Rumbles At Tabernacles: The Unlikely Teacher

interrogation_part_5_by_nukageEspecially in a western culture mindset to make sense of everything it is assumed often that spirituality must help with every question.  If someone has that as a focus in exploring Christianity then they could read the verse where Paul wrote as something to be fulfilled in this life completely, “until we all attain to the unity of faith and knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the extent of the full stature of Christ (Ephesians 4:13).  Ignorance of the right answers may seem like a black mark.  As we read on about the man born blind and healed on the sabath, only to be hassled by religious people, remember that his conversion experience is not only that of healing but of the dignity of the human person and this did not come with complete spiritual clarity.  When Jesus would lift up the downtrodden or any other encounters it was always for a higher purpose.  Sometimes it was to comfort the afflicted while other times it was to afflict the comfortable like the Pharisees.

Having interrogated the blind man and then his parents only to find the healing to be inconveniently true, they now try to “get ahead of the story” like a political spin room.   The parents qualified their answers to stay in their good graces, while the questions of the elite were to finish Jesus off.

 So a second time they called the man who had been blind and said to him, “Give God the praise! We know that this man is a sinner.” He replied, “If he is a sinner, I do not know. One thing I do know is that I was blind and now I see.” So they said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” He answered them, “I told you already and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become his disciples, too?” They ridiculed him and said, “You are that man’s disciple; we are disciples of Moses! We know that God spoke to Moses, but we do not know where this one is from.” The man answered and said to them, “This is what is so amazing, that you do not know where he is from, yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if one is devout and does his will, he listens to him. It is unheard of that anyone ever opened the eyes of a person born blind. If this man were not from God, he would not be able to do anything.” They answered and said to him, “You were born totally in sin, and are you trying to teach us?” Then they threw him out (John 9:24-34).


Give God the praise!-  We know from looking at the narrative for earlier this week that there were some that were among their elite number who were “done for” in that they came to believe in Jesus.  Perhaps there are some rays of light permeating into the ruling perception that God was still active on the earth.

We know that this man is a sinner-  Then again, maybe not.  Here is the assumption of placing a label on what Jesus is fundamentally.  This could be considered a fundamental attribution error.  Also it is telling that they presume in the “we” that they are in a place to judge in any way that is special just because they are “disciples of Moses”.  So they must “know”— even if they don’t.

If he is a sinner, I do not know. – How ones connection to knowledge is perceived is important in this passage but more broadly in the Bible starting with the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.  This man starts making the unforgivable sin of admitting that he does not know.  Being humble in the temple?  How dare he!.Really, he is humble and thus more wise than the questioners.

What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?-  He is making them desperate again.  For them, when in doubt, sow more doubt.  Surely there must be something logical since the mysteries are for them always to discern.  When one loses wonder, one loses hope for powers beyond ones self.

I told you already and you did not listen.— The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and aiming for a different result.  One could say that he is growing comfortable in his own skin, with humility, to show the elite up for their insanity.   He maintains his humility and wonder but another miracle of Jesus is now emerging: with his sight and under inquisition is coming a sense of dignity as  person.

We know that God spoke to Moses, but we do not know where this one is from-  A bold statement would be to the know-it-all’s then and now is that God is able and willing to do things without your permission all the time.

you do not know where he is from, yet he opened my eyes- Translation is that God will do things despite you and not always through you.

God does not listen to sinners, but if one is devout and does his will, he listens to him-  For this blind man to not have a formal education, he says a mouthful.  He shows here that God is near to the ones who are near in heart and deeds and not just ones that are in places of honor.

You were born totally in sin, and are you trying to teach us?-  For the elite, religious or otherwise, the paradigm is about the cursed and who gets to rule them.  Ironically, one could see their tradition made of man to be a pseudo-caste system in ascribing a hierarchy of holiness based on membership of the degrees or have’s and have not’s.

Then they threw him out-  In a way, the rulers of the temple threw Jesus out.  The irony is that though this man was no apostle, he was apostolic in the sense that he was sent out into the world with a testimony of healing that went against the rules based on man.  Jesus said “if they receive you, they receive me (Matthew 10:40). To deny the message of Christ is to deny Christ.

This man, is in his simplicity and yet “getting it” in what heart God wants. He is like a model for those of use who take baby steps in knowing Christ at the next level: know what we know, say what we don’t and allow Jesus to bring in the clarity on all the rest.   And despite the spiritual abuse of that day, Jesus is about to bring clarity on what he needs to show next what he wants to for you, dear reader, if you are willing to open your eyes.  In this post-modern culture where the word “religious” is like a bad word, the casualties are many with much confusion.  But this confusion can be addressed when there is a clarity of who Jesus really is.

Rumbles At Tabernacles: Wide-Eyed But Squinting

think-big-start-small-byob-post1Faith can be a matter of baby steps in the actions that follow words as well as levels of understanding.  A preconception about faith is that someone who has that in their life must be taking one leap in the dark after another.  Another idea is that God is bound by our preconceptions based or it is not God.  That is often not what is demonstrated where people err in the Bible whether it is warnings to change or to not presume.

Such are some of the experiences for a man that was born blind and healed by Jesus when he was forty and his examiners of that day the Pharisees.

They brought the one who was once blind to the Pharisees. Now Jesus had made clay and opened his eyes on a sabbath. So then the Pharisees also asked him how he was able to see. He said to them, “He put clay on my eyes, and I washed, and now I can see.” So some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, because he does not keep the sabbath.” [But] others said, “How can a sinful man do such signs?” And there was a division among them. So they said to the blind man again, “What do you have to say about him, since he opened your eyes?” He said, “He is a prophet.” (John 9:13-17).

He put clay on my eyes, and I washed, and now I can see-  This is a valid aspect of inquiry with faith.  He responds with an objective statement with such neutrality that there is no cause and effect in the words.  This is strictly speaking not a faith statement but one that is openness to faith.  In modern times, if I were not a Christian, I can acknowledge that Jesus of Nazareth existed and the before and after details in history in context of his birth, crucifixion and resurrection as Christians describe them seem to be socially impactful.  What causes what comes with a spiritual discernment not based on only logic.

He was also told to wash in the Pool of Siloam.  This was a sign that Jesus did which is  a miracle with prophetic meaning.  John never uses the word “miracle” in his gospel but mentions seven signs.  This is multi-faceted as described in the Ignatius Study Bible.

Sent suggests that the pool is a symbol of Jesus, the source of living water (4:10) and One sent by his Father (9:4;12:44).  It’s contents are symbolic of the Spirit, who is the living water poured out by Christ (7:38-39_ and One who is sent by the Father and the Son (14:26; 15:26).  The miracle anticipates the administration of Baptism, where catechumens are washed in water, anointed (9:6) with oil, and enlightened with grace and truth (9:5); Eph 1:18; Her 6:4). (The Ignatius Catholic Study Bible).

Surely John could see much of it all for what it was when he was writing this.   But the healed man could not see much and none by the cynical examiners.

This man is not from God, because he does not keep the sabbath-  There have been preconceptions getting in their way here.  Though this may not be a theological argument, could it be said that this is a labor of love they are against and not labor for wages? Love is a lens and if it is not used in the kingdom of God, the truth is missed.

How can a sinful man do such signs?-  The doubters speak now doubt not only on the validity of Jesus being from God but having a premise on his character in the heart.  This is another example, just in the Feast of Tabernacles alone, where the argument is personal.  The logic in learning to debate is that if one attaches ad hominem it is a sign of weakness on ones argument easily displayed for the wise to see.  What they hated were that each sign was a message of fulfilled hope outside of their control. The irony is that signs being teachings in action serve as a matter that something substantive is being communicated and they did not like it.

What do you have to say about him, since he opened your eyes?– Eventually the question is put to us on what we will do with faith as it continues to grow.   Often the question is what we ask ourselves if the opportunity for faith to take action. For it to matter it may be especially inconvenient in light of how faith without works is dead.

He is a prophet- This is not a dense answer but it is part of the truth.  What does it mean to be a prophet?  It is to be one who speaks the disposition and/or intent of God or in simpler terms one who speaks to the truth by a source that is spiritually based.  A prophet in the Bible speaks for God.

There is a hard part to contemplating Jesus with growing certainty before or during a conversion experience.  One knows what they are giving up and not enough of what they are getting.  This healed man is about to get the heat of persecution turned up on him.  It will be rough in this new world that he can see clearly with physical eyes.  He will be tested as his faith grows because there are people of doubt that hate the truth and take it out on him.  This poor man does not have a full understanding of the truth and significance of his experience.  What he could and will soon do is hold on to what he had.  Such is the path for those who embrace a journey of faith.  It is to hold on to what you have and not overly fret about what you do not understand.  Jesus spoke and speaks truth.  That is a start when one opens them up to truth above ones self.

Rumbles At Tabernacles: Light Agenda, The Perfect Way

UnselfieThree fundamental traits of divinity are represented in the Jewish and later Christian traditions: God is all- powerful, all-holy, all-knowing and all-loving/good.  However, in the experiences of believers in those traditions there has been different understandings of what those traits should mean. Each have logical conclusions on how life is lived.  The irony is some believers may misunderstand God’s nature on suffering and make God sound like he does not love where it counts.

Such was the unbelief of God’s love by many believers in the time of Jesus when someone was born greatly disadvantaged.  To some extent you could say it was about God the Father as dysfunctional since God as father was said only 17 times in the Old Testament.  But Jesus came and changed the story referring to God as father 17 times just in the Sermon on the Mount alone and did not stop there with the case below in point.

As he passed by he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “Neither he nor his parents sinned; it is so that the works of God might be made visible through him.We have to do the works of the one who sent me while it is day. Night is coming when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made clay with the saliva, and smeared the clay on his eyes, and said to him, “Go wash in the Pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). So he went and washed, and came back able to see (John 9:1-7).

who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?–  By phrasing it the premise is that a burden to bear must only come from sin in the mix and thus blame or shame is part of that lens.  We learn from the first epistle of John that, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment, and so one who fears is not yet perfect in love” (1 John 4:18).   Perfect love is best manifested to change that fear or shame mentality with the fullest expression of the gospel.  The disciples and the man born blind breathed in some doctrinal stumbling block that was not of love but fueled by fear.

it is so that the works of God might be made visible through him- I will now share the most brilliant answer possible for the question on what those works are: no one totally knows.  I can say that in general, it is surrender for God’s will to be done and with a response of the heart with trust.  Jesus prayed “Not my will, but yours be done” and went to the cross and the victory came only after death.  But sometimes God does a miracle that can draw us unto truth and even better to a fulness of relationship with him. But in not knowing there is always the invitation to trust.

We have to do the works of the one who sent me while it is day.–  Jesus in the world was rightfully the focus of salvation, what is true and what sustains.  Jesus said later “I am the way, the truth and the life” (John 14:6). We also know that Jesus is the “Apostle and High Priest of our good confession” (Hebrews 3:1).  Apostle means “sent one”.  For Jesus to be God incarnate is to be the sent as frail humanity to save the world.  The sending is in sacrifice and such sacrifice is endurable due to love.

Night is coming when no one can work-  Augustine makes a good point of what this night could be.  “Let man, then, work while he lives, that he may not be overtaken by that night when no one can work. It is now that faith is working by love…..this is the day- Christ is here” (Augustine, Lectures or Tractates on the Gospel According to St. John.).  One should make the most of today and remember that we will be judged by our works that are done in love.   Also, it is worth knowing that darkness came over the earth three hours into the six that Jesus was on the cross but fire came down on the birth of the Church on the day of Pentecost.  More on that below.


While I am in the world, I am the light of the world– Jesus here is making a point that one can look further than him at this time on knowing what the will of God is.  Although writing about the spread of Christianity is not my focus here, it should be noted that Jesus spoke a calling for those who believe in him to preach and teach his agenda.

You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket; it is set on a lampstand, where it gives light to all in the house. Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father (Matthew 5:14-16).

smeared the clay on his eyes- Jesus used matter to convey the grace of God often.  This is why the anointing of oil is referred to in James 5 for healing.  Christianity never sees spirit and matter at war with each other.

Go wash in the Pool of Siloam” (which means Sent)– This is not meaningless tangent for John.  Apostle in the Greek means sent.  But there is an apostolic, or sending theme, that Jesus intended.  Paul reflects on this on how “Through him we have received the grace of apostleship, to bring about the obedience of faith, for the sake of his name, among all the Gentiles” (Romans 1:5).  Putting the New Testament together in context with Jesus at the center is to remember that grace and the sending of Jesus and followers, means to speak and live grace in a way that brings some level of wholeness to anyone who believes (Romans 1:16).  Indeed, the gospel is good news and not a labeling game. The gospel directs us to see the labels washed off of us.

Rumbles At Tabernacles: The Last Straw

lion-hd-wallpapersIn school I heard about high context versus low context communication.  High context would be considered by the average American to be beating around the bush.  Low context would be getting straight to the point.  It is hard to say which way is right for all times or cultures.  With the high context way, there is room for emotional nuance in the expressing and more effort to listen brought out of the listener.  Low context saves time but someone’s feelings can be hurt.

To analyze where Jesus falls on this once can see him use each style depending on context.  In general, the impression Jesus leaves is that the more intimately engaged one gets with him the more direct he speaks.  This is not always good news since to engage ones self headstrong against Jesus with the utmost of skepticism of even cynicism  can also buy the emotional and spiritual shock that ironically may save you.  It is as if one could bate Jesus to shock them with truth.  Saul of Tarsus on his road to Damascus might agree.

The week in Jerusalem as told by John in his gospel was a rumble with religious leaders who considered themselves as too elite for his challenges just like may today who are elite in any realm looking down at Jesus.  It started indirectly and then they drew him in tighter and tighter into their circle only to be dumbfounded by how he handled the woman caught in adultery.  Uh-oh.  Then he pursues them into the treasury at the temple.  As for the context of communication he uses the high context enough to make them hungry.  Now he has bated them and served them unpleasant truth and topping it off with “Because I speak the truth, you do not believe me”.  He attacks their cognitive dissonance.  How dare he! For most of the hearers there was no conversion but only an aversion which they now express ad hominem. So too will the elite of today of many kinds of power do the same to Jesus and anyone who speaks rightly of him.

The Jews answered and said to him, “Are we not right in saying that you are a Samaritan and are possessed?” Jesus answered, “I am not possessed; I honor my Father, but you dishonor me. I do not seek my own glory; there is one who seeks it and he is the one who judges. Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever keeps my word will never see death.”  [So] the Jews said to him, “Now we are sure that you are possessed. Abraham died, as did the prophets, yet you say, ‘Whoever keeps my word will never taste death.’ Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? Or the prophets, who died? Who do you make yourself out to be?”  Jesus answered, “If I glorify myself, my glory is worth nothing; but it is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say, ‘He is our God.’ You do not know him, but I know him. And if I should say that I do not know him, I would be like you a liar. But I do know him and I keep his word. Abraham your father rejoiced to see my day; he saw it  and was glad. So the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old and you have seen Abraham?” Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, before Abraham came to be, I AM.” So they picked up stones to throw at him; but Jesus hid and went out of the temple area (John 8:48-59).

Are we not right in saying that you are a Samaritan and are possessed?–  Hate made them ingorant on the first and desperate on the second.  They are speaking with a rabbi from Galilee which has a distinct accent to the point that it exposed Simon Peter to exposure on the night of Jesus’ trial.  And ironically they are forgetting about what miracles mean.  Elsewhere in the gospels when he is accused of casting out demons by the power of demons, he points out that a house divided cannot stand.

I am not possessed; I honor my Father, but you dishonor me-  Instead of defining himself unto himself, Jesus points back to the relationship with the Father rather than attack with attack.  The gospel is relational first.

whoever keeps my word will never see death-  But the consequence of truth here is still obedience and such is the invitation that is also a commandment.  “God has overlooked the times of ignorance, but now he demands that all people everywhere repent” (Acts 17:31).

Now we are sure that you are possessed– The demonic possession they referred to above was a suspicion born of their bias.  In their interactions with Jesus all data is examined by confirmation bias in screening out what counters their bias and filling in what works.  Now they have a solid excuse to stand on; so they think.  Such is the anatomy of the hardening of ones heart in saying no to truth and love.

Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died?-

There is another important point to consider is again their racial or religious privilege.  The religious elite had been confronted before prophetically— by John the Baptist.

 And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you, God can raise up children to Abraham from these stones. Even now the ax lies at the root of the trees. Therefore every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. I am baptizing you with water, for repentance, but the one who is coming after me is mightier than I. I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fan is in his hand. He will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” (Matthew 3:9-12).

In the depths of their hearts, did they know what was going on?  Maybe.  How much of their flesh was aware to this work of clearing “the threshing floor” is hard to say but one can see it is evil to insult love.

For religious leaders it is interesting how they leave God out of the picture to hinder true cleansing.  It is partly an appearance of putting God at the other side of the universe like a deist.  They speak of death as an equalizer and with finality in itself.  Jesus speaks from the point of view of the resurrection which speaks like true hope.

Who do you make yourself out to be?-  Now they are bringing the subject to something less desperate than the possession slur but to critique the motivations of Jesus.  The assumption is not only death as final but that everyone, especially that sinner Jesus, must have a selfish agenda.

it is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say, ‘He is our God.’–  Jesus speaks in irony.  Their god is clear— themselves.

I would be like you — a liar–  This is called a shot off the port bow.  In later months to come there would be more turmoil but even more bluntness by Jesus.  The purpose of this comment is to clarify what their language means as a point of how detached they are to the truth.  One could presume that Jesus is calling them out for lying to themselves.

Amen, amen, I say to you, before Abraham came to be, I AM-  Often I write how God does not want to coerce us into believing.  God is a respecter of free will.  Further, as one can see here, God is actually giving the hard of heart more than they can handle.  It is said that an alcohol overdose happens when someone blacks out.  In this case there is an overdose, but not of truth, but of their concentration of fighting the truth that draws them to holiness.  It is has if they black out in their hard hearted rage.  Such is how the greatest class can be of low context gospel of Jesus Christ when combined with any declaration that he is irrelevant and finite.  Something has to break.  In that room,  the minority who believed in him broke in the only direction of Jesus giving room to truly respect him as he deserves and in a manner that is intellectually consistent. The majority could be only the latter.

“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to” (C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity).


Rumbles At Tabernacles: Father Abraham and Who As Sons?

the-true-light-was-coming-into-the-world-jesus-sun-christian-wallpaper-hd_1920x1200It is painful to be exposed when we have been so sure of our invincibility.  Much more if there are assumptions of being God’s favorites and above accountability from secret sins.

Jesus spoke truth to the powerful.  Though he loved to comfort the afflicted, for the proud he had to make a point to afflict the comfortable.  Having just finished exposing the plot of murder in the hearts of the religious leaders at the end of the week in the Feast of Tabernacles they were knocked back on their heels. In tough love, he is about to point out to those with a false sense of security where the roots are bad.

They answered and said to him, “Our father is Abraham.” Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing the works of Abraham. But now you are trying to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God; Abraham did not do this. You are doing the works of your father!” [So] they said to him, “We are not illegitimate. We have one Father, God.” Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and am here; I did not come on my own, but he sent me. Why do you not understand what I am saying? Because you cannot bear to hear my word. You belong to your father the devil and you willingly carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning and does not stand in truth, because there is no truth in him. When he tells a lie, he speaks in character, because he is a liar and the father of lies. But because I speak the truth, you do not believe me. Can any of you charge me with sin? If I am telling the truth, why do you not believe me? Whoever belongs to God hears the words of God; for this reason you do not listen, because you do not belong to God.” (John 8:39-47).

If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing the works of Abraham-  This would take longer than what space affords here, but suffice it to say Abraham had very good works.  I have heard it said from Steven Ray in his documentary, like the title, that Abraham was the “Father of Faith and Works”.  His works included trusting God with the life of Isaac because he understood something about resurrection, making decisions that went beyond his own generation and many others.  Fundamentally, “Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness” (Genesis 15:6) all in the context of hearing God and obeying.

But now you are trying to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God–  Jesus will not let himself be distracted.  Though Jesus does not impose, he does confront if someone is in any kind of full engagement.  For believing Christians, there is the belief that Jesus is still the same and conviction is carried out by the Holy Spirit to bring truth.  And truth hurts.

You are doing the works of your father!–  If the subject of the root of sin comes, up Jesus does not only bring up the devil, but sometimes the devil as a usual suspect.  Appropriate to this case, Jesus exposes that they are tied to the polar opposite of his wellspring.  The principle is to show the root by its fruit even if it hurts.

We are not illegitimate. We have one Father, God–  Interesting in a sense that the religious leaders are so quick to go to the fatherhood message of Jesus as they adopt his language just to keep up in a fight.

If God were your Father, you would love me– Moving now farther than the works of Abraham, Jesus speaks to love.  However, the love that Jesus speaks of is still tied to obedience.  Jesus unveiled much more about himself to his disciples at the Last Supper saying, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:23).

Why do you not understand what I am saying? Because you cannot bear to hear my word.- In the social sciences there is a term used for dysfunctional filtering of information called confirmation bias.  This is where someone’s conclusion is already formed and information will be accepted or dismissed to fit that accordingly.  The heart of the matter for cynics like those who Jesus addresses is that they have their own agenda to sin and like keeping it that way.   John addresses this with his own voice in his gospel.

And this is the verdict, that the light came into the world, but people preferred darkness to light, because their works were evil For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come toward the light, so that his works might not be exposed. But whoever lives the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God. (John 3:19).

You belong to your father the devil and you willingly carry out your father’s desires- Here Jesus presses in and calling out the exact spiritual cause and effect.

But because I speak the truth, you do not believe me— This reminds me of the detox pain in getting used to sobriety again.  Keep in mind that biblical belief is a pregnant word with a fullness of meaning in obedience.  If they accept the words of Jesus as true, then truth has consequences in which they  could be transformed in repentance. This is seen in the original Greek word metanoia which where we get metamorphosis from.

Whoever belongs to God hears the words of God; for this reason you do not listen, because you do not belong to God.–  Jesus makes this statement with an implied invitation even to the hard of heart.  He says “words of God” as a term used in the plural which points to a revelation of God much greater than the memorization of scripture.  Jesus implies that they could have an ongoing, vibrant relationship.  This would be if they gave up their “freedom” in what they thinkis spiritual privilege and surrender themselves to God’s full ownership.  To do that is to be saved totally.  For some of the hearers in this confrontation, they make the right choice of believing and we can assume their place would be of those marked with something that cannot be washed away.  Freedom is to belong to the One who made us.

Rumbles At Tabernacles X: Beautiful Baby Steps


If one converts spiritually from one lens in seeing the world around them to another it is not an easy step.  It is even harder if the person changed in their thinking is surrounded by people with an ideology that is hostile to the new one.  Such was the odd thing where a silent minority of the crowd in the temple believed in him with a hostile majority there.

Because he spoke this way, many came to believe in him (John 8:30)

In such a pivotal moment, Jesus wanted to reach out to those that he knew had just had a pivot in their hearts and speak to them of basic principles for spiritual formation.  Also, there could be a hope that those who were not taking in what is said would have something to remember Jesus by when the gospel story would later be played out.  Even more would one day believe.

 Jesus then said to those Jews who believed in him,“If you remain in my word, you will truly be my disciples,  and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” They answered him, “We are descendants of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How can you say, ‘You will become free’?”  Jesus answered them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin.  A slave does not remain in a household forever, but a son always remains.  So if a son frees you, then you will truly be free. I know that you are descendants of Abraham. But you are trying to kill me, because my word has no room among you. I tell you what I have seen in the Father’s presence; then do what you have heard from the Father.” (John 8:31-38).

If you remain in my word, you will truly be my disciples-  “If” is a key word.  Going forward, his disciples always have free will and God’s will is never imposed but to proposed.  Every day a disciples of Jesus has a proposal to take up their own cross, their own experience of humility, and follow him.

and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free-  and believing with surrender leads to understanding in a way that illuminates the heart with grace.  This is why “grace and truth were realized in Jesus Christ” (John 1:17).  With these spiritual elements together in an encounter with Christ there is freedom starting with the acknowledgment that there is such a thing as sin.

We are descendants of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone–  And now back to the skeptics.  The minimize what Jesus has to say based on an objective fact.  A second later Jesus even affirms that they are right about the fact but wrong on the significance they give it.  They area each saying they are good with God as a matter of DNA.  Jesus brings it back to what they are doing and how that what matters in staying in his word.

everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin–  I often repeat story to my clients who are in addiction recovery from Margret Thatcher.  She was in the early stages of Alzheimers and was asked how she felt about it.  Her response was “Do not ask me about my feelings.  Ask me about what I believe and what I do.  That is how you will know who I am and what I am about.”  These cynics were about feeling righteous but not doing the real works of righteousness let alone discerning it.  Furthermore, they believed in the direction away from surrender.

A slave does not remain in a household forever, but a son always remains-  The paradox is that this transcendent, celestial word is not flaky but grounding.  Jesus had said he does what his Father says.  The effects of sin seem stable, but really in the end they are destabilizing to the human person and dignity.  One who is in complete sonship to the Father always has a home in the implication of what is said here even if they feel that they started as a slave.

So if a son frees you, then you will truly be free-  GK Chesterton had a good point about freedom.  “When is a train most free?  On it’s tracks”.  Sonship in the household of faith is what all of mankind were made for and can go forward according to divine purpose in surrender to the yoke that is anything but slavery.  But one must accept the power of the Son.

But you are trying to kill me, because my word has no room among you-  And now he lays down the hammer.  In this visit to Jerusalem Jesus does not demonstrate the supernatural much but he does here with divine knowledge.  He knows their intent with sending the guards.  They wanted to do a kangaroo court and get him killed.  Jesus was fine with that in the right time.  For now, he calls them on their evil without sugarcoating.  He said it because they needed it.

I tell you what I have seen in the Father’s presence-  Truth has consequences.  All the world is ultimately commanded by God to repent. And what we hear from Jesus we hear from the Father just as for those that see Jesus, see the Father (John14:7).  All things considered, Jesus is just warming up.  Relax cynics.  It gets worse!

Rumbles At Tabernacles IX: Diagnosis Self-Murder

simplefaitharchiveI 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.