Blog 14: John 8:12-59

SNL 13 January 2013 7.00pm

The authority of Jesus

As before, the blog written by Derek McKelvey is written as if by John the Evangelist. Of course it is not.

You must remember where we are. Jesus has dramatically intervened in the water-pouring ceremony at the Feast of Tabernacles[1], crying out that he is the source of living water. Now when the people went from that ceremony straight to the Court of the women[2] to light the lamps and to dance till morning in the light of the lamps. Jesus again takes the ancient nightly ritual of this feast, recalling the ‘shekinah’[3], the glorious light of God that led the people in the wilderness, and gloriously applies it to himself – ‘I am the light of the world!’  He seemed to us then, and still now, to have stepped into a new era of self-revelation, for ‘Light of the World’ was also regularly applied to God himself and to the Torah.[4] We were dumbfounded by the following discussion, for not only did he set out his stall as being God himself but he questioned deeply their understanding of themselves as Children of Abraham.

Looking back, this was incredible stuff, well argued and going to the heart of the Jewish self-delusion. Being Abraham’s sons would save them – had they learnt nothing from the exile in Babylon? Abraham’s sons do the works and follow in the ways of Abraham’s God – if they do not he and God will disown them.

‘You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free’ – that certainly set them off – but revealed the very depths of their self-deception. ‘We are Abraham’s children and we have never been enslaved to anyone.’ Talk about rewriting history – they have been subject people in Egypt, to Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Greece, the Seleucid empire of Antiochus Ephiphanes[5] and are now vassals of Rome.  Never enslaved indeed – who do they think they are kidding.

If they were Abraham’s children, they would come to him. But he kept his punch line to the last. Before Abraham was, I AM! You need to understand that I AM[6] is the name of God, and when he said this – they went clean mad and would have stoned him on the spot, but he slipped away while they were getting themselves together – his time had not come – but it would not be long.

How I wish we had understood then all we now know and rejoice in – but this was a special day then and now is precious in my memory. Jesus never made any secret of who he is, but there always remained a deep humility and authority that only the presence of God’s indwelling Spirit could have created. I hope I have had just a little of it on my journey.

If we are God’s children then we will come to him, and learn to be like him. I hope what I have written convinces and encourages you.

[1] John 7:37ff  See Blog 12.

[2] Remember that 7:53-8:11 does not belong here and so this follows directly from 7:52.

[3] Shekinah, originally meaning the ‘dwelling place’ of God, came to be used particularly of the ‘glory’ or shining light of his presence, as seen in the pillar of cloud or fire that accompanied the people in the wilderness or the glory that filled the temple at the Dedication by Solomon (2 Chronicles 5).

[4] Torah = Law or Pentateuch, the first five books of the Old Testament, but was frequently in Jewish parlance used to mean the entirety of the Word of God.

[5] The later chapters of Daniel outline this succession of empires that subjugate. After the fall of Alexander the Great, his empire split into four and Judah was ruled by the Seleucids – the most infamous of whom, Antochus Epiphanes, erected his statue in the temple – ‘the abomination of desolation’ of Daniel. This story is outlined in the Books of Maccabees in the OT Apocrypha, which include the short-lived revolt of Judas Maccabeus which gives them their name.

[6] YHWH, variously known as the tetragrammaton, or Yahweh these who owe their origin to God’s self-description to Moses in Exodus 3 was so sacred that Jews would not pronounce it, but instead when it occurred in the text said ‘Adonai’ meaning ‘My Lord’.