Saturday, December 17, 2022
Reader: “Behold, the Lamb of God.”
Response: “Who takes away the sin of the world.”
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 Scripture clearly states 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. 44 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!”
This is an interesting passage in that you can have the facts right before you and come to the wrong conclusion. Some of the people believed that Jesus was the Messiah. Others leaned toward his being the Prophet who was to come just prior to the Messiah’s appearance. The Pharisees, however, were not convinced. They had done their homework and had a couple of things dead on right. Messiah must come from the line of King David, from the tribe of Judah. Right. Messiah must be born in Bethlehem, which was also David’s birthplace. Right.
It is a little surprising to me that they did not ask Jesus where he was born or to which Jewish tribe he belonged. Their response was that the Messiah could not possibly come from Galilee. (Had they studied the Scriptures as had Matthew (2:23), they would have discovered that the Messiah would be called a Nazarene, one from the town of Nazareth in Galilee!) Galilee was not the “best neighborhood” in which to live. Populated by a mix of people, many of whom were not Jewish, it was more of a backwoods low class territory. It clearly did not have any prestige or rank in the view of the Pharisees and more orthodox Jews who lived in Jerusalem, the site of the Temple.
There is a dynamic here that is very much in play today. Did you notice how the Pharisees put down the Temple guards when they spoke openly and honestly about their interesting experience in listening to Jesus? Notice the Pharisee’s groupthink and attempt to intimidate and ridicule anyone who did not hold their viewpoint. They would mock the person rather than address the content and substance of what was being said. Never a question from the Pharisees like, “What about Jesus’ speaking impressed you? What was different?” Nicodemus, however, was cut of different cloth.
It is interesting that Nicodemus, a leader among the Pharisees and the one who had come to Jesus by night and later assisted in Jesus’ burial, spoke up and asked a very thoughtful, pointed question. He was not intimidated by those in power. Rather than “telling” the Pharisees, he asked a question to encourage further thought and dialogue regarding the real question, “Who is Jesus?” Not a bad strategy when we get into conversations regarding Jesus. Do more asking than telling. You’ll notice that was often Jesus’ method as well.
Music: “O Little Town of Bethlehem” arr. Dan Forrest Jamaica Youth Chorale
Lord Jesus, as the date of your birth celebration draws ever nearer, may we never forget that you are alive right now. As we engage people in conversation today, help us to be thoughtful to ask questions that encourage others to think of you and your impact on their life. Help us to have the boldness of Nicodemus, even if it produces awkwardness. Give us a tender, strong, and compassionate heart for all those we encounter today. This we pray through Jesus Christ, who became a child, that we might become the children of God. Amen. ―Daniel Sharp