Friday, June 6, 2014

The Feast of Tabernacles

Life of Christ 97

          Jesus has arrived at the Feast of Tabernacles partway through its weeklong run. Hundreds of thousands of Jews had convened on Jerusalem for this feast, and the city was buzzing. One of the main topics of conversation that week was Jesus (John 7.12). Who exactly was He? Was He what He claimed to be? Was He a fraud?
          Jesus goes to the center of it all, the Temple, and proceeds to begin teaching. The session rapidly devolves into a questioning give and take. It begins with a challenge to His right to even teach (John 7.15). Jesus had dealt with this very objection before on His last visit to the synagogue of His hometown in Nazareth. (see Life of Christ 71) Basically, it was a rejection of His authority to teach because He hadn't been accredited in the manner to which they were accustomed. The rabbis of His day insisted that new rabbis be trained by current rabbis, and thus schools were developed for this purpose. Supposedly they ensured that a rabbi was connected, via a long chain of rabbinical training going back centuries, to the original rabbi, Moses. Jesus, of course, had no rabbinical training whatsoever, and thus some said He shouldn't have even had the right to teach at all.
          His response is that His teaching didn't come from a chain of rabbis going all the way back to Moses, but rather that it came directly from the Father Himself i.e. 'right from the horse's mouth' in our vernacular. 'My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me' (John 7.16).
          He then offers them two ways to test out the validity of His claim to be teaching truth straight from God. First is the test of obedience. 'If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God' (John 7.17). Obedience often precedes understanding, and it is for a lack of grasping this that many a Christian stumbles. I'm heartily for explaining the why behind the what, but too often it is impossible to accurately get across the why until the what starts being done. The second test was of selflessness. If He was making up His own material He would have spent much more time and emphasis talking about Him. He didn't. He spent His time revealing the Father. (John 7.18).
          The Jews claimed vigorously to be followers of Moses, holding him up above all prophets and rabbis, and believing his words were God's Words. Jesus now tells them that they essentially were not followers of Moses because they disobeyed the Mosaic Law, specifically the commandment, 'Thou shalt not kill' (Exodus 20.13). He said this because there were those in the crowd that day in the Temple who were actively seeking a pretense and means of killing Him.
          Their response was to pretend no such thing was happening, and to again accuse Him of being possessed of Satan. 'Thou hast a devil; who goeth about to kill thee?' (John 7.20). This was laughable at best and downright deceptive at worst. Just five verses later we see that the plots on His life were already public knowledge. 'Then said some of them in Jerusalem, Is not this he, whom they seek to kill?' (John 7.25). In fact, in just a few short minutes, this very conversation would end with an attempt on His life (John 7.30).
          At this point Jesus takes the offensive, and goes directly to an area in which He was so often attacked before, that of healing on the Sabbath day. Jesus, again, finds a way to skewer them. Their esteemed Moses told them to be circumcised, and they valued circumcision so highly they would even perform the rite on the Sabbath. In other words, even the strict Pharisees didn't think that performing a circumcision on the Sabbath broke the Law in regards to not working on the Sabbath. Jesus then tells them that every argument that could be applied to prevent Him from healing on the Sabbath could also be applied to performing a circumcision on the Sabbath. Why, then, were they angry at Him for performing miracles on the Sabbath (John 7.22-23)?
          He has now pointed out both their illogic and deceit. He then appeals to the people to make a judgment call about Who He is, and to make it correctly, not simply by how it looks on the surface according to the picture the Pharisees had painted of Him. 'Judge not according to appearance, but judge righteous judgment' (John 7.24).
          At this point, some genius in the crowd comes up with a surefire answer to all of Christ's logic, power, and pleading. The Jews of His day believed that the messiah, when he came, would appear suddenly, out of nowhere, and sweep them all to earthly glory. Jesus, on the other hand, had a reputation that had grown gradually, and everybody knew the story or His origins in Nazareth, and of His parents, Joseph and Mary (John 7.27). Ergo, He couldn't be the Messiah since they knew where He came from.
          Jesus, making no bones about it at all, lifts His voice for emphasis and shouts to all around that they are wrong about this. He didn't come from Joseph and Mary and Nazareth. He came straight from God, sent from God, and they clearly didn't know this God. 'Then cried Jesus in the temple as he taught, saying, Ye both know me, and ye know whence I am: and I am not come of myself, but he that sent me is true, whom ye know not. But I know him: for I am from him, and he hath sent me' (John 7.28-29).
          This is nothing less than a highly public and aggressive claim to be the divine Son of God, and the Jews obviously took it this way for the immediate emotional response of the crowd around Him was to seek to kill Him (John 7.30). Of course, this was neither the time, or place, or manner in which He needed to die the atoning death necessary to be our sacrifice, and He slipped away in the mayhem. Yet again, we clearly see Jesus claiming to be the Son of God, and that the Jews of His day understood Him to be doing so.
          Others in the crowd, more rational, discuss among themselves the fact that His claims to the messiahship had been fully authenticated by His many indisputable miracles (John 7.31).

          This entire story has been the record of a give and take with an overtly hostile and inertly supportive crowd of Jews in the Temple. We will see the like again and again in the last six months of His life as He takes His claims right to the heart of the Jewish system.

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