Saturday, March 12, 2016

Reflection: John 7:40-53

Saturday of 4th Week of Lent - John 7:40-53

Today’s Gospel begins in the middle of a dialogue that Jesus was having with the Pharisees.  There was a large crowd of people listening to their discussion.  Some of the people truly believed that Jesus was the Prophet.  Others believed that He was the Christ.  However, there were other people who disputed this claim.  After all, Jesus was from Galilee and the Scriptures had prophesied that the Christ would come from Bethlehem.  They were deeply divided in their beliefs about Jesus.
Some of the people asked the guards to arrest Jesus but no one would do so.  However, the guards did what all good employees do: they went back to their bosses, the Pharisees, for instruction about what they should do.  When the guards arrived, the Pharisees and the chief priests were surprised the guards had not brought Jesus to them.  They asked them why they had not arrested Jesus.  The guards’ reaction must have taken the chief priests and Pharisees aback. The guards honestly and simply said: “We have never experienced anyone like this man. No one has ever spoken like he does.” Clearly the guards were awed and amazed at Jesus and his teaching.

It is not surprising that the Pharisees were angry with the guards.  After all, guards were not supposed to think for themselves.  They were to do as they had been instructed. The guards must have anticipated that the Pharisees would not be pleased that they did not follow their orders, but the guards did not believe that Jesus should be arrested, and they were willing to defend their decision.  They personally had experienced the authenticity of Jesus for themselves.  In addition, Jesus had not broken any laws. He simply was a threat to the power of the Pharisees.  In conscience, the guards could not and would not arrest Jesus.

In the midst of all this, Nicodemus, who also was a Pharisee, speaks up.  He asks his fellow Pharisees if Jewish law allows someone to be condemned before listening to the individual’s defense. At the very least, the Pharisees should question any person before arresting them.  As you might imagine, the Pharisees were angry and outraged at Nicodemus’ criticism and interference.  They bluntly told him that it was not his place to criticize them.  Nicodemus had no authority over them. I n addition, Jesus was an outsider: he was from Galilee.  Didn’t Nicodemus understand that nothing or anyone good could come from Galilee?

With each passing day, Jesus clearly was becoming more of a threat to the power and authority of the Pharisees.  The people were listening to Jesus and some of them were beginning to question and doubt the Pharisees.  The tension between Jesus and the Pharisees was escalating.  Had the Pharisees already begun to talk about possible ways of ridding themselves of this man, Jesus?
Today perhaps we can ask ourselves: when do we find ourselves in the shoes of the Pharisees? When do we judge and act like the Pharisees? Are there times when we also are critical of people who are different, who may have values or behaviors of which we do not approve?

This Gospel invites us to pause and be attentive to what is on our minds and in our hearts. We might be surprised by what we notice. If we monitor our thoughts and judgments, we may realize how quickly and instinctively we jump to judgment of another person.  If we do notice that we are judging another, then we have the opportunity to change our minds and our hearts. We have a choice to hold onto the judgment or to release it.  What will we choose to do?

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