Monday, August 22, 2011

The Galilean Prophet Who Became The Messiah

At Nicodemus’ challenge, the unbelieving Pharisees replied: “Surely you are not also from Galilee, are you? Search and you will see that no prophet is to arise from Galilee.” ~John 7:52 (NRSV).

By this stage of proceedings the Pharisees had cooked up a rage against the man who was about to become the Messiah—the man, Jesus of Nazareth: God incarnate.

Unfortunately for the Pharisees they were right about the wrong things. The Pharisees looked down on Galileans, but even worse, at this stage—well into the earthly ministry of Jesus—they were losing spiritual control by the day. Indeed, in any event several other prophets—for instance, Jonah, Hosea and Nahum, at least—had come from Galilee. The Minor Prophet, Micah, (in 5:2) highlights the Messiah was to come from Bethlehem—a “little clan of Judah.” ‘The Prophet’ was not to come from Galilee as they said, for they assumed Jesus was born in Galilee because he was raised there. But, ‘The Prophet’ was also to be called a Nazorean (Matthew 2:23 cf. Isaiah 11:1) which is an irony the Pharisees didn’t pick up on.

The fact that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, and was raised in Nazareth, fitted at least two separate Old Testament prophecies surrounding the coming of the Messiah.

So, for experts of the Law and of the history of Israel—the Law and the Prophets—the Pharisees were floundering. As Jesus’ ministry was flourishing, theirs was coming unpicked at the seams.

Nicodemus – A Pharisee of Light

This instance of Nicodemus putting a straightforward question before his fellow Pharisees is the second of three that the fourth gospel paints in a positive light.

The first involved Nicodemus going to Jesus in a disposition of humility, seeking to learn about the Kingdom (John 3:1-15). The third involved Nicodemus honouring Jesus’ burial with the provision of 75 pounds of spices (John 19:38-42).

This Pharisee demonstrated the wisdom of insight, the ability to discern truth, and the courage to question authority and commit resources toward honouring a ‘prophet’ he no doubt esteemed as more than a prophet.

From one lot of Pharisees to a completely different Pharisee we can learn a lot about ignorance and arrogance and humility and wisdom; just from contrasting them.

A Ministry on the Rise

For a prophet allegedly from Galilee—where ‘none’ would arise—Jesus’ repute was growing. He was just about to be embroiled in this fiasco that was the woman caught in adultery (John 7:53—8:11). This time it wasn’t Jesus’ mastery for physical healing on display, but his compassion, wisdom of insight, and righteous indignation to cast a metaphorical stone at those about to cast their stones at a so-called ‘guilty’ woman who was no guiltier than they were.

This Prophet from Galilee was no typical prophet. Each footstep along each dusty track and cobblestone road was one footstep closer to the eternal destiny that was the cross.

Jesus’ ministry did not stop, or even halt, at his death. This Prophet became also an everlasting Priest and the King of all ages. The Ministry of Jesus continues on through the Holy Spirit. And this ministry will not be stopped at arrogant intercessions of Pharisaic individuals.

This Jesus Ministry is one on the rise, more and more. It will never stop growing.

© 2011 S. J. Wickham.

General Reference: Colin G. Kruse, The Gospel According To John: An Introduction and Commentary – Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press, 2003), p. 197.

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