John 7:45-52, NIV

45 Finally the temple guards went back to the chief priests and
Pharisees, who asked them, "Why didn't you bring him in?"
46 "No one ever spoke the way this man does," the guards declared.
47 "You mean he has deceived you also?" the Pharisees retorted.
48 "Has any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed in him?
49 No! But this mob that knows nothing of the law--there is a
curse on them."

50 Nicodemus, who had gone to Jesus earlier and who was one
of their own number, asked, 51 "Does our law condemn anyone
without first hearing him to find out what he is doing?" 52 They
replied, "Are you from Galilee, too? Look into it, and you will find
that a prophet does not come out of Galilee."

July 9, 2011
Now the final words of this contentious chapter. A chapter which opened
with Jesus and his brothers discussing the upcoming Festival of Tents,
what Jesus should do when he got to Jerusalem and whether they
would be attending the annual festival together this year. Not taking the
advice of his brothers, Jesus decided to go separately and no further
conversations with them are recorded.

Throughout this chapter the people attending the festival in Jerusalem
are trying to determine whether Jesus is a good man or a deceiver,
whether he was sent from God or is demon-possessed? The religious
authorities have already wrestled with this question and have decided
that Jesus is not good for their nation and that he must die. So the
chief priests and the Pharisees sent out the enforcers to arrest Jesus
and bring him in.

In the middle of this week-long holiday and in the midst of all the
uncertainty about what was going to happen, Jesus sat down in the
temple courtyard and began to teach. Then on the last day of the festival,
Jesus invited his listeners to come and drink the "living water" that
would flow from within every person who believes in him.

The people still could not make up their minds about who Jesus was,
but the enforcers, those temple guards, returned empty handed. Upon
listening to Jesus, they decided not to arrest him! They refused to
obey their orders!

A Pharisee named Nicodemus, whom we met in chapter 3, seemed to
be impressed by the response of the temple guards and he too raised
his voice in protest--Should we not first listen to this man before
attempting to prosecute him? Surely we must honor our own laws
before condemning someone else. But in the end, anger ruled the day
and the religious authorities ridiculed those who did not agree with them.

                                                                                  More journal entries


July 11, 2011                     
Here again we see the contrast of opinions people had concerning Jesus.
In this one chapter, Jesus has been called: a good man, a deceiver,
Prophet, blasphemer, Messiah, a trouble maker, demon-possessed,
miracle worker, Sabbath-breaker, just a local lad, the Christ, a Galilean.

People just couldn't decide what to do with Jesus. In response, Jesus
had told them, "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever
believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow
from within him."

Whether these words of Jesus made the decision any easier, I do not know.

August 4, 1983
The guards at the temple returned . . . . awestruck. They had experienced
the authority of Jesus and felt powerless to do what they had been sent
to do.

These officials were not following orders, instead they were thinking for
themselves. How unusual is that? Or was it an emotional high brought on
by the charisma of Jesus? The Sanhedrin will get its day to put Jesus
on trial and pronounce him guilty, but not yet.

August 5, 1983
Jesus just didn't get on well with the religious leaders of his day. According
to the other Gospel accounts, Jesus said sinners are going to get into
heaven before the "righteous" Pharisees! What a shocker. Imagine
hearing those words for the first time and having them directed at you.
It's no wonder they opposed him.

Was it their arrogance which damned them? They seemed proud that
Jesus could not deceive them like he deceived the average person.
Professional arrogance. In their minds, the people who believed in
Jesus became "a mob" and that's not a compliment.

John shows us that those who think they know something, know nothing.
Those who supposedly know nothing, know more than we think. According
to John, knowing begins in a person's innermost being. Like the temple
guards in this incident. And like Nicodemus was beginning to notice. Not
a head knowledge, but a heart and soul knowledge. Within, where
those "living waters" are found.

August 6, 1983
The officers reported that no one ever spoke like Jesus. Nicodemus
already knew that. Was Nicodemus thinking that if Jesus came before
the Sanhedrin, his distinctive character and superior wisdom might get
through to at least some of them? The Sanhedrin was 70 men including
Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimethia.

Nicodemus spoke up for Jesus and immediately received a put down.
Did he feel good or bad for having done so? Throughout the Gospels we
read that the Pharisees were in the crowds, singling out Jesus to talk to
him. Yet Jesus was very harsh with many of these Pharisees. Was that
because most of the time they were laying a trap for Jesus with their
trick questions. Their minds were closed and unreceptive, their
motives sinister.

Not one of their number believed that Jesus was sent from God, they
were unanimous! But not quite. Nicodemus expressed some degree
of openness to Jesus. The door to his heart was slightly ajar. Nicodemus
is still trying to be acceptable, respectable. He's almost a believer. Being
torn in two opposing ways, but one is still stronger than the other.

Wouldn't it have been smart for Jesus to call one of his disciples from
the Sanhedrin? St Paul was a leading Pharisee at the time. Was he in
this meeting? No one is ever beyond God's reach, not even a Pharisee.
Paul is testimony to that.

August 7, 1983
The last verse of this chapter is not included in many of the recent
translations of the Bible because it is not in the earliest manuscripts.
(Current translations attach verse 53 through John 8:11 to a footnote
or omit it entirely.) What verse 53 said is that they broke up their meeting
and went home, while Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. The Mount of
Olives to me implies prayer time. Early in the morning Jesus would
returnto the Temple to teach the people again--renewed, refreshed,
fulfilling his ministry.

Chapter 7 doesn't mention his disciples. Should I assume they were with
Jesus or not? I could never have been Jesus' disciple because I love to
sleep too much. Peter, James and John had that problem too, though.

What did Jesus pray that night? Did Jesus pray for things he knew were
not going to happen? We never read about Jesus interceding for these
people like Moses did, nor praying that the eyes of the Jewish leaders
would be opened so they could see who he was? Did Jesus pray mostly
for himself that he could endure the suffering when his time came?
Did he pray for faithfulness as he approached his final ordeal, that his
singleminded purpose would hold together firmly to the end. Courage
to do, wisdom to speak, compassion for all. Did Jesus have any
underlying fears that maybe he would fail to be an obedient son?

July 11, 2011
I was teaching a Sunday School class yesterday on the topic, "Why go
to Church?" While making plans for that lesson, I had the 7th chapter
of John on my mind and in particular the verse wherein Jesus said
streams of living water will flow from within the person who believes
in him.

While much of life has to do with externals, a religious experience gets
us in touch with our heart and soul, the deep within us. Every day with
our five senses we experience things, places, duties, and adventures
of all kinds. Yet rarely do we get in touch with the interior life, which is a
subject people discuss so seldom I don't even know for sure what to
call it.

The words of Jesus encourage us to hunger and thirst for God. And the
church is the place where we are most likely to to become aware of
God's spirit nourishing our spirit. Sure we can experience God on the
golf course, in the mountains or on the beach; but that's not usually
why we play golf, climb mountains or relax on the beach.

Attendance and fellowship at our house of worship brings us back to the
Source of all life. Quiet time during the prelude or the prayers might be the
closest we get to God all week. What we experience in the holy sanctuary
turns us away/aside from the temporal and points us toward eternal
values. We hear the Good News read, sung and proclaimed. We are
aided and directed to praise, pray, confess, and receive God's mercy and
grace. As we listen to the holy Scriptures, we learn how to love and how
to serve. We also learn nor to be like those Pharisees who wore their
religion on their sleeves but not in their heart.

Now I never got to share these thoughts with the class because one
good question was all it took to get the class members going with a long
list of benefits they have received from being a part of our church family.

Here's a list of the thoughts contributed: it's a place to hear, speak,
observe, be challenged, spread hope, share testimonies, laugh, love and
feel loved, care and feel cared for, receive help for raising children, go on
mission/service trips, build bridges and friendships, prepare food and eat
together, pray for others and request prayers, encourage and be
encouraged, ask and respond to the question "How may I help you?", find
respite from fear and loneliness. It's a safe place for our children, with
good role models and guidance for teenagers. Through our local church
we provide food, clothing, household items and financial resources to
those in need and both the givers and the recipients are blessed. 
Overriding whatever we do, this message reminds us of God's eternal
presence--Don't be afraid; God is for you and with you, always.

With all those benefits who would want to be anywhere else!  And so
on our Sabbath we leave our daily distractions and, as an expression
of our oneness in Jesus the Christ, we come from all walks of life to
celebrate--what has been, what will be, what is--as we gather together
in humble gratitude to love and honor our Lord.

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