Saturday of Week 4 of Lent – Gospel

Commentary on John 7:40-53

Today we have a continuation of yesterday’s confusion about the identity of Jesus. There is a conflict between what people are seeing and hearing, and what they have been taught to believe. On the basis of his words and actions, Jesus looks like the Messiah but, as every Jewish child knows, the Messiah is not going to come from Galilee (where Nazareth is) but is to come from Bethlehem and the family of David. This is a good example of Johannine irony. Of course, Jesus did come from Nazareth, but he was of the family of David and, as we know from Matthew and Luke, born in David’s town of Bethlehem.

Even the police are confused. When asked by the religious leaders why they have not arrested Jesus, they reply:

Never has anyone spoken like this!

They are scolded for their ignorance and told to never mind how impressively he speaks:

Surely you have not been deceived, too, have you? Has any one of the authorities or of the Pharisees believed in him?

And the crowds who surround Jesus and listen to him are written off as ignorant and cursed:

…this crowd, which does not know the law, they are accursed.

But one Pharisee, Nicodemus, who had earlier (John chap 3) spoken with Jesus in secret and had been won over, protests:

Our law does not judge people without first giving them a hearing to find out what they are doing, does it?

Nicodemus is swept aside by the leaders’ preconceived ideas:

Search and you will see that no prophet is to arise from Galilee.

We need to remember we are not reading this passage to condemn the Jewish religious leaders or the Pharisees, but to reflect on our own prejudices and short-sightedness. How do we see Jesus, the Gospel message, the whole Bible, the Church, our parish community and its leaders, our family, friends, neighbours, not to mention strangers and outsiders? Let him or her who is totally without prejudice or who has never passed judgement on another cast the first stone.

Let us pray for an open mind to accept in its totality the message of Jesus. And also be very open about the many and surprising ways in which Jesus can speak to us. If we are honest, there is something of the Pharisee in every one of us.

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