Thursday, March 25, 2010

Nothing is ever outside the scope of God's love and mercy (Tuesday, 5th Week in Lent, John 8:21-30)

Jesus said to the Pharisees:
“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.

* * * * * * *

Still they do not understand. “Who are you? the Jews ask. All this time, all those miracles, all those kind and loving words, and still they didn’t recognize him. One of the recurring themes in the gospel of John is precisely the inability of many to recognize Jesus and appreciate his ministry. Even the disciples, time and again, are presented as having such great difficulty in understanding Jesus.

All such misconceptions and lack of recognition, however build up to a climax which, in the gospel of John, is the “hour of glory” when Jesus will finally be revealed as the Son of God, and the Savior of Israel. And yet, even at that point, perplexity is the order of the day. For the very moment of glory is also the moment when Jesus dies on the cross—an event that seemed to be the very opposite of glorification.

This is the greatest paradox of John’s gospel, it’s a paradox that has confounded many who encountered Jesus, not only those who refused to believe, but even his closest friends. It is only after the resurrection that his disciples and many others will come to realize what Jesus had been telling them all this time, that his Kingdom was not of this world, and that his being Messiah is different from the way they had come to expect a strong, and powerful ruler. The way of Jesus is the way of humble service and the way of the suffering servant.

There is tremendous consolation here, especially for those who of us who find in suffering a great stumbling block to our trust in God’s love and compassion. Nothing, not even suffering, is outside the scope of God’s love for us, for in him, even the deepest and darkest moments of four life find meaning and redemption.

"The Kingdom of Heaven is a condition of the heart." (Friedrich Nietzsche)