Needed: A Denser Dose of Discernment (John 7:45-53)

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I ran across a passage in John 7 that reminded me of current day propagandizing schemes designed by powerful people to hold on to their power. We’ve looked at how propagandists lie with impunity, question our intelligence, and speak to us with condescension and cursing. They traffic in conspiracies and wives tales––not to mention the equally erroneous tales of husbands!

The conversation between the spiritual leaders and the guards reveals one last tactic…

They answer valid questions with ridicule.

Nicodemus, who had gone to Jesus earlier and who was one of their own number, asked, “Does our law condemn a man without first hearing him to find out what he has been doing?”

They replied, “Are you from Galilee, too? Look into it, and you will find that a prophet does not come out of Galilee.”

Remember your elementary school teacher who always said that there is no such thing as a stupid question? Apparently these spiritual giants didn’t ascribe to that maxim.

Though Nicodemus tried to bring logic into the conversation, they shot him down by answering his question with ridicule. They responded to reason with reproach––another favorite propagandist tactic. They mock their opponents’ reasonable questions. They might as well have said, “What a stupid question from such a stupid man!”

Nicodemus: Maybe we should look at what is actually legal?

 The Priests: What are you, some hick from the north? This just shows how seriously uninformed and dumb you are!

Unless it supports their own theory, propagandists don’t do “fact checking.” Instead they put the kibosh on the conversation with a Twitter-sized meme: You’re just a gullible lazy-thinking Galilean! You ‘re obviously ignorant of the truth should go back and read the Bible.

If they had any concern about the facts, as opposed to “alternative ones,” they would know, first of all, that Jesus wasn’t from Galilee, but Bethlehem in Judea. Secondly, since both biblical prophets Jonah and Nahum came out of that northern territory, their claim was false. Prophets did come from Galilee. Propagandists will do whatever they have to in order to hold on to their power, including bending, folding, or mutilating the truth!

Brings to mind this verse:

Intelligent people want to learn, but stupid people are satisfied with ignorance.” (Proverbs 15:14 Good News Translation)

“Then they all went home.” (John 7:53)

Such a sad epitaph to a tragic story. They just turned and went home. Nothing was settled. The evidence didn’t penetrate the thick skulls of the spiritual experts. They cared nothing for what God actually wants or what the Bible actually says. According to their own calculus, by painting those duped believers into a corner, they gave them a philosophical beat down. There’s nothing more to do but go home, smug and self-satisfied.

They won! Their power was still in tact, so they high-fived each other all the way back to their comfy houses in the suburbs. While they succeeded in protecting their right to be right, sadly, their win was their loss. They won the argument and lost their souls. They went home, locked the door against Jesus and his gospel, and prepared for their next round.

In conclusion:

I believe that we Christians are in need of a denser dose of discernment and a commitment to critical thinking regarding our present day promoters of propaganda. I fear that the susceptibility of Jesus’ “little flock” to “thieves, robbers, and hired hands” disguised as shepherds is greater than our submission to the “Chief Shepherd of our souls.”

It might be said of us as it was of God’s people in Moses’ day:

“They are a nation without sense, there is no discernment in them. If only they were wise and would understand this and discern what their end will be!” (Deuteronomy 32:28-29)

My dear brothers and sisters I urge you to beware of deceitful hucksters and swindlers (spiritual and political) who, like the priests and Pharisees in Jesus’ day, only seek to win and protect their privilege and power. Don’t be so handily duped by those who make their rent on three card monte. Get back to Jesus, consult the Spirit, and read Scripture with fresh eyes!

“This is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.” (Philippians 1:9-11)

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