John 7:33-36 (NIV)
Jesus said, “I am with you for only a short time, and then I go to the one who sent me. You will look for me, but you will not find me; and where I am, you cannot come.”
The Jews said to one another, “Where does this man intend to go that we cannot find him? Will he go where our people live scattered among the Greeks, and teach the Greeks? What did he mean when he said, ‘You will look for me, but you will not find me,’ and ‘Where I am, you cannot come’?”
While the plot against Jesus was unfolding, Jesus simply continued to teach the people in the temple courts. Woven into that teaching was the warning that the people would not have an unlimited amount of time to listen to Him and to believe in Him; there was a finite window. At this point, in fact, Jesus’ time among the people was already approaching the halfway point.
Of course, even though Jesus was very clear about the circumstances of His departure, the people did not get it. “I go to the one who sent me” is actually very clear IF you are willing to receive the fact that He was sent from God’s throne to do the work He was involved in. He was simply letting them know that He would not be around forever, as popular Messianic theology portrayed. His time on earth among God’s people would soon draw to a close, and then He would return to heaven from whence He had been sent.
But the people had no clear frame of reference from which to correctly interpret His words. Enoch and Elijah had both been taken bodily to heaven when their time on earth was completed, but those were incredibly rare exceptions. Everyone else, when they said that they were leaving, or were returning to the one who had sent them, were signaling that they would be leaving for another city, or maybe even another country.
Jesus’ words were so strong that the people interpreted His meaning in the most drastic way that they could imagine. They opined that He probably meant that He would be leaving the country to preach and heal among the Jewish people who lived elsewhere in the Roman Empire among the Greek-speaking gentiles. Maybe He would even teach those gentiles about the true God and His kingdom.
All of that fit into their information set and their worldview. But, like nearly all human reasoning applied to God and His kingdom, it was dead wrong. But Jesus still had a way to go. He would be back to the city several more times before the final scenes of His mission were played out.
Father, You make a really good point. Human reasoning, no matter how heartfelt or educated, is no substitute for Your clear revelation. We will always get it wrong, limit Your plans in our minds to what we see as necessary and achievable, and thus shoot far, far too low. Help us, Lord, to simply receive Your word, Your instruction, and Your promises as given, so that we can live every day in them. Amen.