Primitive Christianity Revived, Again
Hosea 11 – “When Israel was a youth I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son . . .it is I who taught Ephraim to walk, I took them in my arms; but they did not know that I healed them” (11:1-3).
Hosea 12 – Referring back to the earliest origins of the Lord’s relationship with Jacob [later called Israel], Hosea says of him, “In the womb he took his brother by the heel, and in his maturity he contended with God. Yes, he wrestled with the angel and prevailed; He wept and sought His favor. He found Him at Bethel and there He spoke with us, even the LORD, the God of hosts, the LORD is His name. Therefore, return to your God, Observe kindness and justice, and wait for your God continually” (12:4-6).
Hosea 13 – The people were brought to the Promised Land by the Lord and were not to have any other God but Him; but as they became prosperous and satisfied, “their heart became proud; therefore they forgot Me. SO I will be like a lion to them; like a leopard I will lie in wait by the wayside” (13:6-7).
“Shall I ransom them from the power of Sheol? Shall I redeem them from death? O Death, where are your thorns? O Sheol, where is your sting?” (13:14).
“Samaria will be held guilty, for she has rebelled against her God. They will fall by the sword, their little ones will be dashed in pieces, and their pregnant women will be ripped open” (13:16).
Hosea 14 - Finally after rocking from fury to encouragement repeatedly, Hosea focuses entirely on the fruits of repentance:
“Return, O Israel, to the LORD your God, for you have stumbled because of your iniquity. Take words with you and return to the LORD” (14:1). “I will heal their apostasy, I will love them freely, for my anger has turned away from them” (14:4).
Israel will once again take root “like the cedars of Lebanon, His shoots will sprout, and his beauty will be like the olive tree and his fragrance like the cedars of Lebanon. Those who live in his shadow will again raise grain, and they will blossom like the vine” (14:6-7).
John 7:25-53 - The people are afraid to speak of Jesus openly, thinking that they will get in trouble with authorities, but when these authorities do not stop Jesus from speaking, the people wonder if perhaps the authorities really do think he is the Messiah—because they refrain from doing anything to him (7:25-26).
The people are perplexed—they do not know if the Messiah will do more signs, if they will know “where he is from” (7:27). What kind of figure is this Messiah they have been waiting for? The Jerusalem Bible note here indicates that while there was a belief that the Messiah would be “born in Bethlehem” it was “commonly believed that he would lie hidden in some secret place . . . in heaven, according to some until the day of his coming” (161).
Does anyone doubt that the same uncertainties would arise in people at the “second coming,” or at the coming that the Jews still anticipate?? We cannot really know what such a thing might be like—uncertainty is at the very core of our dealing with the spiritual narrative we have here, but it is an uncertainty that invites faith and confidence that God’s story is not yet DONE.
The Pharisees, however, are sure about things. It says they would have arrested him, “but his time had not yet come” (7:30). Jesus tells the people he will be with them a little while longer and then he “will go back to the one who sent me. You will look for me and will not find me: where I am you cannot come” (7:33-34).
They wonder if he is talking about going out to the “diaspora” Jews and maybe even the Greeks (7:35).
On the last day of the festival Jesus says, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink” (7:37-38). He quotes the liturgy of the Feast of the Tabernacles, which echoes the promises of Zechariah and Ezekiel: “’[O]ut of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.’”
John tells us that these words are a promise of the Holy Spirit, “which those who believed in him were to receive” (7:39), but he says this Spirit was not yet among them “for Jesus had not yet been glorified” (7:39).
Again, some in the crowd speak of the expectations surrounding the Messiah; he will be descended from David and come from the town of Bethlehem (7:41-43), but they still do not feel sure about whether Jesus might be this figure or not. No one wants to lay hands on him to arrest him because they are not sure.
The police report back to the chief priests and Pharisees that no one has ever spoken like this man, and the Pharisees think they too might have been “sucked in” by Jesus.
Nicodemus, a Pharisee who had gone to Jesus himself, advises them that everyone accused of a crime needs to be given a hearing. And this causes them to accuse Nicodemus too of being a Galilean too – a supporter of Jesus. “Prophets do not come out of Galilee,” they argue (7:52).
The overall state of people at this point is confused and divided. No one is sure of who or what Jesus is. Even he is not ready at this point to proclaim himself too openly—his hesitancy with his brothers, his secrecy in coming to Jerusalem. The crowds are divided, the police uncertain, the Pharisees squabbling still amongst themselves.