The Lightworker’s Temptation: Who are my Sisters and Brothers? (The Gospel of John, chapter 7)

Gospel of John #39: Text John 7: 1-9 is reproduced below

This passage in the Gospel of John, which emphasizes Jesus’s miracles or signs, shows that Jesus is a lightworker. Possessing the capacity for miracle and prophecy, he guards this capacity carefully. Just as lightworkers, in our own times, must be careful as to their purposes in making use of supernatural gifts, so Jesus here must be careful not to misuse his gifts. His own brothers tempt him to make use of his divinely bestowed powers, wrongly, for the sake of publicity and political gain.

Temptation

In this passage, the brothers of Jesus entice him to go to Jerusalem to “show yourself to the world” (7:4). Since the Jews wish to kill Jesus in Judea (whose capital is Jerusalem), Jesus’s brothers are positioned in this story as the bad guys, who do not believe in Jesus (v.5); instead, they wish to see him killed. Their suggestion that Jesus show himself to “the world” flies in the face of Jesus’s refusal, in the previous chapter, to become a King with a public following on a worldly stage.

Echoing Satan’s temptation, that Jesus should take command of the world as a ruler over many kingdoms, the brothers show their ignorance of Jesus’s true mission. Jesus’s mission is to work miracles, in generosity and by serving human freedom, on behalf of his friends and disciples. But, his kingdom is not of this world.

The Lightworker’s Choice

Like Jesus, lightworkers face temptations by false friends, who may betray them. Even the church itself may label lightworkers as magicians, witches, or subversive entities. Lightworkers must be discerning so as to ally themselves with friends who may assist them to channel their gifts in life-giving directions.

The brothers of the flesh, who are false friends of Jesus in duplicity, stand in contrast to Jesus’s true friends and family in spirit. When Jesus does finally go up to Judea, he stops in nearby Bethany (John 11), where he finds Lazarus, his “brother” in discipleship, and Mary and Martha, his sisters. These friends of Jesus are his true family, because they believe in Jesus’s divine stature and his capacity to do the works of God, even by raising the dead.

Historical Choice Point: Jesus and the Church

Who are the brothers of Jesus in the Gospel of John? According to Matthew, Jesus’s brothers are as follows: James, Joses, Simon, and Judas (Matt 13:55). It is possible that the term “brothers” means natural brothers or instead kin or cousin. The brothers are included among the believers in Acts 1:14.

James, the brother of Jesus, was the leader of the Jerusalem Church, who was martyred in 62 CE. (For the martyrdom as described by the Jewish historian Josephus, see this article: James Marytrdom Josephus.) The apostle Paul (Gal 1:18-2:10) names James among the pillars of the church in Jerusalem. This James may be the same as the James to whom the Lord appeared after his resurrection (1Cor 15:7).

If it is James who is featured among the brothers in John 7:1-9, then possibly the Gospel of John opposes the Jerusalem Church. (For Robert Eisenstein’s thesis on Jesus’s brother James, see this summary review:  Eisenstein on James brother of Jesus).There are three people named James among Jesus’s early followers, named in the New Testament. (See: Three James in NT).

Lightworkers

Like Jesus, lightworkers may stand in a tense relationship toward organized churches. Nevertheless, their true community may be found among their friends, who are doing works of light and love. This community of friends, like the community in Bethany around Lazarus, will sustain lightworkers to perform works of love and light.

John 7:1-9

7 After this Jesus went about in Galilee. He did not wish to go about in Judea because the Jews were looking for an opportunity to kill him. 2 Now the Jewish festival of Booths was near. 3 So his brothers said to him, “Leave here and go to Judea so that your disciples also may see the works you are doing; 4 for no one who wants to be widely known acts in secret. If you do these things, show yourself to the world.” 5 (For not even his brothers believed in him.) 6 Jesus said to them, “My time has not yet come, but your time is always here. 7 The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify against it that its works are evil. 8 Go to the festival yourselves. I am not going to this festival, for my time has not yet fully come.” 9 After saying this, he remained in Galilee.

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