Lent 2012: Day Twenty

John 7:51 ‘Our law does not judge people without first giving them a hearing to find out what they are doing, does it?’

Three days of verses on the Sabbath, and now the Lectionary has brought me back to the chapter of the day before the first of those three – John 7. The passage today is also about not judging people, and it is also very much about Jesus challenging authority.

Jesus speaks of the importance of the Spirit, of living water – life – flowing from the heart. The crowd are instantly divided, and then comes the unbelief of those in authority. The temple police, the chief priests, the authorities – those who seek power above all else – all reject him. But Nicodemus, having met Jesus, asks them the verse I’ve chosen for today. We can’t really judge him like we are doing, because of a first impression and our conservatism… can we? And they respond with, no prophet can come from Galilee.

Oh dear.

This reminded me of two things. First, of Ratatouille. The film not the food.

“The world is often unkind to new talents, new creations… In the past I have made no secret of my disdain for Chef Gusteau’s famous motto ‘Anyone can cook’, but I realise only now do I truly understand what he meant. Not everyone can become a great artist, but a great artist can come from anywhere.”

So don’t judge on backgrounds, or on stereotypes.

Second, the passage reminded me of the present. Of our world. Of conservative attitudes, of people who claim that their way is right, and that anyone who disagrees is not only wrong but also a doomed damned bad person.

Nicodemus stopped to think for a moment. The laws we say we pay so much attention to, the God we say we listen to… we don’t actually do we? We are actually making our own rules and living on power, aren’t we? We’re judging a beautiful, loving man – the Son of Man come to that – because he’s not saying exactly what we are. He’s surprising us, he’s giving us a truth different to our own.

What is truth? John tells us Pilate asks. I’d say truth is something very different from fact. Truth is value, inside value. The life flowing from the heart, the living water.

And Nicodemus started to get that. But the others didn’t. Now there’s a key lesson here that is this: we need to listen to God ourselves, not just to other people that tell us who God is. The passage isn’t saying that anyone with authority is bad, it is challenging anyone that thinks their way is best. That they are better than others.

And there’s another enormous lesson to be learned here to. Jesus, in all his brilliance, could not convert all of the Pharisees. There were many who did not listen to him. So… if the Son of Man couldn’t instantly convert the world to his way of thinking, and if he was willing to die rather than to take away people’s free will and aggressively assert his opinions, than surely we don’t think for a minute that it is possible, that it is right, for us to try to?

Remember the living water. Listen. And draw closer to God…

John 7:51 ‘Our law does not judge people without first giving them a hearing to find out what they are doing, does it?’

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