September 15, 2020
John 7:40-52 (NIV)
On hearing his words, some of the people said, “Surely this man is the Prophet.”
Others said, “He is the Messiah.”
Still others asked, “How can the Messiah come from Galilee? Does not Scripture say that the Messiah will come from David’s descendants and from Bethlehem, the town where David lived?” Thus the people were divided because of Jesus. Some wanted to seize him, but no one laid a hand on him.
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.”
Never mind Jesus’ historic birth in Bethlehem. That’s beside the point at this point. The point is division, and whether it be over his birthplace or his takes on Mosaic law, or his claims to messianic activity, his very presence creates controversy.
Thus the people were divided because of Jesus.
Why should this surprise us? We were warned. Remember this bit from his first trip to the temple (at eight days old)?
Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”
Or how about that time in Matthew when he dropped this bomb?
“Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn ‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.'” (Matt. 10:34-36)
Though he be the Prince of Peace, Jesus divides people. What if sometimes it takes division to get to peace? Why do we think peace is an easy thing? Is it because of its association with tie-dyed T-shirts and free love? Everyone is fine talking about God until the name of Jesus enters the conversation. Something about Jesus can either start the conversation or stop it in its tracks. Could it be because his very presence causes “the thoughts of many hearts to be revealed”?
If we are looking for cheap unity and an easy peace, we should probably move on from Jesus. His peace is costly and his brand of union is all-consuming.
Something about us wants to believe peace and unity are possible without Jesus. Something about us wants to have the peace of Jesus without going the way of Jesus. It’s too costly. It’s easier to paper over our conflicts (or worse, deny them) and settle for the superficial harmony of getting along, with a little Jesus sprinkled over the top.
The hardest thing we will ever do is to settle our undivided allegiance to Jesus. It will cost us our idealism, our idolatries, and our ideologies. Until we do, everything about us, including our relationships, will be divided.
Jesus is Lord! Though it cost everything, that’s the only peace on the planet.
Abba Father, we thank you for your Son, Jesus, who reveals the thoughts of all of our hearts. He is indeed our peace. Forgive us for settling for less and doing so in his name. Come, Holy Spirit, and awaken our allegiance to the lordship of Jesus in every way. We pray in Jesus’ name, amen.
1. Do you see how our idealism and our ideologies get in the way of our allegiance to Jesus?
2. Why do we have such an aversion to the kind of division Jesus brings? What if that is part of his plan to get to peace?
3. Have you ever been in a situation where Jesus brought division? What happened?
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