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40 On hearing his words, some of the people said, “Surely this man is the Prophet.” 41 Others said, “He is the Messiah.” Still others asked, “How can the Messiah come from Galilee? 42 Does not Scripture say that the Messiah will come from David’s descendants and from Bethlehem, the town where David lived?” 43 Thus the people were divided because of Jesus.
Jesus’ challenges to the authorities and his incredible claims were received rather well. Some said, perhaps he is the prophet who was to announce the Messiah. Others said that he was indeed the Messiah. There seemed to be a general lack of knowledge about Jesus’ origins, because we also see other people saying they rejected Jesus’ claims on the grounds that he was not born in Bethlehem of Judea. One of the very interesting observations here is that the author of this Gospel does not feel any need to correct this misconception. Doubtless he knew that Jesus was in fact born in Bethlehem of Judea. Perhaps his point was simply to show that the public conversation about Jesus had picked up momentum, regardless of how people regarded the claims of Jesus.
44 Some wanted to seize him, but no one laid a hand on him. 45 Finally the temple guards went back to the chief priests and the Pharisees, who asked them, “Why didn’t you bring him in?” 46 “No one ever spoke the way this man does,” the guards replied. 47 “You mean he has deceived you also?” the Pharisees retorted.
When the temple guard, made up of Levitical priests, returned without having arrested Jesus and admitted that they themselves were impressed with Jesus, they met with a sharp rebuke based on the charge of disloyalty.
48 “Have any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed in him? 49 No! But this mob that knows nothing of the law—there is a curse on them.” 50 Nicodemus, who had gone to Jesus earlier and who was one of their own number, asked, 51 “Does our law condemn a man without first hearing him to find out what he has been doing?” 52 They replied, “Are you from Galilee, too? Look into it, and you will find that a prophet does not come out of Galilee.”
This de-legitimization of the Temple guard’s inaction was also challenged by the statement (also a mistaken one) that none of the Pharisees who were part of Sanhedrin accepted Jesus. It is of particular interest to this author to see how John treats this misconception. Instead of arguing that indeed there were pharisaic members of the Sanhedrin who displayed a profound interest in Jesus and his ministry (Rabbi, we know that you have come from God! (John 3)), John simply showed how those who rejected Jesus dismissed the testimony of those who voiced even tentative support of Jesus. Nicodemus is a case in point. When Nicodemus asked for the Sanhedrin’s hearing about Jesus, challenging its prejudgment as unlawful, they also accused him. The message was clear. If someone, regardless of their position, thought something positive about Jesus they could not voice it without being attacked.