11.02.15 Jn. 7:40-53; 8:1 In the Temple
NICODEMUS COUNSELS CAUTION
40 When some from the crowd heard these words, they said, “This really is the Prophet!” 41 Others said, “This is the Messiah!” But some said, “Surely the Messiah doesn’t come from Galilee, does He? 42 Doesn’t the Scripture say that the Messiah comes from David’s offspring and from the town of Bethlehem, where David once lived?” 43 So a division occurred among the crowd because of Him. 44 Some of them wanted to seize Him, but no one laid hands on Him.
45 Then the temple police came to the chief priests and Pharisees, who asked them, “Why haven’t you brought Him?”
46 The police answered, “No man ever spoke like this!”
47 Then the Pharisees responded to them: “Are you fooled too? 48 Have any of the rulers or Pharisees believed in Him? 49 But this crowd, which doesn’t know the law, is accursed!”
50 Nicodemus — the one who came to Him previously, being one of them — said to them, 51 “Our law doesn’t judge a man before it hears from him and knows what he’s doing, does it?”
52 “You aren’t from Galilee too, are you?” they replied. “Investigate and you will see that no prophet arises from Galilee.”
[53 So each one went to his house…
1 …but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.]
The common people continued to be divided on the identity of Jesus. The leading Pharisees did everything they could to discredit Him, including the charge that He healed with the use of demonic powers (Jn. 7:20). Unfortunately, many believed the lie (Jn. 7:31). It is an irony that the Roman soldiers and temple police, though hardened by their training and occupation, were touched by His words and kindness. They acknowledged that they had never heard a man speak as He did. Yet in comparison, the Sadducees and leading Pharisees were unaffected and they soon planned their next attack (Jn. 7:32).
In the meantime, Nicodemus, a member of the Sanhedrin who refused to be under their manipulative control attempted to be a righteous and independent thinker. The difficulty was that his own popularity was so great that the only time he could see Jesus privately was to steal a few moments alone with Him at night. Some have judged Nicodemus for his lack of faith, when in fact, he was simply cautious. He recognized a biased court and by the time Jesus was crucified, his perception had changed. He was not only a representative for justice and fairness, but a follower of Jesus as well.
Others were convinced that Jesus was sent by God and said, “This really is the Prophet.” Some translations read, “Surely this man is the Prophet.” The title “prophet” was the highest honor anyone could bestow upon a Jew; an opinion held by many concerning Jesus. Yet from the early days of His ministry, some were still were debating who this He was. Some said he was “the prophet” (Jn. 7:40; Deut. 18:15) while others said, “He is the Christ” (Jn. 7:41). And other said He was demonic.
“The temple police.” Literally, the “temple guards.” They functioned as do modern police and were under direct command of the Sadducees. They were a para-military unit separate from the Roman soldiers stationed in the adjacent Antonio Fortress.
“Our law doesn’t judge a man before it hears from him and knows what he’s doing, does it?” Nicodemus had previously met Jesus at night and now came forth in public with a bold legitimate legal objection. He did not defend Jesus, but rather, he raised a principle of law suggesting that he was aware of the illegality of the procedure that was in process. This objection would be normal for a teacher to do. He was faithful to the Scripture to the point that he failed to recognize who Jesus was until after the resurrection. The Mosaic Law required impartial judges (Duet. 1:16) and this issue was required to be thoroughly investigated (Ex. 23:1). A person was considered innocent until the accused was heard, witnesses testified, and judgment was announced concerning his or her guilt (Deut. 17:8-9; 19:15-19). Most certainly, Nicodemus heard the rumors that some Pharisees were planning to kill Jesus. And he probably felt that in a legal court Jesus would be found to be completely innocent. His feelings remain unknown, but the final decision was not what he expected – he was a man of higher integrity and expected the court to be likewise, in spite of its shortcomings. The reason he did not participate in the trial was probably because Caiaphas handpicked only “judges” who would endorse his plan for the crucifixion.
The Sadducees and leading Pharisees were so highly irritated with Jesus, that they said, “Investigate and you will see that no prophet arises from Galilee.” It was ethnic sarcasm because Jerusalem was considered the center of Jewish culture and religion. Galilee, in their minds, was a backwater town where the people were ignorant and socially depraved. However, much of this sarcasm was based upon the fact that the Sanhedrin had its legal authority removed from this district previously by Herod the Great, so they nurtured hostile feelings against all Galileans.
This ethnic sarcasm revealed Jewish anti-Semitism that was common not only between geographical areas but also among the twenty-five to thirty sects that comprised first century Judaism. At times unkind words became physical. For example, the Babylonian Talmud recorded that the wife of a rabbi called an elderly rabbi a “Galilean fool,” which was both insulting and highly disrespectful to an older teacher. She also kicked a student whom she believed was not giving full attention to his or her studies. With strong ethnic and regional feelings commonplace, the critical words spoken to Jesus were, in fact, relatively mild.
As to the accuracy of the phrase concerning no prophet coming from Galilee, the Pharisees were wrong because the prophets Elisha, Hosea, Jonah, and possibly Nahum were all from the Galilee area. Barak the deliverer, Elon the judge, and Anna the prophetess, also came from Galilee. During the days of Jesus, a large number of rabbis likewise came from this district. However, their reference probably was not relative to these prophets, but for the fact that there were no rabbinic schools in Galilee.
Since Capernaum was the principal Jewish town of Galilee although Sepphoris, and later Tiberias was the capital. The fishing village had grown to a significant size due to the caravans that traveled along the Via Maris. It became the center of commerce, education, and religious activity, which is probably why Jesus spent a considerable amount of time there.
. John 7:53 – 8:11 is not found in some of the oldest manuscripts. For further information on the authenticity of this debated passage, see Hodges, “The Angel at Bethesda – John 5:4.” 25-39.
. Babylonian Talmud, Erubin 53b.
. Tenney, The Gospel of John. 88.