Thus the people were divided because of Jesus.
John 7:43 (NIV)
As I read the headlines, it appears to me that I live in a time when I hear many different things being stated as fact, and I am left to reason out what is true.
- Should I truly still be afraid of COVID and its variants, even though I’ve had COVID and have also been vaccinated?
- Is a biological male truly a female athlete?
- Is climate change truly ushering in a soon-coming apocalypse?
- Was I truly born a racist with no hope of change or redemption?
- Is it truly possible for everything in life to be fair and equitable?
What a fascinating time to be walking this earthly journey.
As I mentioned at the outset of this chapter-a-day journey through John’s biography of Jesus, identity is a major theme that weaves its way through John’s writing and the stories he chooses to share from the voluminous number of stories he could have shared. I’ve had both my eyes and my heart looking for it as I read each chapter. And isn’t a timely theme for our current time when “identity” is such a hot topic?
In yesterday’s chapter, Jesus pointedly called out the motives of the crowds that were following Him around the shores of Galilee. It was such a harsh rebuke that the crowds dispersed and even The Twelve were tempted to walk away.
In today’s chapter, John shares what a lightning rod Jesus had become. The national religious festival called the Feast of Tabernacles is set to kick off in Jerusalem. Everyone is expecting Jesus to make a grand entrance. Instead, He travels to Jerusalem secretly and arrives late.
Everyone is asking, “Who is Jesus?” Here are some of the takes:
The religious leaders see Jesus as a threat to their power and control over the masses. They have a price on Jesus’ head (vs. 1), they send the Temple Police to arrest Him (vs. 32), and they hold fast to their view of Jesus as, truly, a deceiver and illegitimate prophet (vss. 47-52).
Jesus’ siblings think Jesus is out of His mind, and they mockingly urge Jesus to leave Galilee where He’s wildly popular and relatively safe and go to Judea where He’s likely to get arrested by the religious leaders and stoned for being a heretic (vss. 3-5)
The crowds have all sorts of opinions:
- Jesus is a “good man.” (vs. 12)
- Jesus is a “deceiver.” (vs. 12)
- Jesus is amazing, knowing so much for being a rural schmuck who wasn’t trained formally in the formal, ivy league, educational institutions of Jerusalem. (vs. 15)
- Jesus is “demon possessed.” (vs. 20)
- Jesus might be the Messiah. (vss. 25-26)
- Jesus can’t be the Messiah if He came from Nazareth. (vs. 27)
- Jesus should be seized and arrested for what He is saying (vs. 30)
- Jesus is the Messiah. Who else could perform these miracles? (vs. 31)
- Jesus is the Prophet spoken of in Deuteronomy 18:15. (vs. 40)
- Jesus is the Messiah. (vs. 41)
- Jesus can’t be the Messiah because, according to the prophets, the Messiah will be from Bethlehem. (vs. 42)
The temple guards don’t have a clue who Jesus is, but they were so impressed with what Jesus had to say that they disobeyed orders and refused to do so. (vss. 45-47)
John, one of Jesus’ inner-circle and a primary source witness to the events, tells me at the beginning of the book that Jesus is truly the resurrected Messiah and incarnate Christ. Still, John makes it clear that along the way Jesus’ miracles and teaching created tremendous division.
In the quiet this morning, I find my heart contemplating two things.
First, John’s story compels me as a reader to decide for myself who Jesus is. He even provides me with ten or so popular, contemporary opinions from which to choose. As for me, I made my decision forty years ago. Have I questioned my choice? Yes. In fact, I’m questioning it anew in the quiet this morning. Have I changed my mind? Never. My spiritual journey of forty years has deepened my faith.
Second, I find myself asking, “If I truly believe, what I say I believe, how should that inform my thoughts, actions, words, and tasks on this 20,185th day of my earthly journey?”
If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.