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Word of Belief

This week there won’t be too much from the pulpit because we have some beautiful hymns to share and learn from. I must thank all of you who gave me hymn suggestions, way too many to choose from and include, but I’ve done my best.

As you won’t be hearing from me in great detail, here is my short sermon for you to read at home. The first two verses of our reading this week give us the theme of this section (as well as the title at the top of the reading). Jesus cries out to the people “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink.” Last week we explored the Bread of Life and this week we have its companion Living Water. This mention of those who are thirsty reminds us of the story of the Woman at the Well and the conversation Jesus had with the Samaritan woman there.

The author of John’s gospel tells us that when Jesus refers to rivers of living water flowing from the believer’s heart that Jesus is referring to the Holy Spirit but that this would come later when Jesus had been glorified on the cross.

The verses that follow show the uncertainty about just who Jesus is, and we see the clear divide between the people and the religious leaders. An argument begins about where Jesus was born, and we get the idea (yet again) that coming from Galilee is not an advantage.

There is an opportunity for Jesus to be arrested here but it is not taken up. The reason, at least the reason given by the temple police to the chief priests and Pharisees, is that “Never has anyone spoken like this!” The authority that Jesus speaks with impresses them as much as it impresses the people. But this authority is dismissed by the religious leaders. They claim that Jesus has deceived the temple police just as he has deceived the people who do not know the law. They, on the other hand do know the law and they know the scriptures. We get the distinct impression that these leaders do not hold the people in high regard.

Enter Nicodemus once again. As we learned in chapter 3, he is both a Pharisee and one who is considering following Jesus. He challenges his colleagues to adjudicate fairly, to actually follow the law they have invoked. They don’t reconsider; rather, they lash out at him and repeat the statement from verse 41 about coming from Galilee. Again, the irony is thick since the reader knows that Jesus is, in fact, from Galilee and is the prophet and is legitimately the Messiah in accordance with the very Scriptures to which they appeal.

The silence of Nicodemus after their retort makes space for us to decide for ourselves who Jesus is. John presents Jesus in a variety of ways in our passage (not to mention the rest of the Gospel): God, Wisdom, Torah, Birthing Mother, Messiah. This provides many entry points both for the would-be follower to join Jesus and for the already believing to expand and deepen their experience of all that Jesus is and provides. Will the hearer of the Gospel join the community of abundant life?

Jay Robinson

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