Even in our day, the evil of those in power sending police to arrest dissenters is, tragically, very common. In democratic countries where such oppression does not happen there are still ways in which, those in power, by stirring up public opinion, assure that people can be cowed into silence through massive pressure from so-called voices on social media.
The Pharisees heard the crowd murmuring about Him to this effect, and the chief priests and the Pharisees sent guards to arrest Him. [v.32]
Perhaps the Pharisees might be given some slack if there existed any evidence their primary concern was for the safety of the people in case Jesus was just another person inciting rebellion against the Romans, a fool’s errand given the military might of the Romans. However, the preponderance of the evidence is that their main fear was losing their own power over the people, something certain religious leaders, such as in some Muslim countries, do even today with their ‘religious police.’
We who live in countries with religious liberty, an aspect of human dignity and a human right, should pray for such freedom for all our brothers and sisters, whatever their religious belief, who live in countries where freedom is denied them.
Vs. 33,34: So Jesus said, “I will be with you only a little while longer, and then I will go to the one who sent Me. You will look for Me but not find me, and where I am you cannot come.”
Not just here but also in chapters 8:21; 13:13 & 33; 16:16 Jesus tells the crowd and His disciples that He will be going and that they cannot follow, because He is referring here to His passion, death, entombment, resurrection and ascension.
Only after Pentecost and the descent and gift of the Holy Spirit can anyone truly follow Jesus into the depths of the Holy Gospel, into the depths of discipleship.
Without their knowing it the people, as they continue to discuss Jesus’ words, actually are pointing to the future: So the Jews said to one another, “Where is He going that we will not find Him? Surely He is not going to the dispersion among the Greeks to teach the Greeks, is He? [v.35]
There is a very human beauty in the somewhat anxiousness experienced when someone we either care for or are seeking to know better seems to abruptly say they are leaving but that we can neither know where they are going, nor follow. It is also very human, as in their wondering if He is going off to the Greeks, to try and figure out where is the where someone is abruptly announcing they are going to!
The Greeks, as Gentiles, are representative of all the peoples of the world to whom Jesus will go/be brought by the Apostles and over the millennia by the Church Herself.
V.36= What is the meaning of His saying, ‘You will look for Me and not find Me, and where I am you cannot come’?”
In all the back and forth between Jesus and the crowd, between those within the crowd amongst themselves we see a fascination with Jesus, for some perhaps mere curiosity about Him, nonetheless this back and forth allows for Jesus, sometimes admittedly in words that are oblique, nonetheless containing deep truth, to teach.
Vs.37=On the last and greatest day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out….
That last day is the 8th day, and the 8th day is the day of the Resurrection, the day when all things are made new, during the Christmas and Easter octaves the Church prays ‘this IS the day’, the day of Jesus’ birth, the day of His Holy Resurrection.
The crying out of Jesus reveals His sense of urgency to accomplish the work of redemption, His passionate love for us, His hunger that we would come to Him, to the Father through Him, open ourselves to the sanctifying action of the Holy Spirit.
Vs. 37 cont. & 38= “Let anyone who thirsts come to Me and drink. Whoever believes in Me, as scripture says: ‘Rivers of living water will flow from within him.’”
There are three great gifts for us in these words: 1] a reminder that Jesus is our real bread, our real drink, cf. 6:30ff; 19:34. 2] the renewed promise of living water first promised in 4:14; 3] living water is a gift of the Holy Spirit, and the great sacraments of Baptism and Holy Eucharist are seen as flowing from the Heart of Jesus to be bestowed upon us by the Holy Spirit in:.. one soldier thrust his lance into His side, and immediately blood and water flowed out. [19:34]
V.39=He said this in reference to the Spirit that those who came to believe in Him were to receive. There was, of course, no Spirit yet, because Jesus had not yet been glorified.
The ‘no Spirit yet’ means that as yet the Holy Spirit had not come upon anyone other than Christ Himself in the fullness of the meaning of the descent of the Holy Spirit, indeed further on Jesus says: …..I tell you the truth, it is better for you that I go. For if I do not go, the Advocate will not come to you. But if I go, I will send Him to you. [16:7]
Vs.40-44=Some in the crowd who heard these words said, “This is truly the Prophet.” Others said, “This is the Messiah.” But others said, “The Messiah will not come from Galilee, will he? Does not scripture say that the Messiah will be of David’s family and come from Bethlehem, the village where David lived?” So a division occurred in the crowd because of Him. Some of them even wanted to arrest Him, but no one laid hands on Him.
Sadly, no matter what Jesus teaches, no matter how obvious His love for the people, again and again their response is to argue, some asserting Jesus in indeed the Messiah, others the opposite.
In what a chaotic situation was Jesus trying to teach!
Yet, within the hearts of those sent to arrest Jesus, a stirring of faith: So the officers went to the chief priests and Pharisees, who asked them, “Why did you not bring Him?” The guards answered, “Never before has anyone spoken like this one.” [vs.45,46]
Obviously, these men would have heard many a false prophet, or a revolutionary, speak over the years, as this was a time in Israel when there were many false prophets and revolutionaries seeking to stir up the people against the Roman occupiers, thus their astonishment at the words, if not the person, of Jesus.
Then the arrogance and hostility, the disdain for the people, of which they were allegedly the shepherds, the hatred for Jesus, seen as a threat to their power, spills forth from the darkened hearts of the Pharisees: So the Pharisees answered them, “Have you also been deceived? Have any of the authorities or the Pharisees believed in Him? But this crowd, which does not know the law, is accursed.” [vs.47-49]
Those are the words of people deeply in bondage to satan, the words of people who know, but seek to deny, what the truth is, but to accept the truth would mean being humble, and anyone connected to satan, who is total, stupid pride, are proud and stupid themselves.
Nicodemus, whom St. John reminds us came to Jesus under the cover of darkness, shows a modicum of faith, a modicum only because Nicodemus argues for Jesus in terms of the law, not by argument from what the prophets clearly stated: Nicodemus, one of their members who came to Jesus at night, said to them, “Does our law condemn a person before it first hears him and finds out what he is doing?” They answered and said to him, “You are not from Galilee also, are you? Look and see that no prophet arises from Galilee.” [v.50-52]
A foreshadowing of Jesus’ treatment when those same self-righteous leaders will falsely accuse, interrogate, and hand Jesus over to Pilate to be put to death.
On this very day in countries around the world with oppressive regimes thousands of our brothers and sisters are likewise dragged before tribunals where truth is ignored, justice and the rule of law a farce, by imprisonment, torture, execution, these our brothers and sisters, are, bluntly put, disposed of.
Because He took such suffering upon Himself no one is alone in such darkness, Jesus is right there with them.
© 2019 Fr. Arthur Joseph