Thursday, March 23, 2017

John 8

Daily readings from Jeremiah and John this week. We will look at John 8, which contains some remarkable claims by Jesus. It is not some moral teaching nor an exhortation to love. It is rather a series of statements which confront the listener with what is either a delusional utterance or a life changing word of truth.

"I am the light of the world; whoever follows me will not walk in darkness but have the light of life."
"You know neither me nor my Father, if you knew me you would know my Father also."

Modern and Post-Modern Christians are all about negating such claims in an effort to appeal to a universal sense of "religion." The 'all paths lead to God' mantra is especially embraced by those who do not want to seem too harsh or to be imposing their beliefs on others. [Note, there is no concern about imposing their universalist approach or imposing their low Christology.] All paths literally do not lead to God, no human construction to heaven is possible. We are dependent on God to make the move to us, we cannot of our own power find eternity. No surprise, the readings from Jeremiah 10 reinforce this revelation of Jesus. Jeremiah refers to the difference between the God who created all things and the (fake) gods which created nothing but are rather the creation of humans. The false gods and the idols fashioned by human hands are not able to save. More to our point, Jeremiah 10:23-24 (NRSV) states, "I know, O Lord, that the way of human beings is not in their control, that mortals as they walk cannot direct their steps. Correct me, O Lord, but in just measure; not in your anger, or you will bring me to nothing." No ways lead to God. No paths lead to God. Our ways and our paths lead only to our own projections and to gods of our own making... But, in His mercy, God provides the Way.

Traditional, orthodox Christian faith is centered on the person of Jesus, not His teaching. The divine-man, God Incarnate, by virtue of His self-gift in relationship, is who provides us access to God. He emptied (kenosis) Himself and became one with us so that He could fill us (theosis) and become one with Him. To see God we must look into Jesus' face (the only image of God which is available to us, the only image which is not an ungodly idol). But what of all those who 'sincerely seek' God but do not know Jesus, cannot 'believe in' Jesus, have been abused by the church or Christians and cannot fathom opening to Jesus? Indeed, this is a fair question, but it misses the point. God works in and through the world, but as Jesus says (8:23ff) "I am from above, you are of this world, I am not of this world." No need to reduce Jesus to only a human teacher and the offer of salvation to a purely human transaction. Some Christians jump on the "no Jesus, lake of fire" band wagon with such glee that it makes you wonder if there is love within them. God is clear about His intent. C. S. Lewis provided many models for understanding that Jesus finds a way, because those who sincerely seek God are drawn to God by God, and Jesus is the means, even if He is anonymous to them. (See the final book of the Chronicles of Narnia at the judgment.) If you prefer something earlier, read the 2nd Century apologist Justin Martyr, who died for Jesus and whose theology of the logos/Word explains salvation is God's work.

True statements about Jesus--I am the light, I am one with the Father--cannot be ignored because the world is a confusing place. The salvation in Jesus, through Jesus, does not have to be reduced to membership in a local secret society known only to a few.

"When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am and that I do nothing on my own authority, but speak as the Father has taught me."

Jesus has earlier compared himself to Moses' healing serpent, now again we see the lifting up imagery. In John's Gospel, being lifted up on the cross is, at a deeper level, being lifted up to glory. The core revelation in Jesus is that God's power is best understood as Selfless Love, that God defeats the Enemy by Himself suffering and embracing death. Jesus warns His listeners--people who stand with this world and its falsehoods, its love of power, and its corruption--that God's judgment of the world stands before them in His own person. Jesus offers life, but many will fail to grasp the opportunity. Those who embrace Him "will know the truth and the truth will set them free." What is this freedom; from sin, death, darkness, freedom from being reliant on our own insufficient resources and our own crooked paths!

In the end, that is what has ahold of us isn't it? Freedom becomes license in the world. I am free people say, oblivious to the binding power of their addictions and pathologies. We are blind to the myriad ways that we are blind, unable to detect that the freedom to do as we please is a death sentence. As we choose to follow our own hearts we are unaware that our hearts are also ruled by the lies we've believed and the insatiable passions which drive us.

Jesus says, "I declare what I have seen in the Father's presence." Is it possible that we have yet to fully live, that we have yet to truly state all the goodness and beauty? That there is a "so much more than we could ask or imagine" yet to be revealed? Jesus, in John 8, stands before us with a promise. In Him something is coming which will put our hearts at peace, at joy and in true love.

Is He a madman? Is He deluded? Perhaps, but I think not. I believe He is God incarnate, The Son of Man who is sent to save us all. I believe today is another chance to trust and obey Him and take another step on that path which leads to all we can hope for!   

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