Just the Facts Please - Letters from the Prison
From the series Letters to the Prison
This week we’re considering the last few verses of John 7. The Jewish leaders, faced with the disobedience of their own temple guards (who were ordered to arrest Jesus, but didn’t -John 7:32, 45-46), were now in an absolute rage. They were scolding the officers and cursing the crowd (John 7:49). They were “off the rails” in their willful unbelief about Jesus to a point where they are uncorrectable and blind about it, as we’re about to see. One Jewish leader stands out, though. He happens to be Nicodemus, the one who had visited Jesus by night back in John 3. Here, in John 7:50-51, we’re catching yet another glimpse of him. And he doesn’t seem to be “following the crowd” of raging, willfully ignorant Jewish leaders. He asks them a very simple procedural question about the very law they’re accusing Jesus of breaking:
- “Does our law judge a man without first giving him a hearing and learning what he does?” -John 7:51
Here, Nicodemus is not asking them to believe what Jesus says… nor is he claiming to be in agreement with Jesus about anything. He is simply asking his fellow leaders a basic legal question that seems to have an obvious answer. He’s asking them to consider how to deal with Jesus in rational ways using their own law as a guide. But look how they respond:
- They replied, “Are you from Galilee too? Search and see that no prophet arises from Galilee.” -John 7:52
Their question is at once an accusation and an insult. Galileans were “back woods” people from one of the most remote parts of Israel. They were often thought of as rough and uneducated –not among the “social elite.” And Jesus spent much of his life in Nazareth of Galilee. So here, they’re accusing Nicodemus (the teacher of Israel -John 3:10) of being an ignorant bumpkin in league with their enemy –Jesus of Nazareth.
Then, the Jewish leaders betray their own ignorance of the Scriptures when they say “search and see that no prophet arises from Galilee” as well as their ignorance of where Jesus was actually from. Jesus was born in Bethlehem (Luke 2:1-7). So, despite the fact that Jesus moved several different times in his life, he still originally hailed from Bethlehem –not Galilee. This was a documented fact recognized by the Roman government. Further, a prophet did indeed come from Galilee. His name was Jonah. He was from Gath-hepher, a town situated within 20 miles of the sea of Galilee (2 Kings 14:25). So, the very Scriptures these angry Jewish leaders claim to know and follow so well prove that they are incorrect. So, these men are ignoring their own Scriptures. They’re ignoring plain and publicly accessible facts about Jesus. And, they’re ignoring their own legal procedures. And when confronted about it –even by rational people in their own circle-- they respond with angry personal attacks… insults and accusations.
It is so sad to see that this very thing goes on constantly in politics and social circles today. People get so invested in their agendas and their rhetoric that they are willing to ignore simple facts and basic laws and bully other people into compliance with threats and insults in order to get their way. And such things are done on both sides of many debates today. Beloved friends, let it not be so among us! Pray that we would not participate in such terrible and toxic things.