly. There was an atmosphere of great fear, and a lot of tension surrounding Jesus and his teaching.