Halfway through the festival, Jesus went up to the temple and started to teach. Astonished, the Jewish leaders asked, “He’s never been taught! How has he mastered the Law?”
Jesus responded, “My teaching isn’t mine but comes from the one who sent me. Whoever wants to do God’s will can tell whether my teaching is from God or whether I speak on my own. Those who speak on their own seek glory for themselves. Those who seek the glory of him who sent me are people of truth; there’s no falsehood in them. Didn’t Moses give you the Law? Yet none of you keep the Law. Why do you want to kill me?”
The crowd answered, “You have a demon. Who wants to kill you?”
Jesus replied, “I did one work, and you were all astonished. Because Moses gave you the commandment about circumcision (although it wasn’t Moses but the patriarchs), you circumcise a man on the Sabbath. If a man can be circumcised on the Sabbath without breaking Moses’ Law, why are you angry with me because I made an entire man well on the Sabbath? Don’t judge according to appearances. Judge with right judgment.”
Some people from Jerusalem said, “Isn’t he the one they want to kill? Here he is, speaking in public, yet they aren’t saying anything to him. Could it be that our leaders actually think he is the Christ? We know where he is from, but when the Christ comes, no one will know where he is from.”
While Jesus was teaching in the temple, he exclaimed, “You know me and where I am from. I haven’t come on my own. The one who sent me is true, and you don’t know him. I know him because I am from him and he sent me.” So they wanted to seize Jesus, but they couldn’t because his time hadn’t yet come.
Many from that crowd believed in Jesus. They said, “When the Christ comes, will he do more miraculous signs than this man does?” The Pharisees heard the crowd whispering such things about Jesus, and the chief priests and Pharisees sent guards to arrest him.
Therefore, Jesus said, “I’m still with you for a little while before I go to the one who sent me. You will look for me, but you won’t find me, and where I am you can’t come.”
The Jewish opposition asked each other, “Where does he intend to go that we can’t find him? Surely he doesn’t intend to go where our people have been scattered and are living among the Greeks! He isn’t going to teach the Greeks, is he? What does he mean when he says, ‘You will look for me, but you won’t find me, and where I am you can’t come’?”
As we’ve stated before, the festival here is Sukkot, the Feast of Booths. This is one of the primary feasts of Judaism where the people are required to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. It’s tied to the wilderness wanderings of Israel after they were rescued from Egyptian slavery.
And that’s important. The story of the Exodus is the primary story in the history of Israel, even to this day. It’s their framing story. And this festival is about G_d supporting them and caring for them while they were wandering in the wilderness.
The parallel with that story to what was going on in the first century is quite remarkable. For too many years, Israel had been under the boot of a “pagan” ruler. First it was Babylon, then it was Persia, later it was Greece, and finally the Romans came to power. And even though the Jews were back in their land, the Romans were still in charge. Therefore, some (most) felt that they weren’t really free. They were waiting for G_d to come and bring justice and rule on earth as in heaven. They were waiting for a new exodus. That’s the expectation. That’s the story.
And Jesus is right in the middle of it.
But, as we see in the story, people had mixed feelings about him. Some people saw him as nothing more than a prophet. Some thought he was possessed by demons. Other’s thought he was the long waited for Messiah, G_d’s anointed liberating King. Still others, primarily those of the “Jewish opposition,” thought he was a very dangerous man who would upset their privilege and power who needed to be stopped by any means necessary.
Not much has changed in two millenia. People still don’t really know what to do with Jesus. Some try to deny that he even existed (even though there are extra-biblical sources that mention him and his death). Some think he was a teacher of some new morality (the Jews didn’t really need help with that). Some think that he was crazy (he did, after all, say that the “end of the world” would happen in the first century). Still others blame him (indirectly) for a lot of horror that has been inflicted upon the world and wish he would never had been born.
But, and here’s the rub, the real Jesus we meet in the Gospels gets the same response from our religious leaders today. That is, he would question their positions and power. They wouldn’t like what he represents. As I have stated time and time again, the arrival of Jesus brought (brings) the end of religious institutions. Jesus embodies a way of being that supersedes religion. Over and over again, he states that his way of being evokes the Realm of G_d on earth. His way of being creates it. Because of his vocation we, too, can participate in the emergence and expansion of G_d’s realm “on earth as it is in heaven.”
In the Love of the Three in One,
Br. Jack+, LC