Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM


 "He who is of God hears God's words; therefore you do not hear, because you are not of God."  Then the Jews answered and said to Him, "Do we not say rightly that You are a Samaritan and have a demon?"  Jesus answered, "I do not have a demon; but I honor My Father, and you dishonor Me.  And I do not seek My own glory; there is One who seeks and judges.  Most assuredly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word he shall never see death."

Then the Jews said to Him, "Now we know that You have a demon!  Abraham is dead, and the prophets; and You say, 'If anyone keeps My word he shall never taste death.'  Are You greater than our father Abraham, who is dead?  And the prophets are dead.  Who do You make Yourself out to be?"  Jesus answered, "If I honor Myself, My honor is nothing.  It is My Father who honors Me, of whom you say that He is your God.  Yet you have not known Him, but I know Him.  And if I say, 'I do not know Him,' I shall be a liar like you; but I do know Him and keep His word.  Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad."  Then the Jews said to Him, "You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?"  Jesus said to them, "Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM."  Then they took up stones to throw at Him; but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by.

- John 8:47-59

In recent readings, Jesus has been in Jerusalem, at the Feast of Tabernacles.  We are in the midst of a dialogue, begun on the last day of the eight-day feast, with the leadership in the temple.   See the earlier readings from Friday, Saturday, and Monday.  In yesterday's reading, the leadership answered Him, "We are Abraham's descendants, and have never been in bondage to anyone.  How can You say, 'You will be made free'?"  Jesus answered them, "Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin.  And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever.  Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.  I know that you are Abraham's descendants, but you seek to kill Me, because My word has no place in you.  I speak what I have seen with My Father, and you do what you have seen with your father."  They answered and said to Him, "Abraham is our father."  Jesus said to them, "If you were Abraham's children, you would do the works of Abraham.  But now you seek to kill Me, a Man who has told you the truth which I heard from God.  Abraham did not do this.  You do the deeds of your father."  Then they said to Him, "We were not born of fornication; we have one Father -- God."  Jesus said to them, "If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and came from God; nor have I come of Myself, but He sent Me.  Why do you not understand My speech?  Because you are not able to listen to My word.  You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do.  He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him.  When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it.  But because I tell the truth, you do not believe Me.  Which of you convicts Me of sin?  And if I tell the truth, why do you not believe Me?  He who is of God hears God's words; therefore you do not hear, because you are not of God."

"He who is of God hears God's words; therefore you do not hear, because you are not of God."  Then the Jews answered and said to Him, "Do we not say rightly that You are a Samaritan and have a demon?"  Jesus answered, "I do not have a demon; but I honor My Father, and you dishonor Me.  And I do not seek My own glory; there is One who seeks and judges.  Most assuredly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word he shall never see death."  My study bible points out here that the leadership has been unable to defeat Christ through logic or truth.  Here, they're resorting to personal insults.  Jesus reiterates His relationship with the Father, and the power of life in that relationship -- into which He invites all through faith.

Then the Jews said to Him, "Now we know that You have a demon!  Abraham is dead, and the prophets; and You say, 'If anyone keeps My word he shall never taste death.'  Are You greater than our father Abraham, who is dead?  And the prophets are dead.  Who do You make Yourself out to be?"  Jesus answered, "If I honor Myself, My honor is nothing.  It is My Father who honors Me, of whom you say that He is your God.  Yet you have not known Him, but I know Him.  And if I say, 'I do not know Him,' I shall be a liar like you; but I do know Him and keep His word.  Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad."  Once again, we are to remember that in John's Gospel, the term "the Jews" is used to refer to the religious leadership.  Jesus once again responds regarding witnesses to His identity (see this reading for His earlier citing of four witnesses to His identity, including God the Father).  Where does honor come from?  The Father is One who honors Him, who is witness to His identity as Son.  But they don't truly know God, in the fullness of what that means, to know a  Person.  He refers them back to Abraham, whose faith sealed him in relationship to God and who rejoiced to see His day, this time of the Incarnation, of the Christ.

Then the Jews said to Him, "You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?"  Jesus said to them, "Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM."  Then they took up stones to throw at Him; but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by.  The leadership focuses on discrediting Jesus; he is either crazy, a "Samaritan," or has a demon.  But Jesus chooses His words deliberately.  I AM (in the Greek, ego eimi) is the divine name of God in the Old Testament, which was first revealed to Moses at the burning bush (Exodus 3:13-15).   My study bible says that to these men, this was a direct, explicit, and unmistakable claim to perfect equality with God, as we can see by their reaction to Him (they took up stones to throw at Him -- see also Mark 14:62-64).  John puts particular emphasis on the use of this Name in order to clearly reveal Christ as God.  This divine claim, says my study bible, illuminates Christ's authority even over death, a power that belongs only to God the Father. 

Jesus speaks very boldly in this confrontation and dialogue with the religious leadership.  He doesn't hide His identity.  When they push Him and insult Him, He goes even more boldly forward in a declaration of identity with God, conveying equality in His statement.  How can this be?  The reaction from the leadership is one of pure fury at what they perceive is blasphemy; they are ready to stone Him to death on the spot.  We have to pause and ask ourselves why God comes to the world as a Man, if it is going to create such a disturbance in this religious leadership.  Wouldn't it be better if this dispensation into the world took o a form more acceptable to them?  Should Jesus have taken on aspects of public relations that made Him more palatable to these men in charge of the religious life of the people?  One must consider first of all Jesus' response to them, that they are the descendants of the ones who stoned and killed the prophets as well.  It seems that the word of God coming repeatedly throughout history, calling the people back to God, was met in the same way, with the same impulse to shut down, to banish, even to murder the messengers.  Jesus has clearly aligned Himself with the voices of the prophets from the history of Jewish spiritual life.  It seems that this great dispensation of the Incarnation, also spoken of by the prophets, even the day which Abraham rejoiced to see, was to be met with such a reaction by those who jealously guard their places of leadership, their power with the people.  Christ's life in the world as incarnate Man is a gift to the world, but one not so easy to accept by everyone.  His truth presents challenges, and asks us to be drawn forward into deeper relationship with God, and also into a greater understanding of the reality of God.  But this is the mission, this is the thing Christ has been entrusted to do for all of us.  It is up to us whether or not we can come along into the life He promises, into the faith He asks, into the relationship He offers as human being, God Incarnate.  It's not just these men who are challenged, and Jesus is not in the world on a public relations mission.  He's in the world on a saving mission of the gift of life in abundance, life everlasting.  We are all extended an invitation with the gift.  Everything is about whether or not we can accept it.  Clearly it has reached the point where these men simply cannot hear the words given to Him by God.  Jesus knows this, and He tells us why not:  they are not of God.  But Jesus continues, and continually speaks, to each of us.





Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin. And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever


 They answered Him, "We are Abraham's descendants, and have never been in bondage to anyone.  How can You say, 'You will be made free'?"  Jesus answered them, "Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin.  And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever.  Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.  I know that you are Abraham's descendants, but you seek to kill Me, because My word has no place in you.  I speak what I have seen with My Father, and you do what you have seen with your father."  They answered and said to Him, "Abraham is our father."  Jesus said to them, "If you were Abraham's children, you would do the works of Abraham.  But now you seek to kill Me, a Man who has told you the truth which I heard from God.  Abraham did not do this.  You do the deeds of your father."  Then they said to Him, "We were not born of fornication; we have one Father -- God."  Jesus said to them, "If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and came from God; nor have I come of Myself, but He sent Me.  Why do you not understand My speech?  Because you are not able to listen to My word.  You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do.  He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him.  When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it.  But because I tell the truth, you do not believe Me.  Which of you convicts Me of sin?  And if I tell the truth, why do you not believe Me?  He who is of God hears God's words; therefore you do not hear, because you are not of God."

- John 8:33-47 

 In our current readings, Jesus is at the Feast of Tabernacles, and teaching daily in the temple in Jerusalem.  He has been in dialogue and confrontation with the religious leadership.  It is now the last day of the eight-day feast, and Jesus has been addressing the leadership.   For the earlier parts of this current dialogue, see the readings from Friday and Saturday.  Yesterday, we read that Jesus said to them again, "I am going away and you will seek Me, and will die in your sin.  Where I go you cannot come."  So the Jews said, "Will He kill Himself, because He says, 'Where I go you cannot come'?"  And He said to them, "You are from beneath; I am from above.  You are of this world; I am not of this world.  Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins."  Then they said to Him, "Who are You?"  And Jesus said to them, "Just what I have been saying to you from the beginning.  I have many things to judge concerning you, but He who sent Me is true; and I speak to the world those things which I heard from Him."  They did not understand that He spoke to them of the Father.  Then Jesus said to them, When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and that I do nothing of Myself; but as My Father taught Me, I speak these things.  And He who sent Me is with Me.  The Father has not left Me alone, for I always do those things that please Him."  As He spoke these words, many believed in Him.  Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, "If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed.  And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free."

 They answered Him, "We are Abraham's descendants, and have never been in bondage to anyone.  How can You say, 'You will be made free'?"  Jesus answered them, "Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin.  And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever.  Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.  I know that you are Abraham's descendants, but you seek to kill Me, because My word has no place in you.  I speak what I have seen with My Father, and you do what you have seen with your father."  They answered and said to Him, "Abraham is our father."  Jesus said to them, "If you were Abraham's children, you would do the works of Abraham."  My study bible says here that it is not enough to be related simply by blood to Abraham.  To be Abraham's true children it's necessary to share his faith and virtue (Luke 3:8).   My study bible cites St. John Chrysostom, who taught that Christ wanted to detach the Jews from racial pride and teach them no longer to place their hope of salvation in being of the race of Abraham's children by nature.  Rather they should come to faith by their own free will.  The idea that being a descendant of Abraham was enough for salvation is the very thing that prevented them from coming to Christ.

"But now you seek to kill Me, a Man who has told you the truth which I heard from God.  Abraham did not do this.  You do the deeds of your father."  Then they said to Him, "We were not born of fornication; we have one Father -- God."  Jesus said to them, "If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and came from God; nor have I come of Myself, but He sent Me."  Christ again refers back to His relationship to the Father.  Here He emphasizes that He was sent from the Father to His Incarnation on earth.

"Why do you not understand My speech?  Because you are not able to listen to My word.  You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do.  He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him.  When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it.  But because I tell the truth, you do not believe Me.  Which of you convicts Me of sin?  And if I tell the truth, why do you not believe Me?  He who is of God hears God's words; therefore you do not hear, because you are not of God."  My study bible tells us that just as being a child of Abraham is based on sharing his attributes (above), likewise, those who reject Christ share the same attributes as the devil.  This particularly manifests as a hatred for truth.  (See yesterday's reading for a discussion of truth.)   This hatred justifies calling them the devil's children.

In yesterday's reading, we discussed the concept of truth, especially the truth that is Christ ("I am the way, the truth, and the life" - John 14:6).  Here Jesus speaks about the opposite of truth, the hatred of truth.  In yesterday's reading, He taught "If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed.  And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free."  In today's reading, Jesus begins to address the opposite of freedom, slavery -- and its relationship to the rejection of truth.  All of this is linked to the personal relationship (as in a relationship of persons) to the Son.  Abiding in His word creates sonship, the freedom of full belonging, something akin to the fullness of citizenship but with the greater blessings of inheritance.  But to actively reject His word, this truth, is slavery, and worse.  It not  only produces the state of slavery to sin, but allies with the one who hates the truth of God.  In this sort of slavery, relationships are reduced to forms of power hierarchies, exploitation, and manipulation.  Persons are diminished to things, which are useful or not -- or they become obstacles to our desires.  Without discernment, without "righteous judgment," we may become willingly compliant.  To be unable to listen to His word is to ally with that which hates truth, and to inherit the place of the one who rejects, who lies, and who was a murderer from the beginning.  Such hatred results in the desire to kill Christ, to kill God's messengers, the ones who bear this word -- including the prophets who came before Christ (see Matthew 23:31).   At a fundamental level, there is a part of us that rejects or accepts the spiritual truth that Christ brings into the world, the word of God He speaks.  And Jesus presents this within the fullness of relationship and relatedness, not an intellectual debate.  This kind of truth is something that has power to it, and depth of meaning that keeps on giving the longer one pursues a life based on finding its fullness.  It creates true relationship, and it is born out of the love of God that would give us life eternally and in abundance.  This relationship permeates and supersedes all others.  It teaches love.  All of that is what is tied up in active rejection and hatred of it -- and all of that is what is lost.  Jesus teaches these men that to be true children of Abraham is to live as did Abraham, in faith and love of truth, of God and God's word.  Abraham was taken out of his home in Ur, and sent to live far away, led by the word of God and the love of God, by faith.  So the challenge is before these men:  can they go where the Word is taking them?  Can they accept what He teaches?  We're told that among them there were those who believed -- can they make the same journey that Abraham did?  And can we?  The spiritual truth of Christ comes to us and pulls us out of our sense of who we are.  It takes us beyond what we think we know, what identity we cling to.  It always promises us more life, life in abundance, something beyond our particular comfort zone, and into a greater fullness of its promise.  It wants to give us its full freedom from slavery.  Can we follow where He leads?  Do we love the truth that much?



Monday, August 29, 2016

If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free


 Then Jesus said to them again, "I am going away and you will seek Me, and will die in your sin.  Where I go you cannot come."  So the Jews said, "Will He kill Himself, because He says, 'Where I go you cannot come'?"  And He said to them, "You are from beneath; I am from above.  You are of this world; I am not of this world.  Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins."  Then they said to Him, "Who are You?"  And Jesus said to them, "Just what I have been saying to you from the beginning.  I have many things to judge concerning you, but He who sent Me is true; and I speak to the world those things which I heard from Him."  They did not understand that He spoke to them of the Father.  Then Jesus said to them, When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and that I do nothing of Myself; but as My Father taught Me, I speak these things.  And He who sent Me is with Me.  The Father has not left Me alone, for I always do those things that please Him."  As He spoke these words, many believed in Him.

Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, "If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed.  And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free."

- John 8:21-32

In our current readings, Jesus is in Jerusalem at the Feast of Tabernacles.  It is now the eighth day, the last day of the feast, when water is first taken from the pool of Siloam for a particular ceremony commemorating the water from a rock struck by Moses, and great lamps are lit in the outer court of the temple imaging the pillar of fire by which God led the Israelites by night.   In Friday's reading, Jesus taught, "He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water."  On Saturday, we read that Jesus spoke to them again, saying, "I am the light of the world.  He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life."  The Pharisees therefore said to Him, "You bear witness of Yourself; Your witness is not true."  Jesus answered and said to them, "Even if I bear witness of Myself, My witness is true, for I know where I came from and where I am going; but you do not know where I come from and where I am going.  You judge according to the flesh; I judge no one.  And yet if I do judge, my judgment is true; for I am not alone, but I am with the Father who sent Me.  It is also written in your law that the testimony of two men is true.  I am One who bears witness of Myself, and the Father who sent Me bears witness of Me."  Then they said to Him, "Where is Your Father?"  Jesus answered, "You know neither Me nor My Father.  If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also."  These words Jesus spoke in the treasury, as He taught in the temple; and no one laid hands on Him, for His hour had not yet come.

 Then Jesus said to them again, "I am going away and you will seek Me, and will die in your sin.  Where I go you cannot come."  So the Jews said, "Will He kill Himself, because He says, 'Where I go you cannot come'?"  And He said to them, "You are from beneath; I am from above.  You are of this world; I am not of this world.  Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins."  Jesus speaks here of His going away -- His death, Resurrection, and Ascension into heaven.  He is speaking to the religious leadership, among whom there are some believers, but nearly none dare speak openly for fear of those who want to kill Him. 

Then they said to Him, "Who are You?"  And Jesus said to them, "Just what I have been saying to you from the beginning.  I have many things to judge concerning you, but He who sent Me is true; and I speak to the world those things which I heard from Him."  They did not understand that He spoke to them of the Father.  Then Jesus said to them, When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and that I do nothing of Myself; but as My Father taught Me, I speak these things.  And He who sent Me is with Me.  The Father has not left Me alone, for I always do those things that please Him."  As He spoke these words, many believed in Him.  There is that important question again, the center of debate, "Who are You?"  Jesus says that they will lift up the Son of Man.  This has the double meaning of both being nailed to the Cross and also of being exalted by His Father upon completion of His work.  Earlier, when speaking privately to Nicodemus, the only member of the Council to have spoken in Christ's defense (see Friday's reading), Jesus also used the same phrase, when He said, "As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life."

 Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, "If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed." My study bible says that Jesus expects all who follow Him to be disciples, that is, literally "learners."  To abide in Christ's word is the responsibility of all believers, not just for the clergy or an "elite class of zealots," says my study bible.

"And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free."  The truth here refers to two things.  One is the virtue of truth, says my study  bible.  The other is Christ Himself (see 14:6).  To be free refers to the freedom from "darkness, confusion, and lies, as well as the freedom from the bondage of sin and death."

Jesus teaches:  "If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. 
And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free."  There are things here that we must think about that extend beyond the literal understanding of these words (as it happens so often in John's Gospel).   As my study bible emphasizes, Jesus will also teach about Himself: 
I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me" (14:6).  What we understand from this statement, and in the subsequent theology developed in the early centuries of the Church, is that truth is a Person.  This may seem like a crazy statement in terms of common parlance, and a common way of understanding ideas.  But there is nothing common about Christ, and about the extraordinary "other-worldly" reality that He brings into the world.  Jesus comes from a place of cosmic identity, something beyond all our understanding of reality.  We think of ideas as lacking real substance -- a sort of ethereal reality that has its impact on our thinking, on intellectual discourse, on the ways in which we choose to analyze our lives.  That in itself has an impact we can't even begin to calculate properly.  But that in itself is a somewhat watered down, inconsequential understanding of what this kind of truth really is.  Jesus isn't just a heavenly being, a man from "outer space," or the "sky" (heaven).  He is Logos Incarnate.  He's the Second Person of the Trinity.  This is a reality born into the world that is of an absolute level of reality, of dimensions within which our world exists but that we are "commonly" unaware of in our worldly state of consciousness.  When we speak about a Person who is Truth, when Jesus states, "I am the way, the truth, and the life," this is something much more than can be understood by thinking of "truth" as an idea, or even one we may easily disagree about, or say all kinds of things about.  This is Truth as a reality that exists beyond us, within us, within which we and all the things we know exist.  This is Truth that shapes what is, even giving us life.  And it is Truth that is mostly beyond our comprehension, our ability to grasp in its completeness and fullness.  Moreover, it is a Person.  We have to start to grasp toward what it is that constitutes personhood, exactly.  What do we have in common with this Person who is Truth, as we are also persons?  How can Truth be a Person?  Jesus teaches, "If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed."  This is linked to the understanding of Truth as a Person.  We must abide in His word, but He is also the Word, Logos.  To follow His teachings is one thing; to abide by His teachings is something we can understand.  But He has already just taught, "He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him" (see last Monday's reading).   To abide in His word, in the Word, then, is something akin to abiding in Him -- as He abides in us.  This is what it is to relate to a Person, beyond an "idea" or intellectual concept.  To truly abide in His word, to abide in Him as He abides in us, is to know the Truth as we come to know a person.  That is, with something more than merely an intellectual assent, or with debate, or with something that is not personal.  To know this truth is to come to know Someone as a lifelong -- even eternally long -- relationship unfolds and grows.  It is also a relationship of love, as He abides in us and we in Him.  In John's 15th chapter, Jesus says, "Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me" (15:4).  This is a depth of abiding within one another, of relationship, of love and sharing, that is all about the personal.  It is all about extending what it is we share in image and likeness of God; it is about shaping, affirming, growing, and transformation of the fullness of what it means that we are persons.  This is not merely intellectual choice alone.  It is a truth that affects all of who we are, that shapes our experiences and understanding, and will change even the ways in which we make decisions and grow in our own relationship to the world and our environment and the persons around us.  It will shape everything we look at and make choices about.  It will shape our joy and our serenity.  It will give us the fullness of the reality of love we don't know.  These are all components of what it means to truly be a person created in the image and likeness of God.  We cannot really understand truth in the fullness of this reality on offer to us unless we understand Truth as a Person, or rather the Person who is Truth -- who is the gift to the world, for the life of the world.  When we begin to grasp this reality, we begin to understand not only the fullness of life that we don't fully know beyond ourselves and our world, but even the fullness of what it means to be persons beyond what we already know and understand and experience in the world, from a "worldly" perspective.  We don't even really know what the fullness of our own identity is, our own "self."  It all comes from relationship, and love, and touches us in places we don't know in ourselves, depths we don't know are there.  This is the truth we need that makes us truly free.  We need relationship to find that, this relationship of abiding in His word, in Him, and He in us as well.





Saturday, August 27, 2016

I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life


 Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, "I am the light of the world.  He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life."  The Pharisees therefore said to Him, "You bear witness of Yourself; Your witness is not true."  Jesus answered and said to them, "Even if I bear witness of Myself, My witness is true, for I know where I came from and where I am going; but you do not know where I come from and where I am going.  You judge according to the flesh; I judge no one.  And yet if I do judge, my judgment is true; for I am not alone, but I am with the Father who sent Me.  It is also written in your law that the testimony of two men is true.  I am One who bears witness of Myself, and the Father who sent Me bears witness of Me."  Then they said to Him, "Where is Your Father?"  Jesus answered, "You know neither Me nor My Father.  If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also."  These words Jesus spoke in the treasury, as He taught in the temple; and no one laid hands on Him, for His hour had not yet come.

- John 8:12-20

In recent readings, Jesus is at the Feast of Tabernacles in Jerusalem.  The readings associated with events at this festival cover several chapters in John.  Yesterday, we read that on the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, "If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink.  He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water."  But this he spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.  Therefore many from the crowd, when they heard this saying, said, "Truly this is the Prophet."  Others said, "This is the Christ."  But some said, "Will the Christ come out of Galilee?  Has not the Scripture said that the Christ comes from the seed of David and from the town of Bethlehem, where David was?"  So there was a division among the people because of Him.  Now some of them wanted to take Him, but no one laid hands on Him.  Then the officers came to the chief priests and Pharisees, who said to them, "Why have you not brought Him?"  The officers answered, "No man ever spoke like this Man!"  Then the Pharisees answered them, "Are you also deceived?  Have any of the rulers or the Pharisees believed in Him?  But this crowd that does not know the law is accursed."  Nicodemus (he who came to Jesus by night, being one of them) said to them, "Does our law judge a man before it hears him and knows what he is doing?"  They answered and said to him, "Are you also from Galilee?  Search and look, for no prophet has arisen out of Galilee."  And everyone went to his own house.

  Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, "I am the light of the world.  He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life." In yesterday's reading, Jesus spoke about the gift of the Holy Spirit, which He likened to rivers of living water.  This teaching was given in the context of the last day of the Feast, in which water was drawn from the pool of Siloam, in part to commemorate the water flowing from a rock struck by Moses.  In addition to this ceremony, the great lamps in the outer court of the temple were lit at the conclusion of the Feast of Tabernacles.  Jesus' words and teaching here reflect this image of light.  He declares Himself to be the fulfillment and the divine object of all celebration of light, says my study bible.  Images of light frequently appear in John's Gospel, and of course in Jesus' teachings in the other Gospels as well.  My study bible points out that in the Scriptures, God the Father Himself is light (1:4-9, 1 John 1:5), and this light is an attribute which God bestows on His followers (Matthew 5:14, Philippians 2:15).  Christ will illustrate this claim in the following chapter, by performing the great sign of illuminating the eyes of a man born blind (9:1-7, see especially verse 5).   Our lectionary readings skip over 8:1-11, the story of the woman taken in adultery.

The Pharisees therefore said to Him, "You bear witness of Yourself; Your witness is not true."  Jesus answered and said to them, "Even if I bear witness of Myself, My witness is true, for I know where I came from and where I am going; but you do not know where I come from and where I am going.  You judge according to the flesh; I judge no one.  And yet if I do judge, my judgment is true; for I am not alone, but I am with the Father who sent Me.  It is also written in your law that the testimony of two men is true.  I am One who bears witness of Myself, and the Father who sent Me bears witness of Me."   Jesus is once again challenged to provide witnesses to His testimony.  Earlier, in chapter 5 (see this reading), Jesus gave four witnesses to His identity:  John the Baptist, the works that He does which are given to Him by God the Father, God the Father Himself, and the Scriptures.  In the Jewish tradition, a valid testimony required two witnesses (Deuteronomy 17:6).  Here, He gives two witnesses:  Himself, as His judgment is true and He knows His own origins and His future which the leadership do not, and also the Father who bears witness of Him. 

Then they said to Him, "Where is Your Father?"  Jesus answered, "You know neither Me nor My Father.  If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also."  These words Jesus spoke in the treasury, as He taught in the temple; and no one laid hands on Him, for His hour had not yet come.  As we have previously noted, everything with Jesus goes back to the relationship to the Father.  My study bible says that because the Son and the Father share the same divine nature, one cannot be known apart from the other (see 14:7-11). 

Jesus does nothing apart from the Father.  He cannot even be known, truly, apart from the Father.  In all things they are one:  in nature, but also in will -- the human Jesus serves always the will of the Father, as will be illustrated throughout the Gospel.  Jesus teaches, "You judge according to the flesh; I judge no one.  And yet if I do judge, my judgment is true; for I am not alone, but I am with the Father who sent Me."  This is an important instruction for all of us about the nature of judgment.  True judgment is from God.  Jesus is once again speaking about the difference between a worldly judgment, that judges based upon appearances (or the flesh), and a judgment that comes from God.  Prayer and humility are essential for good judgment, for discernment, for righteous judgment.  Earlier, Jesus has said to these men, "Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment."  The lectionary has skipped over the story of the woman caught in adultery and brought before Jesus (8:1-11).  My study bible mentions that this story is not found in several ancient manuscripts; neither does is it covered in the extensive commentaries by St. John Chrysostom, and certain other Father.  But it is still sealed by the Church as inspired, authentic, canonical Scripture, and thus bears the same authority as all other Scripture.  It's worth reading the story in conjunction with Jesus' teaching here.  It serves as an obvious way of showing what it is to judge with righteous judgment and in accordance with the Father, rather than the flesh.  It serves as an illustration of Jesus' teaching regarding walking in darkness or the light.  In the most powerful statement we can find anywhere, Jesus says, "I am the light of the world." John's Gospel declares this so right at the beginning (1:4-5).  In the lighting of the great lamps in the temple outer court at the end of the Feast of Tabernacles, we remember the light that led the Israelites through the darkness as they moved toward the promised land (Exodus 13:21).  Jesus is telling them and us that he is that light of the world.  And then He goes further, "He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life."  If we really wish to have good judgment, He's saying, if we really wish to know what we are doing, and to live truly righteous lives, we need His light to do so.  He is here to provide that light for us.  There is no separation between Himself and the Father, but He is here for us to guide the way, to be that great lamp of the Father in the world.  And that's really what we have to remember.  So much comes down to what we ask ourselves about what we really want in life.  Do we want this light?  Do we feel that we need it?  Is it necessary for us?  Jesus is like the pillar of fire leading the Israelites in the darkness.  Everything depends on what we think we need, what our humility is, and where our desires truly are for a righteous life, a  life of righteous and true judgment.  Everything depends upon it.  Can we make that decision for a righteous life? Or do we think we know it all?  Jesus tells the leadership here that He knows where He comes from and where He is going.  How many of us can truly say the same without His light?







Friday, August 26, 2016

He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water


 On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, "If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink.  He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water."  But this he spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.

Therefore many from the crowd, when they heard this saying, said, "Truly this is the Prophet."  Others said, "This is the Christ."  But some said, "Will the Christ come out of Galilee?  Has not the Scripture said that the Christ comes from the seed of David and from the town of Bethlehem, where David was?"  So there was a division among the people because of Him.  Now some of them wanted to take Him, but no one laid hands on Him.

Then the officers came to the chief priests and Pharisees, who said to them, "Why have you not brought Him?"  The officers answered, "No man ever spoke like this Man!"  Then the Pharisees answered them, "Are you also deceived?  Have any of the rulers or the Pharisees believed in Him?  But this crowd that does not know the law is accursed."  Nicodemus (he who came to Jesus by night, being one of them) said to them, "Does our law judge a man before it hears him and knows what he is doing?"  They answered and said to him, "Are you also from Galilee?  Search and look, for no prophet has arisen out of Galilee."  And everyone went to his own house.

- John 7:37-52

 In our current readings, Jesus is at the Feast of Tabernacles, an autumn harvest feast lasting eight days.  It is a celebration of the coming Kingdom, and commemorates the time Israel spent living in tents or tabernacles, on the journey to the promised land.  Yesterday, we read that about the middle of the feast Jesus went up into the temple and taught.  And the Jews marveled, saying, "How does this Man know letters, having never studied?"  Jesus answered them and said, "My doctrine is not Mine, but His who sent Me.  If anyone wills to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God or whether I speak on My own authority.  He who speaks from himself seeks his own glory; but He who seeks the glory of the One who sent Him is true, and no unrighteousness is in Him.  Did not Moses give you the law, yet none of you keeps the law?  Why do you seek to kill Me?"  The people answered and said, "You have a demon.  Who is seeking to kill You?"  Jesus answered and said to them, "I did one work, and you all marvel.  Moses therefore gave you circumcision (not that it is from Moses, but from the fathers), and you circumcise a man on the Sabbath.  If a man receives circumcision on the Sabbath, so that the law of Moses should not be broken, are you angry with Me because I made a man completely well on the Sabbath?  Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment."   Now some of them from Jerusalem said, "Is this not He whom they seek to kill?  But look!  He speaks boldly, and they say nothing to Him.  Do the rulers know indeed that this is truly the Christ?  However, we know where this Man is from; but when the Christ comes, no one knows where He is from."  Then Jesus cried out, as He taught in the temple, saying, "You both know Me, and you know where I am from; and I have not come of Myself, but He who sent Me is true, whom you do not know.  But I know Him, for I am from Him, and He sent Me."  Therefore they sought to take Him; but no one laid a hand on Him, because His hour had not yet come.  And many of the people believed in Him, and said, "When the Christ comes, will He do more signs than these which this Man has done?"  The Pharisees heard the crowd murmuring these things concerning Him, and the Pharisees and the chief priests sent officers to take Him.  Then Jesus said to them, "I shall be with you a little while longer, and then I go to Him who sent Me.  You will seek Me and not find Me, and where I am you cannot come."  Then the Jews said among themselves, "Where does He intend to go that we shall not find Him?  Does He intend to go to the dispersion among the Greeks and teach the Greeks?  What is this thing that He said, 'You will seek Me and not find Me, and where I am you cannot come'?"

On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, "If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink.  He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water."  But this he spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.  This is the eighth day of the Feast of Tabernacles.  On this day there was a ceremony of the drawing of water from the pool of Siloam.  This would be mixed with wine and poured at the foot of the altar, both as purification and in remembrance of water flowing from the rock struck by Moses.  We can see reflected in Jesus' teaching both the setting of this important ceremony, and Jesus' fulfillment of the promises of the Old Testament.  The rivers of living water images the Holy Spirit, and Jesus' gift of the Spirit to come.  This is the living water, and the new life that accompanies this gift.

Therefore many from the crowd, when they heard this saying, said, "Truly this is the Prophet."  Others said, "This is the Christ."  But some said, "Will the Christ come out of Galilee?  Has not the Scripture said that the Christ comes from the seed of David and from the town of Bethlehem, where David was?"  So there was a division among the people because of Him.  Now some of them wanted to take Him, but no one laid hands on Him.  John's Gospel once again gives us this expectation of the people, that He is the Prophet, the expected Messiah, the Savior foretold by Moses (Deuteronomy 18:15-19).  John reiterates the division of the people concerning their opinions about Jesus.  The people know Him as a teacher from Galilee.  But readers of the Gospel know that Jesus was born in the Bethlehem, the town from which the Christ was expected to come (Micah 5:2).

Then the officers came to the chief priests and Pharisees, who said to them, "Why have you not brought Him?"  The officers answered, "No man ever spoke like this Man!"  Then the Pharisees answered them, "Are you also deceived?  Have any of the rulers or the Pharisees believed in Him?  But this crowd that does not know the law is accursed."  These officers are those who had been sent by the chief priests to arrest Jesus in the middle of the Feast (see yesterday's reading, above).  But by the time the last day had arrived (the setting for today's reading), He had not been arrested.  The officers had been converted by the Lord's teaching.  My study bible cites the commentaries of John Chrysostom here.  The Pharisees and scribes who had "witnessed the miracles and read the Scriptures derived no benefit" from either one when it came to Jesus.  The officers, on the other hand, although not learned as the others, were "captivated by a single sermon."  When the mind is open, "there is no need for long speeches.  Truth is like that," writes Chrysostom.

Nicodemus (he who came to Jesus by night, being one of them) said to them, "Does our law judge a man before it hears him and knows what he is doing?"  They answered and said to him, "Are you also from Galilee?  Search and look, for no prophet has arisen out of Galilee."  And everyone went to his own house.  In chapter 3, we read that Nicodemus had spoken with Jesus (see this reading), and Nicodemus had increased in faith.   But his defense of Christ here is based on our law, and is not yet a public profession of faith.  In accordance with the law, Jesus must be given a hearing before He can be judged (Exodus 23:1, Deuteronomy 1:15-17).  In stating that no prophet has arisen out of Galilee, the Pharisees are showing not only their blind hatred of Jesus but also ignorance of the Scriptures in which they are supposed to be the experts.  The prophet Jonah came from Galilee, from the town of Gath Hepher, only three miles from Nazareth (2 Kings 14:25).

 John's Gospel repeatedly gives us Jesus' teachings on the Holy Spirit.  Here, Jesus teaches about the rivers of living water promised to those in faith in the gift of the Spirit that was to come.  Nicodemus defends Him before the chief priests and the Pharisees -- and Nicodemus is the one who has received the teaching about the Spirit, in one of the clearest references Jesus will make to the work of the Spirit in the world, and also concerning rebirth "by water and the Spirit."  John's Gospel itself, written late first century, is notable as the "spiritual Gospel."  It is the one that gives us illuminations of Jesus' words and teachings found in the Synoptic Gospels, allowing us meanings behind the words of Christ that aren't found in a sort of historical telling of His story or His life.  Perhaps most significantly are the teachings found here on the Holy Spirit, in Jesus' repeated reference to the essential nature of the Spirit to His Church and as the gift He leaves to the world as a result of His mission and ministry.  Not only does the Spirit illuminate, but it is the Spirit that "guides into all truth."   But this Third Person of the Trinity is in some sense more mysterious than the Father or the Son.  The Spirit doesn't speak "of Himself" or "His own authority" but rather "what He hears"  (16:13).  It is a reminder of Jesus' teaching to Nicodemus about the Spirit and rebirth: "The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes.  So is everyone who is born of the Spirit."  (The word for wind and Spirit -- as well as breath -- is the same).   Jesus has also taught the Samaritan woman that "God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth."  It is the teachings about the Spirit that permeate this Gospel, giving depth to all of Jesus' ministry, and shape to His Church.  But even now, 2,000 years later, the Holy Spirit remains mysterious (indeed, a Mystery), in the sense that Jesus' words are absolutely true in describing the action of the wind.  Many saints have been born by the Spirit in the Church, and none is a carbon copy of another.  It is the Spirit that shapes and magnifies persona into sainthood, creating multi-dimensional people who stand out for their individual personalities, in some sense becoming more potently human than all the rest, remarkable in uncountable ways.  Contrary to what some of our assumptions may be about what great humility looks like, saints in history are far from shrinking violets.  On the contrary, their personalities are those that stand out from the crowd, effectively shaking up the society in which they live, and of course they are quite frequently martyrs.  The Spirit that Jesus describes as rivers of living waters flowing from the heart is the Person who gives truth and life, a constant multiplication of aspects of character and persona, giving depth and dimension and meaning.  It is the Spirit we look to in order to shape the Church, to lead us into all truth, to give us variation, meaning, and great creativity while teaching us Christ's truths and never duplicating His saints and messengers in doing so.  Do we really value this Gift as we should?  Let us remember the Spirit is not ours to predict nor to mold and shape, but simply to accept.  We see His effects but we don't know where He comes from and where He goes.  We simply must open our hearts to the fullness, the flow of these rivers of living water, and let them pour into and shape our lives.



Thursday, August 25, 2016

Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment


 Now about the middle of the feast Jesus went up into the temple and taught.  And the Jews marveled, saying, "How does this Man know letters, having never studied?"  Jesus answered them and said, "My doctrine is not Mine, but His who sent Me.  If anyone wills to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God or whether I speak on My own authority.  He who speaks from himself seeks his own glory; but He who seeks the glory of the One who sent Him is true, and no unrighteousness is in Him.  Did not Moses give you the law, yet none of you keeps the law?  Why do you seek to kill Me?"  The people answered and said, "You have a demon.  Who is seeking to kill You?"  Jesus answered and said to them, "I did one work, and you all marvel.  Moses therefore gave you circumcision (not that it is from Moses, but from the fathers), and you circumcise a man on the Sabbath.  If a man receives circumcision on the Sabbath, so that the law of Moses should not be broken, are you angry with Me because I made a man completely well on the Sabbath?  Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment." 

Now some of them from Jerusalem said, "Is this not He whom they seek to kill?  But look!  He speaks boldly, and they say nothing to Him.  Do the rulers know indeed that this is truly the Christ?  However, we know where this Man is from; but when the Christ comes, no one knows where He is from."  Then Jesus cried out, as He taught in the temple, saying, "You both know Me, and you know where I am from; and I have not come of Myself, but He who sent Me is true, whom you do not know.  But I know Him, for I am from Him, and He sent Me."  Therefore they sought to take Him; but no one laid a hand on Him, because His hour had not yet come.  And many of the people believed in Him, and said, "When the Christ comes, will He do more signs than these which this Man has done?"

The Pharisees heard the crowd murmuring these things concerning Him, and the Pharisees and the chief priests sent officers to take Him.  Then Jesus said to them, "I shall be with you a little while longer, and then I go to Him who sent Me.  You will seek Me and not find Me, and where I am you cannot come."  Then the Jews said among themselves, "Where does He intend to go that we shall not find Him?  Does He intend to go to the dispersion among the Greeks and teach the Greeks?  What is this thing that He said, 'You will seek Me and not find Me, and where I am you cannot come'?"

- John 7:14-36

Yesterday, we read that after the events following the teachings on His Body and Blood, Jesus walked in Galilee; for He did not want to walk in Judea, because the Jews sought to kill Him.  Now the Jews' Feast of Tabernacles was at hand.  His brothers therefore said to Him, "Depart from here and go into Judea, that Your disciples also may see the works that You are doing.  For no one does anything in secret while he himself seeks to be known openly.  If You do these things, show Yourself to the world."  For even His brothers did not believe in Him.  Then Jesus said to them, "My time has not yet come, but your time is always ready.  The world cannot hate you, but it hates Me because I testify of it that its works are evil.  You go up to this feast.  I am not yet going up to this feast, for My time has not yet fully come."  When He had said these things to them, He remained in Galilee.  But when His brothers had gone up, then He also went up to the feast, not openly, but as it were in secret.   Then the Jews sought Him at the feast, and said, "Where is He?"  And there was much complaining among the people concerning Him.  Some said, "He is good"; others said, "No, on the contrary, He deceives the people."   However, no one spoke openly of Him for fear of the Jews.

 Now about the middle of the feast Jesus went up into the temple and taught.  We recall that Jesus is in Jerusalem for the Feast of Tabernacles (Hebrew Sukkot), an autumn harvest festival.  The events in these next few chapters of John's Gospel concern things that happened at this festival, which covers eight days, and is the feast of the coming Kingdom, commemorating the time Israel lived in tents (or booths or tabernacles) following Moses toward the promised land.

 And the Jews marveled, saying, "How does this Man know letters, having never studied?"  Jesus answered them and said, "My doctrine is not Mine, but His who sent Me.  If anyone wills to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God or whether I speak on My own authority.  He who speaks from himself seeks his own glory; but He who seeks the glory of the One who sent Him is true, and no unrighteousness is in Him.  Did not Moses give you the law, yet none of you keeps the law?  Why do you seek to kill Me?"  The people answered and said, "You have a demon.  Who is seeking to kill You?"  Jesus answered and said to them, "I did one work, and you all marvel.  Moses therefore gave you circumcision (not that it is from Moses, but from the fathers), and you circumcise a man on the Sabbath.  If a man receives circumcision on the Sabbath,so that the law of Moses should not be broken, are you angry with Me because I made a man completely well on the Sabbath?  Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment."   Once again we remember that the term the Jews is used to denote the religious leadership (all the people here are Jews, including Jesus).  My study bible says of Jesus' teachings here that the simple desire to know and follow God's will is the key to understanding it.  Spiritual blindness comes from the unwillingness to truly know God or to recognize God's authority.   My study bible cites St. John Chrysostom here, who paraphrased the words of Christ as follows:  "Rid yourselves of wickedness:  the anger, the envy, and the hatred which have arisen in your hearts, without provocation, against Me.  Then you will have no difficulty in realizing that My words are actually those of God.  As it is, these passions darken your understanding and distort sound judgment.  If you remove these passions, you will no longer be afflicted in this way."  Jesus refers here to a quarrel with the authorities which began when Jesus was in Jerusalem at the Passover, and healed a man near the pool at the Sheep Gate.  He was subsequently accused by the leadership of breaking the Sabbath.

Now some of them from Jerusalem said, "Is this not He whom they seek to kill?  But look!  He speaks boldly, and they say nothing to Him.  Do the rulers know indeed that this is truly the Christ?  However, we know where this Man is from; but when the Christ comes, no one knows where He is from."  Then Jesus cried out, as He taught in the temple, saying, "You both know Me, and you know where I am from; and I have not come of Myself, but He who sent Me is true, whom you do not know.  But I know Him, for I am from Him, and He sent Me."  Therefore they sought to take Him; but no one laid a hand on Him, because His hour had not yet come.  And many of the people believed in Him, and said, "When the Christ comes, will He do more signs than these which this Man has done?"  My study bible tells us that these crowds here are mistaken, both in an earthly sense and in a divine sense.  Humanly speaking, they think Jesus is from Nazareth in Galilee.  But they're mistaken, as He was actually born in Bethlehem.  But beyond worldly birth, they can't understand that He has come from the Father in Heaven, eternally begotten before all ages, and therefore His divine origin is also unknown to them.  His hour referred to here is the time of His suffering and death on the Cross.  My study bible says that Christ is the Lord over time, which is an authority that is possessed by God alone.  He comes to the Cross of His own free will and in His time, not in accordance with the plots of human beings (see also 8:20; 10:39).  Jesus makes clear statements here of His relationship to the Father, for which they seek to seize Him.

The Pharisees heard the crowd murmuring these things concerning Him, and the Pharisees and the chief priests sent officers to take Him.  Then Jesus said to them, "I shall be with you a little while longer, and then I go to Him who sent Me.  You will seek Me and not find Me, and where I am you cannot come."  Then the Jews said among themselves, "Where does He intend to go that we shall not find Him?  Does He intend to go to the dispersion among the Greeks and teach the Greeks?  What is this thing that He said, 'You will seek Me and not find Me, and where I am you cannot come'?"  Here Jesus refers to His death, Resurrection, and Ascension into heaven -- clearly giving us a picture that He knows what is to come.  It is all, in some sense, in His and the Father's hands, and will be a voluntary "exodus" on the Cross (see translation footnote at Luke 9:31).  To go among the Greeks is to go to teach among the Gentiles; that is, Greek-speakers, as the lingua franca of the time was Greek.  This is an unwitting prophecy.  It points to the time after His Ascension, when Christ's name will be preached among the Gentiles by the apostles.  Indeed, all the books of the New Testament (and at Christ's time, as well as for many centuries afterward, even the Old Testament Scriptures) were written and studied in Greek.

Jesus takes the traditions of the past, and something new is born as fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies.  Many of the people believe in Him, but the leadership -- although He does have followers among them -- firmly is against Him.  He is a threat to their place, and they will use the Law against Him, to charge Him with blasphemy.  Here in today's passage we see a common sort of development in John's Gospel.  Jesus' words are hard to understand, and hard to interpret.  A literal reading of His words will not allow one the insight to know what He's talking about.  Like the insistence upon the literal holding of the traditions that were developed around the Law, a literal understanding only of His words will not get anyone very far, because Jesus' words have meanings on many levels.  It requires an opening of the heart to perceive, an act opening to the possibility of faith.  The leadership clings to a worldly perspective, concerned as they are about their own authority and their places.  But Jesus teaches by example, and as we can see from His words, He clings over and over again to His relationship to the Father and His mission given in such relationship.  There is no separation between Father and Son.  That is, even on the Cross, as Jesus teaches, His Father is with Him (see 8:29, 16:32).  Jesus shows us the importance of clinging to this relationship, and that all things come in relation to God, even His identity as well as our identity.  He seeks the glory of the One who sent Him.  Throughout misunderstanding, throughout persecution, through all difficulties, it is the one thing necessary that Jesus clings to -- and by doing so, sets the example for all of us.  How does your relationship to Christ shape you?  How does it shape your decisions?  Does it define you when others would define you otherwise?  This is the key to Christ, and to true faith.  Who are we as we abide in Him?  What does it mean not to judge according to appearance, but to truly judge with righteous judgment?




Wednesday, August 24, 2016

The world cannot hate you, but it hates Me because I testify of it that its works are evil


 After these things Jesus walked in Galilee; for He did not want to walk in Judea, because the Jews sought to kill Him.  Now the Jews' Feast of Tabernacles was at hand.  His brothers therefore said to Him, "Depart from here and go into Judea, that Your disciples also may see the works that You are doing.  For no one does anything in secret while he himself seeks to be known openly.  If You do these things, show Yourself to the world."  For even His brothers did not believe in Him.  Then Jesus said to them, "My time has not yet come, but your time is always ready.  The world cannot hate you, but it hates Me because I testify of it that its works are evil.  You go up to this feast.  I am not yet going up to this feast, for My time has not yet fully come."  When He had said these things to them, He remained in Galilee.

But when His brothers had gone up, then He also went up to the feast, not openly, but as it were in secret.   Then the Jews sought Him at the feast, and said, "Where is He?"  And there was much complaining among the people concerning Him.  Some said, "He is good"; others said, "No, on the contrary, He deceives the people."   However, no one spoke openly of Him for fear of the Jews.

- John 7:1-13

After Jesus taught, He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him (Monday's reading), we read (in yesterday's reading) that many of His disciples, when they heard this, said, "This is a hard saying; who can understand it?"  When Jesus knew in Himself that His disciples complained about this, He said to them, "Does this offend you?  What then if you should see the Son of Man ascend where He was before?  It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing.  The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life.  But there are some of you who do not believe."  For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who would betray Him.  And He said, "Therefore I have said to you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father."  From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more.  Then Jesus said to the twelve, "Do you also want to go away?"  But Simon Peter answered Him, "Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life.  Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."  Jesus answered them, "Did I not choose you, the twelve, and one of you is a devil?"  He spoke of Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon, for it was he who would betray Him, being one of the twelve.

  After these things Jesus walked in Galilee; for He did not want to walk in Judea, because the Jews sought to kill Him.  Once again, we remember that in John's Gospel, the term "the Jews" is used as akin to a political affiliation, and most often refers to the leadership of the Council.  At this point, His renown has spread, He has already had confrontations regarding healing and the Sabbath rest (at the previous Feast, the second Passover recorded in John's Gospel), and given controversial teachings at the synagogue in Capernaum for which many disciples turned away.  He remains in Galilee, away from the powerful rule of the religious leadership in Judea at the temple in Jerusalem.

Now the Jews' Feast of Tabernacles was at hand.  The following several chapters involve our Lord's visit to Jerusalem for the Feast of Tabernacles, and the entire section will cover eight days.  This is the last year of Jesus' life as Incarnate Man.  Here at this Festival, Jesus taught in the temple at Jerusalem and attracted a great deal of public attention.  y study bible says that some thought Him mad, and others believed Him to be the Messiah.  There are still others (such as the Sadducees and Pharisees, chief parties making up the Council) who consider Him to be a threat.  Those who seek to kill Him (verse 1, above) are the religious leadership, not the people in general. The Feast of Tabernacles (Hebrew Succoth or Sukkot) is an eight-day festival occurring in autumn.  It is an autumn harvest festival, but commemorates the time when Israel wandered in the wilderness of Sinai, and people lived in tents (or booths or tabernacles), rather than permanent dwellings.  Together with Passover and the Jewish Pentecost (Feast of Weeks), this was one of the most important festivals of the ancient Jews.  It included many sacrifices and celebrations (Leviticus 23:33-43).  In later times, says my study bible, the final day of this feast also included drawing water from the pool of Siloam to be mixed with wine and poured at the foot of the altar, both as purification and also commemoration of the water flowing from the rock that was struck by Moses (Exodus 17:1-7).  Further, the ceremonies included lighting of the great lamps in the outer court of the temple (see 2 Maccabees 10:5-9).  All of these elements will be reflected in Jesus' acts and teachings through this next section of John's Gospel.

His brothers therefore said to Him, "Depart from here and go into Judea, that Your disciples also may see the works that You are doing.  For no one does anything in secret while he himself seeks to be known openly.  If You do these things, show Yourself to the world."  For even His brothers did not believe in Him.  Then Jesus said to them, "My time has not yet come, but your time is always ready.  The world cannot hate you, but it hates Me because I testify of it that its works are evil.  You go up to this feast . I am not yet going up to this feast, for My time has not yet fully come."  When He had said these things to them, He remained in Galilee.  Jesus' brothers are extended family, perhaps either children born to Joseph in an earlier marriage or cousins or other extended relations, for whom it is still common to use the term "brothers" throughout the Middle East today.  Jesus articulates the importance of time and also His complete awareness of His mission ("My hour has not yet come").  He articulates a difference between the world, or a "worldly" point of view, and one that is capable of receiving Him in faith.  He says, "I testify of [the world] that its works are evil."  There is a clear difference here in how one views Christ and His works, between a worldly and a faithful perspective.

But when His brothers had gone up, then He also went up to the feast, not openly, but as it were in secret.   Then the Jews sought Him at the feast, and said, "Where is He?"  And there was much complaining among the people concerning Him.  Some said, "He is good"; others said, "No, on the contrary, He deceives the people."   However, no one spoke openly of Him for fear of the Jews.  Jesus goes to the feast without a grand sort of appearance, such as the one He will make on Palm Sunday (12:12-16).  The text gives us the setting among the people:  they argue and dispute among one another about Jesus, but none will speak openly, for fear of the leadership in the temple, who seek Jesus.

John's Gospel gives us many personal hints about Jesus' life, scattered here and there in its details.  Here we're told that Jesus' "brothers" ridicule Him.  They don't believe He's who He says He is.  They're not His disciples as are Peter and the rest of the Twelve.  In our last reading, we've been told that many disciples have fallen away from Christ, because of His "hard saying" about eating His flesh and drinking His blood.  What on earth can that mean?  The leadership in the synagogue at Capernaum is also perplexed and argue among themselves about what He can possibly mean.  And furthermore we've just been told that Jesus knows that even one among the Twelve chosen by Him will betray Him.  Far from things going well from a worldly perspective, we see elements that go against Him.  We see the "worldly" perspective at work that cannot accept His words in faith, even one personally chosen who will betray Him.  His own kin are against Him.  A "worldly" perspective we often seem to hear is one that would say that whatever Jesus did would be so acceptable, so good, so "perfect" that all must completely be drawn to Him and fawn upon Him.  Somehow we have it in our given knowledge, so to speak, or cultural understanding, that one as "good" as Christ is going to have a perfect life -- or that a person favored by God will find no obstacles or even no hatred in life.  But in Jesus' life, there is nothing that could be further from the truth.  On the contrary, it's His very goodness that sets up so much -- in the perspective of the Gospel -- that goes against Him.  It's His very goodness, and particularly the power of that absolute Good that He is in the world, that occasions opportunity and motive for betrayal, for envy, for those who want to do Him in, for all kinds of reasons.  We may even suspect that is the case among His relatives who make fun of Him and taunt Him that He must go to Jerusalem, the center of all things, and show Himself, if He really is Who He says He is.  This is a different kettle of fish, so to speak, from what a sort of conventional "worldly" perspective might tell us about Jesus, the Son of Man.  Everything is not smooth sailing, and this will also play as a great stumbling block to faith in and of itself.  Jesus says that He testifies of the world that its works are evil.  We have to think closely about what this means and what it implies about a "worldly" perspective.  People can worship all kinds of things:  power, money, fame, pride of place, the appearance we make toward others.  But Jesus cuts through all of that.  Even His power isn't a worldly power and doesn't work in the ways that worldly power does.  Everything depends on how we "see" Him, how we see the Cross, the perspective that faith or the capacity for faith will give us.  A worldly perspective would teach us that everything is about the appearance we make, the praise of men, as Jesus puts it (12:43).  But Christ sets our goals in a deeper place, one of the heart, in which we abide in Him and He in us -- and in which it is the praise of God that counts and makes us who we truly are.