Scripture: Lectionary 250. March 24. Jeremiah 11:18-20. Psalm 7:2-3.9-10,11-12. John 7:40-53:
Today we are in a power packed passage in John that shows us the various groups and persons who surround Jesus in these controversial situations that unfold in chapters seven through twelve. Today’s reading is comprehensive in mentioning who they are except for leaving aside the Zealots and the Romans. The distinct factions represented show their opinions and thoughts about Jesus. He has made himself well known to them by his words and actions. Tension is building between them and Jesus and even among themselves as they are perplexed about this man Jesus. For some he may be the Messiah; for others he is a sinner and a blasphemer as we have already seen in John’s Gospel. Is he legitimate? Is he a Prophet like Jeremiah whom we learn about in our first reading? Others are ready to hand him over to those who have control over such a tense atmosphere. The crowds are mentioned, the Pharisees, the priests (Sadducees) , the Sanhedrin, the common people (hoi polloi) and Nicodemus who came to Jesus by night.
Both Jeremiah and Isaiah have narratives that are similar to what is happening around this disturbing and perplexing man. He is threatened with death like Jeremiah was; he has the traits of the Suffering Servant that Isaiah describes in his last two parts of his prophetic message and is referred to by Jeremiah as a lamb who is led to the slaughter. John will develop the image of Jesus as a lamb especially at the time of his sufferings. The Paschal sacrifice of lambs was taking place at the time Jesus was being led to his cross. John doesn’t allow us to leave the symbolism that he has employed in his early chapters, for example, that John the Baptist had already pointed out that Jesus is the Lamb of God. This will also be a central symbol in the Apocalypse (Book of Revelation) which is written in the traditions of those who knew of the writings of John the Evangelist or perhaps for certain the Fourth Evangelist without naming who is the theologian behind this Gospel.
We are thus immersed in the social location and atmosphere of the last year of Jesus’ life, probably in 28 A.D. (or traditionally from 28-33 A.D.). The accuracy of the groups named—even the mention of the temple guards shows us that the thought of the inspired writer is coming from one who is profoundly competent with what he has received in the traditions about Jesus. We are, of course, not only looking at this within the perspective of the historical time of Jesus but at the time in which the followers of Jesus and the followers of Moses were separating from one another. We need to read John on three different levels in many of the passages he hands on to readers. This Gospel would be violated by those who look at it in one dimension, namely, the literal.
Nicodemus appears again. He had been involved in discussions with Jesus at night. He now surfaces as one who calls for justice in the case of Jesus being considered a criminal or malefactor. He is a cryptic Christian slowly coming to faith in the person of Jesus. The scene is dramatically closed with the words, “each went off to his home.” (John 7: 40-53).
The Psalm 7 is about David but it helps us to reflect upon our own situation. Do we not all feel like David or Jesus when we are unjustly treated or even hated? We may not have done anything wrong, but someone calls our integrity into question and we are disturbed by those who “put us in a box” and calumniate us. Our only recourse is likened to that of the Psalm where we are led to pray to God who knows our thoughts and desires. God also knows our innocence and integrity. Verse 18 leads us to offer a thanksgiving prayer to God who alone is all holy and just and who understands ,in this instance that we are innocent. “I will give thanks unto the Lord according to his righteousness; and will sing praises to the name of the Lord most High. Amen.” (Psalm 7:18).