When I got serious about God, I can remember being teased mercilessly by one of my younger brothers. And my cousins thought I’d gone crazy. They’d make fun of me, and say things like “Be careful drinking that water, it might turn to wine.”
Sometimes it was funny, but usually it was hurtful. I remember one day reading the passage from John’s gospel appointed for today. I realized that Jesus’ family was unkind to him. For a teenager trying to hold onto his faith, it was a real encouragement.
In today’s reading it is probably near September or October, as the gospel says that Sukkot (the Festival of Booths) is at hand. Many observant Jewish families still celebrate Sukkot, often living outdoors and at the very least eating their meals outdoors.
It should be a time of family closeness. Of course if you’ve ever gone camping with your own family you know that sometimes there can be too much family closeness! This seems to be one of those times. Jesus is getting on his siblings nerves.
We don’t generally think about Jesus family, and the images we do have tend to be romantic images from Christmas pageants. But the little we do have in the New Testament shows Jesus family as pretty normal, perhaps even jealous of his new found fame and popularity.
John writes to show that Jesus teaching and actions were not universally received, even by the people closest to him. In the first part of Chapter 7 Jesus’ brothers try to get him to leave town and go to Jerusalem. It seems that even Jesus siblings, (or possibly cousins), did not believe in him.
“Why don’t you head down to Jerusalem to the festival and show all your disciples that you’re a real leader. Don’t stay up hear in the north where nobody knows what’s going on.”
Jesus replies to his brothers “Go there yourselves. I’m waiting for the right time, but your right time is now, because you’re in sync with this world, while I’m challenging this evil world to change.”
When family is frustrating or hurtful, it might help to remember that when Jesus calls us to love our neighbors, (and our enemies!), he personally knows what that means when it comes to loving family.