Saturday, December 20, 2008
When they heard these words, some in the crowd said, "This is really the prophet." Others said, "This is the Messiah." But some asked, "Surely the Messiah does not come from Galilee, does he? Has not the scripture said that the Messiah is descended from David and comes from Bethlehem, the village where David lived?" So there was a division in the crowd because of him. Some of them wanted to arrest him, but no one laid hands on him.
Then the temple police went back to the chief priests and Pharisees, who asked them, "Why did you not arrest him?" The police answered, "Never has anyone spoken like this!" Then the Pharisees replied, "Surely you have not been deceived too, have you? Has any one of the authorities or of the Pharisees believed in him? But this crowd, which does not know the law -- they are accursed." Nicodemus, who had gone to Jesus before, and who was one of them, asked, "Our law does not judge people without first giving them a hearing to find out what they are doing, does it?" They replied, "Surely you are not also from Galilee, are you? Search and you will see that no prophet is to arise from Galilee."
Comments: Nazareth was in the Galilee some 150 miles north of Jerusalem. It was in Jesus’ day the “Hicksville” of Judah. It was an area of “loose” observance of Mosaic law and it had been a place of enforced conversion to Judaism about 150 years before—which made the area suspect in their religious purity. Those in Jerusalem looked down upon the Galilee. Nicodemus, the one who had come to Jesus under the cover of night and who had wondered about how one could be born again, challenges those who would condemn Jesus without at least hearing from him. They even try to condemn Nicodemus because he called for fairness.
In the present difficulties in the Church this kind of mudslinging is present. It is seen in both the ELCA and the Episcopal churches. You see it among factions of Roman Catholicism or whatever denomination. There is a fear that if there are new ideas, they are to be suspect and not tolerated. But the church has always changed. From the days of Paul and Silas, there has been the need for new ideas to call the Church to newness. This passage says to me that I need to be willing to hear the whole story, not just judge based upon where the ideas comes from.