Draw me into your holy Presence, that I might know you as my Father
And manifest the image of Christ in this world, and the world to come. Amen.John 8:31-59
Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him,
Now, this is a bit of a switch. Usually “Jews” refers to the entrenched, antagonistic leadership, so I assume this refers to a faction within them who at least claimed to be sympathetic. Not that Jesus seems very sympathetic to them:
Fascinating. The implication is that they are currently disciples ‘outdeed’, if you will. That is, they have a superficial connection to Jesus, they don’t know the truth, and they are not free. Ouch. Their affront is predictable:
They answered him, We be Abraham’s seed, and were never in bondage to any man: how sayest thou, Ye shall be made free?
In a culture where slavery is both prevalent and deeply shameful, to call someone “not free” must burn. Though Jesus takes it to a whole new level:
Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin. And the servant abideth not in the house for ever: [but] the Son abideth ever. If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.
“Yo, listen up. This ain’t about a legal contract making you work in somebody’s house. This is about living a life of sin, and being enslaved to that. And if you think you can live like that and have a permanent place in God’s house, you got another think coming. So if that’s what you want, you better talk to the Man of the house, cause I be the only one who can set you up.” [apologies for my poor attempt at vernacular, but it was the only way I could express the emotional connotations I sensed in the verse]
And if that wasn’t enough to rile them up:
I know that ye are Abraham’s seed; but ye seek to kill me, because my word hath no place in you. I speak that which I have seen with my Father: and ye do that which ye have seen with your father.
Ouch. And this to the Jews on his side (or at least pretending to be)! Why does he confront them so harshly? Even if they’re not wholly sincere, why alienate potential allies?
They answered and said unto him, Abraham is our father. Jesus saith unto them, If ye were Abraham’s children, ye would do the works of Abraham. But now ye seek to kill me, a man that hath told you the truth, which I have heard of God: this did not Abraham. Ye do the deeds of your father.
I wonder… perhaps their faith in Jesus was based on a lie, or at least a misconception. I’ve seen that before, where sometimes my putative defenders publicly justify my actions using fallacious logic or erroneous facts. “See, he did X because of Y, and Y is a fully legitimate reason I support.” Actually, no. He did “X” because of “Z”, and “Z” is fundamentally in conflict with “Y”. Thus, either you need to stop supporting me or stop endorsing “Y” — you can’t have it both ways.
Jesus is basically pointing out that their fundamental worldview is not based on Abraham’s faith, but on a self-serving religiosity the devil would be proud of. And that any belief in Jesus that starts from that ground is, frankly, not worth having.
Then said they to him, We be not born of fornication; we have one Father, [even] God. Jesus said unto them, If God were your Father, ye would love me: for I proceeded forth and came from God; neither came I of myself, but he sent me.
Hmph. How is fatherhood connected with love?
I suppose to be a ‘true son’ implies that you love the same things your father does, whether that is sports, woodworking, or (in my case) reading in the bathroom.
Jesus seems to be implying that if they truly sought to follow in the footsteps of Father God, they would have cultivated a love of truth, freedom, and life — and therefore instantly recognized who Jesus was.
Why do ye not understand my speech? [even] because ye cannot hear my word. Ye are of [your] father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it. And because I tell [you] the truth, ye believe me not. Which of you convinceth me of sin? And if I say the truth, why do ye not believe me? He that is of God heareth God’s words: ye therefore hear [them] not, because ye are not of God.
Ouch. It reminds me a bit of what has been called The American Question: “If you’re so smart, why ain’t you rich?” I suppose we could call it The Galilean Question: “If you’re so godly, why ain’t you loving?”
Then answered the Jews, and said unto him, Say we not well that thou art a Samaritan, and hast a devil?
Understandably, they see his tirade as a paranoid rant — because they lack the courage to “continue in his words” as he warned them earlier.
Jesus answered, I have not a devil; but I honour my Father, and ye do dishonour me. And I seek not mine own glory: there is one that seeketh and judgeth. Verily, verily, I say unto you, If a man keep my saying, he shall never see death.
Talk about upping the ante!
Then said the Jews unto him, Now we know that thou hast a devil. Abraham is dead, and the prophets; and thou sayest, If a man keep my saying, he shall never taste of death. Art thou greater than our father Abraham, which is dead? and the prophets are dead: whom makest thou thyself?
I suspect they meant the question rhetorically, to force him to back down. If so, they must’ve been quite shocked when he accepted the backhanded (underhanded?) compliment:
Jesus answered, If I honour myself, my honour is nothing: it is my Father that honoureth me; of whom ye say, that he is your God: Yet ye have not known him; but I know him: and if I should say, I know him not, I shall be a liar like unto you: but I know him, and keep his saying. Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw [it], and was glad.
In fact, I wonder if their last reply is more stunned than scornful:
Then said the Jews unto him, Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham?
If so, then they are totally unprepared for what comes next:
Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am.
Jesus’ appropriation of the tetragrammaton — and thus, the very name of God — is rather blatant, and deadly serious:
Then took they up stones to cast at him: but Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by.
If Jesus was trying to force a decision among his nominal followers, it is painfully obvious that he succeeded — and which way they chose.
God, do I truly know you as my Father? Am I capable of loving the way you love, and loving what you love? How can I continue in your word, and not fall away when things get confusing, challenging, or scary? Lord, lead me into your freedom. Break me free from the bondage of sin, that I may dwell in your house always. As your son. In Your Son. By His Name. Amen.
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