Boldness and Humility: A Potent Mix

If I were to tell you that we should be humble, but bold, what would you think? I can’t speak for you, but I know what I would think. “Those are two completely different things. Boldness is like an intense, in-your-face type thing; humility is taking a step back and hanging out behind the scenes, living out of the spotlight.” It might be a little bit hard to see these two things working together, but is it possible? Is it even good? What if I told you that these are two qualities of Jesus? If you have a moment, turn to John chapter 7.

Jesus’ first two miracles were at Cana in Galilee, and word about him had not really spread outside of Cana yet. He then went to Jerusalem (where the Temple and Jewish religious leaders are) where, on the Sabbath, he healed a man who had been lame for thirty-eight years. He then crosses the Sea of Galilee and feeds 5,000 men (not counting their wives and children) with almost nothing. Then, while he is preaching to these people, many of them disagree with him and leave. Chapter 7 picks up right after this. Keep in mind that Jesus has just come from making his first large-scale public statement with the food thing. There are at least 5,000 people walking around talking about what Jesus has done.

“After this, Jesus traveled around Galilee. He wanted to stay out of Judea where the Jewish leaders were plotting his death. But soon it was time for the Jewish Festival of Shelters, and Jesus’ brothers said to him, ‘Leave here and go to Judea, where your followers can see your miracles! You can’t become famous if you hide like this! If you can do such wonderful things, show yourself to the world!’ For even his brothers didn’t believe in him.”

So, Jesus does a huge miracle seen by thousands of people, and then goes from here to there in Galilee for a bit. He decides to lay low for a while and not draw undue attention to himself. After all, there are people who want him dead. But his brothers, who happen to be there with him at this point in time, don’t see this danger! “What is so dangerous about some miraculous signs? It’s not like you’re the Messiah or anything! Your power should be celebrated and talked about! Everyone should see you! You could be well-known all over the world for your power; you could bring glory to God!”

“Jesus replied, ‘Now is not the right time for me to go, but you can go anytime. The world can’t hate you, but it does hate me because I accuse it of dong evil. You go on, I’m not going to this festival, because my time has not yet come.’ After saying these things, Jesus remained in Galilee.”

Jesus tactfully evades. “Now is not the time for that, guys. You all can go ahead and go, though! Nothing is stopping you!” This is where some boldness mixes with some humility. Jesus explains, “There’s no way people can hate you because you don’t understand the message I am trying to give. People do hate me, on the other hand, because I accuse them of sinning. I tell them that their actions are evil.”

Wait a minute. This doesn’t sound like the Jesus that people are always talking about. Jesus wouldn’t point out people’s sins like that would he? Isn’t Jesus supposed to love everyone and let them do what they want? Isn’t Jesus supposed to let people off the hook because he’s just nice like that? Isn’t Jesus supposed to let people believe what they want to believe and stop pushing his message down their throats? He shouldn’t be telling people that their behavior is evil…because that’s judgmental and hateful…right? Wrong.

This message is one that says, “You are WRONG. Therefore, turn and do RIGHT. Follow me and do as I do. I’ll show you the way. I will use you to build my Father’s Kingdom, and I will bring you with me to the Father. People hate me for my message, and they will also hate you if you follow me. But it will be worth it!”

After saying this, Jesus says he’s not going to go, and he remains in Galilee. But something interesting happens:

“But after his brothers left for the festival Jesus also went, though secretly, staying out of public view. The Jewish leaders tried to find him at the festival and kept asking if anyone had seen him. There was a lot of grumbling about him among the crowds. Some argued, ‘He’s a good man,’ but others said, ‘He’s nothing but a fraud who deceives the people.’ But no one had the courage to speak favorably about him in public, for they were afraid of getting in trouble with the Jewish leaders.   Then, midway through the festival, Jesus went up to the Temple and began to teach.”

It looks like after remaining in Galilee, Jesus changed his mind and decided to go to the festival after all! I suspect that Jesus may have been talking with God, and God told him that he needed to go. Since I wasn’t there at the time, I don’t know for sure! What I am sure of, is that Jesus wanted to remain secret at the festival, at least for a while. The teachers of the law were upset with him for healing a man on the Sabbath, and intended to make him answer for it. Jesus didn’t want to be found too soon, but wanted to appear at the opportune moment. You see, Jesus intended to give a different answer.

While Jesus is hidden, there is an all-out manhunt going on. The Temple guards are storming through interrogating people, and no one wants to say anything too nice about Jesus. Favor leads to suspicion, and suspicion; what if suspicion leads to execution?

Then, in the midst of all the madness, Jesus goes to the Temple–a crowded public place, and begins to teach! This is a bold move; for someone who wants to remain hidden, Jesus is doing a terrible job. Jesus, however, doesn’t hide out of fear. Jesus only wants to be seen when God’s message is given, when God is glorified. It is not yet time for Jesus to be glorified. Bold, yet humble.

“The people were surprised when they heard him. ‘How does he know so much when he hasn’t been trained?’ they asked.   So Jesus told them, ‘My message is not my own; it comes from God who sent me. Anyone who wants to do the will of God will know whether my teaching is from God or is merely my own. Those who speak for themselves want glory only for themselves, but a person who seeks to honor the one who sent him speaks truth, not lies. Moses gave you the law, but none of you obeys it! In fact, you are trying to kill me.'”

Not only does Jesus make himself known to a huge crowd while the guards are searching for him, but after he makes himself known, he points out to this huge crowd that they don’t obey their own laws. He flat out tells them that they are wrong. This is in-your-face kind of stuff. Of course, not everyone takes criticism very well. I know that it’s hard for me in my own life to be told that I am wrong, especially when I know I’m wrong. It is much easier to assume that the person doesn’t know what he or she is talking about.

“The crowd replied, ‘You’re demon possessed! Who’s trying to kill you?’   Jesus replied, ‘I did one miracle on the Sabbath, and you were amazed. But you work on the Sabbath, too, when you obey Moses’ law of circumcision. (Actually, this tradition of circumcision began wit the patriarchs, long before the law of Moses.) For if the correct time for circumcising your son falls on the Sabbath, you go ahead and do it so as not to break the law of Moses. So why should you be angry with me for healing a man on the Sabbath? Look beneath the surface so you can judge correctly.'”

Jesus points out a flaw in the logic of the religious leaders–a double standard. Jesus is not allowed to heal one of God’s children on the Sabbath day because it is considered work, but they are allowed to perform circumcision on the Sabbath even though it is work. Jesus then, instead of telling them not to judge him, tells them to “Look beneath the surface so YOU CAN JUDGE CORRECTLY.” In order to judge correctly they need to understand the purpose of what is done. You see, the Sabbath was created by God as a gift for the people, a day of rest, because it isn’t good for us to be working all the time. We need to have at least one full day of rest. The point is that rest is good! It is to be honored because God gave it to us as a gift. That doesn’t mean that we are supposed to neglect what is right. If the teachers of the law understood this, there would be no conflict with their law.

After Jesus says this, people begin to discuss whether or not Jesus could be the Messiah talked about by their prophets. This concerns the Pharisees, and the try to find him again. But when the guards came, Jesus predicted his death. The puzzling way he made this prediction, however, kept the Pharisees occupied for a while. I am convinced that this confusion was intentional on Jesus’ part. He knew what he was doing. He wasn’t done quite yet.

“On the last day, the climax of the festival, Jesus stood and shouted to the crowds, ‘Anyone who is thirsty may come to me! Anyone who believes in me may come and drink! For the Scriptures declare, (concerning the Messiah) “Rivers of living water will flow from his heart.”‘  (When he said ‘living water,’ he was speaking of the Spirit who would be given to everyone believing in him. But the Spirit had not yet been given, because Jesus had not yet entered into his glory.)

For a closing statement, this a pretty cool one. For the past couple of days, everyone has been wondering if Jesus is the Messiah. Then, before it’s time for everyone to go home, he quotes a Scripture that describes the Messiah, and applies that Scripture to himself. The author explains more, when he tells us that “living water” means the Holy Spirit. But why this word choice anyway? Well, how do you know if something is dead or alive? I normally check for some sort of movement. Naturally, if it is dead, it is not going to move. Movement is associated with life. If you have ever seen a river, you know that the water is moving. It goes somewhere; it came from somewhere. If it was stagnant, stuff would start to grow in it like weeds, algae, and mold. If the water is moving, or living, it stays pure. If the water is the Holy Spirit, then it is an active Spirit, a pure Spirit, a Spirit that gives life and movement to what is dead. Jesus says here that this Spirit only comes from his heart.

John then adds that this Spirit will be given to those who believe in him, but it hadn’t come to those people yet because Jesus had not yet been glorified. Remember, at this point in time, Jesus is only concerned with glorifying God. Jesus will not be glorified until he is risen from the grave, and takes his rightful place on the throne. This Spirit does not come to the believers until the Day of Pentecost after Jesus’ ascension. Jesus did not intend to leave the believers on their own, without guidance. The Spirit is intended to guide our lives the same way Jesus was guided by the Spirit. The Spirit can flow from our hearts in the same way that it flowed from Jesus’ heart.

What we see here is a side of Jesus that we sometimes overlook. We often see Jesus as this meek and humble guy. He’s quiet, and he keeps to himself a lot. He’s socially distant because he’s just got a lot on his mind right now, and we wouldn’t understand; and when he does speak, none of it makes sense. If it’s not too bold of me to say, that sounds more like a teenager than a Savior. It’s easy to see Jesus this way because we are just reading words–we aren’t hearing emotion or seeing facial expressions. In reality, the life of Jesus is filled with laughter and love, freedom and compassion, wisdom and growth. Jesus offers this freely to us.This Spirit can give us the same boldness and humility that Jesus had. Boldness and humility may not seem like they would go together, but God’s Holy Spirit is in the business of doing the impossible.

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