GOSPEL | JOHN 7:28-36

28 Then Jesus cried out as he was teaching in the temple, “You know me, and you know where I am from. I have not come on my own. But the one who sent me is true, and you do not know him.  29 I know him, because I am from him, and he sent me.”  30 Then they tried to arrest him, but no one laid hands on him, because his hour had not yet come.  31 Yet many in the crowd believed in him and were saying, “When the Messiah comes, will he do more signs than this man has done?”

32 The Pharisees heard the crowd muttering such things about him, and the chief priests and Pharisees sent temple police to arrest him.  33 Jesus then said, “I will be with you a little while longer, and then I am going to him who sent me.  34 You will search for me, but you will not find me; and where I am, you cannot come.”  35 The Jews said to one another, “Where does this man intend to go that we will not find him? Does he intend to go to the Dispersion among the Greeks and teach the Greeks?  36 What does he mean by saying, ‘You will search for me and you will not find me’ and, ‘Where I am, you cannot come’?”

“Yet many in the crowd believed in him” (v.31).

As I read Jesus and try to really listen to him as he speaks, I feel as though I am listening to someone speak a foreign language. The issue is that I know better. I have this large and growing understanding of what it is that Jesus “means.” This is the result of a life-long Christian education: being raised by Christian parents in a Christian household, growing up in a church, listening to sermons, attending Sunday School, reading Christian story books and Bible studies and small group discussion guides, etc. I cannot – and refuse to try to – abandon all of this rich, helpful foundation as I sit in Jesus’ presence and listen to him. However, as far as I am able, I do want to listen to him with fresh ears, ears that really hear.

Today, though, hearing Jesus with fresh ears leaves me with more questions than comfort, more confusion than assurance. Putting prior understanding on a back burner, there are so many gray areas: indefinite pronouns without definite antecedents, references to unknown or unclear locations, and an inexplicably unsuccessful arrest attempt. The Pharisees’ questions, when heard with fresh ears, are not nearly so silly as when heard through full, “educated” ears. Usually, I find myself snickering behind the Pharisees’ backs: “You ignorant Pharisees, how do you not get it!? It’s so obvious!” The more I learn, though, the more I’m sure that it is so NOT obvious! What on earth does Jesus mean? Today I’m standing in the midst of the Pharisees, shocked and confounded by Jesus’ veiled self-revelation.

And then, right in the middle of the all this seeming miscommunication, I read “Yet.” Yet! “Yet many in the crowd believed” (v.31). What!? How? I’m reading from the privileged position of having the complete canon of Scripture and centuries of Christian interpretive traditions, and I don’t fully understand what Jesus is saying!

YET, maybe understanding isn’t the same as believing.
YET, maybe believing is actually aided by knowing less and seeing more.
YET, maybe the words Jesus says are not the FULL account of who he is.

Maybe (certainly!) believing requires more than my liberal arts degree (for which I am absolutely thankful), more than an educated, analytical read of Jesus’ words. This Lent has been profoundly meaningful, precisely because I have been asked far more than simply to know what Jesus says, or to study his words for their “original” meaning. I have been asked to “Come and see” (John 1:39). Those listening to Jesus in the temple believed, in spite of some confusing banter, in spite of the Pharisees’ accusations, in spite of (because of?) Jesus’ celebrity hype.

“Yet” becomes a word of hope, that the Spirit’s witness to Jesus within me is effective beyond (though, thankfully, also alongside and through) my own mental efforts. Praise God!