Scripture: John 7:14-18
About the middle of the festival Jesus went up into the temple and began to teach. The Jews were astonished at it, saying, “How does this man have such learning, when he has never been taught?” Then Jesus answered them, “My teaching is not mine but his who sent me. Anyone who resolves to do the will of God will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own. Those who speak on their own seek their own glory; but the one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and there is nothing false in him.
As the Festival of Booths lingers on, Jesus finally decides it’s time to speak. So, he finds his way to the temple and begins to teach the people. And apparently the things he says – the truths that he reveals to them – are powerful, intelligent, and compelling. None of them seems to question or disagree with anything he’s saying. Instead, they’re perplexed at how this poor Nazarene can preach with such authority and conviction when he has no formal education.
The crowd asks aloud, “How does this man have such learning, when he has never been taught?” Friends, this may in fact be the most humbling verse in all of scripture for clergy persons. It could really apply to anyone in a field where higher education or philosophical ponderings are part of the job description. But it’s especially important for people like me who are trained in the fields of theology, church history, and biblical studies to consider that the wisdom of God doesn’t necessarily come from books. Those who utter the word of God truthfully do it through the power of the Holy Spirit. Now, the formal education can help fill out the details, and the Holy Spirit has often inspired me through academics. Yet, it is not through that alone that God speaks. He delivers his truth through people who love him, and who allow the Holy Spirit to inspire them. Jesus’ lack of education opens up the possibility that all people can be vessels of God’s word, and thus speak his truth. As a clergy person, I am thankful for this because it frees me from the responsibility of having to know everything. It gives me the confidence that I can forever keep on learning more about God from people everywhere, no matter what their background might be. That’s true for me, and it’s true for you, too.
God of wisdom and learning, thank you breaking down the false barriers of “learned” and “unlearned” through the ministry of Jesus. For he came as a poor man with no credentials other than the inspiration of the Holy Spirit… and that was enough. Grant us the humility and the desire to grow in our knowledge of you, no matter who it is teaching your truth. Amen.