I must confess that I have had a difficult time with this text.
What might seem like a fairly simple reading has a whole lot going
on. In this dialog between Jesus and his adversaries, we see relationships.
One is the relationship between Jesus and His Father, human, yet
divine. He emphasizes more than once, that his opponents come from
below and he from above. Jesus does not belong to the world that
rejects God’s good. God’s world does not share the world’s
commitment to violence. Those who will not believe that I AM (meaning
life) will die in their sins. John makes “life” central
to his story of Jesus. Giving life is Jesus’ mission.
“Who are you?” they insult him indignantly, insinuating
his illegitimate birth. You can feel the temperature rise, the impatience
in Jesus’ voice, “Why do I speak to you at all?”
or (what have I been telling you from the beginning?) The Jews do
not have a clue about what Jesus is saying, and so they misinterpret
virtually everything he says. Here Jesus acts as the judge of the
accused, again he says, unless they proclaim that HE IS, they will
die in their sins after he ‘goes away’. They deny he
is a prophet or a messiah. Now they want to kill him. Jesus exposes
them as liars and murderers, offspring of the devil. What they don’t
realize is that by the very act of killing him, they cause the very
opposite, that Jesus exists in the future eternal!
Can you feel the treachery? The tension? And yet there is such beauty,
goodness and power in the picture that Jesus paints so boldly, that
he is solely dependant upon the father as a source of all life.
It is loving, respectful, so human and yet so divine. I can’t
help but think back to the relationship between myself and my earthly
father who died when I was twenty-six. Jesus’ remark, “I
always do what is pleasing to him”, reminds me of the special
fondness I felt my father had for me. When he complimented me, I
glowed, so rarely did it happen. My father was a judging parent,
and we feared him at times, but we knew he loved us and he would
do anything to protect us. I don’t know where the will came
from to want to please my parents, I think it was partly human,
partly God’s grace. As God is with us in our sufferings, so
the father is with Jesus when he is rejected by men. There will
come that terrible moment when, hanging on the cross, Jesus will
be forsaken by the father. How horrifying this thought must have
been to Jesus.
Now in my earthly father’s absence, I rely solely on my heavenly
father for courage and wisdom to be a light to others before it
is my time to ‘go away’. I pray that in so doing that
I will see with the eyes of the heart, to illuminate, to make ‘life’
central to my story. And not to fear, but to listen. And to love.