They were speaking in inviting words, but it was a tone of unbelief...goading Him to raise them to ranks of power...and they were His own brothers. Think in terms of an election year...the nation is looking for potentials to take office...someone to change a bad situation. The Jews were victims of bad foreign policy. They had been taken over by another country, allowed to keep their homeland, but the Romans had set up a Roman ruler over them and they were basically paying tribute while living under subjection to a foreign power. But, word on the busy streets, in the temple, and in the marketplace was that a new Jewish"King" would come to take back the nation, to lead a revolution to bring them their independance, a Messiah.
Jesus had been on the scene for two and a half years, and was doing many great works. Halfway through his third year of ministry is a scene that reveals much of the humanity of Christ. There were people who thought He might be the one. But, there were those against Him, too. Some wanted to kill him. He kept a low profile and avoided Jerusalem, since He had healed a lame man and made some people high up really mad. There was one point in time, where even His mother and brothers had apologized for Him, claiming He was not right in the head. They had gone to get Him and bring Him home, to put an end to the ruckus, and threats against his life. It almost seems like they couldn't believe in His mission. Yet, you find this strange passage at the beginning of John 7...
John 7:3-4 His brethren therefore said unto him, Depart hence, and go into Judaea, that thy disciples also may see the works that thou doest. For there is no man that doeth any thing in secret, and he himself seeketh to be known openly. If thou do these things, shew thyself to the world.
They wanted Him to show up at the Feast of Tabernacles...a holiday much like a convention... and perform for the crowds, a demonstration of power to elicit a big following so everybody would believe in His mission, and they would not have to defend His mission to unbelieving neighbors. They wanted Him to put up or shut up. He was becoming an embarrassment.
Jesus seemed more hurt by His own brothers than He did the mass of unbelievers. At other times He chided with unbelievers, but here He seems meekly to shrink back at their mocking scorn. He tries to explain that the timing is not right for Him. He sees they don't understand and it hurts Him to the core; so much so that he waits to go secretly after they leave. At the midpoint of the Feast days, He goes openly into the Temple and begins to teach the people.
What strikes me most is that He resisted a public display of the proportion that many big promoters look for in every age. If you want good PR, you have to attract crowds...numbers. But, that was not Jesus' way. He spoke to the people, not the leaders. He didn't pander to the lobbies or organizations who would have promoted His "cause" in the interest of wielding their own power. That's what all politics is about: a power exchange. Jesus was not seeking to gain or exchange power. He was all power. He was the omnipotent Lord of the Universe. His mission was to change men's hearts. Funny how humility and power go hand in hand. But, most importantly, I love the human glimpse of Jesus among His earthly brothers; the picture of His sensitivity to their goading and disbelief. The Son of Man, was He not, just such as you and I?