Jesus taught a lot in crowds, simply because there were a lot of curiosity seekers that flocked to him, but also because he found himself in the right place at the right time to use those opportunities as "teachable moments". One such moment was on the day known as the Feast of Tabernacles - a time when Jews solemnly gathered to celebrate one of the required "feast days" outlined in the Law of Moses. There is controversy in the crowd, simply because people are all hung up about his upbringing, lack of education, and the place where he was born (and even perhaps the family into which he was born into). This isn't a new problem for men and women, is it? We tend to judge based on some "criteria" we hold for the "value or worth" of another because they went to school somewhere other than the local junior college, or have a familial line linked to some aristocracy. Truth is, nothing of a "pedigree" in human terms really defines us as who we are - it is the character of a man which defines him. To that end, Jesus doesn't want the crowd to be hung upon his "pedigree", but rather to see deep into this character - his mission was always to reveal the character of the One who sent him (his heavenly Father). He cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Rivers of living water will brim and spill out of the depths of anyone who believes in me this way, just as the Scripture says.” No one could offer such a gift as he did, yet some struggle with the "gift" because the "giver" doesn't "match" their impression or image of "pedigree". Isn't this just like us to be so hung up on the "person's background" that we miss what is right in front of us!
The Pharisees said, “Are you carried away like the rest of the rabble? You don’t see any of the leaders believing in him, do you? Or any from the Pharisees? It’s only this crowd, ignorant of God’s Law, that is taken in by him—and damned.” Nicodemus, the man who had come to Jesus earlier and was both a ruler and a Pharisee, spoke up. “Does our Law decide about a man’s guilt without first listening to him and finding out what he is doing?” But they cut him off. “Are you also campaigning for the Galilean? Examine the evidence. See if any prophet ever comes from Galilee.” Then they all went home. (John 7:47-53 MSG)
To top things off, the religious leaders get word of his actions of teaching in the Temple - about half way through the feast. Now, so as not to make a move too hastily, they observe what he does, listen to what he says, quietly noticing how some in the crowd will embrace him readily and others will reject him, getting all hung up on this "pedigree" thing! To the religious leaders, they didn't have "enough evidence" to shut him down yet and not suffer the retaliation of the crowds who were drawn to him. So, they wait and plot. In their waiting, they have employed those who will act as their "plants" in the crowds to report back what he is doing and saying. Maybe this was because all the religious leaders could not be seen as totally "getting into" his teachings because this would show they supported his ministry. Regardless of their tactics and reasons, they still will not embrace the possibilities of him being Messiah. All, that is, but one! Nicodemus - the one who had come to Jesus under the secrecy of darkness - to find out for himself, first hand evidence to either convince him of the reality of his purpose and plan in teaching as the possible Messiah, or to discount those teachings and the man alike.
I really want us to see the attitude of the Pharisees - the religious leaders in this passage who obviously hold themselves as superior to the crowds gathered together at the Temple for the feast. It is clear from the passage that these religious leaders see the crowds as "simpletons" and "uneducated". They focus on their own "superior" understanding of scripture - because they had the "privilege" of being brought up in all the right schools, with the right opportunities. If there is one thing I have learned in this lifetime, it is that when we "elevate" ourselves in our minds and hearts, our attitude of pride dictating how we respond to people in this life, we are in for a sad awakening to the reality of our humanness! Nothing can bring us down from our pedestal faster than having one indiscretion revealed, or finding out our "masks" we thought we wore so well did not conceal the insecurities we actually still possess!
To the religious leaders, the crowds were "rabble" - common people. To Jesus, they were individuals created in the image of God, designed for the purpose of worshiping the Holy God. To the religious leaders, the crowds were "unable" to ferret out the truth about Jesus' teachings simply because they didn't have the right education. To Jesus, their degree of education was "evaluated" more by their responsiveness of heart to the message taught, not the place they attended school! We see sharp contrasts between how Jesus and the religious leaders treated the crowds. To one, they were not significant enough to bother with - to the other, they meant everything and were the very purpose for which he existed!
Nicodemus dares to speak up - to challenge the religious leaders - not as an outsider to the group, but as one of them! Imagine the looks which might have come his way as he dares to challenge them about this "great teacher". He probably drew more than one disapproving glare, and maybe even a few clicks of the tongue in disgust over his "naivete". Perhaps some were holding their heads low as they might have been some who taught Nicodemus in the schools of the Law these Pharisees attended - almost shamed by his challenge to consider Jesus as a prophet or even as the Messiah. Ask yourself this - if you were in the same position as Nicodemus, would you speak up? Would you be afraid of the "pedigreed" mass, or willing to stand up for what you believe to be true?
Nothing determines our destiny except our position in Christ Jesus - it isn't our position ON Christ that matters as much as our position IN Christ! When we cross-over from arguing about the reality of what he is and accept him as who he is, we move INTO him. This move is what determines our destiny. Stay firmly planted in our focus on "pedigree" and we will likely miss the most amazing gift of our lifetime! Just sayin!