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Daily Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Saturday, February 5, 2022  

Today’s Scripture Reading  |  John 7:14–36

About the middle of the festival Jesus went up into the temple and began to teach. The Jews were astonished at it, saying, “How does this man have such learning, when he has never been taught?” Then Jesus answered them, “My teaching is not mine but his who sent me. Anyone who resolves to do the will of God will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own. Those who speak on their own seek their own glory; but the one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and there is nothing false in him.

“Did not Moses give you the law? Yet none of you keeps the law. Why are you looking for an opportunity to kill me?” The crowd answered, “You have a demon! Who is trying to kill you?” Jesus answered them, “I performed one work, and all of you are astonished. Moses gave you circumcision (it is, of course, not from Moses, but from the patriarchs), and you circumcise a man on the sabbath. If a man receives circumcision on the sabbath in order that the law of Moses may not be broken, are you angry with me because I healed a man’s whole body on the sabbath? Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.”

Now some of the people of Jerusalem were saying, “Is not this the man whom they are trying to kill? And here he is, speaking openly, but they say nothing to him! Can it be that the authorities really know that this is the Messiah? Yet we know where this man is from; but when the Messiah comes, no one will know where he is from.” Then Jesus cried out as he was teaching in the temple, “You know me, and you know where I am from. I have not come on my own. But the one who sent me is true, and you do not know him. I know him, because I am from him, and he sent me.” Then they tried to arrest him, but no one laid hands on him, because his hour had not yet come. Yet many in the crowd believed in him and were saying, “When the Messiah comes, will he do more signs than this man has done?”

The Pharisees heard the crowd muttering such things about him, and the chief priests and Pharisees sent temple police to arrest him. Jesus then said, “I will be with you a little while longer, and then I am going to him who sent me. You will search for me, but you will not find me; and where I am, you cannot come.” The Jews said to one another, “Where does this man intend to go that we will not find him? Does he intend to go to the Dispersion among the Greeks and teach the Greeks? What does he mean by saying, ‘You will search for me and you will not find me’ and ‘Where I am, you cannot come’?” (NRSV)

Although virtually all of us know that stereotypes are unfair and harmful, scientists and psychologists have long noted that our brains often cannot seem to help themselves: we all make snap judgments about people, even with relatively little information to go on!

This is exactly what is at issue in this extended passage from John’s Gospel. “We know where this man is from,” the crowds dismissively say in verse 27, a comment reminiscent of how Jesus is viewed with suspicion in the other Gospels when he visits his hometown of Nazareth: “Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary?” (Mark 6:3). In both instances, those gathered believe they already know all they need to know about who Jesus is. He is a carpenter, not some teacher of the Law! He’s from a humble family living in an even more humble town (“Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” one disciple scoffs in John 1:46): what claim could Jesus possibly have to being the Messiah?

As we know, Jesus is far greater than the stereotypes that were held against him. If the crowds and religious leaders had truly stopped to learn more about Jesus, they would have seen how woefully inadequate their preconceived notions were. But the crowd’s inability to truly see Jesus should remind us of the myriad of ways we are constantly selling people short or assuming we know far more about them then we do. Instead, we owe others nothing less than our full compassion and curiosity.

Loving God, challenge me to live a life defined by compassion and curiosity towards my neighbors—avoiding assumptions and labels and instead seeking to truly know and love them. Amen.

Written by Matt Helms, Associate Pastor for Children and Family Ministry

Reflection and prayer © Fourth Presbyterian Church

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