Saturday, March 28, 2009

No, the Messiah will not come from Galilee.

In today’s gospel, John the Evangelist continues with the same theme as yesterday. People in the crowd who hear Jesus speak are thinking, “This is the Prophet”. Others go further, “He is the Messiah.” But others say, “No, the Messiah will not come from Galilee. Scripture says that he will be of David’s line, and will be born in Bethlehem, David’s city.” So, arguments arise because of Jesus. Some in the crowd even seek to have him arrested, but no one lays hands on him.

So, the Temple guards report the incident to the chief priests and the Pharisees, who ask, “Why didn’t you bring him in?” “No one has ever talked the way he does”, is their answer. “Have you been duped by him, too? Have any of us Pharisees or the leaders of the people believed in him?” Then they say to themselves, “These crowds, who believe in him, are cursed!”

Then Nicodemus, one of the Pharisees, who had come to speak with Jesus earlier, spoke up. “Does the Law condemn a man before hearing what he has to say for himself, and the judges determine what he has done?” They answered him, “You’re not from Galilee, are you? Look in the Scripture, and see that no prophet comes from Galilee.” (John 7:40-53)

How could it happen that the chief priests and the Pharisees, the leaders of the people, had the Messiah standing before them, preaching to the people, and not recognize him?

Put yourself in their position. Someone from the boondocks, from “pagan Galilee”, as the people of Jerusalem, who had no training in the Law of Moses, is preaching to the people, and they are starting to call him the Messiah. If you were responsible for interpreting God’s law to his people, or for making sure that God’s people worship Him in the way He prescribed, wouldn’t you want to find out what was going on?

As a priest and interpreter of the Law, if I were there at the Temple in Jerusalem, in the early spring, as the days grew longer, and the great Pilgrimage Feast of Passover approached, I would certainly want to look into what was going on, so that the people would not be led astray by a false prophet or a fake Messiah.

But then, I have to ask myself another question: If I had been there, would I be able to let go of my own notions of how I think the Messiah should act and speak? Would I be able to accept the grace that they certainly were given, to see the preacher from Nazareth with the eyes of faith?

Lord, we pray today for those who seek you but do not find you, because, like the Pharisees and teachers of the Law, they are blinded by their own preconceived notions about you. And we pray, as well, for those priests and teachers of the Law in our own times, who turn away those who seek you with a sincere heart, because of their arrogant attitudes or because of their sinful behavior.

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