Today’s reading: John 7:25-53
A fascinating passage today that enlightens us on the perils of trying to figure out prophecy. In today’s reading, the crowd has now come to know Jesus. He has been preaching and teaching for at least two years. He has a reputation and the people know the things the Jesus has done, from his miracles to this ongoing dispute with the religious authorities. Jesus’ profile has risen to the point where people are seriously trying to determine whether or not he is the Christ. This question is repeated over and over through today’s passages:
Some of the people of Jerusalem therefore said, “Is not this the man whom they seek to kill? And here he is, speaking openly, and they say nothing to him! Can it be that the authorities really know that this is the Christ? John 7:25-26
When they heard these words, some of the people said, “This really is the Prophet.” Others said, “This is the Christ.” But some said, “Is the Christ to come from Galilee? John 7:40-41
Evidence FOR and AGAINST, Jesus being the Messiah is presented by both sides:
But we know where this man comes from, and when the Christ appears, no one will know where he comes from.” John 7:27
Yet many of the people believed in him. They said, “When the Christ appears, will he do more signs than this man has done?” John 7:31
When they heard these words, some of the people said, “This really is the Prophet.” John 7:40
Others said, “This is the Christ.” John 7:41
But some said, “Is the Christ to come from Galilee? Has not the Scripture said that the Christ comes from the offspring of David, and comes from Bethlehem, the village where David was?” So there was a division among the people over him. John 7:41-43
The officers then came to the chief priests and Pharisees, who said to them, “Why did you not bring him?” The officers answered, “No one ever spoke like this man!” The Pharisees answered them, “Have you also been deceived? Have any of the authorities or the Pharisees believed in him? John 7:45-48
There are really three lines of evidence being debated here. The first is what the authorities think. The second is where Jesus is from. The third is the breadth and manner of his miracles.
The people are right to be suspicious of the authorities. The people suspect that the authorities know that Jesus is the Christ. Indeed, later in the passage, we find out that the authorities see themselves as the ones who decide whether Jesus is or isn’t.
The question of where Jesus is from confuses the people. There is a tradition that when “the Christ appears no one will know where he comes from.” They believe Jesus to be from Galilee apparently disqualifying him. However, they also know the prophecy that the Messiah is supposed to be from Bethlehem. It’s not surprising that they do not know that Jesus was born in Bethlehem as he lived there for less than two years by the time the family fled to Egypt. Again, Jesus years living in Galilee seem to disqualify him as a candidate.
Lastly, is the quality of Jesus’ miracles and preaching. Those that know his miracles believe. The soldiers sent to arrest him cannot bring themselves to complete their mission because of the quality of his preaching.
The verses create an interesting question, going forward how can we be sure we are discerning correctly? First, we can see that the people, attempting to interpret scripture on their own, were hopelessly confused. Different people propose different theories. In the end, they miss the Messiah. Second, the authorities did have the ability to discern. Unfortunately, they had become worldly and corrupt and were more concerned with maintaining their position than actually finding the Messiah. We must constantly pray that the Lord renew the Church and put men of faith and humility in leadership. Third, the people who did recognize the messiah took things and face value and accepted the miracles willingly. We to must be open to recognizing the Lord when he shows himself in both small and big ways.
Tomorrow: John 8:1-30