32 The Pharisees heard the crowd muttering these things about him, and the chief priests and Pharisees sent officers to arrest him. 33 Jesus then said, “I will be with you a little longer, and then I am going to him who sent me. 34 You will seek me and you will not find me. Where I am you cannot come.” 35 The Jews said to one another, “Where does this man intend to go that we will not find him? Does he intend to go to the Dispersion among the Greeks and teach the Greeks? 36 What does he mean by saying, ‘You will seek me and you will not find me,’ and, ‘Where I am you cannot come’?”(John 7:32-36 (ESV)
When the Jews send soldiers to arrest Jesus, Jesus begins to speak of things to come. They will seek him and not find him. He will leave them. They think he is speaking merely of physical things. That he will retreat to the diaspora. They believe he means going to other colonies of Jews living throughout the Roman world. They chuckle at this a bit. It won’t be so easy for Jesus to find shelter among the Greeks is what they think. Already at this time there is animosity between Jew and gentile.
I think that is an aside I want to take for a minute. The Jews lived an uneasy existence in the diaspora long before Christianity came along. Christianity often gets blamed for anti-Semitism in the West. But I often wonder as I do my studies in early church history and the classical era if it might not have gone worse for the Jewish people if not for Christianity. I suppose it is all speculation in the end. Who could really know? But it does irk a little when Christianity is blamed for anti-Semitism as if it didn’t exist before Christianity came along. I don’t want to white wash or justify the horrible things done to Jewish people by Christians. You read the biography of “San” Juan Capistrano and you wonder how a city in California can stomach being named after him, why not just name the place Hitlerville. I do though wonder, because with Christianity there has always been a tension with Judaism that is tempered by the fact that Jesus himself was a Jew, that the entire New Testament as we have it was written by Jews except for two books. And there has also been the teaching of Jesus telling us to love our enemies. So where as I’m not surprised by the violence and hatred of sinners, and the hypocrisy of Christians. I do wonder if we can’t see that perhaps if it wasn’t for Christianity things might have gone even worse for the Jewish people after 70 A.D. when the Romans laid waste to the land of Israel?
In any case, Jesus isn’t talking about hiding among the gentiles. Instead, he is speaking prophetically of what will happen when the Jewish people succeed in arresting him and killing him. He will then depart from them, he will be taken to the gentiles. At that time he will become the savior of the world. The Jews will continue to seek their savior, and yet he will be where they will not find him, because salvation will not be found in the law, but only in the gospel, the forgiveness of sins.