A reading and reflection
St 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 judgement.’
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”?’
What makes you angry? How do you show your anger? Please pause for a couple of minutes to ponder these questions.
In this passage Jesus asks his opponents whether they are angry with him for healing a man on the Sabbath (which was against the Jewish law unless the person was not likely to survive until the following day).
In his book ‘Do You Love Me?’ Michael H Crosby points out that ‘The word for anger that John’s Jesus uses here to describe his hearers’ reaction is cholan. Ordinarily anger arises from a sense of being disrespected, attacked, or deprived of something considered to be one’s right. However, anger in the form of cholan is not just an emotional response to perceived or real threats; it arises from a place deep within one’s being. It represents an underlying resentment stemming from a kind of envy toward another who is feared as a threat to one’s world. People with cholan end up having their perception clouded. With objectivity impaired, clear judgement is impossible.’ (p68f) Are there things which make us and cloud our judgement in this way?
We get angry about all kinds of things and for all kinds of reasons. Sometimes our anger is justified, sometimes it isn’t. I am writing this in Fairtrade Fortnight, and we ought to get angry that so many people do not receive a fair reward for their labour. Oughtn’t we? But our anger is no use unless it stirs us to take action to change the situation, like buying fairly traded goods.
Kathleen Fischer writes, ‘Anger is essential to a healthy spirituality. Losing one’s passion condemns us to the ‘status quo.’ Failing to direct it wisely puts us and the world at risk.’ (Transforming Fire, p1). But if our righteous anger is directed wisely, and channelled into right actions, it will help to change the world.
Loving God, we confess that we are sometimes angry without good cause. Please help us to be angry about the right things and to direct our angry in helpful ways. So may we play our parts in your kingdom coming and your will being done on earth, as it is in heaven. Amen