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Friday, June 8, 2018

“Living in the Light”

John 8:48-59

This text give us an ultimate picture of the conflict between religion and Jesus.  As Karl Barth famously put it, religion is humanity’s attempt to find God, revelation is God finding humans.  Yet Jesus’ opponents here are the religious leaders of the Jews (the word “Jews” is essentially synonymous with the Pharisees).  The Pharisees had started out with the admirable goal of both preserving and purifying the faith of Israel.  Their tragedy however was spiritual pride.  They came to see themselves as the true voice of Israel.  They judged and indeed condemned those who did not share their views.

Jesus did not fit their categories.  Hence they referred to him as a Samaritan and a demon.  This showed both their prejudice (against Samaritans) and their intolerance of anyone who disagreed with them.  Jesus simply responds with the plain statement that he did not have a demon.  Of course.

Jesus then establishes his role as the faithful servant of the Father to be “the Savior of the world” (John 4:42).  He links himself with Abraham.  The religious leaders mockingly ask him, how could he have known Abraham?  Jesus’ climactic answer is “Before Abraham was, I am.”  Jesus here unmistakably is identifying himself with God.  The name of God is “I Am” (Ex. 3:14).  The religious leaders are horribly offended.  Jesus quite simply is not their view of God.  They take up stones to throw at him.

We can see how wrong the Pharisees are.  However we have to ask, what’s our view of God?  Does our view match the reality of Jesus?  Jesus is not a super hero.  He is not a genie who grants our desires.  He is not a ruler in any ordinary sense.  He is the true God in human form.  We may not want to admit it but we can be offended by Jesus.  He is all too often not what we expect.  If we are honest we have to admit that Jesus changes our whole idea of God.  This chapter began with the familiar story of the woman taken in adultery.  Jesus takes her side and challenges the righteous and respectable religious leaders.  From a human perspective this is an offensive Jesus.  Yet his greatest offense is that he came not to condemn us but to save us (John 3:17).

We need to thank God every day for this offensive Savior.

Most merciful and loving God I thank you that you sent Jesus to be may Savior.  May he lead me to understand you as you truly are.  Free me from my own delusions about you.  I pray this in Jesus’ name, Amen.