“Aslan is a lion- the Lion, the great Lion.” “Ooh” said Susan. “I’d thought he was a man. Is he-quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion”…”Safe?” said Mr Beaver …”Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.” (The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe).
This comes to mind for me about how spiritual journeys go for some skeptics. They poke a lion when they poke at Jesus in trying to get to the bottom of what makes him tick. Often that poke is intended to “try” the message of Jesus and if the bias is thick, like that of a cynic, then it could be a case for “in for a penny, in for a pound” where the pursued becomes the pursuer.
Such is the case of what happened after the Pharisees were disoriented by Jesus when they brought the woman to him who they caught in adultery. They sought to trap him to being at best like them (so they would think) and want her stoned or be too liberal and call adultery not a sin. He sent them packing by saying they could stone her- starting with whoever was without sin. Oops. Time to regroup in their home turf. But Jesus comes after them.
Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” So the Pharisees said to him, “You testify on your own behalf, so your testimony cannot be verified.” Jesus answered and said to them, “Even if I do testify on my own behalf, my testimony can be verified, because I know where I came from and where I am going. But you do not know where I come from or where I am going. You judge by appearances, but I do not judge anyone. And even if I should judge, my judgment is valid, because I am not alone, but it is I and the Father who sent me. Even in your law it is written that the testimony of two men can be verified. I testify on my behalf and so does the Father who sent me.” So they said to him, “Where is your father?” Jesus answered, “You know neither me nor my Father. If you knew me, you would know my Father also.” He spoke these words while teaching in the treasury in the temple area. But no one arrested him, because his hour had not yet come (John 8:12-20).
It is important for this passage to start at the end to know the context of the boldness of Jesus and the blindness of cynics in the choice to be “teaching in the treasury of the temple area”. A point is made on this by the Ignatius Catholic Study Bible
Christ enlightens the world with truth as the golden candelabras illuminated the Temple courts with fire during the Feast of Tabernacles. The location of Jesus as he delivers these words supports the symbolism: he is standing in “treasury” adjacent to the Court of Women, precisely where the lamp-lighting ceremony was recently conducted. The light of renewal is always dependent on God.
With that, let’s take a closer look at was Jesus does.
I am the light of the world- Jesus sees them in the midst of their symbol and reveals himself as the substance of that reality. One may think this is meaningless and for that day that is true for the perspective. But we know from the Acts of The Apostles that many priests were added to the Church. However, Jesus brings an agenda that is ultimately beyond just Palestine but for the world. He was prophesied over by Simeon when he was a baby as “the light of the Gentiles”.
Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life – Taken into context of how God was the light for the people of Israel by fire for forty years, this is significant. Again, Jesus gives them a point in their scenery and in language that points ultimately to his divinity.
my testimony can be verified…I know where I came from and where I am going. But you do not- Some things about Jesus could appeal to the senses and some things made sense. But the mysteries of Jesus are there for those who know when to take a leap of faith and that is not where they are right now.
You testify on your own behalf, so your testimony cannot be verified- The Pharisees take a legal tactic to shut Jesus down with a technicality and based on the assumption that his tall claims are only by his own declaration.
my testimony can be verified, because I know where I came from and where I am going- The point is made again that they are engaging and perceiving lateral to lateral where Jesus has a vertical and lateral approach to what matters. They don’t, and most of them won’t, get it because they do not want to.
You judge by appearances, but I do not judge anyone- Jesus in his humanity likely had the vision of the distraught woman caught in adultery in his brain. Nevertheless, he gets to the bottom of a major theme in this critical Feast of Tabernacles. Jesus is there in Jerusalem because he is on mercy business. The Pharisees are there on judgment business. We know in Christian scripture that mercy triumphs over judgment— exactly what the elite in power are afraid of.
I am not alone, but it is I and the Father who sent me- Here Jesus breaks new ground for this week and maybe his entire ministry as it pertains to relabeling who he is. Jesus has a message of sonship in place of oligarchy. Who is this mysterious father? Is he a rabbi that went out from us? Is it a mystic person out in the wilderness? Jesus is only beginning to be provocative.
If you knew me, you would know my Father also- This is crucial in that Jesus shows closeness between he and The Father. This connection is addressed in another angle elsewhere.
Moreover, the Father who sent me has testified on my behalf. But you have never heard his voice nor seen his form, and you do not have his word remaining in you, because you do not believe in the one whom he has sent (John 5:37-38).
Jesus is only getting started. His agenda, for those who have ears to hear, is to stir them to spiritual works like seeking God with true holiness rather trusting in the works of the law. This is an ongoing part of the gospel today. And no, he is not safe, but he is good. Jesus is the Lion for all of us.