However, after his brothers had left for the festival, he went also, not publicly, but in secret. Now at the festival the Jewish leaders were watching for Jesus and asking, “Where is he?”
Among the crowds there was widespread whispering about him. Some said, “He is a good man.”
Others replied, “No, he deceives the people.” But no one would say anything publicly about him for fear of the leaders.
Despite telling his brothers that he wouldn't be going to the Festival of Tabernacles, Jesus went in secret. By arriving secretly, Jesus had the chance to hear the people's unfiltered opinions about him, which later provided a context for his teachings during the festival. It also showed his wisdom and prudence. While he never shied away from proclaiming the truth, he also knew when discretion was the better part of valor.
John paints a vivid picture of the atmosphere surrounding Jesus and his ministry. The air is thick with anticipation, curiosity, and caution. The public's perception of Jesus is divided, and this division is palpable. Some see Jesus as a good man, perhaps a prophet, while others view him as a deceiver. Yet, the most striking element is the pervasive silence: hushed tones, whispered conversations, and an obvious reluctance to speak about him openly.
This silence is not born out of indifference but out of fear. John clearly says that the people refrained from speaking publicly about Jesus because they feared the leaders. This fear underscores the power dynamics at play and the risks associated with aligning oneself with Jesus.
But there's a deeper layer to consider. The whispers about Jesus, whether affirming or accusing, reflect the human tendency to deal with the unknown. Jesus, with his unique teaching style and the miracles he performed, was an enigma. People were trying to fit him into their existing frameworks of understanding, and he didn't neatly fit. So, they weren't sure what to do.
All this is so relevant to us. We, too, are often reluctant to associate with people our leaders have deemed outcasts because we fear we might become outcasts too. When people don't fit into the frameworks of our understanding, we don't know how to deal with them either.
And when it comes to Jesus, there are still so many diverse opinions about him today, with many people unable to determine who he truly is. While some recognize him as the Son of God, many can only see him as a wise teacher or a prophet. And, just as in Jesus' time, societal pressures and fears can influence these perceptions.
The challenge for all of us today, as it was then, is to move beyond the whispers and seek a personal encounter with Jesus. And as Jesus is someone who reveals himself, we will meet him. Once we have done so, we must have the courage to proclaim him openly, regardless of societal pressures. The Holy Spirit will give us the words we need to say.
God bless you.