Yesterday’s post ended with Jesus still teaching in the temple area, involved in a contretemps with the religious rulers.
The gathered people at first wondered if this might truly be Messiah, but ultimately dismissed the thought—despite Jesus’ powerful and authoritative teaching, despite the many signs and wonders he performed, despite the supernatural proofs he provided—because they knew Jesus as the son of Joseph the construction contractor, Mary’s oldest son, a guy from Nazareth.
They knew where he had come from.
Which meant he could not be the Messiah, since in their day it was thought when the Messiah came, it would be sudden and unexpected, he would simply appear, and there would be no question of who he was.
Jesus, again showing his ability to read hearts and discern souls, responded to what must have been a conversation towards the outer ring of the crowd that had been circled around him. As people now dispersed, having lost interest in the theological arguments between Jesus and the religious authorities, Jesus’ voice rang out.
Even so, you all know me, and you all know where I am from, yet I have not come of myself, but rather the One who sent me is real and true, One you all do not perceive or know.Jesus, John 7:28
This spoke directly to those who assumed they knew Jesus.
Yes, Jesus acknowledged. You do know all that. But what you do not know is the brick wall preventing you from understanding who I really am.
Who was Jesus looking at when he said those words?
Was it to the receding backs of the faithful pilgrims, who had come to Jerusalem to celebrate their faith in God? Was it to the locals, whose ancestors had returned from exile to rebuild the holy city? Was it to the scribes, teachers of the law, Pharisees, and religious rulers, who had dedicated their lives to the things of God?
What would that be like for you and me today, for someone to say we did not know God?
“I know [this One]” Jesus said, with emphasis on “I” juxtaposed against all those who had dismissed him. Did some turn back, at that? Were there raised eyebrows, and looks of sardonic expectation?
“Because I am from [that One], and that One sent me.”
It was yet another showstopper, the kind that sucks the breath right out of your lungs.
Many prophets had been sent by God.
But no one had ever been sent from God. Embedded in that phrase was the idea of being of the same essence of God, as though having emanated from God in some way.
It was at this point that some tried to seize Jesus in order to apprehend him. This would not have been the Roman guard, always present during festivals in order to curtail zealots and insurrectionists. This would have been the temple guard upon the orders of the Sanhedrin. John’s gospel cryptically records, “not one lay a hand upon him, for his hour had not yet come.”
In some mysterious way, God prevented Jesus’ arrest.
I have thought a lot about this scene, over the years. What Jesus said was bold, controversial, incendiary, really. The only reason Jesus was able to walk away was because it simply was not time yet for him to go to the cross.
Otherwise, it would have ended that day, on the temple steps, Jesus being hauled into the temple complex’s private prison, a place where Peter and John spent the night in chains just months after Jesus ascended into heaven, and where the apostle Paul would end up about thirty years later.
Why was Jesus so confident? Where did he find that kind of courage?
Well, remember what Jesus had told his brothers, nearly thirty verses ago, in this chapter? “My season, my proper time, is not yet at hand.” (John 7:6)
Jesus knew he was in God’s will, that what he said was in complete agreement with what God would have him say, as they were—and are—literally completely united, distinct Persons yet one Being. Jesus knew God’s purposes would unfold in God’s time. Jesus knew he was protected.
The rest of Jesus’ and the apostles’ teaching indicates this same union and same confidence can be for every believer in Jesus. God will do for you and me what we cannot do, giving strength, endurance, perseverance, inspiration, courage, even protection and a path forward for us to complete what has been set before us to do.
This does not mean we can count on some sort of magic bubble that keeps out calamity, tragedy, and suffering. Far from it, as Jesus experienced all that and more. This is not a guarantee of smooth sailing, abundant blessing, having all our plans work out, and so on. But it does seem to be a truth you and I can count on when we are about God’s business.
So powerful was the force of Jesus’ teaching, it acted like a centrifuge, driving some to fury, and others to faith.
But out of the crowd many believed in him, and were saying, “Whenever the Messiah will come, will he not create and carry out as many signs-wonders-miracles as this one has created and carried out?“Many in the crowd, John 7:31
Jesus’ teaching is authoritative and powerful because it is from God
One last thing here (after I have erased at least half a dozen other attempts to wrap up these few, hard verses).
Jesus spoke the truth, and then he let the truth do its work. He left belief and acceptance in God’s hands, in the power and divine working of God’s Spirit.
Jesus did not follow after people, begging them to believe him. He did not try first this argument, and then that one. He did not ask, “But why will you not believe me?” He did not check, and keep checking, with people to see what they thought, or if they would like to change their minds, or what might sound better, or modify his message until it was acceptable.
He let the truth do its work, while he continued to consistently love, care for, and be present with everyone who would receive him.
That is the challenge I want to meet. To be trustworthy in telling the truth, and then to let truth do its work, in God’s time, by God’s power, while I keep loving, and caring for, and being present with all those who will receive me.
[Truth | DES Daughter, flickr, (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)]