Speaking the Truth in Love

Embarrassing but True

The Jewish Feast of Tabernacles was approaching. James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas (the Lord’s half-brothers) invited Jesus to accompany them to Jerusalem. There he could prove himself to the people. ”If you do these things,” they said, “show yourself to the world” (John 7:4). The skepticism implied in their challenge was confirmed by the author of the fourth Gospel: “For even his brothers did not believe in him” (v. 5).

Why did John include this story in his book? After all, his thesis statement expressed the clear intent to create faith in the deity of Jesus. The Lord “did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:30-31).

If John’s stated purpose was to create faith in Jesus, why did he cast a shadow of doubt over his main proposition by telling the story of the brothers’ refusal to believe? Might not the reader of the fourth Gospel say, “Well, if Jesus’ own brothers did not believe in him—and they knew him better than I ever could—then why should I believe in him?” Yes, John’s readers might draw this very conclusion, but he told the story anyway. And he had an excellent reason for doing so: It was the truth. Neither John nor the other inspired Gospel writers ever attempted to gloss over the difficulties in the life and teachings of Jesus. This, of course, was what every reader would expect from completely honest men.

The account of the brothers’ disbelief (in John 7:2-9) illustrates the embarrassment principle. The Gospel writers always tell the truth, even when the facts are embarrassing. The embarrassment principle is one of the evidences for the accuracy of the New Testament documents.

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