“I can do nothing on my own. I judge as God tells me. Therefore, my judgment is just, because I carry out the will of the one who sent me, not my own will.
“If I were to testify on my own behalf, my testimony would not be valid. But someone else is also testifying about me, and I assure you that everything he says about me is true. In fact, you sent investigators to listen to John the Baptist, and his testimony about me was true. Of course, I have no need of human witnesses, but I say these things so you might be saved. John was like a burning and shining lamp, and you were excited for a while about his message. But I have a greater witness than John—my teachings and my miracles. The Father gave me these works to accomplish, and they prove that he sent me. And the Father who sent me has testified about me himself. You have never heard his voice or seen him face to face, and you do not have his message in your hearts, because you do not believe me—the one he sent to you.
“You search the Scriptures because you think they give you [aiōnion] life. But the Scriptures point to me! Yet you refuse to come to me to receive this life.
“Your approval means nothing to me, because I know you don’t have God’s love within you. For I have come to you in my Father’s name, and you have rejected me. Yet if others come in their own name, you gladly welcome them. No wonder you can’t believe! For you gladly honor each other, but you don’t care about the honor that comes from the one who alone is God.
“Yet it isn’t I who will accuse you before the Father. Moses will accuse you! Yes, Moses, in whom you put your hopes. If you really believed Moses, you would believe me, because he wrote about me. But since you don’t believe what he wrote, how will you believe what I say?”
I had a Rector ask me one time, in front of a group of about 30, which came first, the Bible or the Book of Common Prayer. Let me back up a bit. We had been discussing and debating a passage from the Bible and I wasn’t submitting to his position. I don’t remember what it was now, but I knew I was right. His position was coming from what the Prayer Book stated, while my position was coming from what the Bible passage stated. Finally, as the tension in the room continued to mount, he asked me which one was published first. I said, “The Bible.”
“Wrong. It was the Prayer Book.”
And that was it. His point was that the Prayer Book had precedence over the Bible since it was published first. Therefore, he was right.
Of course, he wasn’t. The first Book of Common Prayer was published in 1549. Whereas the oldest copy of the complete Christian Bible dates back to the 4th century. While that Bible is in Greek, the oldest English translation was in the late 14th century. In both cases, the Bible predates the Book of Common Prayer by quite some time.
As I stated, I don’t remember what the argument was over, but the message was heard loud and clear - don’t argue with the Rector. Especially in front of other people.
I wonder if a lot of the arguments Jesus had with the Religious Elite stemmed from the same type of place. That is, I hadn’t had any “real” theological or pastoral or liturgical training. All of my training was done on my own. I just had a love for Jesus, the Scriptures, and theology. Whereas the Rector had a masters degree and had passed through seminary with some of the highest marks the school had ever seen (which he stated numerous times). When Jesus was a lad, it was said that he was found in the Temple, listening to the teachers and questioning them. One time when Jesus was teaching, people started asking each other, “Where did he get this wisdom? Where did he get the power to work miracles? Isn’t he the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother named Mary? Aren’t James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas his brothers? And his sisters, aren’t they here with us? Where did this man get all this?”
Now, let me be clear. I’m not saying that I’m like Jesus in this regard. Far, far from it. What I’m getting at is that some people who have higher education degrees think that people without them can’t possibly be right about things they have their degrees in. And sometimes when they feel threatened, instead of humbly admitting they were wrong, they put down their opponents while making themselves look superior.
That’s what I take from Jesus’ statements here. He’s saying that they have become blinded to what G_d is doing because of their own learning. That they can’t see that G_d is working through Jesus to bring about what they have always hoped for.
All of us can fall into this same trap. I have done it myself. We can hold so tightly to what our traditions say is right, that G_d can be right in front of us speaking to us through someone (or something) else and we can completely miss it because it doesn’t look like we think it should look.
Jesus told them, “You search the Scriptures because you think they give you [aiōnion] life. But the Scriptures point to me! Yet you refuse to come to me to receive this life.” We must be careful lest we trip over the same stone. The Bible (and all holy books), our traditions, the Religious Institutions, etc., are all sign posts. They point away from themselves to G_d. If we don’t recognize that, then they have become traps and idols. The life of the ages is not found in these things. All they can do is point us to where that life can be found. And here’s the scary part...
They all point to paths that aren’t on the map.
This path in the inward, silent path that leads to the depths of our souls and the to throneroom of G_d. We must do the hard work of walking the path, following The Way, that leads us to Life.
In the Love of the Three in One,
Br Jack+, LC