“When they heard these words, some of the people said, “This really is the Prophet.” Others said, “This is the Christ.” But some said, “Is the Christ to come from Galilee? Has not the Scripture said that the Christ comes from the offspring of David, and comes from Bethlehem, the village where David was?” So there was a division among the people over him. Some of them wanted to arrest him, but no one laid hands on him” (John 7:40-44).
“So close and yet so far.” When I was growing up, my best friend and I would exchange this quote with each other as an evaluation between the two of us about something we had observed or heard. It could refer to a baseball game, some other sports activity, or something we had seen on a recent episode of our favorite television program at the time: The Man from U.N.C.L.E.
The statement’s meaning was that the participants involved in a behavior, action or competition had come close to achieving their goal, but fell short. However, in falling short of their goal, what the people involved did not realize was truly how far they actually were in succeeding.
I believe this applies to many people regarding the subject of God in general and the person and work of Jesus Christ in particular. People may comment that they believe in God and also believe that Jesus was a good person and teacher. However, what they are revealing is how truly far they are from understanding the subject of which they confidently comment.
Such was the case with the people who encountered Jesus at the Feast of the Tabernacles. They were all over the place with respect to who they thought Jesus was. Yet, they weren’t that far from having a correct understanding.
Some thought Jesus was the Prophet mentioned by Moses in Deuteronomy 18. Others thought Jesus was the Christ. While the people were correct in both assessments, their acknowledgment of these two truths did not lead either of them to an assent to these two truths or a commitment to Jesus as Savior and Lord.
Then there was the statement made by others. “Is the Christ to come from Galilee? Has not the Scripture said that the Christ comes from the offspring of David, and comes from Bethlehem, the village where David was?” Much like the chief priests and scribes of the people who failed to travel the short distance from Jerusalem to Bethlehem to see if who the Magi were searching for was indeed the Christ (Matthew 2:1-12), the people in today’s text did not investigate to discover if Jesus was indeed of the family of David (2 Samuel 7:1-17), which He was, or that He had been born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2), which He had.
All the people groups disagreed with each other about Jesus. Some even wanted to arrest Him. However, no one seized Him to either make Him king, or to arrest Him as a criminal. One commentator writes, “People were divided over whether Jesus was the Prophet, the Messiah, or someone else. Some found His words so disturbing that they wanted to arrest Him (John 7:43–44). But the temple officers could not bring themselves to do so. They saw His evident authority and were afraid to take Him into custody (vv. 45–46).”
Pastor Burk Parsons explains, “When confronted with the words and deeds of Jesus, no one can finally remain neutral. One will believe Him or reject Him; there is no middle ground. When we proclaim Jesus and His gospel accurately, there will be division. Some will believe and some will refuse to confess Him as Savior. We dare not remake Jesus in our image for the sake of encouraging people to accept Him. They must have Him as He reveals Himself or they will not have Him at all.”
All of these people groups in today’s text, like many in our own day, are close to the truth of who Jesus is, but also so very far from actually knowing and trusting Him for eternal life. What about you? Are you, “so close but yet so far?” Think about it!
Soli deo Gloria!