Reader: “Surely this man is the Prophet . . .”
Response: “we’ve been expecting.”
Scripture: John 7:40-52
When the crowds heard him say this, some of them declared, “Surely this man is the Prophet we’ve been expecting.” Others said, “He is the Messiah.” Still others said, “But he can’t be! Will the Messiah come from Galilee? For the Scriptures clearly state that the Messiah will be born of the royal line of David, in Bethlehem, the village where King David was born.” So the crowd was divided about him. Some even wanted him arrested, but no one laid a hand on him.
When the Temple guards returned without having arrested Jesus, the leading priests and Pharisees demanded, “Why didn’t you bring him in?”
“We have never heard anyone speak like this!” the guards responded.
“Have you been led astray, too?” the Pharisees mocked. “Is there a single one of us rulers or Pharisees who believes in him? This foolish crowd follows him, but they are ignorant of the law. God’s curse is on them!”
Then Nicodemus, the leader who had met with Jesus earlier, spoke up. “Is it legal to convict a man before he is given a hearing?” he asked.
They replied, “Are you from Galilee, too? Search the Scriptures and see for yourself—no prophet ever comes from Galilee!”
Reader: “The word of the Lord.”
Response: “Thanks be to God.”
In reading this passage, it is important to understand the Jewish context. We’ve picked up John’s account midstream. Jesus was in Jerusalem during the Feast of Tabernacles, an agrarian feast with Messianic implications. The seven day feast featured the pouring of water each day with a prayer for God to send rain in late autumn. On this last day, being the climax of the whole feast, Jesus was not shy. He had just shouted that “Anyone who believes in me may come and drink! For the Scriptures declare, ‘Rivers of living water will flow from his heart.’” Jesus was referring to Messianic texts in Isaiah, Joel, and Ezekiel.
This all happened prior to what you just read. We then come to today’s pericope. That the crowd and the Jewish leaders picked up on Jesus’ claim is evident by their responses. (Remember the Jews knew the Old Testament inside and out.) Some said, “Surely this man is the Prophet we’ve been expecting.” (This is a direct reference to Moses’ prediction of the Lord raising up a Prophet like himself (Deut.18:15). Moses was viewed as a kind of super prophet.) Others in the crowd simply said Jesus was the Messiah. Then there was the issue of his birthplace. The Messiah had to be born in Bethlehem. Why someone didn’t ask Jesus where he was born is a mystery to me! Still others in the celebration wanted to have him arrested for blasphemy. The Temple guards were clearly taken with Jesus’ persona and speech. Nicodemus, a Jewish leader who had met secretly with Jesus earlier and was perhaps in the process of coming to faith, warned against drawing a hasty conclusion without hearing all the evidence. The Pharisees’ concluding comment here was the challenge to Nicodemus to search the Scriptures and he would find―”no prophet ever comes from Galilee!” Unfortunately for them in searching the Scriptures, we do find in Isaiah 9:1-2 a direct reference to the glory of God coming from Galilee. “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light.”
What does this say to us? We need to be a people who know the Scriptures―part of the purpose of these daily devotionals. If the Jewish people in Jesus’ day did not know the Old Testament, they would have been completely oblivious to who was in their midst. But they did know the Tanakh (OT), but still many missed him. In our day, when it is popular to be a “spiritual” person―apart from the God of the Bible, it is imperative that we are well-versed in the Scriptures. Unfortunately, much of the so-called spirituality we read today is unbiblical and self-focused. In your conversations in various settings this season, don’t be shy to speak the truth with gentleness and clarity.
Music: “Long Ago Prophets Knew” A British Christian Music Programme
Would this ever happen in the states???
Bonus: “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing” Kings College Choir Spectacular Brass and Cathedral setting, don’t miss it.
We thank Thee, O God, for the return of the wondrous spell of this Advent season that brings its own sweet joy into our jaded and troubled hearts. Forbid it, Lord, that we should celebrate without understanding the significance of what we celebrate, or, like our counterparts so long ago, fail to see the star or to hear the song of glorious promise. As our hearts yield to the spirit of Christmas, may we discover that it is Thy Holy Spirit who comes―not in sentiment, but a power―to remind us of the only way by which there may be peace on the earth and good will among men. May we not spend Christmas, but keep it, that we may be kept in its hope, through Him who emptied Himself in coming to us that we might be filled with peace and joy in returning to God. Amen.
―Senate Chaplain Peter Marshall, prayer in the US Senate, Friday, December 19, 1947