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The problem with looking for a Messiah with a preconceived notion of what he looks like is that you end up never finding him and who he really is.
John 7 may be the most “real” chapter in John’s entire gospel. So far in John’s gospel we have seen Jesus do miracles and teach in some amazing ways. He has drawn a crowd wherever he goes, yet there is something just a tad undefined about him. By that, I simply mean this: If you have never read this story and you know nothing about Jesus, at this point in the narrative you know he is important and he obviously is the protagonist, but you cannot clearly define why he does the things he does. What is his purpose in life, anyway?
If you have these questions about Jesus, you are no different than the characters of John 7. Taking a moment to look closer at what is happening in the text, we discover these questions being asked:
Jesus, are you going to be a public Messiah, rallying the crowds around you?
A Messiah was the person who was appointed by God to rescue God’s people Israel from their current situation in which Rome occupied their land and prevented them from being the truly free nation they had once been in the past. The word, which simply means “anointed” (by God) began to be a catchword for those looking for the political hero who would gain freedom for the once great nation of Israel most likely through military means.
Many assumed Jesus was this person because of the great things we have read about him doing up to this point in the gospel. Even, we discover, his disciples thought of him as one who should be out in the public arena. “You cannot act in secret if you want the people to follow you,” they tell Jesus.
Jesus, are you good or bad?
The people do not ask this question quite so bluntly, but if you read carefully verses 10-13, there were quiet rumblings about whether he was a “good man” or a “deceiver.”
Jesus, how did you learn to teach like you do?
In all of the gospels, we discover that Jesus’ teaching was one that amazed people. It was full of authority. To be a teacher with authority in Jesus’ day, a rabbi would spend his entire life in school, learning what the scriptures said and what other, more knowledgeable rabbis said about the scriptures. Jesus was not a rabbi, in the true sense of the word, nor had he the formal education the rabbis did. On top of that, he spoke in ways that seemed to defy the need for someone to instruct him on how to teach scripture. It was almost as if … God had told him what to say. (Which of course is what DID happen.)
Jesus, are you a demon?
Funny how when people get too powerful, we have to discover other ways to undercut them. If they are too smart for us, then something else must obviously be wrong with them.
Jesus, why do you come from the wrong town?
This seemed to be representative of everything that was wrong with Jesus being the Messiah in the eyes of the Pharisees and teachers of the law, the Jewish religious leaders. According to the scriptures these people studied so diligently, the Messiah would be from the line of David and come from Bethlehem. The problem they had is that has versed as they were in the scriptures, they had not spent any time studying Jesus.
John does not record the birth story of Jesus, but if you look in the first chapters of Matthew or Luke, what you discover is that Jesus was born in … with for it … Bethlehem. It happened during a census where Jesus’ father Joseph (who was a descendent of David) had to go back to Bethlehem to “report in,” if you will.
Truthfully, even if the Pharisees knew this, they would not have believed Jesus was the Messiah. He did things all “wrong.” The Pharisees had already determined what rules the Messiah would follow, what he would and would not do. Certainly, healing on the Sabbath was one of those things you DID NOT DO as a good Jew (see chapter 5) and so Jesus had already disqualified himself from consideration.
The problem with looking for a Messiah with a preconceived notion of what he looks like is that you end up never finding him and who he really is. This was one thing the Pharisees would discover they knew all too well.
If you were going to start a religion, what sort of things would you do to advertise or let people know about what was happening? Do you ever wonder why Jesus did not do these sorts of things? At the same time, Jesus attracted crowds wherever he went. How could Jesus have attracted these crowds without the benefit of Facebook, Twitter or the like?
As you have looked through the teachings of Jesus, has there ever been a time when you found yourself amazed at what he had to say? Why do you think this was the case? What sort of things can we do to recapture that amazement at the story of this Messiah?
In what ways has Jesus been unlike anything you expected him to be? We often hear of people who refuse to believe in God because he doesn’t act like they want/expect him to. Why do you think we are so quick to create our own image of what God or Jesus is supposed to look like or do? How can we do a better job of being open to understanding Jesus for who he really is, not for who we want him to be?