I have heard it said many times that God does not give us more than we can handle. There is a truth to that in the sense that when we are tempted to give up on what is right about there. It is always an option if we are not willing to be open. In this saying, the context is usually circumstances.
But what about God speaking to a group with words seem more than they can handle in their prejudice? Jesus was a walking dividing line in the sense that people responded strongly one way or another. For some that were ready for conversion, the fruit would be good in the long run, but for those with hardened their hearts it would be otherwise. Ironically, confrontation can be light because conflict for the right reasons can be good for clarity of each side.
He said to them again, “I am going away and you will look for me, but you will die in your sin.Where I am going you cannot come.” So the Jews said, “He is not going to kill himself, is he, because he said, ‘Where I am going you cannot come’?” He said to them, “You belong to what is below, I belong to what is above. You belong to this world, but I do not belong to this world. That is why I told you that you will die in your sins. For if you do not believe that I AM, you will die in your sins.” So they said to him, “Who are you?” Jesus said to them, “What I told you from the beginning. I have much to say about you in condemnation. But the one who sent me is true, and what I heard from him I tell the world.” They did not realize that he was speaking to them of the Father. So Jesus said [to them], “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will realize that I AM, and that I do nothing on my own, but I say only what the Father taught me. The one who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone, because I always do what is pleasing to him.” Because he spoke this way, many came to believe in him (John 8:21-30).
you will die in your sin- Jesus speaks in contrast quite frankly and uses this term three times. The ironic thing is that Jesus speaks this way because he loves them. We know that later some of these elite come into the Church after the Resurrection. It could be possible that those hard words opened them up. In a way, he speaks to anyone with the human condition about the gravity of the 100% mortality rate due to being part of fallen man.
You belong to what is below, I belong to what is above- Jesus is not putting anyone in league with the devil—yet. He is declaring that their frame of reference is below heaven where he comes from. In a way, Jesus could be seen as being humble because just saying above is an understatement. Historical Christian theology describes the divine as ipsum esse subsistens (the sheer act of to-be itself). Thomas Aquinas often placed the description of the divine with the declaration of the great I AM in how God introduced himself to Moses. And this is the perspective by which Jesus repeats again, that temporary man is beholden to eternity.
Who are you?– This was their approach digging for his credentials in a way they could understand. Based on how the conversation evolves later in this encounter, it could be reasonably suspected that the elite here suspect Jesus is heading in a most scandalous direction.
I have much to say about you in condemnation.- This alone is a scandalous, or stumbling block, statement. The irony is that earlier that same day Jesus said to a woman caught in adultery “neither do I condemn you” but to the religious elite he has the ledger in his hands ready to be dispensed all the more due to their self-righteousness.
and what I heard from him I tell the world- Jesus is personal to everyone but that does not mean he has to take the conflict personal. Instead, Jesus leaves it out there that he is in sync to the Father and his directives. The endgame in mind for all of these directives is love that redeems though the free will is always a factor.
When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will realize that I AM- When we think of God being the great I AM like when God introduces himself to Moses, we think of power and not powerlessness. Jesus points to a reintroduction of divinity to man but deeper in the context of being paradoxically in completely surrendered humanity. This is the foolishness that confounds the wise like Paul writes about in 1 Corinthians 3. In the Cross something happened that was over the head of the cynics that held onto hard heartedness. It was just a Roman execution in their view and not the power demonstration they assumed.
The one who sent me is with me – Jesus ties in two things that are important in the Father and Son aspect of the gospels that are easy to see but hard to appreciate for the simplicity: Jesus is close to God and stays on mission always. One helps the other.
Because he spoke this way, many came to believe in him- And those who were there and had a soft heart got it broken in all the right ways. Jesus laid down for them who he was, who they are, why they were in error and what they needed to look for. Those who believed knew that there was a spiritual relationship to be engaged in and like Jesus they too would need to be on mission to cary their own cross and to be “lifted up” on their daily or literal cross (often the latter in the early church days). And it would have to be faith in action. Belief in the New Testament was a pregnant term. It was in the context of discipleship that Jesus and the gospel writers expressed. And this part of the Tradition still lives and breaths today as an ongoing kind of understanding.
And this understanding is not born from an intellectual process only. It is a conversion of the whole person that has authenticity to it rather than an intellectual education. It is walking with Jesus one step at a time and trusting him step by step.