They call the Gospel the Good News. The news that Jesus brought about the coming Kingdom of God was not necessarily easy to take in by the people of His day. It’s equally hard to swallow for many today. ◊
If you read some of the words of Jesus in the Bible, particularly in various passages in the Gospel of John where there is the active engagement with common people as well as with religious Jewish leaders, it is actually understandable that many people were very confused.
It’s not hard to understand their misunderstanding. Put yourself in their shoes/sandals.
If I was a first century Jewish rabbi from a local synagogue or a common Jewish layman from the countryside or small village, I’d probably react the same way: confused, baffled even, perhaps angry. My mind would object to what I was actually hearing and seeing vs. what I thought I knew or understood.
That’s the effect Jesus had on people back then and even today. A person can go one of 3 ways with this:
- It’s Wrong. This information I’m taking in, directly or indirectly, this news I’m hearing, does not make sense to me. It can’t be right. I dismiss it outright and am closed to a new perspective.
- I’m Open. I will open myself up to becoming informed about this new information before me, even though it doesn’t make sense to me right now.
- I’m In. I believe what I’m seeing and hearing despite what others say or what I’ve been taught, even though I don’t have complete information on the matter. I’m just going with a gut leap of a faith.
These reactions are very natural and not wrong in and of themselves. I have found flexibility to be the best. In many real situations many of us have moved off an initial “It’s Wrong” position to full buy-in and acceptance of some idea or concept.
Perhaps even with Christianity.
A Good Man or Leading the People Astray?
In John chapter 7, Jesus is very conscious of the skeptical crowds around Him. He has just fed the 5,000 in Galilee (John 6) yet many religious leaders and a crowd of former followers are uncomfortable with some of His words and statements about Himself: “I am the bread of life” (v. 48) or “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in Me, and I in him” (v 56) or “This is the bread which came down from heaven….” (v. 58). Of course, Jesus is referring to the eventual symbolic practice of Communion which He taught the Disciples at the Last Supper, where the eating of bread and drinking of wine is done to commemorate His body broken and blood spilled while dying for the sins of mankind.
Their questions reflected their real and natural confusion over the strange teachings of Jesus and the notion of who and what He was:
- Among the crowds there was widespread whispering about him. Some said, “He is a good man.” Others replied, “No, he deceives the people.” But no one would say anything publicly about him for fear of the leaders. (John 7:12-13)
- Not until halfway through the festival did Jesus go up to the temple courts and begin to teach. The Jews there were amazed and asked, “How did this man get such learning without having been taught?” (John 7:14-15)
- The people answered, “You have a demon!” (John 7:20)
Jesus challenges the people to “Stop judging by mere appearances, but instead judge correctly.” (John 7:24) But the people try hard to reconcile the healing and miraculous power of this Man from Nazareth in the region of Galilee (where Jesus spent His childhood and young adult years) with what they knew of a coming Messiah who the prophets in the Scriptures said would come from Bethlehem. (Micah 5:2)
- At that point some of the people of Jerusalem began to ask, “Isn’t this the man they are trying to kill? Here he is, speaking publicly, and they are not saying a word to him. Have the authorities really concluded that he is the Messiah? But we know where this man is from; when the Messiah comes, no one will know where he is from.” (John 7:25-27)
- Still, many in the crowd believed in him. They said, “When the Messiah comes, will he perform more signs than this man?” The Pharisees heard the crowd whispering such things about him. Then the chief priests and the Pharisees sent temple guards to arrest him. (John 7:31-32)
- On hearing his words, some of the people said, “Surely this man is the Prophet.” Others said, “He is the Messiah.” Still others asked, “How can the Messiah come from Galilee? Does not Scripture say that the Messiah will come from David’s descendants and from Bethlehem, the town where David lived?” Thus the people were divided because of Jesus. (John 7:40-43)
- “No one ever spoke the way this man does,” the guards replied. “You mean he has deceived you also?” the Pharisees retorted. “Have any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed in him? No! But this mob that knows nothing of the law—there is a curse on them.” (John 7:46-49)
A classic mix of earnest opinions ranging from the humble masses to the sophisticated ruling class. This is not too far off from modern conversation about Jesus Christ across wide ranges of people with diverse thinking, education, biases, expectations, and religious heritage.
Whose Truth is Right
What may be initially thought as wrong can be shown to be truth. I used to think Jesus was a religious leader that people spoke about in churches that I never attended. Then I heard a man explain in simple language the Good News Gospel of just who Jesus was and is: God in the flesh who intersected human history to die a sacrificial death for me and all of my sins and for the sins of mankind. He rose and lives today and I personally can have a real relationship with Him through prayer and the reading of His Word.
The reaction to this Truth varies. For me, I never struggled with it “being wrong.” I didn’t even have to explore it further with an “I’m open” to it mentality. I simply heard it as a 14-year old boy, said “I’m in” and since then have being moving closer and closer in relationship with a God who is patient, loving, real, and very, very Good News.
Do you understand the Good News?
Then Jesus, still teaching in the temple courts, cried out, “Yes, you know me, and you know where I am from. I am not here on my own authority, but he who sent me is true. You do not know him, but I know him because I am from him and he sent me.” – John 7:28-29