who is this man? | John 7.11-13
The Jews were looking for him at the feast, and saying, “Where is he?” And there was much muttering about him among the people. While some said, “He is a good man,” others said, “No, he is leading the people astray.” Yet for fear of the Jews no one spoke openly of him. John 7.11-13 | ESV
Meanwhile, back at the feast, the piously zealous Judeans were on the prowl for Jesus in the midst of the festivities. “Where is that man??” they kept asking each other. And everywhere they went, people were abuzz with low, murmuring voices, all about him. “He’s a good man,” some would say, while others yammered, “No, he’s a heretic, a radical, misleading the people.” But no one would dare say his name out loud – fear of the prowling religious Judeans hung heavy in the air everywhere. MAV (Mike’s Amplified Version)
Jesus is deeply mysterious, not only because he lived long ago in a world strange to us. Jesus is mysterious not just because of what we don’t know about him. He is mysterious because of what we do know about him. As N.T. Wright observed, what we do know about him “is so unlike what we know about anybody else that we are forced to ask, as people evidently did at the time: who, then is this? Who does he think he is, and who is he in fact?” From the time on the cusp of manhood when he began discussing God, we are told that people were amazed and his own parents were astonished (Luke 2:47-48). When he began to teach, people were sometimes delighted and sometimes infuriated, but always astounded. Pilate couldn’t understand him, Herod plied him with questions, and his own disciples were often as confused as anybody. As Wright said: “People who listened to him at the time said things like, ‘We’ve never heard anyone talking like this’ and they didn’t just mean his tone of voice or his skillful public speaking. Jesus puzzled people then, and he puzzles us still’…Jesus is as hard to nail down as Jell-O.”
So at least we’re in good company.
Perhaps it’s good to recognize ourselves more or less in this questioning, stammering crowd.
Perhaps we should be most concerned about ourselves if we think we totally get Jesus and can comprehend and explain the mystery of Christ (and, look, we have charts and diagrams!).
I suspect that no matter how long we keep company with him he will always retain the capacity to blow our minds and explode all of our neat explanations about him – unless that’s a cardboard cut-out Jesus we’re carrying around with us instead of the Living Lord who carries us – and who has this annoying tendency to show up unexpectedly within the room of our explanations that are firmly locked and secured with our bolted arguments, and then vanish.
How often do you find yourself still puzzled by Jesus? How does he puzzle you? Is this a good thing or a bad thing for you?
Lord, remind me today that I am not saved, healed, empowered by understanding and explaining you, but by trusting you in all of your mysterious being and moving. Deepen my trust in you, and let me always retain the ability to be surprised by you – and by all of life! Teach me how to embrace mystery rather than trying to contain and embalm it in a theological specimen jar. Amen.