By Tom Bair
A Reading from the Gospel of John 7:14-36
14 About the middle of the festival Jesus went up into the temple and began to teach. 15 The Jews were astonished at it, saying, “How does this man have such learning, when he has never been taught?” 16 Then Jesus answered them, “My teaching is not mine but his who sent me. 17 Anyone who resolves to do the will of God will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own. 18 Those who speak on their own seek their own glory, but the one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and there is nothing unjust in him.
19 “Did not Moses give you the law? Yet none of you keeps the law. Why are you looking for an opportunity to kill me?” 20 The crowd answered, “You have a demon! Who is trying to kill you?” 21 Jesus answered them, “I performed one work, and all of you are astonished. 22 Because of this Moses gave you circumcision (it is, of course, not from Moses but from the patriarchs), and you circumcise a man on the Sabbath. 23 If a man receives circumcision on the Sabbath in order that the law of Moses may not be broken, are you angry with me because I healed a man’s whole body on the Sabbath? 24 Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.”
25 Now some of the people of Jerusalem were saying, “Is not this the man whom they are trying to kill? 26 And here he is, speaking openly, but they say nothing to him! Can it be that the authorities really know that this is the Messiah? 27 Yet we know where this man is from, but when the Messiah comes no one will know where he is from.” 28 Then Jesus cried out as he was teaching in the temple, “You know me, and you know where I am from. I have not come on my own. But the one who sent me is true, and you do not know him. 29 I know him because I am from him, and he sent me.” 30 Then they tried to arrest him, but no one laid hands on him because his hour had not yet come. 31 Yet many in the crowd believed in him and were saying, “When the Messiah comes, will he do more signs than this man has done?”
32 The Pharisees heard the crowd muttering such things about him, and the chief priests and Pharisees sent temple police to arrest him. 33 Jesus then said, “I will be with you a little while longer, and then I am going to him who sent me. 34 You will search for me, but you will not find me, and where I am, you cannot come.” 35 The Jews said to one another, “Where does this man intend to go that we will not find him? Does he intend to go to the dispersion among the Greeks and teach the Greeks? 36 What does he mean by saying, ‘You will search for me, but you will not find me’ and ‘Where I am, you cannot come’?”
This man Jesus seems to be befuddling everyone. The people in the crowd do not understand him, the scribes, priests, Pharisees, Sadducees, and even the disciples do not understand him. He speaks a categorically different language about himself and Judaism. He performs miracles, speaks in parables, raises expectations, and yet, so far, has not claimed to be Messiah.
One thing is for certain: he has raised the ire of the powers that be.
An interesting note here is that the people of Jerusalem seem to know “how it works in this town.” They are aware, as only “townies” are, that “there is a way that things get done around here.” They know that this is the guy they are trying to kill. So, why haven’t authorities dealt with him as they usually do?
When the police are sent he seems to taunt them, “I will be with you a little while longer, and then I am going to him who sent me. You will search for me, but you will not find me, and where I am, you cannot come.”
Here Jesus presents a living conundrum to his hearers; he is a confusing problem. He seems to hold out the promise of something great, but he is not speaking directly, only metaphorically. He is holding on to the surprise ending that will bring their complete liberation. Why? I think it is because it would be impossible for anyone there to comprehend the glory of God that is revealed in the crucifixion. To see in Jesus’ grotesque death the door to life is a vision that has yet to be fully conveyed through experience, not just words.
Tom Bair serves as a lay leader in the Episcopal Church. He teaches stewardship and holds an Education for Ministry (EFM) practicum from the University of the South. He is married to the Rt. Rev. Gerry Wolf.
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