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24 - Divisions Over Jesus

On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.
When they heard these words, some of the people said, “This really is the Prophet.” Others said, “This is the Christ.” But some said, “Is the Christ to come from Galilee? Has not the Scripture said that the Christ comes from the offspring of David, and comes from Bethlehem, the village where David was?” So there was a division among the people over him. Some of them wanted to arrest him, but no one laid hands on him.
The officers then came to the chief priests and Pharisees, who said to them, “Why did you not bring him?” The officers answered, “No one ever spoke like this man!” The Pharisees answered them, “Have you also been deceived? Have any of the authorities or the Pharisees believed in him? But this crowd that does not know the law is accursed.” Nicodemus, who had gone to him before, and who was one of them, said to them, “Does our law judge a man without first giving him a hearing and learning what he does?” They replied, “Are you from Galilee too? Search and see that no prophet arises from Galilee.”


A classic illustration used to help people understand the need for four Gospel accounts is that of four blind men attempting to describe an elephant. One feels the trunk and describes it, another a tusk, another a leg, and still another the tail. Each describes the same creature, and yet their descriptions will have both similarities and differences because they are describing different aspects of it.


When Jesus makes His proclamation at the end of the feast, the people who believe respond to Him in two different ways: to them, He is either the Prophet or the Christ. Although we’re familiar with the latter term (God’s Anointed), we may not be as familiar with the former reference. In Deuteronomy 18, Moses promised the people that God would raise up for them a prophet like himself. For thousands of years, the Jewish people watched and waited for a prophet who could lead them as Moses did. What the people fail to realize, of course, is that they’re using different descriptors for the same reality – Jesus of Nazareth is both the promised Christ and the promised Prophet.


Those who are opposed to Jesus as this pivotal figure only have a part of His story. We who have read the other Gospel accounts know of Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem, but all these people know is that the man before them grew up in Galilee. This actually seems to be what leads to the controversy in this particular section: if Jesus isn’t from Bethlehem, then He’s not able to fulfill the prophecies concerning the Messiah. If that’s the case, He’s a false Christ without hesitation. It’s little wonder, therefore, that those who don’t know about His birth in Bethlehem want Him arrested. In fact, it seems this is one of the primary complaints of the chief priests and the Pharisees as well.


How often it seems that people make a judgment about Jesus based only on a part of the story! They know one or two small details and decide from there that they reject Him. In some cases, they know of someone else who is a trusted source to them and they choose to reject based on another’s views. But how beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news! How blessed are those who hear the gospel and respond not only with affirmation in their words, but in the entirety of their lives! It is not the ears which hear the gospel and acknowledge its truth that blessing is to be found, but in those who are transformed by it.


Those who listen to Jesus are confronted with some difficult facts. “No one ever spoke like this man,” they declare. In other words, whether one agrees or disagrees with Him, what are they to do with Him? If He clearly speaks in such a radically different manner from all who have come before, how are we to understand Him?


These questions were not only relevant to those who heard Jesus’ words in person; rather, they are relevant to all. All must answer the question of the identity of Christ. For some, however, there is a vested interest in suppressing any interest in the identity of Jesus. If He is who He claims to be, then there is a natural response which must take place – either he must be Lord, in which case He is to be obeyed; or He is to be ignored and rejected, in which case His words are of no value.


As the people of God, our responsibility is toward those who have not yet heard the gospel message or toward those who currently lean in the latter direction with regard to their response to Christ. There will always be division among those around us on the topic of Jesus, but our job is to present the gospel and perhaps fill in the gaps which previously existed in others’ knowledge of who Jesus is. There is great reward for those with the boldness and courage to share the gospel message.


Lord Jesus, I know You have called Your people to faithful obedience with the gospel message. Grant that I may carry Your gospel to those around me today. May those I encounter see You at work in my life. May I be a beacon of Christlikeness to a world in desperate need of You. As I speak, let it be as one who speaks Your words; as I act, may it be as one who does Your works. In all things, let me be a faithful messenger of the kingdom.

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