Rumbles At Tabernacles V: Presented With Prestige

now-you-see-meI remember a movie about illusionists some years ago called The Prestige.  I had never heard that term in the context of magician profession.  The prestige in a magic show is the final trick that really brings the house down and gives the audience something to ooh and ah about.

In a week that was holy to the Jewish people called the Feast of Tabernacles, Jesus had been speaking to them less than plainly.  Was he a nice man?  Was he a prophet?  Was he someone that would perpetuate an overwhelming trend of miracles that never ends?  Jesus did not come to be satisfy one-dimensional expressed needs.  Jesus came to fulfill the Law though full of grace and truth.  He was qualified to judge but came to save.  For a magician, the trick is the show.  For Jesus he had times, like on the last day of the feast, to speak into their lives with the truth that is right in front of their face not for the first or last time.  The statement was the Prestige.

On the last and greatest day of the feast, Jesus stood up and exclaimed, “Let anyone who thirsts come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as scripture says:‘Rivers of living water will flow from within him.’” He said this in reference to the Spirit that those who came to believe in him were to receive. There was, of course, no Spirit yet, because Jesus had not yet been glorified. Some in the crowd who heard these words said, “This is truly the Prophet.” Others said, “This is the Messiah.” But others said, “The Messiah will not come from Galilee, will he?  Does not scripture say that the Messiah will be of David’s family and come from Bethlehem, the village where David lived?” So a division occurred in the crowd because of him (John 7:37-39).

Let anyone who thirsts come to me and drink-  Here Jesus is making clear that the opportunity to respond to his call is for everyone and they can be satisfied in their thirst.  This thirst can be hard to sum up.  Where humanity can get Christianity wrong can be a physical thirst only like a social justice program or in someone getting many right answers.

In his commentary on the Gospel of John, St. Augustine addresses this passage.

There is therefore an inner thirst and an inner belly, because there is an inner man.  And that inner man is indeed invisible, but the outer man is visible, but yet better is the inner than outer.  And this which is not seen is the most loved; for it is certain that the inner man is more loved than the outer (Augustine, Tractate XXXII).

So often the value is expressed in the New Testament that God wants to change our hearts from the inside and work outward from there.  As I often tell my clients who are in addiction recovery, we can appreciate Step 2 that God could “restore our lives to sanity” but if I could preach the gospel to them I could explain why he wants to.

Whoever believes in me- In review, belief was conversion and had a context of obedience and changing ones identity. Where the water has context of conversion even more is how water is used in the New Testament in a sacramental context.  Earlier in each of the gospels John the Baptist brings in a baptism of repentance.  This is a radical change in ones life in turning from ones sins.  Frequently the change is referred to with the word metanoia where we get metamorphosis.

Rivers of living water will flow from within him’- This statement has an obvious ring to it of an Old Testament quote; the irony is that it is not.  The Ignatius Study Bible (ISB) states that it is a summary of one passage about God satisfying Israel’s thirst through a rock in the time of Moses (Numbers 20:10-13), water coming from the temple in Ezekiel’s vision (Ezekiel 47:1-12), and a universal water of life to the nations since “anyone” means anyone (Zecharaiah 14: 9,16).  The ISB states then that Jesus is “the rock that stakes our thirst (1 Corinthians 10:4), the true temple that channels life to the world”.


He said this in reference to the Spirit- Jesus is pointing to the manifestation of the Holy Spirit for those that have that inner life working its way out.  This extended experience of conversion is where someone is saved but being saved in an ongoing process like “the engrafted word of God which can save your [Christians already] souls” (James 1:21).

no Spirit yet, because Jesus had not yet been glorified-  True conversion in light of the fully articulated gospel of the kingdom will inherently dependent of the death of Jesus like a flower needs a seed.

If water springing up from the earth symbolizes life, the water of the sea is a symbol of death and so can represent the mystery of the cross. By this symbolism Baptism signifies communion with Christ’s death (Catechism of The Catholic Church, para. 1222).

This is truly the Prophet….This is the Messiah.- In the English translation used here, there are only 26 words.  The people there are very religiously minded and see a recapitulation or summing up of Jesus that speaks so much in so little.   These are not words of people fully converted but in seeing Jesus in the marketplace of a city and of ideas they are veering towards the call to “come and see” (John 1:35).

Does not scripture say that the Messiah will be….-  For those that do not give Jesus the second look in a true presentation of the message of him, nothing will be enough.  Not even the miracles like Jesus was known for by this time.  They have interests at best but stick to their stipulations.  If Jesus does not volunteer his bona fides they speak of, then he must be outrageous and not the real hope of Israel.  If they were to come and see then they would be true seekers even if they were not ready.

But some do come, see then stay.  But if they can accept the scandal of the cross they will truly stay and truly live.  Jesus is always extending to us the chance.


Rumbles At Tabernacles IV: Voting Out What Doesn’t Matter 


Deliberation is a loaded term when it is about a joint decision to make among a group of strangers.  When people say, the “jury is out on that” there is a context of uncertainty that could make the hearer nervous depending on what their bias is.  If someone is biased for what a finding should be and is in power then all bets may be off since they could be out for blood.  In the case of the Pharisees in Jesus’ day they very much were resolute as we will see below.

But many of the crowd began to believe in him, and said, “When the Messiah comes, will he perform more signs than this man has done?” The Pharisees heard the crowd murmuring about him to this effect, and the chief priests and the Pharisees sent guards to arrest him. So Jesus said, “I will be with you only a little while longer, and then I will go to the one who sent me. You will look for me but not find [me], and where I am you cannot come.” So the Jews said to one another, “Where is he going that we will not find him? Surely he is not going to the dispersion among the Greeks to teach the Greeks, is he? What is the meaning of his saying, ‘You will look for me and not find [me], and where I am you cannot come’?” (John 6: 31-36).

began to believe in him-  This was a scary development for those in power that were opposed to Jesus which can be lost in out modern European based mindsets.  If I believe in a political party I can keep the consequence internally.  But in the language and mindsets of Greeks to believe in is a pregnant term.  Belief with conversion in the New Testament has a context of obedience.  The in that is referred has a context of changing the realm of ones identity.  If I am a baker that is reinforced if I am in a bakery.  If I am a Christian then at least in some point you will find me in a gathering of Christian community doing Christian things.  This was considering intentional engagement, so with the leaders not liking Jesus they were compelled in fervor to send their own message in light of their authority.

and then I will go to the one who sent me- Jesus is telegraphing that he will not be bound to their assumptions.  Jesus points to God the Father as the one who sent him and points to a plan in place beyond an earthly loop.  Just these words tell those who assume privilege for themselves as the spiritually elite that by hearing a plan they are not in, they are really the outsiders instead of Jesus.

and where I am you cannot come-  This is an important piece where the heavenly realm is implied.  To their credit, the Pharisees were a religious group that believed in an afterlife and resurrection unlike the Sadducees.  However, Jesus sets a boundary that the communion between the Father and the Son is something that they are not a part of as noted in the sending and returning.  If they were to go there then something outside of their agenda would be in place.  To be told this must have been offensive.  As seen earlier in this chapter, the “knew” where he was from.

Surely he is not going to the dispersion among the Greeks to teach the Greeks, is he? – They are at a point that they do not even understand how Jesus speaks of spiritual things.  Much can be understood about someone based on what they fear.  In the Pharisees case the felt they were guardians of a deposit of faith that was not only earthly but on DNA.  Only pure teaching for pure people on their pure discretion.

What is the meaning of his saying- Though there was a quote after this statement of Jesus it is worth focusing on how deaf humanity can be in our search for how to pigeonhole God where we can contain him. God does not always give us exact answers but there is room for getting the themes of what God’s will is.

Meanwhile the jury of public opinion still deliberates on who Jesus is while the Pharisees does only on how to catch Jesus.  Both groups received an appetizer of words from Jesus this day with different intents: one of wonder and one of defensiveness.  By the late 50’s AD we see that the Church is the “pillar and bulwark of truth” (1 Timothy 3:15).  The next temptation for then and now is to vote on Jesus being valid.  But the truth that is objective and divine must be accepted for its danger of changing us from our conveniences and calling us to believe into Someone bigger than ourselves.

Rumbles At Tabernacles III: Missing a Sign That Matters


Some truths area not meant to be grasped easily.  The wisdom of one fad ideology or general philosophy seems sweet to the taste but the less substantive it is in what matters the more easily it will collapse under its own weight.

I heard it said that the best lens by which one should read through the gospels is through the comments of John the Baptist (Bishop Robert Barron, Word on Fire).  John the Baptist pointed Jesus out and said, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” (John 1:29).  Is it a fact that Jesus was an ex-carpenter from Nazareth not formally trained?  Yes.  What about a miracle worker?  Of course.  But for someone then or now to not integrate faith is to miss out a transcendent understanding of Jesus in his divinity as I will build on from the text below on how someone will be drawn to Jesus for the wrong reasons.

So some of the inhabitants of Jerusalem said, “Is he not the one they are trying to kill? And look, he is speaking openly and they say nothing to him. Could the authorities have realized that he is the Messiah? But we know where he is from. When the Messiah comes, no one will know where he is from.” So Jesus cried out in the temple area as he was teaching and said, “You know me and also know where I am from. Yet I did not come on my own, but the one who sent me, whom you do not know, is true. I know him, because I am from him, and he sent me.” So they tried to arrest him, but no one laid a hand upon him, because his hour had not yet come.  But many of the crowd began to believe in him, and said, “When the Messiah comes, will he perform more signs than this man has done?” (John 7:25-31)

Could the authorities have realized that he is the Messiah?— These are not the elites but they are reliant on the buzz of those that purport to be.  It is like they would argue for Jesus to be the Messiah based on a celebrity endorsement which is really more like a fallacy.

When the Messiah comes, no one will know where he is from- But here are their own prejudices that have been adopted or maybe already assumed in expectations of God that they don’t know better.  God can be mysterious, no doubt, but does God have to be?  God’s ways can sometimes be less than mysterious by giving use wisdom if we are humble to see the meaning of his love.  And God can speak to us with things that are tangible and just make sense. In the deliberations of the people they are thinking out of assumptions but feeling out of spiritual hunger which Jesus wants to satisfy first with an appetizer for their souls.

You know me and also know where I am from-  Jesus grants that their knowing him as a rabbi from Nazareth and who his earthly parents were could rightfully be a valid perception.  Jesus meets them there in the middle of their reason though the longer standing truth is that “faith and reason are two wings by which man takes flight” (Fides Et Ratio, Pope John Paul II, 1994).

Yet I did not come on my own, but the one who sent me, whom you do not know, is true-  This is loaded in meaning.  Jesus is opening up the opportunity to a meal of revelation.  In the fullness of lives that are enlightened by the gospel Paul later urges that, “Consequently, from now on we regard no one according to the flesh; even if we once knew Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know him so no longer (2 Corinthians 5:16).

I know him, because I am from him, and he sent me— He is pointing to how the “Word [logos- reason] became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14). A recurring theme in the New Testament and in Church history is that sending in God’s kingdom is a seed concept. Jesus always points back to the Father.  They are a community in Trinity in consubstantiality.  The invitation of the gospel includes the illumination of that fact so that when one partake of that divine nature in communion that love is complete.

When the Messiah comes, will he perform more signs than this man has done?-  They are looking for a circumstantial harvest where Jesus wants to be their savior.  Harvests in a field happen because seeds die.  Jesus was born to die with purpose and not performance.  This is what he told the religious leaders that wanted him to perform a special seats miracle show that He said to them in reply, “An evil and unfaithful generation seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it except the sign of Jonah the prophet” (Matthew 12:39).  In full context it was about the death, burial and resurrection of The Passion.  They wanted signs from Jesus.  But Jesus is the Sign.

Rumbles At Tabernacles II: From Parchment to Promise


As an addiction counselor sometimes I challenge my clients on the importance of not screening out the good people that could speak into their lives for superficial reasons.  I also ask the tough questions about assumptions they would carry on who could speak into their lives.  When they discharge from treatment they could have assumptions about what a sponsor (mentor in the 12 Step movement) is supposed to look like or sound like.  I even get resistance as a therapist because I am not in chemical dependence recovery.  My degree may not be enough of a parchment for them at least at first.

In ones assumptions about God and how insight of who God is works, we can have even more toxic assumptions with often missed opportunities of even greater assumptions.  Such were the religious people of Jesus’ day.  In his love for them, ironically, he came to wake them up in the holy week of Tabernacles.  Even more ironic is that this day had a context of being dependent on what God had to give in the midst of ones discomfort.  It is in ones discomfort that recovery from addiction to drugs, selfishness or anything else really happens.  They wanted quick answers on their time and preconceived assumptions.  Jesus wanted to treat the whole person and so on he provoked.

When the feast was already half over, Jesus went up into the temple area and began to teach. The Jews were amazed and said, “How does he know scripture without having studied?” Jesus answered them and said, “My teaching is not my own but is from the one who sent me. Whoever chooses to do his will shall know whether my teaching is from God or whether I speak on my own. Whoever speaks on his own seeks his own glory, but whoever seeks the glory of the one who sent him is truthful, and there is no wrong in him. Did not Moses give you the law? Yet none of you keeps the law. Why are you trying to kill me?” The crowd answered, “You are possessed! Who is trying to kill you?” Jesus answered and said to them, “I performed one work and all of you are amazed because of it. Moses gave you circumcision—not that it came from Moses but rather from the patriarchs—and you circumcise a man on the sabbath. If a man can receive circumcision on a sabbath so that the law of Moses may not be broken, are you angry with me because I made a whole person well on a sabbath? Stop judging by appearances, but judge justly (John 6:14-24)

Jesus went up into the temple area and began to teach….without having studied?   He went as a rabbi but not through the approved rabbi track.  Jesus came out of left field in that he was not from the assumed track of credentials and truly demonstrated a knowledge of scripture.  With an approved track Jesus would sound like a certain rabbinical school and could be pegged down on a fast track to “get him” in what he taught.  Jesus provides no such luxury.

My teaching is not my own but is from the one who sent me —  Jesus did not consider it to be on the table to just come up with good ideas.  The world is always full of good ideas that hint on truth for consideration.  Hearing can at least be a time for consideration but at some point we decide there is an objective truth and live that way with joy or misery.  Jesus spoke what God the Father tells him to say and was the perfect model, though divine, of how humanity is supposed to work in cooperation with the divine.

Whoever chooses to do his will shall know whether my teaching is from God or whether I speak on my own — Recommended reading for what it means to be open to God’s will would be Mark 4 in what is called The Parable of the Sower.  In it you will find poor soil is like a non-receptive heart for God’s will due to such things as worries of this life, cares of this world, desire for riches or going to much on hyper-emotionalism.  All this is worth considering in ones soul if you are or are considering being a follower of Jesus.

but whoever seeks the glory of the one who sent him is truthful-  A recurring theme in the Bible is that the people of God could have a context of seeing God represented in ceremony but deny the power in it, marginalize it and walk away.  A redemptive pattern is knowing the list of the context of the kingdom of God, having a humble ear to hear the King behind the kingdom, actively joining into it from the inside and engaging in right praise.  A typology that could point to that pattern would be the first four of the sons of Israel: Reuben, Simeon, Levi and Judah.  They mean in that order behold a son, one who hears, attached and praise.  That last son being the one that carries on the messianic line to Jesus.

Did not Moses give you the law? Yet none of you keeps the law–  Jesus is again a provocateur.  He is stirring in the point of reference of being dependent of God where you have to listen to instruction of His will.  These leaders are not putting their professing faith into action.

Why are you trying to kill me? —  This is an important point where Jesus goes beyond a tit for tat rhythm that they would like and gets to the heart of the matter.  There was murmuring mentioned earlier in this chapter that included him misleading the people.  That would be grounds for capital punishment in their history for keeping the norms.  The dichotomy of love and hate or light and darkness is treated best when it is out in the open.  In fact, light is the best disinfectant.

Moses gave you circumcision—not that it came from Moses but rather from the patriarchs–  Jesus never wasted a word, so this is more purposeful than what might at first appear.  He is pointing out that there supposed deep devotion to Moses’ era is misplaced to a point on attention to legal purity since pre-levitical law with the patriarchs had a righteousness that was holistic.  Just as Jesus got deeper into the issue of the present in their malice and now goes deeper to the issues on what their deepest roots are.

are you angry with me because I made a whole person well on a sabbath?  Back to the present and broader.  Circumcision which they are obsessed about is one part of the body that participates in the blessings of God’s covenants with his people, whereas Jesus lived out the intentions of salvation as spoke in Greek, sozo, which means really whole.

Stop judging by appearances, but judge justly—  Jesus was not hostile to all judging but going by appearances reducing the human person to only science but God is concerned for the whole of the person’s dignity.  To have a broader sense of what righteous judgement is, one should look at what the agenda is for righteousness for a person or a people.  Isaiah, known by some theologians to be a “proto-gospel” since his writings are known to be heavy in prophecies about the Messiah.

Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer,

you shall cry for help, and he will say: “Here I am!”

If you remove the yoke from among you,

the accusing finger, and malicious speech;

If you lavish your food on the hungry

and satisfy the afflicted;

Then your light shall rise in the darkness,

and your gloom shall become like midday (Isaiah 58:9-10).

By the end of this week of Tabernacles, Jesus made a dent on all of his hearers whether they liked him or not.  A response is a response.   But the best response is to call to Jesus when you see him and do whatever he tells you to do just like Mary told the attendants at the wedding at Cana.

Rumbles At Tabernacles I: Some Teflon to 20 Questions


I was surprised when I heard about the “Five Dysfunctions of A Team” by Francis Lencioni how one of the points in a professional group was “fear of conflict”.  He actually stood up for conflict in the sense of how it can be seen in a strengths-based context because this is how things can be more clear between parties where ideas class and the best solution can come to the surface fully in the light.  In a similar vein, Penn Jillete who is famous partly for his atheism makes a valid point that the universe is better off when one party does their best to convert the other party to their point of view because otherwise no one can truly understand each other.

In that sense, one person who did not have such a shy problem was Jesus but with a unique style in that he did not make his interactions like a classroom and wanted the spiritual, holistic health of others so much he would not want them to stay in their head.  Jesus had to provoke and go against the trend of the world since he did not identify himself as of the world.

Jesus was asked 183 questions in the Gospels, but he only answered three of them directly: one concerning his authority, another about being a king, and the third about how to pray. Jesus reframed questions into stories, riddles, dramatic theater, or he simply remained silent, but did not feel compelled to offer answers. We are convinced that Jesus wanted to subvert our human addiction to explanations wherever possible, opening us up to the possibility of communion with the Father and the promise of transformation that such communion holds for us all.” (Geography of Grace, Kris Rocke & Joel Van Dyke).

Therefore, questions that would put him in a box tended to roll right off of him. Such was his style as we will see during a holiday week in Jerusalem.

After this, Jesus moved about within Galilee; but he did not wish to travel in Judea, because the Jews were trying to kill him. But the Jewish feast of Tabernacles was near. So his brothers said to him, “Leave here and go to Judea, so that your disciples also may see the works you are doing. No one works in secret if he wants to be known publicly. If you do these things, manifest yourself to the world.” For his brothers did not believe in him. So Jesus said to them, “My time is not yet here, but the time is always right for you. The world cannot hate you, but it hates me, because I testify to it that its works are evil. You go up to the feast. I am not going up[ to this feast, because my time has not yet been fulfilled.” After he had said this, he stayed on in Galilee. But when his brothers had gone up to the feast, he himself also went up, not openly but [as it were] in secret (John 7:1-10)

But the Jewish feast of Tabernacles was near-  Sure, there was intent of some to kill him.  For Jesus, that came with his job description but for later.  However, the juicy opportunity for him was people in town for a spiritual context of encountering God and thus on spiritual business.  Jesus came to do the business of the Father.  Even with conflict this was too good to pass up.

If you do these things, manifest yourself to the world- Their premise is that when something of God encounters the world that the world’s terms must be the standard and one needs to perform for it.  Adding to that, these kinsmen of Jesus were cynics to begin with.  They just saw Jesus as the son of Mary.  To add insult to injury, pilgrims tended to come to this feast also called Feast of Booths to camp out together in a communal way so it is with painful irony that Jesus goes without his family wished well with only a cynical dare.

With such a wrong premise, there comes a wrong conclusion.  The premise of Jesus is based on different values than that of the world.  In the history of Christianity, a different ethic has been a recurring rallying point by way of the Cross.  In context of this specific interaction Augustine wrote,  “See how profound it is: they were advising Him as to glory; but He would have loftiness preceded by humility, and willed to prepare the way to elevation itself through humility” (Augustine, Tractate 28).

My time is not yet here, but the time is always right for you- Jesus here addresses their want of instant gratification.  This goes to a larger point about the proof of God that cynics pine for of the loving God that is believed in by so many.  Such cynics daily to see that if God were an instant oatmeal in the microwave God for all requests then inherently he would not be loving.  Where is the beauty of faith if ones socks are blown off?  Though God is into miracles, one must understand that faith is elicited from us in a proposition and not an imposition.

but it hates me, because I testify to it that its works are evil- Jesus was a buzz kill to the party.  But really not to the parties of sinners.  Jesus testified more often to the weighing down of burdens by the religious elites that departed from the Jewish deposit of faith into man-made traditions.  Jesus had only compassion for the broken but had to express a provocation for the hypocrites.

he himself also went up, not openly but [as it were] in secret- Jesus was to be rejected by many so he could shine even brighter.  Just as light was separated from darkness, this gospel shows us that Jesus had to be distinct from unbelief even from his own family.  It is not as though he hated them, but his priorities had be based on an obedience towards Father.

Such is the nature of what Jesus was about to do then, again,  and what Jesus also does now through the power of the Holy Spirit and through the Church:  he will propose and provoke humanity to changes beyond their assumptions.  Jesus is about to have about 8 or 9 days without his disciples but not long without believers.  This is because he is about to afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted.  The people he will encounter, whether they love him or hate him, will be witnesses of sorts for the design of a coming change with Jesus and a Church that he is founding and will rock the world.