John 7:12 And there was considerable complaining about him among the crowds. While some were saying, “He is a good man,” others were saying, “No, he is deceiving the crowd.”
John 7:13 Yet no one would speak openly about him for fear of the Jews. (NRSV)
Jesus had come to Jerusalem to celebrate the festival of tabernacles. News of his activity had preceded him and there were those wondering what to think of this man. He had performed many miracles -- wouldn't that make him a good man? But the myriad of people who would have gathered there in Jerusalem would have a variety of opinions concerning Jesus. There were "disciples," the ones who were personally invested in Jesus and were following him around everywhere. Then, there were "his brethren," those who were his flesh and blood brothers, and yet they were not believers. "The Jews" were the officials, and they were certainly in opposition to this man. The crowds within the city included simply "the people," who were impressed with the miracles of this man, openly engaged in discussions regarding him, but certainly were not convinced that he was the Messiah. "The Pharisees" were there as well and, along with the official Jews were opposing Jesus. "The chief priests" were also present. These were those who served in the hierarchy of the Saduccees and they hated Jesus, "not for religious reasons like the Pharisees, but because they were sensual, time-serving materialists." Finally there is the Sanhedrin, made up of the Pharisees and the chief priests, where we find Nicodemus.(B. W. Johnson) They all had direct and personal contact with Jesus and they all had formed an opinion!
The varying opinions within the city resulted in "considerable complaining" or, as the NIV puts it "widespread whispering." Others have translated this as "much murmuring" -- but the original Greek is Goggusmos Polus. This is actually an onomatopoetic word -- meaning the word itself sounds much like what the people were doing. An awful lot (polus) of goggusmos!
While there was all this goggusmos going on about Jesus, people were afraid to openly speak their opinions. Therefore these discussions went on in the dark corners, hidden among the shadows, everyone with their own agenda. But for the most part, they wanted to be politically correct, and to be politically correct meant to stay on the good side of "the Jews." These were those in power and so they were to be placated.
Here, in one of the opening scenes of Jesus' life and ministry we find a variety of people, all seeking to save their own necks. They are shuffling for position in their minds and wondering just where might be the best place to align their allegiance. Obviously it is the religious officials who carry all the power, so to upset them was not a good thing. At the same time it was interesting watching this man Jesus. Who was he and what was he doing? The result was that the entire city was "unofficially" in an uproar over the man. The result was a lot of talk, but not much action. People were willing to stake their claims based on their own survivability, not on faith and/or belief in Jesus Christ. Sticking one's neck out to declare that this man was the Messiah would have been political and social suicide. No wonder Nicodemus came under the cover of darkness. Instead of taking a stand and declaring faith, it was easier to simply engage in the chatter -- in the goggusmos.
If we were to be completely honest with ourselves, we'd probably be engaging in the goggusmos, and probably not in a very positive way. When we are unsure of our faith, when it becomes difficult for us to stake our claim that Jesus is the Messiah -- then it becomes very easy to engage in goggusmos. The people murmuring and whispering were the ones who were unsure of their relationship with the Messiah. They were hedging their bets against his miraculous powers and the political power of the authorities. Somehow, standing in between the two, they were unable to make a claim one way or another, and spent their time in talk.
There comes a point and time in our relationship with Jesus Christ where talk becomes cheap. We must be willing to come out from the shadows and wholeheartedly proclaim that Jesus is Lord! We must be willing to publicly align ourselves with him and his rag-tag group of followers; the politically incorrect, the fishermen, and the women.
Jesus knew the different people within the city of Jerusalem, and he knew that they all had different opinions of him. Interestingly, he never avoided them - but went on to have direct contact with them, for to him, they were all his lost sheep. He loved every member of the crowd, hoping to bring them to salvation.
We must avoid the temptation to complain and to murmur and instead focus intently on our Savior, Jesus Christ, the one with whom we have fallen in love. We must be willing to stand with him in the midst of the conflicting voices in life and declare that he is our Lord. May we never live in the goggusmos, but in the fullness of a personal relationship with him.
Lord, I am grateful for your love. Please, help me to have the courage to stand with you. Amen.