Nelle Harper Lee, author of To Kill a Mockingbird, was uncomfortable with fame. Even after her bestselling novel won the Pulitzer Prize in 1961 and was made into an Academy Award-winning movie in 1962, Lee refused to give interviews or make public appearances. Until her death in 2016, she remained an intensely private person.
The private life of Jesus was met with suspicion and skepticism. His own brothers even said, “No one who wants to become a public figure acts in secret” (v. 4). They urged Jesus to take a public stand and show Himself to the world. They were not motivated by any evangelistic impulse, though, but rather by skepticism and doubt about who He was (v. 5). Jesus was following the will of His Father and waiting for the proper time to deliver His message (v. 6).
The Jewish Festival of Tabernacles, also called Sukkot, commemorated the huts in which the Israelites lived during their forty-year exile in the desert (see Lev. 23:33–43). It was a time to remember and rejoice at God’s provision. Jesus attended the festival in secret, and about halfway through He began to teach publicly in the temple courts. According to onlookers, Jesus’ teaching was amazing and demonstrated superior knowledge (v. 14). Jesus used His teaching to reinforce His claim to divinity and His connection to God the Father: “My teaching is not my own” (v. 16).
Jesus did not speak or act on His own behalf but did everything according to the will of God, the One who sent Him (v. 18). While the Jewish leaders were impressed by His teaching and amazed by His miracles, they resisted His claim to divinity (v. 21). They could not understand, and so they sought to destroy Him.
Many of us seek the approval of others, whether it’s a compliment on a new outfit, praise for a well-prepared meal, or having a post liked on social media. But we are not to seek glory for ourselves but instead direct all the praise to the Lord. He sees all we do, whether in private or public, and we can bring Him glory in everything (see 1 Cor. 10:31).