When Jesus finished speaking on the last day of the Feast of Booths, He led his followers through the crowd who had gathered in the temple to listen. The disciples nervously shifted their eyes back and forth, expecting the ambush that never came.
“We may actually make it out of here alive!” James said to Rock as they followed their Master out of the temple.
“Maybe,” Rock returned. “Some guards showed up over an hour ago and were listening. I thought sure they would stop the Teacher and arrest us all, but they never did.”
“I guess Jesus’s idea to arrive late messed up the rulers’ plans to capture Him,” James said.
“We’ll see,” the skeptical Rock answered. “We aren’t safely out of here and back in Galilee yet, and you know those snakes will try everything they can to destroy the Master.”
As Jesus and His disciples made their way through the multitude, there was much animated discussion going on all around them.
“This man has got to be the great prophet Moses said was coming,” one said.
“Are you kidding me?” another answered. “Jesus is the Christ!”
“That can’t be,” someone else shot back. “This guy’s from Galilee. The Christ isn’t coming from Galilee. The scripture says the Christ will be David’s descendent and will come from Bethlehem.”
“He’s a fraud!” another called out. “Just look at him. He’s no Christ.”
People in the crowd quickly took sides as more arguments erupted. Some even wanted to seize Jesus, but no one did. Even those sent by the religious leaders turned and left.
When the guards returned empty handed to the chief priests, Caiaphas demanded, “Why didn’t you bring him?”
The temple soldiers looked at each other. Finally the officer in charge made a sheepish face and said, “We’ve never heard anyone speak like this man does.”
The gathering of religious leaders exploded with anger at these words. “Have all of you decided to become his followers as well?” a Pharisee screamed. “Not one of the rulers or the Pharisees has believed in this crazy teacher, have they?”
“But a lot of the people think he’s the Christ,” the officer said defensively.
“So you’re going to trust this cursed mob?” Caiaphas shot back. “Who are they to determine who the Christ is? They have no idea what the Law says!”
“Let’s not be so quick to judge, brothers.” The words were spoken by the teacher Nicodemus. His mind had been churning with questions about Jesus since he had made the secret trip at night to talk to the Teacher. “Our Law tells us not to judge a man unless we first give him a hearing and find out the truth about what he is doing.”
“Are you from Galilee as well?” an angry, red-faced Caiaphas shot back. “You’re supposed to know so much! Why don’t you start using some of that great learning? Search the scriptures and see that no prophet arises out of Galilee!”
That effectively ended the meeting. As everyone was leaving, Joseph of Arimathea saw his friend Nicodemus rush out. Afraid that the chief priest’s angry rebuke had upset him, Joseph hurried to follow. Try as he might, Joseph was unable to catch his friend, but it was clear that Nicodemus was headed to his house in the upper city.
“The master just ran upstairs to his study,” the servant said as he opened the door for Joseph.
A rapid climb up the stairs revealed a fascinating scene. Nicodemus was frantically grabbing scrolls and sheets of parchment from shelves, looking at them, then flinging them back.
“What are you doing?”
“That thing that Caiaphas said,” Nicodemus shot back, “it’s not right! I know it’s not right! I remember reading something about that in the book of the prophet Isaiah. I just have to find my notes!” More papers and scrolls were grabbed and tossed back until finally the scholar’s eyes landed on the sought-for parchment. “HERE! IT’S HERE! Listen to this, Joseph! It’s from Isaiah! There will be no gloom for her who was in anguish; in earlier times He treated the land of Zebulon and the land of Naphtali with contempt, but later on He shall make it glorious, by the way of the sea, on the other side of Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles.
“Okay, that’s obviously talking about the area of Galilee,” Joseph answered, “but it says nothing about a prophet.”
“Let me finish reading it to you!” Nicodemus returned excitedly. “It goes on to say this: The people who walk in darkness will see a great light; those who live in a dark land, the light will shine on them. You will multiply the nation, You will increase their gladness; they will be glad in Your presence…
“What do you think that means?” Nicodemus asked his friend.
“That God’s going to shine a great light on the people of Galilee,” Joseph returned thoughtfully.
“I don’t believe Isaiah meant an actual light,” Nicodemus added. “Most likely he’s referring to a great enlightenment that God will bring to that area.”
“A REVELATION!” Joseph agreed excitedly.
“Exactly!” the scholar agreed. “And isn’t that what Jesus has said about Himself? On a number of occasions He has said that He has come from the Father in heaven to give us God’s words and to show us what His heavenly Father is like.”
“Isaiah is telling us that something wonderful from God is coming out of Galilee!” Joseph announced with conviction.
“And it looks to me,” Nicodemus added, “that the something could be Jesus!”
“Are you going to share this information with Caiaphas?”
Nicodemus thought on this question for several long moments. Finally he said, “I think it’s clear that the chief priests have made up their minds about Jesus. There’s nothing in this passage that will change their opinions. We shall keep this information to ourselves for the time being and only share it with those we know who have honest hearts. I still have a lot of questions about the Teacher.”
“Yeah, me too,” Joseph agreed, “like, if He’s really the Messiah, then why isn’t He acting like one?”
Nicodemus thought on this for a moment and then said, “You know, my friend, maybe He is, and we are the ones who have the wrong idea of how the Messiah is supposed to be.”
By Alan W. Harris
(Inspired by John 7:40-53)