Published on April 9th, 2020 | by God's Squad DNA team0
Jesus takes on the Pharisees, again, John 8:31-42. April 1 by Buckshot
Kia ora e hoa ma, rangimarie ki a kolutou katoa. Hello friends, good health and peace be with you all. Our gospel text today is John 8:31-42
Over Lent, the daily readings often jump from one gospel to another, but not this week. We have been at the temple in Jerusalem beginning on Monday with Jesus encountering the ‘adulterous women’….but not the man….where he graciously arranges for her forgiveness and freedom from the wrath of the religious elite. Yesterday and today he has been involved in a deep theological debate with the same religious leaders, watched on by a large crowd who are in Jerusalem for an annual festival.
Violence and tension are palpable and real in today’s scene. The chapter begins with the Pharisees and scribes wanting to stone the women and the chapter ends with these same people wanting to stone Jesus. In the midst of this tension, Jesus is face to face with angry people claiming to be God’s children who are clearly acting like children of the devil. How could this be happening in the central courts of the Jewish faith??!
These people had all the scriptures and prophecies saying “Israel” were to be a light to the nations, a blessing to all and the way to full life and salvation. Yet consistently they failed with a narrow view of what ‘sin’ actually was, a view that allowed them to carve out a tiny sanctuary that only they could fit in. Their sanctuary, their ‘righteousness’ kept everyone else outside and made them into hypocrites willing to kill misfits for breaking their religious rules. Adultery is a sin worth avoiding, it really does ruin relationships and families – but moral and sexual sin is only a tiny portion of all that ruins life in God’s good created order. At the time of this violence soaked scene Israel was suffering under Roman invasion – over many decades and centuries poor choices for the easy way, ignoring justice, lining the pockets of the elite had allowed the ‘light to the nations’ to become an overrun people unable to live out the call of God they received millennia before.
Into this messy scene, Jesus had been living as Israel was meant to be, but couldn’t. He was becoming the incarnation, the embodiment of all their hopes so that he can say in vv31,32 “If you make my word your home, you will indeed be my disciples; and you will come to know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” We could flip this and say, if you don’t live in my way (hear God’s way) you will be slaves of sin and suffer its consequences, as you are now living under oppression and wanting to kill this woman and also me!
Today we live with the real threat of Covid 19, we don’t seem to know yet what the full truth of its appearing and travelling around the globe is. But knowing that truth in time will set us free from many lies that are probably circulating right now. In this crisis we must avoid narrowing our focus so much that we become hypocrites like the people in our text today, and miss what God is doing in our midst. These are strange days where fear of contagion and death is real for many people, but that is not the whole picture.
We are still on our journey through Lent, that preparation period of reflection before the feast of Easter. As we walk with Jesus in this time of uncertainty in our world today may we not be afraid. In Sunday’s gospel Jesus wept. Jesus walks with us weeping with compassion and hope. He is gracious to the women caught in adultery and confronts the murderous attitude of the elite.
This time of lockdown in New Zealand and many other places, while inconvenient and restrictive, could actually be a gift to us. An opportunity to slow down, to pause and reflect on our relationship or connection to murderous attitudes. A time to ask ourselves what is our connection to the abuse of the poor, to the lack of opportunity for those at the margins like our women early in John 8? Where is Jesus weeping at the moment, how do we get to that place and join him? This period of uncertainty may help us clarify what is truly important, where we are on our journey and be a springboard for us to a deeper living in the ways of Jesus.
As we move closer to celebrating that ultimate example of love and freedom from sin (in all its awfulness, not just personal moral failings) may we be like Geoff, carefully investigating the wonders of Aces new bike. May we search for truth, engage with the scriptures, engage with science, philosophy, theology and seek to have the widest and deepest view we can of all that is going on around us. May we be able to discern with Jesus what brings life and what brings death and have the wisdom of the spirit to know the difference, plus the courage to walk in that way.
Jesus could stand boldly in the face of the angry mob today as he had lived and breathed the hope and dream of Abraham, he knew the desperation of the poor and the liberating lavish love of God for all. May we experience this by walking in his way without fear.
Peace, love and hope be with you today and always,
Buckshot – Wellington chapter, New Zealand