The Subtle Follower: 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!

At the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, John’s gospel introduces us to a key spiritual leader who most likely lived in or near Jerusalem. This leader’s name was Nicodemus. Many people know Nicodemus from the late night conversation he has with Jesus early on in Jesus’ ministry, and Nicodemus also happens to be one of the unlikely heroes who shows up on crucifixion weekend to help with Jesus’ burial.

But sandwiched between these two events in Jesus’ ministry, Nicodemus shows up again in John’s gospel. While the other chief priests and Pharisees are speaking out against Jesus, Nicodemus asks a very perceptive question in an attempt to turn the focus of the conversation around. Nicodemus somewhat rhetorically asks their group, “Does our law condemn a man without first hearing him to find out what he has been doing?” (v. 51)

This question is very perceptive because it shines a light on what these religious leaders had done. They had drawn themselves away and trapped themselves in a room where the ideas were all one-sided and biased against Jesus. They had condemned Jesus based on their own impression of Him and not based on something Jesus actually had said or done.

Nicodemus calls them out on their bias, but it was already too late. Instead of responding to Nicodemus’ question, they turn on him while also showing their prejudice. They responded by stating, “Are you from Galilee, too? Look into it, and you will find that a prophet does not come out of Galilee.” (v. 52)

The Jewish leaders had closed their minds towards Jesus because He didn’t fit their mold of where a prophet would or should come from. Regardless of where Jesus was born, these leaders rejected Jesus on the basis that Galilee was never a source for any prophet. But even if no prophets had come out of Galilee before, that doesn’t stop God from doing something new.

In an odd, but also God-like way, the fact that Jesus was raised in Galilee actually helps give us a picture of Jesus’ character. If Galilee was the most secular, most worldly, and least “Jewish” part of the country of Israel, then that would be the perfect place for God to send Jesus to. Jesus came to seek and save those who had fallen away from God, and if Jesus was to reach those who God wanted to reach, He would need to be able to interact with them. The unconventional place Jesus was raised may have helped His ministry among those who the Jewish leaders had also rejected.

This subtle truth also has a bigger truth we can apply in our lives today. Regardless of where we have come from or where God will take us, He has a plan for every location He places us in. Our stories, while often sharing similar characteristics, hold a unique and key place in the grand story of history (His-Story) that God is writing. Just like Jesus was rejected because He didn’t grow up in the best or most obvious neighborhood, never let your past determine or limit what God can do through your present and future!

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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