Not what, but who

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)

We often find Jesus surrounded by a lot of curiosity seekers, but also finding himself in the right place at the right time to use those opportunities as "teachable moments". It is the Feast of Tabernacles - a time when Jews solemnly gathered to celebrate one of their required "feast days". There is controversy in the crowd, simply because people are 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). This isn't a new problem for men and women, is it? We tend to judge based on some "criteria" we hold as 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. Nothing of a "pedigree" in human terms really defines us as who we are - it is the character of a man which defines him. Jesus doesn't want the crowd to focus on his "pedigree", but rather to see deep into his character - revealing the character of the One who sent him (his heavenly Father). He offered living water. No other could offer such a gift, yet some struggled with the "gift" because the "giver" didn'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 religious leaders observe what he does, listen to what he says, quietly noticing how some in the crowd embrace him readily and others reject him totally! The religious leaders didn't have "enough evidence" to shut him down. So, they waited. In their waiting, they employed those who act as their "plants" in the crowds to report back what he is doing and saying. Perhaps the religious leaders were afraid of being seen as supporters of his ministry. Regardless of their tactics and reasons, they still refuse to 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, firsthand 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.

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 humanity! 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 them, 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 them, 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! 

Nicodemus dares to speak up - to challenge the religious leaders - not as an outsider to the group, but as one of them! 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 "necessary pedigree" and we will likely miss the most amazing gift of our lifetime! Just sayin!


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