Jesus went about in Galilee. He did not wish to go about in Judea because the Jews were looking for an opportunity to kill him. Now the Jewish festival of Booths was near. But after his brothers had gone to the festival, then he also went, not publicly but as it were in secret. Now some of the people of Jerusalem were saying, ‘Is not this the man whom they are trying to kill? And here he is, speaking openly, but they say nothing to him! Can it be that the authorities really know that this is the Messiah? Yet we know where this man is from; but when the Messiah comes, no one will know where he is from.’
The festival of Booths (or the Feast of Tabernacles or Tents) is believed, by some scholars at least, to have been a commemoration of the forty years when the Jews wandered homeless through the desert. During the seven days of the feast they lived in tents.
It may have been an annual reminder that they came from nowhere. Where is a tent? Nowhere. It has no address.
But when they settled they settled in earnest. The place where a person lived became, in a way, his or her name: Mary of Magdala, Joseph of Arimathaea, Jesus of Nazareth….
“We know where this man comes from,” the people said. His identity was well pinned down. “You know me,” he said, “and you know where I am from!” They thought they knew exactly who he was: the carpenter from Nazareth. But he is going to tell them that they don't know him at all. Nazareth is not his identity. His identity is that he is sent by the Father. His real address is the Father.
Those people who were so certain about the identity of Jesus seemed equally certain about their own identity. But they came from nowhere, as the festival of Booths should have served to remind them. What really cripples people’s minds is not what they don't know but what they mistakenly think they know. There is an addiction to certainty that cares little about the truth. Some people don’t really want to know; they want to be certain. This is only an expression of their insecurity and their fear of the truth. They are afraid of their uncertainty so they cling to external ‘certainties’. Like everything false it is transparent in a person’s eyes: you can see there a vast unacknowledged indifference to the truth.
“I was sent by the One who is true, and you don’t know him. I know him for I come from him and he sent me.” This was his real identity. In our way, we too have to drop superficial identities and come to this realisation.
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