Short Meditations in John 7: 40. Speculation (1)
Jn 7:40 On hearing his words, some of the people said, “Surely this man is the Prophet.”
The Lord had said to Moses, “I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their fellow Israelites, and I will put my words in his mouth. He will tell them everything I command him.” (Deut 18:18) and this was now part of the Messiah folklore if we may put it like that.
So now Jesus is in their midst and speaking with authority and speaking in ways that defy the authorities and challenge any thought of coming to arrest him. He sounds very much like an Old Testament prophet; is he the one that Moses spoke about, the one we have been expecting?
When Jesus had asked the disciples who people said he was, they replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” (Mt 16:14) None of these are ‘the prophet’ spoken of by Moses, but they were each prophets and reveal even more how the people viewed Jesus.
There is perhaps something that we take for granted here, and so perhaps we should consider it in these verses that reveal the people speculating about just who Jesus is. The first thing, which I suggest is almost unique in the history of the world, is that there is this body of Scripture that we now call the Old Testament and it is littered with references that hint of one who would come sometime in the future as a saviour for this unique nation, Israel. Note these three things: a unique nation, a unique body of literature, and a unique series of references to a ‘coming one’, a messianic figure.
Now the second thing to note afresh is how well this has been picked up down the centuries by the scribes who studied the scrolls, and then how the rabbis had taught it in the synagogues. The result is a people who know these things, even the common people. As we’ll see as we go on, it wasn’t all neatly packaged in an orderly way, and so that presented problems for those trying to understand what it meant. No, these were prophecies that mostly seemed to slip out as the Spirit of God prompted. The apostle Peter wrote, “The prophets who told us this was coming asked a lot of questions about this gift of life God was preparing. The Messiah’s Spirit let them in on some of it—that the Messiah would experience suffering, followed by glory. They clamoured to know who and when. All they were told was that they were serving you, you who by orders from heaven have now heard for yourselves—through the Holy Spirit—the Message of those prophecies fulfilled. (1 Pet 1:10,11 Message) That captures it well: the Spirit stirred within them and as a result they (and others) struggled to understand this