Gospel of John: Pressure of Persecution


So far in chapter 7, Jesus had made several highly controversial statements, all spoken with the voice of authority. He told

  • his brothers every opportunity was theirs and the world would not hate them because they did not believe.
  • the religious authorities and all the worshipers at the temple, that God had sent him, and his teaching came straight from God.
  • everyone who truly wanted to do God’s will they would recognize Jesus as Messiah.
  • everyone who did not believe him and put their faith in him, or who opposed his healing on the Sabbath, not only did not themselves obey the Law of Moses, but they did not even know God.

Jesus’ final blockbuster statement was to aver he had been sent from God. Not by God, as all the prophets of old, and John the Baptist, but rather coming from God as though Jesus and God were of one essence and being.

Had God not protected Jesus in that moment, had the hour of Jesus’ crucifixion arrived in that moment, Jesus would have been seized and hauled to the temple prison right then and there.


The Pharisees and chief priests had heard the crowd all around them agitated and exercised over whether Jesus was Messiah. So long as the people were simply disturbed and debating, even in a heated way, the religious authorities would have left it alone. But there were so many people putting their faith in Jesus, recognizing Jesus as the Messiah, the chief priests had felt compelled to send for the temple guard to arrest him.


I doubt you and I have ever seen a scene such as the one played out before the people streaming up and down the temple steps, some still damp from their purification in the mikveh, others perhaps glowing with spiritual fervor and reverence as they leave the temple courts. Many are walking in with sacrifices and thank offerings, others are surely leaving together, talking about their experience inside.

From a gate used only by the priests and temple personnel, members of the temple guard emerge. They are permitted to carry weapons, and are wearing the temple insignia. As if by instinct, everyone around them draws back in fear and awe, hearts pounding, skin flushed, for to be so near a guard intent on an arrest brought vicarious feelings of dread.

The guards’ armor rattles, their hobnailed sandals click ominously as they approach, the sound is magnified in the vaulted ceiling of Solomon’s colonnade.

Even the Pharisees and chief priests take a step or two back. They do not want to be swept up in the struggle, as they see Jesus’ disciples almost imperceptibly close ranks around their rabbi.

Jesus watches unperturbed, not moving either his stance or his position.

The captain of the guard comes to a stop within speaking distance of Jesus. Both men stare steadily at each other, and neither breaks their gaze. It is a tense stand-off, for neither the captain nor the guards make the slightest move to apprehend Jesus. As the minutes tick by, the wind picks up, first wafting in little bursts around the tableau, then coming in ever greater gusts. Some look for the dark clouds that must be forming on the horizon, for the air smells of dust, and there is a strange electrical feel to the atmosphere.

Jesus finally lifts his face and calls out in a voice that is carried by the wind, across the entire outer court of the temple, “I am yet a little time with you all, then I will withdraw to the One who sent me.” Though his eyes are still settled upon the temple guard, it is somehow clear he is addressing the chief priests and Pharisees nearby.

The Judeans all stare at each other, and in particular the religious scholars’ brows meet in angry confusion. What new conundrum was this, what veiled affront meant to disgrace them?

“You all will seek after me.”

Jesus uses a Hebraism that often means to seek to worship God, or just as easily, to plot against one’s life. Again, the chief priests and Pharisees shudder with that sense of exposure and vulnerability. How could Jesus possibly know what they have planned?

“Yet you will not find or see [me], so then where I am you all are not able to go.”

The religious authorities speak hurriedly and heatedly to each other, in low voices. What can this possibly mean? What new ignominy was this?

“Where is this one about to go?!”

“That we ourselves are not going to find or see?!”

They knew every inch of Judah, of the Galilee, of Herod’s realm to the south. They had eyes and ears everywhere throughout Palestine, even better informed than the imperial procurator himself.

“He is not going to go into the Greek Diaspora?!”

“Then to teach the Greeks?!”

Did Jesus sincerely think they would not find or see him in the Diaspora? Did he not realize there were synagogues dotted throughout the Roman Empire, even in Rome itself? Was he laboring under the ignorant misapprehension Jerusalem was not intricately linked and closely connected with all of those outlying Jewish settlements?


Yet, not a hand was laid on Jesus.

If the Pharisees and chief priests—and whoever else was there—had been listening closely, they would have realized Jesus was talking about heaven, returning to the Father from Whom Jesus came.

But instead they were perplexed because they were not listening closely, they were choosing obtusely to take what Jesus had to say at face value, rather than use their good scholarly training to listen for Jesus’ layered meaning.

Because they had already ruled out in their minds that Jesus was of God.

If something is deemed implausible, the likelihood of you or me coming to believe it is vanishingly small. In fact, we will not find or even see what is right in front of us.

If you have not yet tried this exercise, that so vividly illustrates this point, then see what you think of this sight experiment. How good are your eyes . . .really?

dothetest

[Heaven | Pikist.com]

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