Glimpses of Jesus' journey into loneliness seasons nearly every page of the gospels. Never more so than here in John 7:14-24. Our familiarity with the story, blinds our eye, at least mine, most often to the deeply abiding ache of His clay.
Surrounded by the masses, even in the company of His friends, a loneliness of soul remained a steady companion. And always the invitation ... If anyone chooses ...
They chose. We choose. And the choice, one by one, increases His pain ... would that it were different. But it's not.
Hear it, as Jesus' speaks in the temple courts? His visit comes midway through the Feast, when the courtyard knew the greatest visitation. When His offering of truth, of self, reached out to the largest numbers of souls.
" My teaching is not My own. It comes from Him who sent Me. If anyone chooses to do God's will, he will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own ."
Jesus spoke not to strangers of the message, to those to whom Jehovah stood a veiled mystery, to a world void of Truth's Voice. Jesus spoke to the Father's chosen, to the Apple of God's eye. He spoke into ears and hearts trained up in the very words of God, but they remained deaf to the message. Blind to Immanuel's presence.
If anyone chooses ....
Hear the words fall ... filled with the blessed rain of invitation? The RSVP written in scarlet, the promise of it first spilled in Eden's garden where clay first accepted deafness?
I hear it fall, amidst gnashing teeth rather than a hallowed hush. On fallow, rather than fertile soil.
If anyone ....
Such an aching plea propels those words of invitation ... and my own heart hurts at the absence of acceptance. Hurts from the piercing wound of each denial.
Every soul in that courtyard was driven there. On the surface driven there for the purpose of doing God's will. But God is not deceived by outward appearances. His gaze reaches to the uttermost depths of the heart ... where He sees ... where He searches out each man's truth.
Jesus' words in this overflowing temple courtyard bore the echo of words spoken earlier. How many present heard their resonance? How many tasted inward reflection, again, as Jesus' " If any chooses " wrote upon the soil of " You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life "?
As I think on these things, the ache won't go away ... in my own heart. How much greater the ache in His.
Not just for those standing in that courtyard yesterday, but for those standing in it today. For me.
How guilty I am of coming to this time of study absent the only fertile soil in which life can breath into me the Word of Life Himself.
"If anyone chooses to do God's will ..."
God's will is not a matter of choosing with the head ... but with the heart. Not a choosing of mental ascent, but a choosing of obedience ... obedience that wears out the shoe leather, that bloodies the knees ... that's borne on the wings of " Not my will, but Thine be done ." In the midst of professing godliness, they were choosing death. His. Their own.
The courtyard is full ... one of those hearts belongs to me. And I must ask myself this morning. Why am I here? What has driven me into His presence?
I hear Him ask the question. He sees the true answer, hidden in my heart. With grace's lens may He strip away my blindness that I may see ... and in the seeing choose only Him.