The Pharisees heard the crowd muttering such things about [Jesus], and the chief priests and Pharisees sent temple police to arrest him.
John 7:32 (NRSV)
It has been fascinating for me to read John’s biography of Jesus during the current presidential election. The election is all about popularity, sound bytes, what this person said about that person, what that person thinks about this person, who came to this event, and who sat out of that event. It’s a whole lot of zany humanity, and that is exactly what is happening in today’s chapter.
After the post shore-lunch debacle [see yesterday’s post], Jesus has seemingly chosen to call an end to his whistle-stop miracle tour in fly-over country. There is conflict among his team and fighting among his own family. Jesus organization seems to be fractured from infighting. And now, there’s a big event looming in the Capitol city of Jerusalem. Everyone is going to be there. His family sarcastically rides Jesus that if He wants to be Mr. Big then He has to go to the festival. Jesus chooses out, the abruptly decides to make a surprise appearance.
In the Capitol of Jerusalem, the political atmosphere is tense. Political polls about Jesus are mixed but popularity has swung so much His way that the party establishment are running scared. They begin a smear campaign. They put out sound bytes announcing that there is no way Jesus can be the Messiah on legal grounds because Jesus hails from the Galilee district and the Law clearly says that the Messiah will be born in Bethlehem. Plus, Jesus performing miracles on the Sabbath day of rest is at the very least a misdemeanor if you’re going to split legal hairs. In a “smoke-filled back room” the party officials and insiders decide to have Jesus arrested and muscle the young upstart into line.
Jesus, meanwhile, is drawing huge crowds. His message is as confusing as ever. He’s talking like he’s been smoking one of those Turkish hookahs. “My teaching is not mine, but the One who sent me” (Hold on. What does that mean? Who’s Jesus working for? Is Jesus starting a Third Party?) “I’m going where you won’t see me” (Is he leaving? Is he getting out of the race?). “I come from the Father” (Yeah, in Nazareth.). “You don’t know the Father, but I know Him.” (Wait a minute. Yes I do. Joe the Carpenter. Fixed a table for me once).
Despite the confusing rhetoric, Jesus is mesmerizing. He is unlike anything anyone has ever seen. No one talks like this. No one does the things Jesus does. It’s so compelling that even the Capitol police sent to arrest Jesus decide to disobey orders and face the reprimand they know they’ll get from party officials.
The political situation is heating up and everyone is asking two questions:
- “Who is Jesus?”
- “What do we do with Him?”
And, in retrospect, that seems to have been Jesus’ intention all along. Everyone needs to answer those two questions.
Featured image from darthdowney via Flickr