People Who Go Back And Forth

Our gospel today (John 7, 1-2,10,25-30) recalls Jesus’ visit to Jerusalem for the feast of Tabernacles, a popular autumn feast drawing crowds of visitors to the city. News of his teaching and the wonders he worked in Galilee had already reached the center of Judaism. John describes the reaction of the Jewish leaders: “the Jews were trying to kill him.” Along with them, his coming also draws the attention of “the inhabitants of the city.”

Who are they?

“The inhabitants of the city” are not the leaders who later put him to death. They’re the ordinary public who watch the leaders, who know what’s happening in the city, who follow trends and pass gossip. They watch Jesus with curiosity as he enters the temple area and teaches.

“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’re people who go back and forth, the undecided who wait to see who wins before taking sides. Like Pilate, they would rather wash their hands of blame, but they’re involved just the same.

Jesus does not absolve them from responsibility. In John’s gospel, though immediate blame for rejecting him and putting him to death falls on the Jewish leaders, the “inhabitants of Jerusalem” are also responsible for their blindness to the Word in their midst.

In the larger perspective, then, aren’t we all “inhabitants of Jerusalem” who bear responsibility for not recognizing Jesus and putting him to death? Our Christian tradition sees the sins of us all responsible for the Passion of Jesus.

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