“Go ye up unto this feast: I go not up yet unto this feast: for my time is not yet full come. When he had said these words unto them, he abode still in Galilee. But when his brethren were gone up, then went he also up unto the feast, not openly, but as it were in secret.”John 7:8-10
The short answer is NO.. In John 7, Jesus is traveling through Galilee. Meanwhile, in Judea, the Jewish leaders were looking for a way to kill Him (John 7:1). “Now the Jew's feast of tabernacles was at hand. 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.” John 7:2–4 Jesus’ reply to His brothers: “Then Jesus said unto them, My time is not yet come: but your time is alway ready. The world cannot hate you; but me it hateth, because I testify of it, that the works thereof are evil. Go ye up unto this feast: I go not up yet unto this feast: for my time is not yet full come.” John 7:6–8. Jesus then stayed in Galilee for a while, but “after his brothers had left for the festival, he went also, “not publicly, but in secret” (John 7:10).
This passage is often used by skeptics to say that Jesus lied to His brothers—He said He was not going to the feast, but then He went anyway. Some cite this incident as evidence that Jesus was a mere human, not the sinless Savior as He claimed to be. They point out that the Bible forbids the sin of lying (Leviticus 19:11; Colossians 3:9), that Jesus claimed to be without sin (John 8:46), and that the Messiah would not lie (Isaiah 53:9). If Jesus lied to His brothers about going to the festival, then He cannot be the Messiah, and the Bible is not God’s inerrant.
The charge that Jesus lied to His disciples makes the error of taking a verse or two out of context—cutting out all relevant verses before and after—in order to make Scripture say something it does not really say. To understand the meaning of Jesus’ words to His brothers, we’ll look at the immediate context, then the larger context of the event, and end with the logical conclusions about John 7:1–10 and the main lesson it teaches. First, we should mention that some old manuscripts of John’s Gospel have the word yet in John 7:8: “I am not yet going up to this festival”. If yet (or now) was part of the original text, as dozens of translations render it, there is no lie—case closed. The word may or may not have been in John’s original text. But, since we don’t know for certain, relying on its absence makes for a weak argument in trying to tear down the Bible.
As it turns out, it doesn’t matter whether yet was in that particular place or not, because Christ’s full statement—the context—has the same meaning with or without that word (yet) in verse 8. The immediate context is Jesus’ response to His brothers’ sarcastic taunts. As John mentions, His brothers were unbelievers at that time (John 7:5). They were issuing a similar challenge as other nonbelievers (John 10:24; Matthew 12:38; 27:40) and even Satan (Matthew 4:3–6). Jesus’ brothers told Him to go to Jerusalem, where the crowds were, and put Himself on public display. They were saying, in effect, “If You are who You say You are, prove it in the way we say you should.”
Jesus response to His brothers was that He was not going to the Feast of Tabernacles with them. Twice, Jesus uses the words not yet (John 7:6, 8). Jesus then makes the point to His brothers that God’s timing is precise. Jesus’ actions are not based on whatever time they seem to think appropriate: “Then Jesus said unto them, My time is not yet come: but your time is alway ready.” John 7:6 Jesus would accomplish God’s will in God’s time, not theirs: “Go ye up unto this feast: I go not up yet unto this feast: for my time is not yet full come.” John 7:8 The larger context of this episode is Jesus traveled to Jerusalem to teach and reveal more about His mission and identity. He made His public appearance halfway through the Feast of Tabernacles. “Now about the midst of the feast Jesus went up into the temple, and taught.”John 7:14 Jesus then spent a lot of that visit condemning the religious leaders as liars and hypocrites. The problem for modern skeptics is that Jesus’ own disciples did not think He lied to them. His brothers understood exactly what Jesus had said. If they thought He had lied to them, based on their continued skepticism of Him throughout His ministry, they did not even believe when Jesus rose from the dead, even after ten of His disciples saw Him after he rose, Thomas who would not believe until he saw for himself. “Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works. Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me: or else believe me for the very works' sake.” John 14:10-11
With this in mind, the disciples, had they thought He lied, they would have exposed Jesus as a lying hypocrite even as He was denouncing the Jewish leaders for being that very thing. Here is Jesus, in Jerusalem, publicly proclaiming to everyone, “Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” John 8:31–32, and His disciples did not object. Jesus’ own family—those who lived with Him, knew Him best, and were trying to stop Him because they thought He was beside Himself (Mark 3:21)—did not take the opportunity during the Feast of Tabernacles to expose Him as a hypocritical fraud. If Jesus had lied to His brothers, it’s reasonable to assume that they would have spoken up in Jerusalem. The reality they did not argues for the fact that Jesus did not lie.
Also, it would make no sense that the writer of this gospel, Christ’s devoted disciple, John, would make such an obvious mistake as to say that Jesus lied to His brothers. The apostle John always condemned lying in no uncertain terms (1 John 1:10; 2:4; 2:22; 4:20; 5:10). His gospel introduces us to Jesus as “full of grace and truth” John 1:14 (cf. John 1:17), and he quotes Jesus complimenting Nathanael, “Here is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.” Later, Jesus tells a Samaritan woman that we must worship God in spirit and in truth (John 4:23–24).
John did not consider Jesus’ response to him and His brothers in John 7 to be a lie. John makes it clear that Jesus’ response to His brothers meant only that He was not going when His brothers thought He should go. The Lord was working on a different timetable, and He was not going to allow His brothers to dictate His actions. In summary, Jesus did not lie to His disciples, He was making it clear to them that if or when He went to the festival was a matter of God’s exact timing and perfect plan, not their opinions. He knew His brothers would see Him at the festival and would have to think about what He told them more deeply when His exact hour had come, but not before (cf. John 7:30). God unfolds His plan for our lives in His own perfect timing (Psalm 116:39; 2 Corinthians 6:2; Ephesians 1:3–12) to conform us to His Son (Romans 8:28–30), who is Truth Himself (John 14:6).