religious hazmat | John 11.54-57
Jesus therefore no longer walked openly among the Jews, but went from there to the region near the wilderness, to a town called Ephraim, and there he stayed with the disciples.
Now the Passover of the Jews was at hand, and many went up from the country to Jerusalem before the Passover to purify themselves. They were looking for Jesus and saying to one another as they stood in the temple, “What do you think? That he will not come to the feast at all?” Now the chief priests and the Pharisees had given orders that if anyone knew where he was, he should let them know, so that they might arrest him. John 11:54-57 | ESV
Jesus – fully aware of their calculations, and of the time – went dark among the Judean populace, ultimately leaving town and heading back out into the country to an out-of-the-way village called Ephraim (“double bounty”). There he hung out with the disciples.
But not for long. Passover season – the “Lamb’s Ordeal” or “Flyby” celebration – was near, many pilgrims streaming towards Jerusalem from all over the countryside before the feast, coming early to make themselves ritually pure. And everyone was looking out for Jesus, the hushed hubbub among those standing in the temple courts heard on everyone’s lips: “What do you think? No way will he show his face here. Not here. Not now. Not at this feast. No way. You think? But then how could he not?” And, of course, the priestly and religious hierarchy had already issued orders that if anyone had any idea where he was, they would inform the authorities at once, so that they might apprehend him before any trouble could get started. MAV (Mike’s Amplified Version)
Passover is the great “freedom festival” of Israel, marked by celebration, joy, and feasting. It’s the original “Fourth of July” holiday. Of course, our Fourth of July has always been marked by fireworks – loud, colorful, sometimes unpredictable, explosions. And fireworks were the last thing the religious/political powerbase in Jerusalem wanted during their own Independence Day.
We carefully plan and contain our firework displays – but they wanted Jerusalem to remain a “no fireworks” zone throughout the seven-day celebration.
And how better to contain than by eliminating them entirely?
Now if only they could keep the spark named Jesus from blowing into town and blowing everything up. Passover might have been the great annual celebration of freedom that year, but it was fear that whispered in Jerusalem’s streets and in the Temple courts. Fear of what would happen if Jesus came – and would he come?
And if he did, what would he do?
What would the people do?
What would the Romans do?
Would this be the end of the world as we know it?
And, really, who could blame them for their fear?
We fear God and Christ for the same reasons.
We fear the potential disruption.
Because he does disrupt us.
He upsets our routines,
he overturns our tables,
he rewrites our personal, moral, and spiritual DNA –
consequently impacting our cultural and political DNA as well.
Why wouldn’t we try to contain him? Why wouldn’t we, like the Gadarenes, beg Jesus to leave our shores – after all, an entire herd of pigs is belly-up in the lake, and that was just the beginning! Yes, animals were harmed in this messianic production! What do you think will be next?
And so people whisper wondering if Jesus will show and what would happen if he did. And the authorities operate like some sort of religious hazmat crew straight out of Monsters Inc., looking to contain the messianic virus that Jesus was clearly carrying.
We can judge them all we wish, as long as we take our place beside them confessing, “Yeah, that’s what we do too.”
And such containment strategies work just about as well for us as it did for them…
How has God disrupted your life recently? Do you find yourself fearing or welcoming his disruptions? Why?
Abba, forgive me for fearing your life-giving touch and presence because of how it might change things, because of how it might change me. Disrupt me. Upset my routine. You write my status update. You post on the wall of my life what you would. And let me not fear it, but trust and embrace. Through Christ.