Jesus said some stirring things to the crowd in the temple that day. Many of the people were convinced that he was the Christ, but as always, there were naysayers. It’s interesting to look at the arguments they use.
First there were the Fact-Checkers. “Surely the Christ is not going to come from Galilee, is He?” They pointed out that he was supposed to come from Bethlehem, of course, and I can almost see them wagging their heads wisely, “Mmm-hmm. This can’t possibly be the Messiah. Just an upstart Galilean.” The problem was that they only thought they had the facts. They hadn’t actually done any digging to find the truth. In that day when most people were probably born, lived their lives, and died within a few short miles, it probably never occurred to them that this Man had been born in Bethlehem and had taken a little tour into Egypt before settling in Galilee. So the Fact-Checkers were actually wrong. They didn’t have the facts.
Then came the Intellectual-Shamers. The officers sent to arrest Jesus were impressed by His words and came back empty-handed. Then the Shamers began: “You have not also been led astray, have you? No one of the rulers or Pharisees has believed in Him, has he?” In other words, if none of the ‘cool’ people believe, then you shouldn’t either. And the Shamers continued with, “But this crowd which does not know the Law is accursed.” They made it clear that anyone with any education whatsoever would certainly see that Jesus was not anyone of importance.
This is such a powerful method of persuasion that it is used constantly today in our political arena. If it’s impossible or inconvenient to find supporting facts, simply imply that one would have to be stupid to take another position, and people are motivated to agree, just so that they won’t look ignorant. After all, who wants to be identified with a “crowd which does not know the Law?”
When Nicodemus spoke up to point out Jesus’ rights according to the Law, the Shamers realized that one of their own was questioning them. Since they had just said that no Pharisee believed in Jesus, it was vital to put some distance between themselves and this doubter. So they tried to make Nicodemus look biased and unreliable. “You are not also from Galilee, are you?” And just to make sure, they capped it with, “Search and see that no prophet arises out of Galilee,” another appeal to intellectual snobbery.
But notice that in the process of attacking Nicodemus, they completely ignored his question! As so many do today in interviews and debates, the Pharisees slid right past the question, one that just happened to convict them of improper practice. They focused on smearing the speaker’s background and intelligence, but didn’t answer the question at all. They wanted to get rid of this Jesus who was threatening their authority, and they didn’t want anyone to notice that their methods might actually be illegal.
We see this misdirect all the time, and unfortunately, we probably use it ourselves. It is so much easier to attack another person than to examine our own actions. When we become defensive, it’s a good sign that we may be hiding something from ourselves.
Search me, O God, and know my heart:
try me, and know my thoughts:
And see if there be any wicked way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.