Today's gospel, which is taken from the Gospel according to John, we read the following.- “ On the last day of the festival, the great day, while Jesus was standing there, he cried out, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, ‘Out of the believer's heart shall flow rivers of living water.’” Now he said this about the Spirit, which believers in him were to receive; for as yet there was no Spirit because Jesus was not yet glorified.
When they heard these words, some in the crowd said, “This is really the prophet.” Others said, “This is the Messiah.” But some asked, “Surely the Messiah does not come from Galilee, does he? Has not the scripture said that the Messiah is descended from David and comes from Bethlehem, the village where David lived?” So, there was a division in the crowd because of him. Some of them wanted to arrest him, but no one laid hands on him. Then, the temple police went back to the chief priests and Pharisees, who asked them, “Why did you not arrest him?” The police answered, “Never has anyone spoken like this!” Then the Pharisees replied, “Surely you have not been deceived too, have you? Has any one of the authorities or of the Pharisees believed in him? But this crowd, which does not know the law—they are accursed.” Nicodemus, who had gone to Jesus before and who was one of them, asked, “Our law does not judge people without first giving them a hearing to find out what they are doing, does it?” They replied, “Surely you are not also from Galilee, are you? Search, and you will see that no prophet is to arise from Galilee.” (John 7:37-52).
In the first part of this narrative, we see Jesus talking about one of the essential things in our lives: water, and inviting people to be that fountain. In the following verse, he is talking about receiving the Holy Spirit. In other words, he is mentioning Pentecost, which he will send to his disciples after his assumption.
People and even the police were amazed by how he talked and preached. After this incident, we see a debate or argument between the Pharisees and law teachers. The main purpose of their argument was about Jesus being the Messiah they were waiting for because, according to the prophecy, the Messiah would not be from Galilee but from the seed of the prophet David and born in Bethlehem. In other words, the Messiah would be from Bethlehem. But also, the people, the Pharisees, and the teachers of the law did not know that Jesus was from Bethlehem because when Jesus was born, King Herod had killed all the children. Therefore, it did not even occur to them that Jesus himself could be the expected savior, “Messiah.” It was there that someone named Nicodemus, who himself was part of that group of Pharisees and who had previously met Jesus at night, as we read in the 3rd chapter of the Gospel of John, said the following. “Our law does not judge people without first giving them a hearing to find out what they are doing.”
Before talking about this powerful and meaningful sentence, I want to mention a few things about Nicodemus. As we know, he was one of the brilliant teachers of his time; everyone respected him. And this means that he was well-educated about the Jewish religion and culture. The reason for his answer to his colleague wasn’t from his being educated; it was from the meeting he had with Jesus before. You can read John Chapter 3.1-12 and see how Nicodemus realized the truth there. The message of this explanation is that we can see how Jesus can change people's hearts and minds. In the same way, Jesus can change our lives if we go to him.
Now, let's focus on Nicodemus's powerful question. "Does our law condemn a man without first hearing him?" In these words, we find a plea for fairness, an insistence on due process, and an implicit call for justice. This question is as relevant today as it was then. How often do we rush to judgment without seeking the whole truth? How often do we witness injustice and remain silent? Whenever we face a conflict or meet with people, remember the narrative that Jesus talked about, “Judging Others.” The question that I want to ask today is, are we perfect? Nicodemus's statement emphasizes the importance of allowing people to share their perspectives and defend themselves before making judgments based on assumptions or hearsay. Here, I want to highlight an issue: we get confused about speaking the truth and hurting the person.
There are some steps that we must go through before we speak about the truth. We must be sure that what we know is the absolute truth. After going through this step, we must be careful not to slander the person but to speak to the person. This is what Nicodemus was suggesting to his colleagues. There is a big difference between speaking, working for the truth, and destroying the person. When we want to criticize, our critiques must be helpful and instructional. Otherwise, it is easy to speak whenever we find out that the person is lying. In every situation, put yourself in the place that you are the one that is lying; how would you want to behave others with you? For sure, you were going to get frustrated when someone came to you and, in front of everyone, told you that you were lying, right? In this understanding, we must act and behave to others and think about them. No matter what, we must respect others' personalities and feelings.
I want to close my sermon by saying the following verse: “For with the judgment you make, you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get.” (Matthew 7.2). May God Bless you.