John 8.47-59 CEB: God’s children listen to God’s words. You don’t listen to me because you aren’t God’s children.”
The Jewish opposition answered, “We were right to say that you are a Samaritan and have a demon, weren’t we?”
“I don’t have a demon,” Jesus replied. “But I honor my Father and you dishonor me. I’m not trying to bring glory to myself. There’s one who is seeking to glorify me, and he’s the judge. I assure you that whoever keeps my word will never die.”
The Jewish opposition said to Jesus, “Now we know that you have a demon. Abraham and the prophets died, yet you say, ‘Whoever keeps my word will never die.’ Are you greater than our father Abraham? He died and the prophets died, so who do you make yourself out to be?”
Jesus answered, “If I glorify myself, my glory is meaningless. My Father, who you say is your God, is the one who glorifies me. You don’t know him, but I do. If I said I didn’t know him, I would be like you, a liar. But I do know him, and I keep his word. Your father Abraham was overjoyed that he would see my day. He saw it and was happy.”
“You aren’t even 50 years old!” the Jewish opposition replied. “How can you say that you have seen Abraham?”
“I assure you,” Jesus replied, “before Abraham was, I Am.” So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and left the temple.
Ouch. What a very heated and tense conversation. We’ve probably all been in these types of conversations. I can imagine being in the crowd, a follower of Jesus, listening to him teach. Out of the corner of my eye I notice the ‘Jewish opposition’ swarming in on the crowd breaking it up. Like so many others, we blend in to the background, behind others standing around.
The conversation starts out pretty direct and gets more and more heated. I start to feel a little bit uncomfortable. Heck, who am I kidding? I start to get a lot uncomfortable. All the while I notice that Jesus, even though he is just giving it to the ‘Jewish opposition’, seems to be in complete control. The voices from the opposition are getting louder and louder while Jesus’ is maintaining the same tone and emphasis.
Finally, the ‘Jewish opposition’ no longer seems to care whose around. Before, when things were getting out of hand, and while I’m pretty certain they wanted to kill Jesus right where he stood, they were afraid of the rest of us starting a revolt against them. But not this time. This time they start picking up stones to throw at Jesus. And, just like him, he doesn’t retaliate. He simply just blended in the crowd and walked away.
How quickly do we become the ‘Jewish opposition’ to new ideas and ways of seeing or understanding the Scriptures or doctrine? How often do we automatically assume that we know all there is to know about such things? Do we even recognize that our understanding is a progressive journey? That our understanding of God has changed over the years?
For example, I used to think that God was only concerned about the individual - me specifically! Then I started to see that God was concerned about the community as a whole. Further on, I saw that God was concerned with the poor and marginalized (I know, right? Who would have thought?). And then, later still, that God was concerned with this planet and how we treat it and each other. Now, these stages were not over night but throughout my entire life. I know quite clearly that I would not have been able to ‘see’ my latest understandings at the beginning of my journey. I wasn’t at a place to receive it. Likewise, God told Moses that Abraham and Sarah only knew God in a limited way and that Moses would know God in a fuller way - not the fullest way, but more than Abraham knew God. The Prophets show us even more of God than what Moses knew. And it’s not until Jesus, wrote St Paul, that we see the fullest, best, most complete understanding of God. It is in Jesus of Nazareth that God is fully revealed.
So, again, how quickly do we embrace new insight about God when we see it? Or, do we react like the ‘Jewish opposition’ of Jesus’ day? I can see in this passage a great wake-up call to us. For us to stop, look, and listen. It may be that God is speaking to us through others and we are missing it because it’s radically different from what we’ve seen before.
In the Love of the Three in One,
Br Jack+, LC