40 When they heard these words, some of the people said, “This really is the Prophet.” 41 Others said, “This is the Christ.” But some said, “Is the Christ to come from Galilee? 42 Has not the Scripture said that the Christ comes from the offspring of David, and comes from Bethlehem, the village where David was?” 43 So there was a division among the people over him. 44 Some of them wanted to arrest him, but no one laid hands on him.
45 The officers then came to the chief priests and Pharisees, who said to them, “Why did you not bring him?” 46 The officers answered, “No one ever spoke like this man!” 47 The Pharisees answered them, “Have you also been deceived? 48 Have any of the authorities or the Pharisees believed in him? 49 But this crowd that does not know the law is accursed.” 50 Nicodemus, who had gone to him before, and who was one of them, said to them, 51 “Does our law judge a man without first giving him a hearing and learning what he does?” 52 They replied, “Are you from Galilee too? Search and see that no prophet arises from Galilee.” – John 7:40-52 ESV
When Jesus spoke, people listened. That doesn’t mean they always understood or liked what He had to say. In fact, His messages often left His audiences intrigued and incensed at the same time. And when Jesus taught in the temple courtyard, on the last day of the Feast of Booths, He made His usual impact on those who had gathered to hear Him. He had chosen His words carefully, taking advantage of the circumstances surrounding the water rite that was practiced each morning of the festival.
For six days, the people had watched the daily processional as the priests brought a golden bowl filled with water from the Pool of Siloam up to the temple courtyard. Once there, they would pour out the water, along with another bowl filled with wine, on the brazen altar, as the people recited Isaiah 55:1 and Isaiah 12:3: “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters…With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.”
But on the seventh day of the feast, or what John refers to as “the great day,” this ritual required the priests to circle the brazen altar seven times before they poured out the water and wine. This ceremony was known as the Hoshana Rabbah, the great “HOSHIANA” (which translated is “save now”).
So, on that final day, when Jesus stood in the temple courtyard and proclaimed, “Anyone who is thirsty may come to me! Anyone who believes in me may come and drink! For the Scriptures declare, ‘Rivers of living water will flow from his heart’” (John 7:37-38 NLT), His words did not go unnoticed. John records:
When they heard these words, some of the people said, “This really is the Prophet.” Others said, “This is the Christ.” – John 7:40-41 ESV
They didn’t know what to make of Jesus. His miracles and messages intrigued them, causing them to wonder if He might be someone special. Of course, their natural tendency was to equate Him with one of the Old Testament prophecies concerning the Messiah or “the prophet” promised by Moses (Deuteronomy 18:15). They knew Jesus was special, but they weren’t exactly sure what to make of Him. So much of what He did and said seemed to contradict their preconceived ideas regarding the coming Messiah. He didn’t seem to fit the image of the one they were expecting. Jesus didn’t look like a conquering king or a powerful military figure who was going to lead the people of Israel in a victorious rebellion against the Roman. Some had a difficult time believing this itinerant Rabbi was actually their Messiah. After all, the prophets had made it clear that the Messiah would be a descendant of King David, even sharing his birthplace of Bethlehem. But, as far as they could tell, Jesus was from Galilee.
There was much about Jesus they didn’t know or understand. They were unaware of the details concerning His birth in Bethlehem. They knew nothing of His lineage as outlined in the other gospels, where He is listed as “the son of David” (Matthew 1:1; Luke 3:31). So, they ended up debating about who He was and what they were to do with Him.
…there was a division among the people over him. Some of them wanted to arrest him, but no one laid hands on him. – John 7:43-44 ESV
John continues to stress the divine nature of the timeline surrounding Jesus’ last days on earth. While John makes it clear that the circumstances surrounding Jesus are intensifying, he gives no indication that Jesus was worried or concerned. The religious leaders are growing increasingly more desperate to eliminate Jesus as a threat, but they are powerless to do anything. John even describes the frustration of the Sanhedrin when their guards return empty-handed, having failed to arrest Jesus as they had been ordered.
When the Temple guards returned without having arrested Jesus, the leading priests and Pharisees demanded, “Why didn’t you bring him in?” – John 7:45 NLT
And even the response of these men reveals the powerful impact Jesus had on all those who were exposed to His teaching.
“We have never heard anyone speak like this!” the guards responded. – John 7:46 NLT
They had been blown away by what they heard. But the religious leaders were appalled at their gullibility and failure to do their jobs. They ridicule these guards for being so easily deceived while bragging about their own refusal to be taken in by His lies. It was their superior knowledge of the law that kept them from falling prey to this blasphemous pretender. And they pronounce a curse on the people for their ignorance of and disregard for God’s law.
But it is at that point that John reintroduces Nicodemus. This Pharisee and member of the ruling council of Israel shows up a second time in John’s narrative. He first appeared in the middle of the night, seeking an impromptu and secret meeting with Jesus. His encounter with Jesus had left him confused and asking, “How can these things be?” (John 3:3:9 ESV). All Jesus’ talk about being born again and the Son of Man being lifted up had left Nicodemus perplexed. But it had given him plenty to think about. So, when his colleagues reacted so vehemently against Jesus, Nicodemus spoke up.
“Is it legal to convict a man before he is given a hearing?” – John 7:51 NLT
It seems clear that Nicodemus was more than curious about Jesus, and he couldn’t understand why his associates were so unwilling to give this man a proper hearing. What harm could it do to investigate Jesus’ claims more fully? But Nicodemus’ question was met with scorn and ridicule. His fellow members of the Sanhedrin, driven by blind hate for Jesus, turned their anger against him, demeaning him as no better than a lowly and ignorant Galilean.
“Are you from Galilee, too? Search the Scriptures and see for yourself—no prophet ever comes from Galilee!” – John 7:52 NLT
For all their supposed knowledge of the Scriptures, they were incredibly misinformed. Their pride in their ow Judean heritage and their hatred for Galileans blinded them to the truth of God’s Word. Both Jonah and Nahum had been prophets who hailed from Galilee. And now, they were faced with yet another messenger sent from God who was not what they were expecting. Jesus did not fit their preconceived notions regarding the Messiah, so they deemed Him a liar and a lunatic. They allowed their pride to get in the way. Their egos prevented them from recognizing the very one for whom they had been waiting. It was just as Jesus had said:
“You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.” – John 5:39-40 ESV
New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.