When people manipulate words, even scripture, with the sole purpose of supporting their own point of view, instead of the truth, they are using a form of sophistry. Sophistry could also describe the logic used by a lawyer intent upon persuading a jury to find a criminal not guilty. The word sophistry describes the language and logic used by the scribes and pharisees in today’s gospel
The crowd listened to Jesus when He preached with their hearts. They recognized that Jesus spoke with authority and power, not just empty words. These simple folk could state that, “This is truly the Prophet.” Others said, “This is the Christ.” Even the temple guards dared to stand up to the pharisees by refusing to arrest Jesus when they declared, “Never before has anyone spoken like this man.”
Yet even some in the crowd used scripture like the pharisees; they picked out verses from here and there which supported their view that Jesus could not possibly be the Christ. When Nicodemus, one of their own dares to speak out a different truth, the other pharisees shout him down and quote another scripture out of context. We all can dig up scripture, take it out of context and use it to support our own pet theory, from everything to stoning homosexuals and prostitutes to enslaving other human beings, to denying that Jesus is the Christ.
Today’s reading from Jeremiah and the Responsorial Psalm focus not just on intellectual word games, but on the lamb slaughtered. Although betrayed, Christ clings to the truth that God will defend the innocent. Even though Jesus appears to be abandoned by God, He knows that surface appearances are deceptive.,Even facing betrayal and the cross, Christ repeats the words of the psalm, “O Lord, my God, in you I take refuge.”