13 April 2011

John 8:31-42

"Then Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him ..." (v. 31)


John's Gospel reveals an intense discussion and requires careful thought to discern the words that reflect the mind of Jesus, the words that reflect the views of his followers and the words that may be attributed to others.

The words in this passage provide an insight into the discussions around the identity of Jesus, Jesus' Jewish followers and their struggles with their Jewish identity and their new found faith.

Today's passage opens with "then Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him ..." (verse 31). It makes sense therefore to bear this group in mind when thinking through this passage.

As the discussion develops we can discern issues facing these early followers of Jesus.

This new group of followers are urged to "continue in my word if you are truly my disciples" (verse 31). This is the way to so grow in faith that "the truth will make you free" (verse 32).

But they go on to describe themselves as "descendants of Abraham" (verse 33). Jesus agrees (verse 37). This is indeed who they were.

Jesus' followers are then urged to "do what you have heard from the Father" (verse 38). They reply "Abraham is our father" (verse 39), but go on to say "we have one father, God" (verse 41).

Questions around identity are important for all people. People whose faith journey spans different faiths never really escape them. The relationship between faith, ethnicity, nationality and culture is complex.

Most of Jesus' first followers were Jews. Jesus himself was of Jewish roots. The relationship between the first followers of Jesus and their Jewish heritage is complex and requires careful handling if misunderstanding and prejudice is to be avoided.

To Ponder

How do you think Jewish-Christian dialogue can be strengthened? What can you do?

In what sense can Jews and Christians say "we have one father, God"?

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.