Red and white tulips on the Cathedral grounds

John 7:14-36

About the middle of the festival Jesus went up into the temple and began to teach. The Jews were astonished at it, saying, “How does this man have such learning, when he has never been taught?” Then Jesus answered them, “My teaching is not mine but his who sent me. Anyone who resolves to do the will of God will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own. Those who speak on their own seek their own glory; but the one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and there is nothing false in him.

“Did not Moses give you the law? Yet none of you keeps the law. Why are you looking for an opportunity to kill me?” The crowd answered, “You have a demon! Who is trying to kill you?” Jesus answered them, “I performed one work, and all of you are astonished. Moses gave you circumcision (it is, of course, not from Moses, but from the patriarchs), and you circumcise a man on the sabbath. If a man receives circumcision on the sabbath in order that the law of Moses may not be broken, are you angry with me because I healed a man’s whole body on the sabbath? Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.”

Now some of the people of Jerusalem were saying, “Is not this the man whom they are trying to kill? And here he is, speaking openly, but they say nothing to him! Can it be that the authorities really know that this is the Messiah? Yet we know where this man is from; but when the Messiah comes, no one will know where he is from.” 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. I know him, because I am from him, and he sent me.” Then they tried to arrest him, but no one laid hands on him, because his hour had not yet come. 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?”

The Pharisees heard the crowd muttering such things about him, and the chief priests and Pharisees sent temple police to arrest him. Jesus then said, “I will be with you a little while longer, and then I am going to him who sent me. You will search for me, but you will not find me; and where I am, you cannot come.” 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? What does he mean by saying, ‘You will search for me and you will not find me’ and ‘Where I am, you cannot come’?”

Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.” John 7:24

Have you ever noticed that this verse from John’s gospel sounds like the idiom, “Don’t judge a book by its cover”? I hadn’t noticed it until I reread this scripture in preparation to write this meditation. The tension is thick in his passage between the religious authorities and the Son of God; they would like to arrest Jesus because he is getting the people worked up with ridiculous claims of authority bestowed directly on him from God. It doesn’t help that his notoriety has skyrocketed in the last few days, what with his walking on water, and healing a man who had been lame for 38 years.

The issue is that they know he is a simple carpenter’s son from Nazareth—and nothing good comes out of Nazareth, right? How dare he make these claims? Lord knows, he doesn’t look the part.

The question is, how does one arrive at a “right” judgement when all one has to go on is appearance, gossip, disinformation, or questionable behavior? Don’t judge a book by its cover; don’t judge a Messiah by his grungy robe and sandals. Perhaps this is it: Grace is the way; judgement is not. Let’s try to offer someone the benefit of the doubt until they prove otherwise. It can be satisfying to think snarky thoughts about people who may annoy us, or who we assume are looking down their noses at us. Instead, why not silently bless them—just to see what happens? You might feel better and no one will be the wiser!

In faith,

Gracious God,

Bestow on me this day your mercy, grace and kindness so that I can be the blessing to others rather than expect them to bless me. Remove all judgement, conscious or unconscious, so that I can be open and free for the Holy Spirit to create and heal all relationships that may come my way. Amen.