As I read chapters seven through nine of John’s gospel, one word comes to mind most often: prejudice.
It doesn’t matter whether it is Jesus own family, “the people” (also known as “the crowd” in the other gospels), “the Jews” (John’s term for leaders of the Jewish people) or believers, they all come to Jesus with preconceived ideas about who he is based on what they think they know. These preconceptions (prejudices) get in the way of faith.
Jesus’ family thinks of him only in terms of a big brother who is trying to act above his station. The Jews look at him as a Galilean from Nazareth, an educated laborer whose knowledge of the law is remarkable. While they wonder where he got his smarts, they never get beyond wondering. The crowd knows he’s from Nazareth, but they don’t know his birth was in Bethlehem – and don’t bother trying to find out.
In any case, Jesus doesn’t fit their mold, and so, they reject him.
Sometimes, we’re a bit like them. We have our own ideas about law, politics, and social issues, ideas often poorly informed and seldom researched. Because we’re unwilling to see things differently, to examine them more closely, we draw inappropriate conclusions. We pigeon-hole people, short-changing their possibilities or over-estimating them.
We do it with Christianity too. We cannot always bring fresh vision to Bible study, but when we encounter teaching that does not match our preconceptions, our prejudices, we need to be willing, like Nicodemus, to give the other side a hearing. To fail to do it might be to miss seeing Jesus for who he really is, and keep us from being like him.