Thursday, October 6th. John 7:40-52

When they heard these words, some in the crowd said, “This is really the prophet.” Others said, “This is the Messiah.” But some asked, “Surely the Messiah does not come from Galilee, does he? Has not the scripture said that the Messiah is descended from David and comes from Bethlehem, the village where David lived?” So there was a division in the crowd because of him. Some of them wanted to arrest him, but no one laid hands on him.


Then the temple police went back to the chief priests and Pharisees, who asked them, “Why did you not arrest him?” The police answered, “Never has anyone spoken like this!” Then the Pharisees replied, “Surely you have not been deceived too, have you? Has any one of the authorities or of the Pharisees believed in him? But this crowd, which does not know the law—they are accursed.” Nicodemus, who had gone to Jesus before, and who was one of them, asked, “Our law does not judge people without first giving them a hearing to find out what they are doing, does it?” They replied, “Surely you are not also from Galilee, are you? Search and you will see that no prophet is to arise from Galilee.”  John 7:40-52


When they heard these words…”  What were these words that so angered the chief priests and Pharisees?


On the last day of the festival, the great day, while Jesus was standing there, he cried out,Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, ‘Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.'”


Jesus was in Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of Booths (otherwise called “Sukkot” or the feast of Tabernacles).  This was a time for remembering the wilderness wandering of the people of Israel.  Not just the wandering but the care that God showed to his people – daily food, the gift of the law, water from the rock.  It is in the midst of this remembering God’s grace in the past that Jesus offers a very present invitation, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me.” 


Much like his redefinition of the Passover feast (This is MY body, this is MY blood, given and shed for YOU), Jesus transforms a remembrance into a present and available reality.  This is a blessing to the people…and a challenge to the religious authorities who were no longer “in charge”.


If you can’t attack the message, attack the messenger.  So, like modern day muckrakers now digging for any available dirt on the people running for president, the religious leaders start looking for “proof” that Jesus couldn’t possibly be who he seems to be.  Ironically, especially given the lack of a Christmas story in John’s gospel, they point out the scriptural promise that the Messiah would be a descendant of David born in Bethlehem, thinking they can use that against Jesus.


So they argue and plot and look for anything they can find against Jesus.  But one of them, Nicodemus, reminds them that even their law requires evidence.  Nicodemus, still remembering how Jesus’ words cut into him during their brief conversation in the night, takes on more subtle step toward following Jesus.


People will always look for ways to squirm out from under God’s claims on their lives.  People will attack the faith by attacking the faithful.  They will reject Jesus by rejecting those who follow him.  But they will thrust and parry into the wind. At the end of the day, it won’t be rational arguments or biblical proof texts that convince the unconvinced of the identity, purpose and love of Jesus.  It will instead be the lives of people like us, people whose lives have been and continue to be, transformed by the love of a crucified and risen Galilean carpenter, that will be the hope of the world.


Let us pray:  Gracious Lord, we hear the stories of those who attacked you, who rejected you, who conspired against you.  We pray that we might not be among them.  Give us courage to stand and walk and follow as you lead the way.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.


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