November 24, 2021
Scripture: Nicodemus, who had gone to him before, and who was one of them, said to them, “Does our law judge a man without first giving him a hearing and learning what he does?” John 7:50-51 ESV
Observation: In this chapter, John tells us of Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem during the Feast of Booths and how his brothers, the crowds, the temple guards, and the religious leaders questioned and responded to his authority. Some acknowledged that he was a good man. Others contended that Jesus was leading the nation astray. And a few sarcastically proposed that perhaps the religious authorities believed he was the Christ because he was speaking freely without intervention.
Then, on the last day of the feast, Jesus stood before a large gathering and cried out an invitation to come and receive him as their source of living water, as Isaiah foretold of the Messiah. Some believed that he was indeed the Prophet and others the Christ. Resultantly, much division arose, but the officers of the chief priests did not follow orders to arrest him. Instead, when questioned by their authorities, they replied, “No one ever spoke like this man!” The Pharisees retorted, “Have you also been deceived? Have any of the authorities or the Pharisees believed in him? But this crowd that does not know the law is accursed” (7:47-49).
Takeaway: There is a certain level of irony in the discourse between the crowds, the guards, and the religious leaders. The varied opinions reflect their dispositions. Jealousy and pride spurred Jesus’ brothers’ and the religious leaders’ sarcasm. But for those who sought the truth, who yearned for the coming Messiah, they remained open to the possibility that he was the Christ foretold by the prophets of old. There is no better example than that of Nicodemus. Having earlier sought out Jesus to learn what he was teaching (chapter 3), Nicodemus remained circumspect and hopeful that Jesus was the Son of God. So just as his colleagues’ fury escalated, Nicodemus, knowing that his cohorts sought to arrest and execute Jesus, courageously reasoned that the law they so proudly cited does not permit a sentence without the evidence of at least two corroborating testimonies.
The contrast between Nicodemus and the other Pharisees reflects the controversial response to our Gospel today. For those who seek the truth, searching for something more than what life has dealt them, the Gospel is good news. For those who naively think that they are in control of their lives, the Gospel is ludicrous, a crutch for the weak. Lastly, for those uncertain but opened-minded to our biblical account of Christ, they would do well to follow Nicodemus’ approach: investigate and learn what the Son of God is doing in our world. Actions speak louder than words.
Prayer: Father God, in your mercy, please forgive us when we taint the Good News with our contrary actions. Instead, would you please help us confirm the Gospel through the work of your Son in and through us? Amen.
Rev. Gordon Green, M.Div., M.A. Counseling