John 11:54 Jesus therefore no longer walked openly among the Jews, but went from there to the region near the wilderness, to a town called Ephraim, and there he stayed with the disciples. 55 Now the Passover of the Jews was at hand, and many went up from the country to Jerusalem before the Passover to purify themselves. 56 They were looking for Jesus and saying to one another as they stood in the temple, “What do you think? That he will not come to the feast at all?” 57 Now the chief priests and the Pharisees had given orders that if anyone knew where he was, he should let them know, so that they might arrest him. ESV
What is the general theme of the passage?
Passover is the annual “first-month” commemoration for the Jews of God’s provision of redemption for their ancestors. It’s an affirmation of a communal history but it’s also a time of instruction for the oldest to the youngest to remember and proclaim. “In every generation a man is bound to regard himself as though he personally had gone forth from Egypt.”a Passover is their personal commemoration of God’s intervention where death passed over His people to give them life free of slavery and the weight of history, to seek purity in their new beginning, from one year to the next. “Now the “Passover of the Jews” was at hand…They were looking for Jesus and saying to one another as they stood in the temple, What do you think? That he will not come to the feast at all?”
a Rabbi Gamaliel, Mishnah 116b.
What does it say about people?
There’s several amazing details in this story. They [the people] have come “to purify themselves…they were looking for Jesus” AND they’re talking to one another about it “as they stood in the temple.” Sometimes even in our ignorance we ask the right question at the right time in the right place: What do you think? That he will not come to the feast at all?”
Is there truth here for me?
It’s so like God to redefine life in “the region near the wilderness” — an uncultivated, uninhabited, and inhospitable region — a neglected or abandoned area of a garden or town — a position of disfavor, especially in a political contextb — into the place Jesus is prepared to complete the purpose of his last Passover: that my life might be Passed over from death to eternity, Prepared to live now in freedom, my heart changed to desire Purity and finally able to surrender the weight of sin to Jesus, the New Passover, once and for all.
b Oxford Languages definitions