I have never had to live with the knowledge that somebody was trying to kill me. I can’t even imagine what that would be like, to know that if the wrong people found me in the wrong place they would kill me. I don’t know how I could sleep. Jesus has apparently been dealing with that reality since he healed the man at the pool of Bethesda. So when it was time to go into the city for the festival Jesus sends his followers on without him. He went on into the city, but apparently going without his entourage was a good enough disguise for him to be among the people without being noticed.
And what a great opportunity for Jesus to walk around listening to what all the people had to say about him. He was on every tongue. There were rumors about the miracles and signs he had performed. There were rumors about how the Jewish leaders wanted him seized and killed. And everybody had an opinion about who he was. For the first half of the festival he got to listen.
Then he speaks. He addresses the crowd and tells them that some are trying to kill him because he healed a man on the Sabbath, and why not, since they circumcise on the Sabbath. The crowd doesn’t know at this point that the Jewish leaders are trying to kill Jesus. Jesus does a smart thing here. When you make somebody’s accusation against you before they do, when they finally show up and accuse you all people will say is, “Yeah, he said you would say that.” And then, he insults the crowd by telling them that he knows God but they don’t. If you want to see this effect, simply stand up in any church and start telling people that every one of them are fools who don’t know God and don’t know anything about Scripture. See how well it goes.
On the last day, Jesus makes a bold proclamation that those who will come to him will receive rivers of living water, a phrase used to describe the Spirit of God moving in them and among them. He was convincing. Many people believed from his speaking that he was a prophet, others believed him the Messiah, and even the Temple guards were so convinced that they refused to arrest him.
When Nicodemus stands up for Jesus and demands a hearing, we see why Nicodemus would only visit Jesus at night. He is ridiculed for his mild support for Jesus and they throw racist, prejudiced taunts at him. The religious and political elites could not believe that somebody from that side of the tracks could ever be a prophet, let alone a Messiah. And anybody who thought they could can just go be one of them.
The entire chapter is full of tension. The entire city is on a knife’s edge ready to erupt into violence and its all because of the rumors about this man Jesus. But nobody laid a hand on Jesus. In this chapter we see that Jesus is not afraid of those who want to kill him. In fact, he goes right into their midst and after he learns everything he needs to know he refutes them. He defends himself. He is a master of the crowds. He has authority and influence over the Jewish leaders own Temple guards. Jesus speaks with power and people are impressed and influenced. They still don’t know what to do with Jesus, but this guy is a revolutionary. Some want to worship him, others to follow him and some want to kill him.
When you really listen to what Jesus is saying…when you honestly consider who he is and what he did…you cannot ignore him. He is the most influential and revolutionary personality in history. The question for you is what will you do with him? Ignoring him is not an option. Will you believe? Will you follow?