Today's passage: John 7
When I was a kid, math was probably my least favorite subject, mostly because of dreaded story problems. I think I did not develop reasoning skills until much later in life, because a story problem would cause a duh moment every time. Now, one of my favorite puzzles to do is logic problems. They are challenging and I like to unravel who did what. I'm still not a big mystery lover, but I do like to discover how things work. I guess my reasoning skills finally kicked in.
Chapter 7 seems to me like a logic problem. In this chapter, groups of people are trying to determine who Jesus is. At the beginning of the chapter, it is Jesus' own brothers who are questioning Him. They can't understand why He will not be more public about His ministry. They don't understand why He is not going with them to the Feast of Tabernacles. I imagine this is because they have always gone as a family in the past. Can you imagine what upheaval Jesus has caused in His own family? Can you imagine being one of His brothers and the backlash you would receive from living in this town? The perfect brother you grew up with suddenly decides to leave the carpentry shop, leave you with the responsibilities and travel like a nomad? Can you hear the gossip about this brother, and not knowing whether you should defend Him (He is your brother, of course) or shake your head and join in the mockery? It is understandable they would not truly be able to see who Jesus is because He is family. How do you prepare Your brothers that they have been living with God all this time? They want to have faith in Him, but they tell Him if He is real, He shouldn't be hiding in the shadows, He should be proclaiming Himself. Jesus explains to them it is easy for them to say that, they have a lifetime ahead of them. He doesn't. Of course, they don't understand this either.
After the rest of the family has departed for Jerusalem, Jesus also goes, but quietly and without notice. But Jesus never really goes anywhere unnoticed now. People at the feast, of course, recognize Him. There is a lot of debate among the people as to who Jesus is. Many of them believe in Him and say that another could not do all that He has done. Others think He is a good man, and others think He is a fake. Among those being the Pharisees. They argue He is only from Galilee and therefore, cannot be the Messiah, because the Messiah comes from Bethlehem. Why doesn't Jesus tell them where He was born? He could have put that all to rest if He had just told them about His birth, but He doesn't. He must have a reason. It's a puzzle I want to solve, but not all puzzles can be solved right away. I'm going to have to let that one simmer for a while and come back to it.
Jesus tells the Pharisees that they had a problem with Him healing on the Sabbath, but they have no problem performing a circumcision on the Sabbath. Why is that not breaking the Sabbath laws? He says, "Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgement." They were assigning certain rules to Him and then others to themselves. The Pharisees prided themselves about always following the Law, but the truth was, they only followed the parts of the Law that were convenient for them, ignored their mistakes, but made certain to point out other's flaws. The Pharisees are so infuriated with Jesus' claims, that they call in officers to arrest Him. Now, the Jews were always hesitant to have matters handled outside their own people, and I'm assuming that the officers referred to here are Roman. So, Jesus has really gotten under the Pharisees' skin for them to take this step. They can see the people believing He is the Messiah, right and left, and they are afraid that they will lose their power. The officers are even hesitant to take Jesus in, because His Words are not like anyone else's. The Pharisees are irritated that even the officials seem to have been duped, but do not force the matter.
Then Nicodemus pipes up, Nicodemus, the secret believer, the Pharisee who came to see Jesus by night, to really gather the truth about this Man. Nicodemus reminds the Pharisees that they have never condemned someone without a trial first. Why are these men so hasty to do away with their own procedures? In the past, when a pseudo-Messiah surfaced, they seem to have always followed the same protocol. With Jesus, they are throwing all reasonable measures out the window. Why? They obviously have never had someone as convincing as Jesus make these claims before. People in every province are believing the miracles, are convinced of His words. They are finding it hard to discredit Him. Every time they try to trip Him up, they fail. Every question they ask to cause Him to stumble is answered rationally. What more can they do to convince the people that He is not the One they think He is? They refuse to believe, because they are embarrassed that they have been wrong all this time. They cannot admit to this. Isn't that always the problem with unbelievers? When people don't want to believe, it is not usually because they don't think the other person is right, it is because they don't want to admit they were wrong. To become a believer in Christ, that has to be the first step.
The Pharisees would never admit that they were sinners, we see that on many occasions in the gospels when they sneer and snarl at publicans and others Jesus associates with. If this Teacher was so great, He would want to associate with them. They were the religious elite. He should want their approval. I don't know how many fake Messiahs had tried to get in good with the Pharisees, maybe all of them, after all, winning them over would be one step closer to convincing the people. If you could convince the Pharisees, the most visibly religious men of the faith, then the people would believe. Or would they? You see, people were believing in Jesus when Jesus made no attempts to woo them. This signaled something infinitely more dangerous. They were losing their influence among the people. If they hadn't put their stamp of approval on this Man, and He didn't seem to need it, the people were not as enamoured of Pharisaical influence as before. This is why they feel the need to get rid of Jesus at all costs. This is why they are even willing to get the Roman government involved. They will not open their eyes, and they don't want any more eyes to be opened.
I have to say that there are some puzzles I never solve. Sometimes, I have to set one down, walk away from it for a few days and then come back to it with fresh eyes. There are mysteries in God's Word, that I may never understand this side of eternity. Good thing I can keep coming back to God's Word, and look at it with fresh eyes each day. Maybe why Jesus does not announce his birthplace will always remain a puzzle to me, or maybe God just wants me to think about it for a little while longer. I know this, someday, I will know the answer.