Jesus went from Galilee up to Jerusalem for the feast of the Tabernacles where “the Jews were trying to kill him” , says John’s Gospel, our reading for today. (John 7, 1-39) Tabernacles was a popular Autumn feast, one of three Jewish feasts drawing crowds of visitors to the city. The “inhabitants of the city” notice him, John notes. Who are they?
They’re not the leaders who will later put him to death. They’re the ordinary people who watch the leaders, who know what’s happening in the city, who follow the trends and pass the gossip. They watch Jesus with curiosity as he enters the temple area and begins to teach.
“Do our leaders now believe he’s the Messiah?” “How can he be, because he’s from Galilee and no one will know where the Messiah is from?” They go back and forth– they’re the undecided who wait to see who wins before they take sides.
Jesus cried out against them, because they think they know what’s going on but know nothing. They are a far cry from the crowds in Capernaum that lined up around the door of Peter’s house when Jesus began his ministry. They stay at a distance and watch.
When we think about those responsible for the death of Jesus, we shouldn’t leave out “the inhabitants of the city.” Terrible things happen because the undecided choose to stay on the sidelines and watch.
The reading from the Book of Wisdom for today talks about people like that–the people who wait and see. “Let us see whether his words be true; let us find out what will happen to him.” (Wisdom 2,12-24)
Prayer helps us to see what is real, the spiritual masters teach. To see what is real we have to put aside the ordinary ways we see and judge and act. The way we think often blinds us to the truth. Then, we have to act. Whether we’re learned theologians, practiced priests, informed church-goers, or “inhabitants of Jerusalem” we need to humble ourselves before God.
We are the inhabitants of the city,
Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.