12 April 2011

John 8:21-30

"They said to him, 'Who are you?'" (v. 25)


John's Gospel offers insights into the question asked by many of those who encounter or challenge Jesus: "Who are you?" (John 1:198:25). This question is addressed not only to Jesus but to his followers and community too.

Many are attracted by his appeal and "believed in him" (verse 30) while others are repelled by him and "picked up stones to throw at him" (John 8:59).

(Chapter 8 opens with the story where men came to stone a woman. It closes with the words that the one who stopped a woman being stoned is threatened with possibly with those very stones brought to hurl at the woman.)

(Chapter 8 verses 12-59 includes some straight talking between the followers of Jesus ("the Jews who had believed in him" (verse 31)) and those who are simply referred to as "the Jews", the predominant Jewish community. The dialogue between them is undiluted, with no compromise statement of their own positions.

In today's passage Jesus' followers says to their critics: "Where [we] are going, you cannot come" (verse 21) and "You will die in your sins unless you believe" that Jesus is he (verse 24).

The replies are recorded with typical Johannine irony yearning for further clarity: "Is he going to kill himself? Is this what he means by saying, 'where I am going you cannot come'?" (verse 23) The Gospel reflects "they did not understand" (verse 27).

It seems that both sides have difficulty understanding or accepting each other.

Dialogue requires deeper listening and "right judgement" (John 7:24).

To Ponder

If someone asked you: "Who is Jesus?", what would you say?

Who are the people you have difficulty understanding or accepting?

What can you do to listen deeper with "right judgement"?

Bible notes author

The Revd Inderjit Bhogal

Inderjit Bhogal is a Methodist minister with a wide experience at local, regional, national and international levels. He is a former president of the British Methodist Conference and is currently working as leader of the Corrymeela Community in Northern Ireland.