Encounter the contrasting responses to Jesus' teachings, exploring spiritual openness versus rigid religious frameworks in this reflective piece.
John 7:45-53 — Religious Rigidity — Aneel Aranha
Hello and welcome to the Bite-Sized Gospel with Aneel Aranha. Today we will reflect on John 7:45-53. Listen.
Finally the temple guards went back to the chief priests and the Pharisees, who asked them, “Why didn’t you bring him in?”
“No one ever spoke the way this man does,” the guards replied.
“You mean he has deceived you also?” the Pharisees retorted. “Have any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed in him? No! But this mob that knows nothing of the law—there is a curse on them.”
Nicodemus, who had gone to Jesus earlier and who was one of their own number, asked, “Does our law condemn a man without first hearing him to find out what he has been doing?”
They replied, “Are you from Galilee, too? Look into it, and you will find that a prophet does not come out of Galilee.”
Then they all went home, but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.
The Pharisees and chief priests, the religious elite of the day, are confronted with a dilemma: the guards, whom they sent to arrest Jesus, return empty-handed, captivated by his words. "No one ever spoke the way this man does," the guards declared. The Pharisees, locked in their paradigms, immediately dismiss the guards and the general populace, labeling them as cursed and ignorant of the law.
One man, however, does not flow with the tide. Nicodemus, whom we met in Chapter 3, dares to challenge his peers, asking for a fair hearing of Jesus. They immediately mock him, saying that no prophet arises from Galilee. This is despite their alleged knowledge of the Scriptures.
The Pharisees' response is not merely a rejection of Jesus but a dismissal of any possibility that God might be working outside their frameworks. Their knowledge of the law has become a stumbling block, preventing them from seeing God moving in their midst. They have become so sure of their understanding of God's ways and means that they cannot recognize God when he stands right in front of them.
In contrast, the guards, free from rigid constructs, are able to listen to Jesus with openness and allow themselves to be moved by his words. Their lack of theological training does not inhibit their capacity to recognize something profound and divine in Jesus' teaching.
Similarly, despite his background, Nicodemus demonstrates a willingness to entertain the possibility that God might be doing something new and unexpected in Jesus. His question reflects humility and openness to the unforeseen works of God.
Let us reflect on our own openness to the unexpected and surprising ways God might be at work in our midst. We must consider how our religious laws and regulations might blind us to the fresh and innovative ways the Spirit is moving. Are we, like the Pharisees, so wedded to our understanding of God that we dismiss the unfamiliar and the unconventional? Or can we, like the guards and Nicodemus, approach Jesus with openness and humility, allowing ourselves to be astonished and transformed by his words?
Something important to think about today.
God bless you.