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John 7.1-2, 10, 25-30
Jesus went about in Galilee. He did not wish to go about in Judea because the Jews were looking for an opportunity to kill him. Now the Jewish festival of Booths was near. But after his brothers had gone to the festival, then he also went, not publicly but as it were in secret. Now some of the people of Jerusalem were saying, ‘Is not this the man whom they are trying to kill? And here he is, speaking openly, but they say nothing to him! Can it be that the authorities really know that this is the Messiah? Yet we know where this man is from; but when the Messiah comes, no one will know where he is from.’ Then Jesus cried out as he was teaching in the temple, ‘You know me, and you know where I am from. I have not come on my own. But the one who sent me is true, and you do not know him. I know him, because I am from him, and he sent me.’ Then they tried to arrest him, but no one laid hands on him, because his hour had not yet come.
The people of Jerusalem were saying: We know where this man is from; but when the Messiah comes, no one will know where he is from.
In recent days the world has become dogged by the crime of identity theft. This crime has existed for many ages of human history. Even in the book of Genesis we hear of Jacob disguising himself as his elder brother Esau, in order that he might receive the blessing of his father Isaac. Today, it is not just a matter of deceiving an elderly man as his eyesight is failing … identity theft has become so much more sophisticated than that. It involves the accrual of a great deal of personal information and the use of that information to create an illusion that will result in cheating an innocent person out of that which is rightly theirs.
In today’s reading we are challenged to consider the issue of identity. The Jews felt that they knew Jesus because they knew where he had been born and the details of his parentage and upbringing. With such an intimate level of knowledge the Jews felt certain that any claims of Messiahship were nonsense, based on an obvious deception. However, we know that those first-century Jews were wrong, just as we can be wrong when we think we have all the answers about someone’s identity and beliefs.
The Jews in today’s reading did not understand how Jesus could escape being arrested by the religious authorities. But, as we read: his hour had not yet come. The time of arrest, trial and execution would happen, but in God’s good time. Until the moment was right, Jesus was destined to walk free because he was so much more than the Jews could see with their own flawed vision.
As we journey through this world we are called to take on the identity of one who follows Christ. There is no membership card, PIN or password that will support this identity. It is an identity that we demonstrate through our words and actions. The true Christian is one who sets self to one side, and who loves and serves others. The true Christian is one who bears the light of Christ and shines that light into the darker corners of human existence. The true Christian is one whose humility is recognisable to those who think they have all the answers but have yet to travel the path prepared for them by their heavenly Father. True Christians constantly pray to God that their faith might lead them through the snares laid by the devil and those who distance themselves from God.