“Did he just say what I think he said?,” exclaimed the chief temple officer. “I think so,” replied several of the other guards in disbelief. The chief continued, “Did he say he was sent from God, and that’s where he gets his authority? Is this the Messiah – the one the prophets from long ago spoke about?”
“No, it can’t be, the others chimed in. He’s from Galilee for crying out loud. I know some teachers say we won’t know where the Messiah comes from, but the Scripture is clear:
But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
though you are small among the clans of Judah,
out of you will come for me
one who will be ruler over Israel,
whose origins are from of old,
from ancient times.
But the people are confused as to who he is. Some say he’s a prophet. Others say he’s the Christ. And some are trying to kill him.”
A junior officer spoke up, “But what about the miracles, the healings, his teaching – it’s all so…so…profound – and he hasn’t had any formal training. Will the Messiah do more than this Jesus can? Plus, word has it that he was indeed born in Bethlehem. That said, I think the teachers are wrong, or lying, because prophets do occasionally come from Galilee – Jonah, Elijah (possibly), and Nahum. I think the Pharisees just have it out for this guy.”
The chief interrupted. “Guys, we need to keep order. That’s our job. The religious leaders want us to arrest this Jesus. So let’s go get him!”
The officers made their way through the enormous crowds. The Jews were celebrating the harvest as well as remembering God’s faithfulness during Israel’s wandering years. They pushed their way through the hordes that swarmed around Jesus.
“This is amazing! Everyone is talking about Jesus? The people really like him! So many are believing in him,” whispered the junior officer to his co-guard.
“No wonder the Pharisees don’t like this guy – he’s stealing their glory,” murmured the chief officer to himself.
Just as the officers were about to break up the party, Jesus stood up and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.”
“Did he just reference Isaiah the prophet and apply it to himself?,” the chief’s mind spun…
Come, all you who are thirsty,
come to the waters…
“Come on, let’s head back,” the chief said, solemnly. “What about Jesus?,” the junior officer asked. “I don’t know, but arresting him wouldn’t seem…well, it just wouldn’t seem right. Come on, let’s get out of here.”
The temple officers experienced the incredible confidence, intelligence, grace, and sense of purpose of Jesus. They’d never seen or heard anything like him. Jesus displayed no arrogance like the Pharisees, nor hypocrisy. He spoke truth. They experienced Jesus’ grace, power, passion, humility, and moral conviction. Such polar characteristics; yet, coming together in Jesus.
“Where is he!,” the Pharisees demanded as the officers returned empty-handed. In their brief encounter with Jesus, the Incarnate one, they responded more profoundly than they understood, “No one ever spoke like this man!”
There are many who claim to know something about Jesus – whether historically, philosophically, or otherwise. They try to box him in, approaching him filled with agenda, preconceptions, bias, and/or cultural values. All who do, leave without Jesus.
Who are you in this narrative extrapolation of chapter 7 in John’s gospel?
Are you one of the believers? Are you just going along and doing your job, like the chief officer – trying not to think too deeply about such things? Are you looking for more signs and miracles like many in the crowds? Do you think he was just another prophet or sage? Are you trying to sweep him under the rug – do away with him?
Or, do you see something amazing (do you sense something much larger at play) like the junior officer, and want to know more?
Regretfully, too many of us are like the Pharisees and religious leaders. We have our own agenda. We want what we want – not what God wants. Jesus knew this all too well. He even said it to the multitudes at the festival who were questioning him and his authority. Jesus said, “If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority.”
Put another way, if you approach God – the Creator of the universe – with “your will” – you will not understand Him – His love, His grace, or the plans He has for you. It’s either about you, or it’s about Him. If it’s about you, you’ll remain in the dark. When it’s about Him, understanding begins.
Few dare to plumb the depths of who Jesus is. Yet, any other course is suicide.
Thanks for reading,
~ Ted Olson