Friday, May 15, 2020

No one has ever spoken like this man

Read John 7

I hope that you read chapter 7 every day this week.  Don’t become complacent.  This study produces a return on investment for you and your families.  You are the beneficiaries of your own study.

I also hope that you read or watched the messages for the first part of this chapter.  These are meant to challenge you and send you back into the scriptures.  For every message that you receive, get Berean.  Search the scriptures using the messages as a challenge.

This morning’s pericope is something of a preface to the next two chapters.  You might think that the last part of the chapter should bring that chapter to conclusion, but remember the gospel authors wrote accounts without chapter numbers or headings.  What we talk about this morning gets you ready for the next two weeks.

So, let’s finish chapter 7.

The temple guards were sent to arrest Jesus and came back empty handed.  The Pharisees and priests were enraged.  They were ready to convict him in absentia. 

We know that they could not arrest Jesus because his time had not yet come.  It seems that maybe Mary, mother of Jesus, somehow managed to get his ministry kicked off a little earlier that he planned, but nothing was going to send him to the cross until it was the right time.  He had more to accomplish before then.

The guards gave their accounts.  No one has ever spoken the way this man did.

Angry that Jesus had not been brought before them and unwilling to give any credence to the account given by the guards, these religious leaders started ranting about how the guards had been deceived and the crowd was under a curse.

Has anyone of any status believed in this man?  The question was rhetorical as far as the leaders were concerned.  No one who counted for anything had believed in this man!

You have to wonder why these leaders wanted Jesus brought before them if they had already made up their minds.  Nicodemus, the Pharisee that you should remember from chapter 3 interjected that their own rules required a hearing before condemnation.

Instead of taking a breath, considering the counsel of this pharisee, and then proceeding according to the well-established procedures, the other leaders became angry with Nicodemus.

They countered the course of action presented by Nicodemus with accusations instead of reason and established regulation.  Are you from Galilee too?  No prophet comes out of Galilee.  Why are you being a stick in the mud?

So the religious hierarchy wanted to condemn a man for not following the rules—he healed on the Sabbath—but they were not willing to abide by their own rules and offer him a hearing.  You would think that the that dog don’t hunt rule would apply.

When reminded of the fact that this too would be transgression, they attacked the person instead of addressing the thoughts offered.  This foreshadows the kangaroo court that would follow later shortly before Jesus went to the cross.  Facts would be irrelevant.

This is also a glimpse into our time.  Someone proffers a statement and then instead of accepting, rejecting, or offering statements contrary to the view, so many will attack the author.

Once upon a time I wrote an editorial for The Oklahoman with the main line of thinking that I did not want the Bible taught in public schools.  I said that it would be sanitized to fit some government standard. 

There was a contemporary public conversation ongoing for several months about teaching the biblical creation story and evolution.  My contribution to this discussion was that instead of teaching the Bible in schools, we should teach thinking skills and tools so that our students could discern what they believed in faith, what was theory, and the standards that we used for finding something to be a fact.  I think I referenced the theory of evolution.

My print version received good reviews, so I published the exact same exposition online.  Never before had I received so many comments.  Over half of them began with the word “moron.”  These people didn’t read the 225 words that I had written.  They honed in on the phrase theory of evolution.

That prompted the comments: “Moron.  Evolution is fact.”
When you write something for public discussion, you expect some back and forth discourse.  I enjoy civil discourse more than most, but now the norm seems to be to attack the person instead of counter the argument. 

I can’t say that I was happy with all of the hateful comments, but I did think they proved my point that we should teach thinking skills and tools in school, instead of hoping students learn them indirectly in math, science, composition, or debating.

I have other examples that I won’t address now.  Many a coward is emboldened online but retreats when addressed in person.

All of that said to say, I think I know how Nicodemus felt.  You want to condemn this man for breaking our laws but you won’t abide by our laws to do it.  Instead you attack me.

Normally the Pharisees get lumped together as a group, but there are two Pharisees that we get some insight into in the gospels and Acts.  One is Nicodemus.  We don’t know if he ever was born of the Spirit but we know he sought to do the right thing according to his Hebrew faith, which included helping with the burial preparation and entombment. The other is Gamaliel, who offered sound counsel to the Sanhedrin when they wanted to put the apostles to death after the resurrection of the Christ. 

There is a third Pharisee that we know by name and are introduced to in Acts.  Saul of Tarsus studied under Gamaliel and gave us much of our New Testament.

Usually, I give you something to take home and chew on from the day’s scripture.  Today, I ask you to consider the mindset of most of the ruling council and about half of the Jews.  Half the people didn’t care what Jesus had to say.  They just wanted to trap him, trick him, or somehow do away with him by any means necessary.

Jesus was a threat to established religion and the existing way of life.  Jesus brought love and told his followers to believe, have faith and love one another.  Those directives fell on deaf ears among the religious leaders.  They could only think about getting him out of the way and getting back to the way things were.

The leaders of that day had neither eyes to see nor ears to hear, only hearts to condemn.

This short pericope at the end of chapter 7 will help you to understand much of what transpired in chapters 8 and 9.

If you need a nugget to chew on, try to be civil in your conversation, but mostly be ready for what is to come in the next two chapters.
Jesus is life.  Jesus is Lord.


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