Thursday, March 26, 2009

Gospel for Friday, 4th Week of Lent

John 7:1-2, 10, 25-30

Jesus Goes Up to Jerusalem During the Feast of Tabernacles

[1] After this Jesus went about in Galilee; He would not go about in Judea, because the Jews sought to kill Him. [2] Now the Jews' feast of Tabernacles was at hand. [10] But after His brethren had gone up to the feast, then He also went up, not publicly but in private.

[25] Some of the people of Jerusalem therefore said, "Is not this the man whom they seek to kill? [26] And here He is, speaking openly, and they say nothing to Him! Can it be that the authorities really know that this is the Christ? [27 Yet we know where this man comes from; and when the Christ appears, no one will know where He comes from. [28] So Jesus proclaimed, as He taught in the temple, "You know where I come from? But I have not come of My own accord; He who sent Me is true, and Him you do not know. [29] I know Him, for I come from Him, and He sent Me." [30] So they sought to arrest Him; but no one laid hands on Him, because His hour had not yet come.

1-2. The Jewish custom was for closer relatives to be called "brothers", brethren (cf. notes on Matthew 12:46-47 and Mark 6:1-3). These relatives of Jesus followed Him without understanding His teaching or His mission (cf. Matthew 3:31); but because He worked such obvious miracles in Galilee (cf. Matthew 15:32-39; Mark 8:1-10, 22-26) they suggest to Him that He show Himself publicly in Jerusalem and throughout Judea. Perhaps they wanted Him to be a big success, which would have indulged their family pride.

2. The name of the feast recalls the time the Israelites spent living under canvas in the wilderness (cf. Leviticus 23:34-36). During the eight days the feast lasted (cf. Nehemiah 8:13-18), around the beginning of autumn, the Jews commemorated the protection God had given the Israelites over the forty years of the Exodus. Because it coincided with the end of the harvest, it was also called the feast of ingathering (cf. Exodus 23:16).

10. Because He had not arrived in advance of the feast (which was what people normally did), the first caravans would have reported that Jesus was not coming up, and therefore the members of the Sanhedrin would have stopped planning anything against Him (cf. 7:1). By going up later, the religious authorities would not dare make any move against Him for fear of hostile public reaction (cf. Matthew 26:5). Jesus, possibly accompanied by His disciples, arrives unnoticed at Jerusalem, "in private", almost in a hidden way. Half-way through the feast, on the fourth or fifth day, He begins to preach in the temple (cf. 7:14).

27. In this chapter we often see the Jews disconcerted, in two minds. They argue with one another over whether Jesus is the Messiah, or a prophet, or an impostor (verse 12); they do not know where He gets His wisdom from (verse 15); they are short-tempered (verses 19-20); and they are surprised by the attitudes of the Sanhedrin (verse 26). Despite the signs they have seen (miracles, teaching) they do not want to believe that Jesus is the Messiah. Perhaps some, thinking that He came from Nazareth and was the son of Joseph and Mary, cannot see how this fits in with the notion usually taken from Isaiah's prophecy (Isaiah 53:1-8) about the Messiah's origin being unknown--except for His coming from the line of David and being born in Bethlehem (cf. Matthew 2:5 which quotes Micah 5:2; cf. John 7:42). In fact Jesus did fulfill those prophetic predictions, though most Jews did not know it because they knew nothing about His virginal birth in Bethlehem or His descent from David. Others must have known that He was of the house of David and had been born in Bethlehem, but even so they did not want to accept His teaching because it demanded a mental and moral conversion which they were not ready to make.

28-29. Not without a certain irony, Jesus refers to the superficial knowledge these Jews had of Him: however, He asserts that He comes from the Father who has sent Him, whom only He knows, precisely because He is the Son of God (cf. John 1:18).

30. The Jews realized that Jesus was making Himself God's equal, which was regarded as blasphemy and, according to the Law, was something punishable by death by stoning (cf. Leviticus 24:15-16, 23).

This is not the first time St. John refers to the Jews' hostility (cf. John 5:10), nor will it be the last (8:59; 10:31-33). He stresses this hostility because it was a fact and perhaps also to show that Jesus acts freely when, to fulfill the Father's will He gives Himself over to His enemies when His "hour" arrives (cf. John 18:4-8). "He did not therefore mean an hour when He would be forced to die, but one when He would allow Himself to be put to death. For He was waiting for the time in which He should die, even as He waited for the time in which He should be born" (St. Augustine, "In Ioann. Evang., 31, 5).
Source: "The Navarre Bible: Text and Commentaries". Biblical text taken from the Revised Standard Version and New Vulgate. Commentaries made by members of the Faculty of Theology of the University of Navarre, Spain. Published by Four Courts Press, Kill Lane, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, Ireland. Reprinted with permission from Four Courts Press and Scepter Publishers, the U.S. publisher.

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