His brothers said to him, “Leave here and go to Judea, that your disciples also may see the works you are doing. For no one works in secret if he seeks to be known openly. If you do these things, show yourself to the world.” For not even his brothers believed in him. (John 7:3-5)
If you woke up one day and told your brother or sister that you are a race car driver, do you think they would believe you? What if you told your husband or wife that you’re actually an astronaut or a CIA agent? Your job at Sports Authority is actually just a clever cover. Think they’d buy it? What about if you told your kids you’re a space alien? Actually, my kids would probably say, “Yeah. Makes sense. Cool.”
But none of those are even half as hard to believe as it would have been for Jesus’s half-brothers (Mary and Joseph’s other sons) to believe that Jesus—whom they had grown up with; whom they had known all their lives; whom they had seen spill food on himself and trip and scuff up his knee, and learn to throw a ball—that their brother Jesus was actually God. The God who created the earth that brings forth food, and who designed the human body to be able to self-repair a scuffed up knee, and who threw the stars across the galaxies in the beginning.
Jesus might as well have tried to convince them he was a race car driver.
In John 7 Jesus’s brothers are trying to convince him to go public with what they thought of as some sort of magic and healing road show. They said to him, “No one who wants to become a public figure acts in secret. Since you are doing these things, show yourself to the world” (v. 4). They weren’t urging him to seek a larger following because they cared about the gospel or about Jesus’s plan to initiate the Kingdom of God on earth. After all, as John tells us, “Even his own brothers did not believe in him” (v. 5).
Have you ever heard someone say, “If Jesus wanted me to believe in him, why wouldn’t he just show himself to me?” Seems reasonable, right? Couldn’t Jesus put all doubt about his resurrection and divinity to rest if he just appeared in public again? Maybe do an interview on CNN? “My guest tonight on Anderson Cooper 360° is Jesus of Nazareth….”
But seeing isn’t always believing, is it? Jesus’s own brothers didn’t believe him. Not at first, anyway. His brother James did eventually believe and he became a key leader in the church in Jerusalem. But in Matthew 28:17 we’re told that even some of the people who saw Jesus standing before them resurrected still doubted him. I mean, Jesus was practically ascending into heaven before their eyes, and these doubters are saying to each other, “Yeah, I’m just not sure. I don’t buy it. I have a cousin who can do some stuff like that….” I mean what more could you ask for to overcome your doubt than to have the resurrected Christ standing right there in front of you?!
So the problem isn’t that Jesus doesn’t show up on our front step and dispel our doubts. The problem is that our hard hearts would prevent us from truly seeing him even if he did. The problem is that even if our eyes work just fine, apart from God’s saving grace we are completely blind. The Bible says that “The god of this world”—the devil—“has blinded the minds of unbelievers” (2 Cor. 4:4).
Unbelievers aren’t dumb. They’re not unreasonable. They’re not stubborn or close-minded or more affected by evil than any one of us. They’re blind. They are incapable of choosing to see something that they simply cannot see.
Can you see Neptune without a powerful telescope? Why not? What if you just decided to choose to see Neptune with your unaided eyes? Could you see it any better? Of course not.
Unbelievers can only see the truth and love and beauty and majesty of Jesus when God chooses to give them the grace that changes their hard hearts, brings light to their darkened minds, and gives sight to their blind eyes. So let us give thanks every day for the reality that we only see the truth of Christ because we have been given eyes to see. We have been given the ability to believe the gospel. We have been given hearts that can love God—all of his grace alone.
And may we ask his sight-giving grace to flow along with our words when we share the gospel with blind people.