Thursday, April 14, 2011

John 7: family loyalty, true Israelites, a special way of speaking, and the adulterous woman

God sets the lonely in nuclear families. We five Page kids enjoy each other’s mutual love and support. But there are limits to our familial loyalty. When the siblings of Jesus urge him with good intentions on to Jerusalem and worldly greatness, he refuses (v. 6): “the time for me has not yet come.” He spoke likewise to his mother back at the wedding in Cana. I see Jesus practicing what he preaches: a disciple must choose the Kingdom of God over brother and sister and mother. I am a father and a Page and a Vermonter and an American. I embrace the comforts and responsibilities of these identities. But my heart, body and soul belong first and always to Jesus. “I could not love thee, dear, did I not love honor more.”

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I have often wondered why Jesus described his disciple Nathanael in 1:47 as “a true Israelite, in whom there is nothing false.” See v. 7:18 – “he who works for the honor of the one who sent him is a man of truth; there is nothing false about him.” I think Jesus used his unique ability to see into people’s hearts and saw Nathanael’s Spirit-empowered potential. I cannot count the times I have been encouraged by someone telling me about the potential they see in me, which I had not yet seen myself. Lord, give me eyes to see you in others and words to speak aloud the encouraging truth.

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The temple guards are sent to arrest Jesus. They hear him declare in a loud voice at the Feast of Tabernacles, “whoever believes in me, streams of living water will flow from within him.” The crowd is so moved that it cannot decide if Jesus is the Messiah or “just” the reincarnated Prophet Elijah. Not surprisingly they return to their masters without Jesus and announce, “No one ever spoke the way this man does.”

This is a true statement. But what is so special, exactly, about the way Jesus speaks?

No man besides Jesus has ever spoken with God the father and repeated the words “from God’s lips to our ears”.

No man has ever so ably seen into individual human hearts and known exactly which of those words they needed to hear at that moment.

No man has ever so thoroughly “backed up” those words with signs, wonders and absolute integrity.
Even the pale shadow of his greatness bestowed on a relative handful of saints since his ascension has never failed to stir the authorities to anger and the faithful to godly love, devotion and obedience. Thank God for the detailed, unstinting record of the gospels. To me, the originality of the stunning central character portrayed in these four books is a compelling reason to believe.  No human writer could just “make him up.” There is certainly no record of anyone having done so before, or since.  

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The wonderful story of Jesus defending the woman caught in adultery may not have been included in the original gospels. That doesn’t necessarily mean it didn’t happen: For a discussion of this question, see

None other than C.S. Lewis said that unless it was an eyewitness account, it would be odd for the author to note that Jesus wrote in the sand, but didn’t say what he wrote! My two cents worth on that question is that “somewhere” in the Old Testament a prophet says that God shall write their sins in the sand. I know this because I found it during a “read the Bible through the year” process years ago and was convinced that I had found buried treasure, a credible answer to what Jesus was doing down there in the dirt. But now I can’t find it – rats.

I like the story because it illustrates the sharp difference between the selfish authoritarian, manipulative ways of the Religious Order with the Savior, who never compelled any other person to do anything against his or her will, yet “somehow” has been the most authoritative voice in human history. And of course his most “authoritative” work is yet to come.

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