41 Others said, This is the Christ. But some said, Shall Christ come out of Galilee?
42 Hath not the scripture said, That Christ cometh of the seed of David, and out of the town of Bethlehem, where David was?
43 So there was a division among the people because of him.
44 And some of them would have taken him; but no man laid hands on him.
45 Then came the officers to the chief priests and Pharisees; and they said unto them, Why have ye not brought him?
46 The officers answered, Never man spake like this man.
47 Then answered them the Pharisees, Are ye also deceived?
48 Have any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed on him?
49 But this people who knoweth not the law are cursed.
50 Nicodemus saith unto them, (he that came to Jesus by night, being one of them,)
51 Doth our law judge any man, before it hear him, and know what he doeth?
52 They answered and said unto him, Art thou also of Galilee? Search, and look: for out of Galilee ariseth no prophet.
53 And every man went unto his own house.
People disagreed about Christ, but everyone was talking about him: the people were divided about whether He was a prophet or the Christ, and the Pharisees saw Him as competition and thus tried to have Him arrested.
Jesus famously said, I have not come to bring peace, but rather a sword. In this passage I see Jesus divinely protected from the hands of angry men, who eventually got their way with the Messiah. Is that not sovereignty of God ineffably mixed with the freedom of man?
Again those who studied the most about the Christ seem almost to be at a disadvantage, for they thought that the Christ was to be born in Bethlehem, and the world mistakenly thought Christ to be of Galilee. Nicodemus appears again in this chapter, speaking in behalf of the Christ, but it is unclear whether Nicodemus is a believer, or merely sympathetic.
I find it interesting that many who studied were yet deceived. When I look for that pattern among men in the world of today, it is not at all hard to find a parallel. Many people have come to the Word of God, fascinated by its pull, perhaps somehow sensing the great things in the Word, but are without capability of discerning truth. Was Nicodemus among those of Jesus’ time? Certainly these men were scholars enough to both expect the Savior and know of His birthplace. But it helped them not when confronted with the actual Messiah. So close and yet so far!
In the main thrust of this passage, I would point out that Jesus had gone up secretly to this feast, unknown to his disciples, and, at least in part, He went secretly because He had already become a wanted man. But look at the way the soldiers could not lay a hand on Him. They were awestruck with the power of His message, they said. But I cannot help but wonder if they were not being held back by the very power of God.
So I have Jesus subject to his world and being forced to travel secretly rather than openly. But I also see Jesus sovereignly stopping an early arrest, for His time had not yet come. Here I see the mystery of the sovereign God laying down His immutable will in the everyday world. One the one hand sovereignty and power from God, but on the other hand Jesus facing His problem as any man might, hiding Himself until appropriate times. Is that not a mystery? I find it profoundly so.
Evidently one way of contextualizing the problem of Jesus was that He wanted His message out to the people who might hear it. Remember there was sharp division among even the regular people for some said He is the Christ while others said He was no more than a prophet. Complicating everything was the fact that the Pharisees, the peers of Nicodemus, already wanted to arrest Him. Jesus could not let this happen, and yet needed to get His message out, so what He did seems like a balancing act of hiding and revealing Himself.
Is that not what He is doing in the world today? There are many false followers, digging through the Word furiously, but missing everything that would point the way to the Savior. Such people are puffed up in their pride and false knowledge, and are not humbling themselves before God. But to others, and sometimes in unexpected ways, He reveals Himself and dramatically changes a life. How do I know? Because He did that with me. Has He done that with you?
We find Him not through our minds, nor by devising dastardly doctrines, but rather by humbling ourselves, opening our souls before Him, and coming to Him as a little child.
But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.
Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
He that comes to me I will never drive away.
His mercy is sure and if we wait until we understand Him we will never come. I say that to you as one who came to Him a bit differently than many. John 14:6 says: “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father but through me.” I saw the Truth, and did not know about either the way or the life. Those I was discipled in after I knew Him as Truth. Lay aside your expectations about God, lay aside your feeble works with which you would please God, and find out what He says. He is waiting with open arms. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.” Say with me, “I believe. Dear God, help my unbelief.” The best place to start finding out about this One in whom you would believe is in John, for John tells us much about the Savior of the world.
Love Lifted Me
1. I was sinking deep in sin, far from the peaceful shore,
Very deeply stained within, sinking to rise no more,
But the Master of the sea, heard my despairing cry,
From the waters lifted me, now safe am I.
2. All my heart to Him I give, ever to Him I'll cling
In His blessed presence live, ever His praises sing,
Love so mighty and so true, merits my soul's best songs,
Faithful, loving service too, to Him belongs.
3. Souls in danger look above, Jesus completely saves,
He will lift you by His love, out of the angry waves.
He's the Master of the sea, billows His will obey,
He your Savior wants to be, be saved today.
Love lifted me! Love lifted me!
When nothing else could help
Love lifted me!
Lyrics: James Rowe