“What do you mean?”
“Well, no matter what the Pharisees say, they leave loopholes and Jesus weaves his way through the holes and ties them up in knots.” Lauren made this observation as we inched our way through John 7-9.
John wrote in pictures and the more I understand of the Jewish culture the more I feel like I watch rather than read his chapters.
Come with me to Jerusalem. Leafy shelters line the side of the roads. Search for the stars in the night sky. Search but you will not find them as four brilliant candelabra burn at the temple and shower the city with their light. Give way to the torch carrying men as they dance and sing praise. Sing with them. The words you know well…The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.* Smell the acrid smell of sacrificial blood. Follow the procession to the temple as golden pitchers of water are carried from the Pool of Siloam to be poured over the altar.** Celebrate God's provision for his people in the desert, the tent living, the water from the rock, the fire by night. All these we remember during this seven day Feast of Tabernacles.
This year, the foreground is one of celebration but in the background…whispers.
“He’s a good man.”
“No, he's pulling the wool over the eyes of the people.”
“Have you seen him?”
“Do you think he’ll show?”
“The Pharisees are after him, you know. He’s a marked man.”
And suddenly, at the height of the festival, there He is. What guts. He knows the intentions of the religious leaders.
Against the backdrop of the golden pitchers. “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me,…streams of living water will flow from within him.”
Against the backdrop of the candelabra and the torches, “I am the light of the world.”
Shh. Sit with me in the temple. Hear these men of authority.
“You are appearing as your own witness; your testimony doesn't count.”
“In your own Law the testimony of two men is valid. I am one who testifies for myself; my other witness is the Father, who sent me.”
Do you hear the vehemence in their voices? The pride? “We are not illegitimate children… You demon-possessed Samaritan!” A group of men have gone out for stones. Do you hear the rocks thud down on the pavement in front of the temple. Does your stomach tighten in apprehension?
“We’ll get him. He can’t get away with that. Who does He think he is to make a claim like that? The blasphemer!”
But He does. He slips by the rowdy rock holding hard-faced men and goes on His way. And as He is going, He comes upon a blind man…a messenger…a second witness, though the man does not yet know it.
A little bit of mud on the eyes and the instruction, “Go and wash in the pool of Siloam.” That is all. And the man can see. Only God can give sight to the blind. Every Jew knows that.
Word gets around; it always does. And the Pharisees get involved; they always do. And the scene repeats itself. The very same scene. Come. Find a hidden spot. The view is good here around this pillar.
“Give glory to God. We know this Jesus character is a sinner.”
And the sighted man, the exclamation point to the testimony of Jesus, wonders, “Do you want to be his disciples too?”
Do you tremble at their intimidating tone? Do you shudder at their narrowed eyes and pinched lips? Do you fear for this man? “You are this fellow’s disciple! We are the disciples of Moses! Out!”
It’s not fair, you say. He gained his sight but lost his community. Where will he go? Why couldn’t Jesus have left him alone. What was the point? Nothing’s changed.
Oh, but my friend, before they spoke a word to the man, the Pharisees argued among themselves. Some of them pontificated, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.”
And some of them questioned, “How can a sinner do such miraculous signs?”
The Light of the World could see beyond the name calling and blustering as he stood his ground before the interrogating group. He saw the group as individuals and some of those men were trying to see outside the box. He saw their internal wrestling. The blind man was for them. The Light of the World sent him to drive away their shadows of doubt.
"So yes, Lauren. You are right. Jesus sure can weave his way through loopholes, but he's not out to make fools of his critics. He wants to bring them salvation. He still works that way today. Isn't He awesome?"
******************************Psalms 113-118 were sung on the final day of the ceremony.
**Isaiah 12:1-3 was recited as the water was poured over the altar. "In that day you will say: I will praise you, O Lord. Although you were angry with me, your anger has turned away and you have comforted me. Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The Lord, the Lord, is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation; with joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation."
A Family Guide to Biblical Holidays is a good resource for understanding the Jewish Holidays, both how they were celebrated during Biblical times and how the Jews celebrate them today.