45 Finally the temple guards went back to the chief priests and the Pharisees, who asked them, “Why didn’t you bring him in?”
46 “No one ever spoke the way this man does,” the guards replied.
47 “You mean he has deceived you also?” the Pharisees retorted. 48 “Have 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 a man without first hearing him to find out what he has been 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.”
(John 7:45-52 NIV)
As we wrap up chapter 7 of John’s Gospel, we see the Jewish religious rulers throwing a fit about Jesus. Jesus was preaching and teaching in their synagogues, and they seemed powerless to stop Him.
John records twice in this chapter (v. 30, v. 44) that no one laid a hand on Jesus to detain Him or arrest Him. The chief priests and the Pharisees even sent the temple guards to arrest Jesus (v. 32). The temple guards disobeyed a direct order and did nothing.
Verses 45 – 46 capture the moment the temple guards return. Notice that John begins the thought with the word “Finally”. The guards were captivated by Jesus’ teaching, and must have stayed quite a while before they realized they needed to report back.
When the guards came back empty-handed, they were proclaiming Jesus’ innocence. The religious rulers were looking for any trumped-up charges to get Jesus out of the public eye and regain control over the people, but the guards could not find anything wrong with what Jesus was saying or doing.
The guards’ disobedience to a direct order infuriated the religious leaders even more. In verses 47 – 49, the rulers felt even more impotent and unable to control the situation at hand and felt themselves losing the iron-clad grip they had over the Jewish people. The religious leaders even went as far as saying that someone had put a curse on the crowds (and the guards also) because they believed Jesus.
Nicodemus spoke up and tried to interject a point of reason back into the tense situation. Since the religious rulers were focused on the Law, Nicodemus thought that reminding his fellow leaders of God’s due process laid out in the Scriptures (Exodus 23:1, Deuteronomy 1:16) would get their attention and stop the rage they were exhibiting.
Nicodemus was correct but felt the stinging lash of his fellow Pharisees’ words, just as the guards had felt earlier. The religious rulers saw red, and no one was safe from their fiery blast. They accused Nicodemus of being a Jesus sympathizer and of not knowing the Scriptures (that no prophet could be from Galilee).
There were two problems with this argument:
1) the Pharisees never bothered to ask where Jesus was born; they assumed He was born where He was raised and now lived, as that was the custom of the day.
2) Jonah was from Galilee, a fact conveniently forgotten and which Nicodemus probably knew but did not use to correct his fellow Pharisees. Nicodemus was more likely thinking about the many passages in Proverbs talking about answering fools and avoiding further conflict than setting them straight.
Each person’s confrontation with Jesus the Messiah generates a response. Just as the crowd was divided over who Jesus was, our generation has to grapple with that same question.
How do we reflect Jesus to our generation? Do we present Him as He is, or do we wrap Him in our religious talk and make Him appear as one of the Pharisees?
May we reflect Jesus for who and what He truly is, not what we want Him to be.