Coming Back Empty-Handed: John 7:37-52

Focus Passage: John 7:37-52 (NIV)

37 On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” 39 By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.

40 On hearing his words, some of the people said, “Surely this man is the Prophet.”

41 Others said, “He is the Messiah.”

Still others asked, “How can the Messiah come from Galilee? 42 Does not Scripture say that the Messiah will come from David’s descendants and from Bethlehem, the town where David lived?” 43 Thus the people were divided because of Jesus. 44 Some wanted to seize him, but no one laid a hand on him.

45 Finally the temple guards went back to the chief priests and the Pharisees, who asked them, “Why didn’t you bring him in?”

46 “No one ever spoke the way this man does,” the guards replied.

47 “You mean he has deceived you also?” the Pharisees retorted. 48 “Have any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed in him? 49 No! But this mob that knows nothing of the law—there is a curse on them.”

50 Nicodemus, who had gone to Jesus earlier and who was one of their own number, asked, 51 “Does our law condemn a man without first hearing him to find out what he has been doing?”

52 They replied, “Are you from Galilee, too? Look into it, and you will find that a prophet does not come out of Galilee.”

Read John 7:37-52 in context and/or in other translations on!

During the final days of a major festival that happened in the middle of Jesus’ ministry on earth, the chief priests sent guards to arrest Jesus. Jesus had chosen to finish the festival teaching and preaching in the temple, and the leaders saw this chance to arrest Jesus.

So they sent guards to arrest Him, but the guards end up returning empty handed. The Pharisees demanded to know, “Why didn’t you bring him in?” (v. 45)

The guards responded, “No one ever spoke the way this man does.” (v. 46)

It is here that the Pharisees reveal their motives and their character. The Pharisees believe Jesus to be an imposter and a liar. We can see their thoughts through their response: “You mean he has deceived you also? 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.” (v. 47-49)

The Pharisees and chief priests have incriminated themselves. They accuse the crowd of being cursed, but the crowd’s true thoughts are divided. A curse on the crowd could cause confusion, but this statement simply shows how closed-minded these leaders have become. They claim the mob knows nothing of “the law”, and in the context, they are referring to the Old Testament scriptures – but just a few verses earlier, John points out one cause of the crowd’s division being over something that was prophesied in the Old Testament.

The Old Testament prophecy stated that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem and Jesus was raised in Galilee. The crowd’s division over this apparent contradiction shows that they all knew the Old Testament writings.

And this leads into a big truth I see displayed in this passage: When someone has closed their minds to an idea, they will then begin to justify their decision in often irrational ways. The Pharisees and chief priests irrationally claimed the crowd was cursed just to emphasize their point to the guards. All this ended up doing is confirming that they had chosen to stand against Jesus and what He was doing, and regardless of what happened, they were closed-minded towards anything that didn’t confirm that Jesus might be the Messiah people were believing Him to be.

While the chief priests had closed their minds to believing in Jesus, the guards returning empty-handed tells us they were still undecided regarding whether Jesus was the Messiah. We are in the same position as the guards today. If we are still on the fence regarding who Jesus is, it is worth wrestling out this question for ourselves because our choice on this matter has eternal results!

This thought was inspired by studying the Walking With Jesus “Reflective Bible Study” package. To discover insights like this in your own study time, click here and give Reflective Bible Study a try today!

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