25Some of the people from Jerusalem were saying, “Isn't this the man they want to kill? 26Yet here he is, speaking for everyone to hear. And no one is arguing with him. Do you suppose the authorities know he is the Messiah? 27But how could that be? No one knows where the Messiah will come from, but we know where this man comes from.”
28As Jesus was teaching in the temple, he shouted, “Do you really think you know me and where I came from? I didn't come on my own! The one who sent me is truthful, and you don't know him. 29But I know the one who sent me, because I came from him.”
30Some of the people wanted to arrest Jesus right then. But no one even laid a hand on him, because his time had not yet come. 31A lot of people in the crowd put their faith in him and said, “When the Messiah comes, he surely won't perform more miracles than this man has done!”
Officers Sent To Arrest Jesus
32When the Pharisees heard the crowd arguing about Jesus, they got together with the chief priests and sent some temple police to arrest him. 33But Jesus told them, “I will be with you a little while longer, and then I will return to the one who sent me. 34You will look for me, but you won't find me. You cannot go where I am going.”
35The people asked each other, “Where can he go to keep us from finding him? Is he going to some foreign country where our people live? Is he going there to teach the Greeks? 36What did he mean by saying that we will look for him, but won't find him? Why can't we go where he is going?”
Streams of Life-Giving Water
37 On the last and most important day of the festival, Jesus stood up and shouted, “If you are thirsty, come to me and drink! 38 Have faith in me, and you will have life-giving water flowing from deep inside you, just as the Scriptures say.” 39Jesus was talking about the Holy Spirit, who would be given to everyone that had faith in him. The Spirit had not yet been given to anyone, since Jesus had not yet been given his full glory.
The People Take Sides
40When the crowd heard Jesus say this, some of them said, “He must be the Prophet!” 41Others said, “He is the Messiah!” Others even said, “Can the Messiah come from Galilee? 42 The Scriptures say that the Messiah will come from the family of King David. Doesn't this mean that he will be born in David's hometown of Bethlehem?” 43The people started taking sides against each other because of Jesus. 44Some of them wanted to arrest him, but no one laid a hand on him.
45When the temple police returned to the chief priests and Pharisees, they were asked, “Why didn't you bring Jesus here?”
46They answered, “No one has ever spoken like this man!”
47The Pharisees said to them, “Have you also been fooled? 48Not one of the chief priests or the Pharisees has faith in him. 49And these people who don't know the Law are under God's curse anyway.”
50 Nicodemus was there at the time. He was a member of the council, and was the same one who had earlier come to see Jesus. He said, 51“Our Law doesn't let us condemn people before we hear what they have to say. We cannot judge them before we know what they have done.”
52Then they said, “Nicodemus, you must be from Galilee! Read the Scriptures, and you will find that no prophet is to come from Galilee.”
Many of us have heard and tried to practise the proverb, “A place for everything, and everything in its place.” We like when things fit neatly and nicely in their place. We shy away from obscurity and ambiguity and so when Jesus enters a room, or a culture, a life or our world it can be unsettling. Jesus has a tendency to colour outside of the lines, to live, move and think outside of our categorical boxes. He won’t even stay buried when he’s been crucified!
This is because Jesus confounds us just as he did the people in his day. Not only do his words confuse them (v 36), his manner of speaking confounds them (v 46). They are confused by his origins (vv 27, 41-42) and also his identity (vv 40, 41). In other words, Jesus won’t fit in their box as a rabbi, a prophet, or a messiah and it left many wondering who he was and what they should do with him.
They were divided in their response. Some wanted to seize him (v 44), but others put their faith in him (v 31). This is often how it can be with us. We pray for one thing and he answers us in a way that we feel doesn’t make sense. We feel far from him, desperate for his presence and yet he still will not conform to our expectations. He doesn’t fit the box we have of how a god should hear and answer our prayers. His leading is often confusing to us, difficult to understand and often when all is said and done we wonder if we have done what he has said.
And so he brings us to a place where we are forced to consider if he is going to be allowed to be in charge as he is or if we will continue to try and make him in our image (i.e. within our boxes). At some point we must either abandon our images of God or abandon God himself. It is not that he wants us to abandon him but he must bring us to the crisis of decision.
Perhaps this is his purpose all along.
God of mystery,
Your ways are not our ways, your thoughts not our thoughts. Help us not to lean upon our own understanding but in all our ways to trust you even when, especially when, we don’t understand. May our faith bring you delight. I ask in Jesus’ name, Amen.