the lie of Jesus?

image courtesy of toptenz

Did Jesus ever tell a lie?

Not too long ago I did a series on Rahab*, which focused on ethics, lying, and possible conflict within the laws of God.  Shawn Smucker (of blogging fame) remembered that series when reading through the Gospel of John, and gave me a heads up on this apparent lie of Jesus from chapter 7.  Below is my own modern-day interpretation of John 7:1-10:

Festival of Shelters was playing Friday night in Judea, so Jesus’ brothers invited him, “Come on, let’s get out of Galilee.  All your followers will be there, and they can see your miracles.  Stop hiding the magic, man.  Let the world see.  Jesus, you’ll be famous!”  [This was said with a lot of sarcasm because at this point not even Jesus’ brothers believed he was the Son of God.]

But Jesus said he couldn’t make it.  “Nah, the timing’s not right.  You guys can go to any concert you want; no one’s trying to kill you.  But everyone hates me because I keep telling them what they’re doing is wrong.  You guys hit this shindig without me.  I’m not going, cats — the timing is off.”  So Jesus stayed in Galilee.

But after his brothers went to the party, Jesus followed… in disguise — because the Jewish leaders were looking to kill him at the concert.

What do you think?  Did Jesus lie?  Or did he just change his mind?  Did he know ahead of time he was going to change his mind?  If he knew ahead of time, is that really changing his mind?  If he lied, we have to assume it was okay, right?  What makes it so?  Ah, the questions are countless….

* You can find the full series on Rahab here:  


Filed under modern-day retelling, musings on the Word

25 responses to “the lie of Jesus?

  1. Why don’t ya go ahead and ask a SIMPLE question? 🙂

    • yeah, huh. i really don’t have a good answer for this one, bernard. i generally go by the rule of “the simplest interpretation is usually the right one.”

      and the simplest interpretation in this case is that Jesus knew he was going to the festival but telling his brothers would’ve blown his cover. so he hid the truth from them — or lied.

      what’s just as surprising to me, though, is that i’ve never noticed this before.

  2. Emily Miller

    Liar liar pants of fire rhymes in German too:
    Leuer leuer hose an feuer. (I think I’m spelling that right.)

    That’s about all I got.

  3. I’ve got even less than Emily. But I’ll be interested to see where this goes.

  4. Brett I like it when I’m asking the impossible questions, not you.

    I’m not sure you can know ahead of time you are going to change your mind, if that is the case, your mind as already been changed. Maybe Jesus knew major things about the future, but was never really sure if he wanted to go to concerts?

    I’m so confused.

  5. I think it’s important to look at motives in this situation and pay attention to the brothers’ full request. “Jesus, come to the festival with us to do miracles, get people’s attention and become a public figure.” To this, Jesus says no. The potential sarcasm in the brothers request doesn’t change the response. Also, I wouldn’t be so quick to interpret the brothers’ request as mocking sarcasm. Just because they don’t understand, or believe, in Jesus’ divinity and ultimate mission doesn’t mean they don’t believe he has the potential to be a major leader of a popular uprising, which may be more along the lines of what they’re pushing him to do. Or maybe they are just mocking him. Either way, Jesus sees their motives and politely refuses their request.

    Here’s a question: Given the brothers’ motives, would have been any less of a lie for Jesus to have said, “Sure, I’ll go with you.” And then just laid low at the festival instead of performing attention-getting signs as his brothers had hoped for?

    • i would’ve said that, yes, to have done so would seem not to be a lie.

      but i do understand your point. and obviously this text is ultimately not about Jesus’ mind changing and possible untruths. it’s just interesting to me — and a good exercise in thinking through hard things.

  6. Aaron Bailey

    Better question, “Why did God TELL Samuel to lie in 1 Samuel 16?

  7. thechiefest

    The King James reads, “I go not up YET unto this feast: for my time is not yet full come…”. So according to that version he is telling the truth.

  8. Milynda

    Hmmm… I kinda was along the lines that Jesus did not go with the “guys” in their caravan but went by himself, mixing in the crowd. Note, that at that time, not many knew who He truly was therefore He could blend in with the crowd.

    Although, considering that following this passage he goes to the temple and preaches, Him magically appearing before the people would have definitely been (a) funny as all get out and (b) distracting from the message.

  9. He didn’t lie. He said, “My time is not here yet.” After they left, his time had come to go.
    But, I think He is actually referring to His time to be seized (verse 19, He asked the crowd why they sought to kill Him.).
    He also tells the disciples that they are not hated by the world (which we know later they are) and that it doesn’t matter if they go and make a display of themselves. They won’t be seized.

  10. What is the point?

    What is the point of raising this issue? Is truth subjective? Do we need an excuse to be deceptive?

    God gives Samuel a direct commandment that provides him a reason for being among Jesse’s family. His business for going there is to offer a sacrifice to Yawheh. He does that (maintaining his integrity) and in the context of that sacrifice received the revelation that David will be the next king. Where is the lie?

    When missionaries enter closed countries (those that will not give missionary visas) they are faced with a choice. What will be their reason for being in this country? Business as Mission (BAM) is an honest way to enter this country. A person of integrity opens a legitimate business and earns a living through the work accomplished. The same job provides opportunities for building relationships with employees, vendors and customers. Those relational lines provide potential lines for the spread of the gospel. This has been honest. Opening a business front is not. Such a sham denies the proclamation of the gospel because actions contradict the call for honesty and integrity.

    What’s the point?

  11. SD

    Recently, I heard a series of sermons condemning Rahab’s lie. I’ve been saved and reading my Bible for more years than you have fingers and toes, and I had never even considered that what she did was wrong. When I went to the internet, I was again surprised at the number of articles condemning what Rahab did. I read your series on the subject, too. I enjoyed it, by the way. I did my own Bible study and have concluded she did nothing wrong. After comparing and contrasting passages, I learned deception can be good or evil. In her case, she did the right thing. What prompted me to write to you, was the issue you raised in John 7. I see the passage as follows:
    vs 2 – it’s the feast of tabernacles requiring all males to attend in Jerusalem. Vs 3-5, Jesus’ brothers tempt him to openly go to Jerusalem. Vs 6-8, Jesus says he is not going yet for his time was not yet full come. Vs 9-14, Jesus tarries in Galilee, then somewhere around the middle of the feast, shows up teaching in the temple. Thus, there is no lie in what he told his brethren.
    I know what you are driving at with your question, but this passage doesn’t provide the basis for showing deception can be acceptable to God and even used by God. Other passages give a better support. “Don’t bend the scriptures to fit the doctrine.” I don’t remember who told me that, but it was good advice.
    As an added note, compare this passage to that of John 12:12-15, 23. Notice the difference in manner of entry? Jn 7 – as in were in secret. Jn 12 – open entry of the King. And what changed? Timing. Compare 7:6 and 12:23.
    By the way, that study is available if you would like it. It is not a polished publication. Just a personal study. If you want it, I can email it.

  12. juda

    offcourse Jesus lied: He is but a man.

  13. juda

    i mean: was but a man.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s