“The officers then came to the chief priests and Pharisees, who said to them, “Why did you not bring Him?” The officers answered, “No one ever spoke like this man!” The Pharisees answered them, “Have you also been deceived? Have any of the authorities or the Pharisees believed in Him? But this crowd that does not know the law is accursed.” Nicodemus, who had gone to Him before, and who was one of them, said to them, “Does our law judge a man without first giving him a hearing and learning what he does?” They replied, “Are you from Galilee too? Search and see that no prophet arises from Galilee.”” (John 7:45–52, ESV) (Caps added to pronouns in ESV referring to God the Father, Son, and Spirit)
Was it a check on their hearts or intimidation of their minds? The guards who were sent to arrest Jesus stood there as He spoke, and they never raised a hand to arrest Him. In fact, we read in verse 44 that no one laid a hand on Him. As the guards went back to the chief priests and Pharisees empty handed they were immediately pressed with why they had not arrested Him. On one hand there were the powerful and forceful ones who had sent them and on the other hand was Jesus who they were supposed to arrest. There they stood between the two having to answer to the former as to why they took no action against the later. They were pressed to answer why they had not done what they were sent to do, and in so doing answer what it was about Jesus that moved them to disobey a direct order.
Their answer was, “No one ever spoke like this man!” There answer was emphatic as is expressed by the exclamation mark used in making the translation resulting from the Greek tense. They had heard no one like Him before, and they were awed at what He had to say and with the way He said it. Maybe they just didn’t know what to do in the face of His convincing words, and it may have been possible that some of them even believed and knew that they could no raise a hand against the Lord’s Anointed. Remember (from the previous post), this is what “Messiah” and “Christ” means—anointed. Was Jesus the Christ who was sent by God and who spoke in a way that no man has ever spoken before? We really don’t know what they were thinking other than knowing that they were so moved by Him that they dared not touch Him.
In verse 47 the Pharisees went on the attack, accusing the guards of being misled by Jesus as well. Following that they even broadened their questioning by turning to the entire group of authorities and Pharisees and asked if any of them had believed as well. From the lack of any recorded response we might assume that no one spoke up at that moment as having believed in Jesus. After having accusing inward their own group they then focused their attention outside again by condemning the crowd, saying that they did not know the law and as a result were accursed, lying under God’s curse. Doing this they put themselves in the very position as judges for God which Jesus had clearly declared they had no right to do.
As they pointed fingers all around in the face of not having Jesus brought to them, one person finally spoke up. It was Nicodemus, the one who had visited Jesus under the cover of darkness to speak to Him, and to whom Jesus spoke at length about His need to believe and be born again (John chapter 3). In his earlier encounter we have no indication as to whether Nicodemus believed or not, but from his response here we know that he was definitely favorably impressed with Jesus. Nicodemus reminded them of the proper procedure for a man being judged according to the law, and that is by actually questioning him. Nicodemus spoke up against their hasty reaction in the face of them not having taken this step. But his words as well fell on hard hearts. Rather than acknowledging the error in their process, they turned on him as well. Earlier they had disqualified Jesus from being the Christ because of His roots in Galilee, not recognizing or being aware of His actual birth in Bethlehem. Lumping Nicodemus in with Jesus, they asked him if he was from Galilee as well, adding that “no prophet arises from Galilee.”
Clearly they were not going to listen to anyone who went against their agenda or who might try to get in the way of them accomplishing it. Further, they were so set on themselves being correct that they sought to bring down anyone who might disagree or come to another conclusion.
Despite their pressure, throughout these last verses in chapter 7 we find individuals who were given cause to not raise a hand against Jesus. There was something about Him that stopped them in their tracks such that they would stand and listen. At the same time there were those who were so set in their ways that they were ready and very, very willing to attack anyone who disagreed. Jesus stood in opposition to the legalism of the chief priests and Pharisees, and as such they wanted Him eliminated.
Things really have not changed. Today there are people who hear the words and the testimony concerning Jesus and who believe and are saved. There are also those who are so set on their own paths and their own ways, strongly opposing anyone who declares them to be lost as a result. One of the tags given Christians today who take a public stand for Christ is to be called “narrow-minded.” There is an element of truth to this, but not in the derogatory way in which they mean their words. The reality is that our view of things is shaped by the truths of God and in them we are singularly focused. The world might not want to accept this, but we can see it no other way.
As I thought about this kind of accusation I thought about driving home from a snow camping trip several years ago. The snow had really picked up much more than was anticipated, and we were told to leave before it got worse. Driving out I carefully made my way down the mountain staying between the very high berms of snow piled pushed by plows to either side of the road. It was as if they made a relatively safe channel in which we could make out way to our appointed destination. We also knew that if we chose to drive outside those berms that we were at great risk for our safety. The road was narrow for a reason, and that reason was that it was the safest way down the mountain. God has declared a narrow path, and that path is only through His Son. There is salvation in no one else. It doesn’t matter what path someone might prefer or what path they might choose in their rejection of Jesus, every other path ends the same way—judgment.
“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” (Matthew 7:13–14, ESV)
“And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12, ESV)