On the final and climactic day of the Feast, Jesus took his stand. He cried out, "If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Rivers of living water will brim and spill out of the depths of anyone who believes in me this way, just as the Scripture says." (He said this in regard to the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were about to receive. The Spirit had not yet been given because Jesus had not yet been glorified.)
Those in the crowd who heard these words were saying, "This has to be the Prophet." Others said, "He is the Messiah!" But others were saying, "The Messiah doesn't come from Galilee, does he? Don't the Scriptures tell us that the Messiah comes from David's line and from Bethlehem, David's village?" So there was a split in the crowd over him. Some went so far as wanting to arrest him, but no one laid a hand on him.
That's when the Temple police reported back to the high priests and Pharisees, who demanded, "Why didn't you bring him with you?"
The police answered, "Have you heard the way he talks? We've never heard anyone speak like this man."
The Pharisees said, "Are you carried away like the rest of the rabble? You don't see any of the leaders believing in him, do you? Or any from the Pharisees? It's only this crowd, ignorant of God's Law, that is taken in by him—and damned."
Nicodemus, the man who had come to Jesus earlier and was both a ruler and a Pharisee, spoke up. "Does our Law decide about a man's guilt without first listening to him and finding out what he is doing?"
But they cut him off. "Are you also campaigning for the Galilean? Examine the evidence. See if any prophet ever comes from Galilee."
Then they all went home.
This is a fascinating interaction to me. It makes me think a lot about the way that many of us engage with social media.
The Pharisees had made a decision about Jesus based on their interpretation of the Scriptures. I think we can rightly understand from Nicodemus’ statement that this group of Pharisees had not actually engaged with Jesus or his teaching. They had made a decision based simply on where they assumed Jesus was born. The assumption was that Jesus was born in Galilee, because where you were born is where you were from in the ancient world. He grew up and lived in Galilee but was not born there. Jesus was indeed born in Bethlehem, David’s town.
But they assumed they knew what was true without first investigating the matter fully.
Those that had heard Jesus, interacted with Jesus, and engaged with Jesus knew there was something different about him.
Jesus was unique in his teaching, authority, and power of speech in his time (and honestly, ours too).
The thing is, his teaching challenged the assumptions of the religious elite. This could not stand. They had decided what was true and that was that. Their understanding of the truth put them in a position of power over and that was how they intended to keep it.
Jesus was out here talking about coming to him to get streams of living water. He was talking about subversive-gracious-love and an invitation to power with.
This may be the most subversive act of the story of Jesus that we pass right over. That is, the giving of the Holy Spirit. In the Old Testament the Spirit was given for specific purposes and to individuals to do great things for God. For instance, the king was given the Spirit. The prophets were given the Spirit. David really meant it when he cried out, “Take not your Holy Spirit from me!”
In Christ, the Spirit is given to every single person. This means that every single person had God-power. The kind of power that the Kings and Prophets and Priests had. The kind of power to hear from God intimately to know and understand what God was saying.
We cannot underestimate what was happening at the giving of the Spirit.
This changed the entire power structure and the power dynamics of the religious experience. There was no longer to be a one up/one down or a power over structure for the people of God. It was to be a power with structure. Where each member of the body was as important and crucial to hearing and knowing God as any other. Jesus says in multiple places that the least is the greatest in the Kingdom of God.
The giving of the Spirit flips everything on its head.
The religious leaders saw the writing on the wall. They couldn’t stand by the rabble getting an equal footing with them. So, they decided that Jesus was just an agitator based on where he was from.
Just like the religious leaders of Jesus’ time, we develop and create narratives that make us comfortable and help us maintain a sense of control. When these narratives are challenged we typically determine that the challenger is false, is unworthy of our listening, or is just plain bad. Yet, if we are going to follow the way of Jesus we must engage, listen, and hear them. We must put ourselves in a posture of learning and coming to terms with the possibility that we don’t know the full picture.
In other words, we have to take seriously the reality of the Spirit being given to all.
Part of loving well is the acknowledgement that every person who seeks to follow Jesus has the Spirit living in them and through them.
What are the ways that you made predeterminations about people or issues? Whom do you need to give a more intentional listening to?