“Read More” to pursue answers in the Gospel of John.
Draw me into your holy Presence, that I might know you as my Father
And manifest the image of Christ in this world, and the world to come. Amen.
I find it intriguing how sometimes Jesus deliberately avoids confrontation, while other times (as we’ll see soon) he deliberately courts it. I suppose he only seeks it when necessary, but avoids it when possible. Unlike his brothers:
Now the Jews’ 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. For neither did his brethren believe in him.
I wonder whether they were skeptical of his having any sort of calling, or just didn’t buy into his “direct line to the Father” (though either way, this behavior supports the theory that they were his older step-brothers). Regardless, Jesus isn’t having any of it:
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. When he had said these words unto them, he abode [still] in Galilee.
In all fairness, I must say I sympathize with Jesus “brethren.” If you didn’t know the rest of the story, he’d sound paranoid, cowardly, petulant, and flaky. Alas, it turns out Jesus was right about being hated, which is why he had to later sneak down on his own:
But when his brethren were gone up, then went he also up unto the feast, not openly, but as it were in secret.
Though, you can tell you’re a celebrity when your absence is as noticed as your presence. 🙂
Then the Jews sought him at the feast, and said, Where is he? And there was much murmuring among the people concerning him: for some said, He is a good man: others said, Nay; but he deceiveth the people. Howbeit no man spake openly of him for fear of the Jews.
I find it interesting that he was so controversial that even his critics (who presumably agreed with the Jewish leadership) talked of him in whispers. Still, despite his earlier caution Jesus isn’t afraid to raise a ruckus — presumably when the time was right:
Now about the midst of the feast Jesus went up into the temple, and taught. And the Jews marvelled, saying, How knoweth this man letters, having never learned?
Actually, it sounds like he started out very low key, teaching in the temple as many were wont to do. He managed to impress them with sheer competence, thus laying the groundwork for his more controversial statements:
Jesus answered them, and said, My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me. If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or [whether] I speak of myself. He that speaketh of himself seeketh his own glory: but he that seeketh his glory that sent him, the same is true, and no unrighteousness is in him.
That being the fact that Jesus was sent from God, and not seeking his own glory. Strong words, but they pale in comparison to what comes next:
Did not Moses give you the law, and [yet] none of you keepeth the law? Why go ye about to kill me? The people answered and said, Thou hast a devil: who goeth about to kill thee?
You gotta admit, it is a bit of a shocker. But Jesus is on a roll:
Jesus answered and said unto them, I have done one work, and ye all marvel. Moses therefore gave unto you circumcision; (not because it is of Moses, but of the fathers;) and ye on the sabbath day circumcise a man. If a man on the sabbath day receive circumcision, that the law of Moses should not be broken; are ye angry at me, because I have made a man every whit whole on the sabbath day? Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.
He clearly hasn’t forgotten the reaction he got from healing a man on the Sabbath. Then again, I suspect the crowd (and his critics in particular) haven’t either, so he decides to confront the issue head-on. Much to the surprise of the onlookers:
Then said some of them of Jerusalem, Is not this he, whom they seek to kill? But, lo, he speaketh boldly, and they say nothing unto him. Do the rulers know indeed that this is the very Christ?
Wow, the mood of the crowd seems to be shifting. Or is it?
Howbeit we know this man whence he is: but when Christ cometh, no man knoweth whence he is.
Then as now, the synagogues were no doubt filled with detailed teachings about how exactly Christ would come — based on an idiosyncratic reading of scripture. Thus, anyone who deviated from the supposed script was automatically disqualified. Right?
Jesus acknowledges the conflict with their preconceived notions, but pulls it back to his main point:
Then cried Jesus in the temple as he taught, saying, Ye both know me, and ye know whence I am: and I am not come of myself, but he that sent me is true, whom ye know not. But I know him: for I am from him, and he hath sent me.
Ouch. “I know God, but you don’t.” Them’s fighting words:
Then they sought to take him: but no man laid hands on him, because his hour was not yet come.
Though also inspiring ones:
And many of the people believed on him, and said, When Christ cometh, will he do more miracles than these which this [man] hath done?
For both sides:
The Pharisees heard that the people murmured such things concerning him; and the Pharisees and the chief priests sent officers to take him.
Not satisfied with this level of disruption, Jesus stirs the pot further:
Then said Jesus unto them, Yet a little while am I with you, and [then] I go unto him that sent me. Ye shall seek me, and shall not find [me]: and where I am, [thither] ye cannot come.
With (by now) predictable results:
Then said the Jews among themselves, Whither will he go, that we shall not find him? will he go unto the dispersed among the Gentiles, and teach the Gentiles? What [manner of] saying is this that he said, Ye shall seek me, and shall not find [me]: and where I am, [thither] ye cannot come?
It is as if Jesus is no longer trying to gain disciples, but rather break down their prejudices about the Messiah — so that they will believe after his death. And as a bonus, he ends by hinting about the Spirit to come:
In the last day, that great [day] of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet [given]; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.)
Which highlights the tension between who Jesus is and who they think the Christ should be:
Many of the people therefore, when they heard this saying, said, Of a truth this is the Prophet.
Others said, This is the Christ. But some said, Shall Christ come out of Galilee? Hath not the scripture said, That Christ cometh of the seed of David, and out of the town of Bethlehem, where David was? So there was a division among the people because of him.
A cautionary tale. How often are we blinded by our notions of what God ought to be like, so that we can’t see who He really is?
The Pharisees are of course up in arms about all this, but — comically, it seems to me — can’t do a thing about it:
And some of them would have taken him; but no man laid hands on him. Then came the officers to the chief priests and Pharisees; and they said unto them, Why have ye not brought him?
Um, uh, well…
The officers answered, Never man spake like this man.
Y’know, some would call that cowardice or dereliction of duty, but I consider it the height of bravery, wisdom, and perception for them to realize that their orders were not right, and refuse to follow them.
Of course, not everyone agrees with me:
Then answered them the Pharisees, Are ye also deceived? Have any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed on him? But this people who knoweth not the law are cursed.
A fascinating argument: who are you to decide for yourself whom to believe in? Don’t all the people you respect distrust him? Don’t we know better than you about such things?
Which might’ve gone off better if Nicodemus hadn’t pointed out the flaw in their logic:
Nicodemus saith unto them, (he that came to Jesus by night, being one of them,) Doth our law judge [any] man, before it hear him, and know what he doeth?
Bad move, Nic, trying to bring up fairness and evidence before a hostile crowd:
They answered and said unto him, Art thou also of Galilee? Search, and look: for out of Galilee ariseth no prophet. And every man went unto his own house.
Ah, the last resort of the Pharisee: prooftexting a single verse to justify an unwillingness to consider all the evidence — much less live up to what they do know.
It would be funny if I wasn’t one of them.
God, I am reminded again of how little I know Jesus, of how often I “coast” based on second-hand knowledge and remembered epiphanies, rather than turning to you for a fresh burst of living water. Father, till my hardened ground, shattering the false certainties that keep me from hearing your voice. Fill me with your Spirit, and your Love, that I may receive you. Help me to break free of all the blinders and bondages that trap me with the Pharisees. May I always fight for you, and not against you. I ask this in Jesus name, Amen.