The Gospel of John was penned that we may “…. believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God,” and in believing have life in his name.
In today’s passage, we see Jesus’ brothers enjoining him to go to Judea for the Festival of the Tabernacles. At first glance, their motivation is seemingly benign—a desire for Jesus’ disciples in that region to see his miraculous works. His brothers urge, “No one who wants to become a public figure acts in secret…show yourself to the world.” But in the very next sentence John tells us that in fact Jesus’ brothers “did not believe in him.”
How are we to understand this apparent disconnect?
These men bore witness to Jesus’ miraculous works. They saw him feed the five thousand and walk on water. They witnessed him heal the sick and cause the lame to walk. They recognize and even revere his power, they want to be associated with it, but they clearly do not understand the heart behind these acts. Their vapid appeals to ego are profoundly tone deaf.
Jesus is utterly uninterested in the praises of men, in flattery or recognition. He has no desire to “become a public figure.” He does not seek accolades or adoration. Rather he is singularly consumed with the will of the One who sent him.
Our own city is home to various seats of institutional power, and as such is filled with public figures. Beyond the halls of government, Washington tends to draw men and women from around the country, and even the globe, with grand aspirations to influence opinion leaders, craft public policy, shape culture—nothing short of change the world.
These are meritorious undertakings, but for many the praise, the glory, the recognition involved in such pursuits features all too prominently.
Jesus offers a different way.
He dismisses the plans his brothers have for him, saying plainly that the time for him to go to Judea “has not yet come,” echoing a refrain from the wedding in Cana. Ultimately, Jesus goes up to Jerusalem, but he does not do so in the manner his brothers wish. He goes in secret and teaches, rather than perform miracles—his teachings point those, with ears to hear, to God the Father.
He again reveals that he treasures the glory of God above the praises of men. I love that the national monuments and memorials which draw millions of tourists to Washington every year are part of the everyday landscape of the city we call home. But in reality, the domes, columns and etched marble, and the principles and feats they honor, are temporal. How much more so the viral video, well-liked tweet or popular Instagram post? Whatever we set our hands to—ministry, work, parenting, marriage— does our yearning for personal recognition or adoration threaten to obscure, in the words of Jesus, “the honor of the one who sent him”? This Lent let us prayerfully seek to orient our affections toward the glory of God, rather than the praises of man.
Elyse lives with her husband Jake and three daughters, Stella, Aliyah and Samira, in Hillcrest, DC. She’s just embarked on a new season as a stay at home Mom, after many years of government work in human rights and foreign policy.