Thursday, 14 April 2011

Last Straw

GospelJohn 8:51-59 

Jesus said to the Jews:
‘I tell you most solemnly,
whoever keeps my word
will never see death.’
The Jews said, ‘Now we know for certain that you are possessed. Abraham is dead, and the prophets are dead, and yet you say, “Whoever keeps my word will never know the taste of death.” Are you greater than our father Abraham, who is dead? The prophets are dead too. Who are you claiming to be?’ Jesus answered:
‘If I were to seek my own glory
that would be no glory at all;
my glory is conferred by the Father,
by the one of whom you say, “He is our God”
although you do not know him.
But I know him,
and if I were to say: I do not know him,
I should be a liar, as you are liars yourselves.
But I do know him, and I faithfully keep his word.
Your father Abraham rejoiced
to think that he would see my Day;
he saw it and was glad.’
The Jews then said, ‘You are not fifty yet, and you have seen Abraham!’ Jesus replied:
‘I tell you most solemnly,
before Abraham ever was,
I Am.’
At this they picked up stones to throw at him; but Jesus hid himself and left the Temple.
And these were the people who believed in him. But not enough. Not enough to accept that their understanding of God was going to have to change. 
And it's not as if their understanding has never changed. When Abraham was asked to leave his city it proved that his God was not like other gods - limited to a place; a mountain or a river. Issac, Jacob, Moses - all the patriarchs would encounter God in different places in different forms. God would tell them where to go and what to do - and they went and they did - mostly. But at least they listened, and they argued, obeyed and disobeyed. Quite an interactive relationship. 

But not recently. God had become static; comprehensible; put in His place. The people awaited a new coming - but on their terms. No burning bush or whispered breeze this time and certainly no man claiming kinship and through kinship the power to defeat death.
For these people death was the end; why it was so important to guard your place on earth; that was the measure of God's favour. The shame or favour of your ancestors and what you passed on to your children was judged by your peers; by the community; by those you gave authority to  - by the Temple. God is always; but we have our time and our place.

Jesus asks them to believe in a time beyond; to believe that they can continue to grow; to become more. To believe that no-one needs to be imprisoned by the worries, limitations and judgements of 'now' because now is not all there is. 

This is a hope that I hold onto when life is not going well. But it does mean accepting that my life is out of my control; it means developing the trust and even the imagination of a child to have faith  in something I have no proof of and to look forward to it. There have been times when I couldn't make the leap and I suffered more because of it.

The people Jesus is speaking to can't make the leap - everything Jesus says is too outrageous - they do not listen to the promise of eternal life because they cannot take seriously the one who is making the offer. 

Easier to destroy what you cannot understand.



claire said...

A neat, neat post, mairie. Thank you. I like everything you wrote :-)

This morning as my husband read the gospel out loud, I heard 'and Jesus hid' ... I stayed with these words, trying to cross centuries to go back to this moment and see him hide...


Word in the Hand said...

I noticed that too, Claire, I wonder if he really hid (or became hidden). But yes, imagine being there.

Margaret said...

Love that phrase: On their terms. That's exactly the way it is. We expect our experience of the divine or help from the divine to be on our terms. So we can't even see it when it happens.