God experts, revisted | John 7.45-53
The officers then came to the chief priests and Pharisees, who said to them, “Why did you not bring him?” The officers answered, “No one ever spoke like this man!” The Pharisees answered them, “Have you also been deceived? Have any of the authorities or the Pharisees believed in him? But this crowd that does not know the law is accursed.” Nicodemus, who had gone to him before, and who was one of them, said to them, “Does our law judge a man without first giving him a hearing and learning what he does?” They replied, “Are you from Galilee too? Search and see that no prophet arises from Galilee.” They went each to his own house. John 7.45-53 | ESV
The underlings from the priestly and strict sect types returned – empty-handed and speechless. “Well, where is he?” They stammered blankly, “No one. Ever. Talked. Like. This. Ever.” The strict sect party howled, “You haven’t been duped too, have you? Nobody who’s anybody believes a word of this – and certainly none of our highly educated members. Damned, ignorant, clueless, crowds! They’ll believe anything – and anyone!” Nicodemus, one of their own, shoots back at them – knowing a thing or two more about this Jesus than they did, having just had his private interview with Jesus – “Hold on here, this isn’t biblical, is it? This isn’t what the Law would have us do – judge and condemn someone without hearing firsthand from him what he has to say for himself and seeing just exactly what it is he’s doing – is it?” Nicodemus wasn’t scoring any points. They shot right back at him, “What? Are you some ignorant Galilean too!? Check it out! You should know this! A prophet? Arising from the muck of Galilee? Preposterous! Never!”
And that was that. Meeting adjourned. Everyone went home. MAV (Mike’s Amplified Version)
How about another Latin phrase to start your day? Pectus facit Theologum. The heart makes the theologian, aka the “God-taught.”
Edersheim quotes it in his Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, after observing that among the Jews of Jesus’ day there was only one kind of learning and only one road to it – the school of the Rabbis.”
He continues: “The harsh sneer, ‘Are you also led astray?’ is succeeded by pointing to the authority of the learned and great, who with one accord were rejecting Jesus. ‘But this people’ – the country-people (Am ha-arez), the ignorant, unlettered rabble – ‘are cursed’ [demonstrating] the Pharisaic claim of authority and their almost unutterable contempt of the unlettered. So far did the latter go, that it would refuse, not only all family connection and friendly intercourse, but even the bread of charity, to the unlettered; nay, that, in theory, at least, it would have regarded their murder as no sin, and even cut them off from the hope of the Resurrection.”
Such a spirit of intellectual snobbery is still alive and well, whether we’re speaking of religious or irreligious circles, for it isn’t Jewish, it’s just human.
This circle of intellectuals didn’t lack information. They were well versed in the books – the old books – they read them, meditated upon them, memorized them, knew them better than most of us could ever hope to. But they lacked heart.
Pectus facit Theologum.
The pectoral muscles of true theology do not reside in the informational banks of the human brain, but in fleshy hearts aflame with God.
Now this doesn’t have to be, nor should it be an either/or equation – informed passion for God is the goal!
But all too often information passes for theology and leads to the rotten fruit of arrogance dripping with dismissive derision and disdain for those who don’t share the same informational pool.
As Paul observes, “Knowledge puffs up but love builds up. The one who thinks he knows something doesn’t know anything as he ought to know. But whoever loves God is known by God.”
And so as this chapter comes to its sorry close, we witness the endless speculation in the public comment thread about Jesus and the arrogant dismissal of him by the intellectual elite, all of this leading nowhere. No one goes anywhere. They all just go home, finishing as they started.
blah. blah. blah.
And everyone ends up right where they started.
But he shows us a more excellent way…
How well do you balance the tension between “heart” and “head”? How can we stay aware of our own arrogance and dismissal of others who don’t share our understanding and circle?
Abba, give me a fleshy heart aflame with passion for you! May whatever knowledge I acquire never feed pride or arrogance in me, but only stoke the flame of holy, humble passion to bow down and serve. Through Jesus.