CHAPTER 4: Part 1: Leaving Jerusalem
Short Meditations in John 4: 1. Rumours
Jn 4:1 The Pharisees heard that Jesus was gaining and baptizing more disciples than John
I find every time I come across the word ‘Pharisee’ in the Gospels, I think, ‘Oh no, here we go again!’ As we commented when we were first considering Nicodemus in the previous chapter, they were one of the main groups opposing Jesus but it was because they were conservative believers that they struggled with the things Jesus said. But the truth is that they sought to be the guardians of the Law and whereas others were casual about it, they were not. So they had good intentions, even if they were a little misguided. Shall we balance that up a little and say, a lot misguided.
Their problem was that they focused so much on the Law that they failed to maintain contact with the Giver of the Law. If they had done that, they might have realised who Jesus was. Unfortunately they didn’t and were, no doubt, one of the forces that brought about Jesus’ death. As much as that was God’s plan, it was sinful acts of men that brought it about, and they were well and truly involved.
In fact, they were clearly a force to be reckoned with as we’ll see in the following verses because when they start getting contentious about Jesus baptising people in competition with John, as it seemed to them, Jesus simply moved off the scene to a quieter spot where he could carry on ministering without their interference. They are at the present clearly still in Judea (see v.3) and therefore within relatively easy distance from Jerusalem, the religious hub, which is why Nicodemus, a Pharisee and a member of the ruling council had been able to come so easily to see Jesus. But the Pharisees hold powerful posts in society and when they start raising their eyebrows, it is sometimes better to just move on.
As we’ll see in the next verse these rumours, this gossip, which had been spreading across the country wasn’t strictly accurate but it was enough to make Jesus decide to move back north. That’s what we’ll be seeing in the coming verses.
But this raises questions of principle. Where there are power blocks arraigned against us, is it wise to confront them or is it wiser just to distance yourself from them and keep out of range? The answer has to be that God knows and when we suffer opposition, we always need to consult Him. What is the right course of action, Lord? Only He knows the right thing to do. There is never always the same thing to do. Sometimes we need to stand and confront the opposition and other times we needs to move out of the firing range. It needs the grace of God to do both.