31 July 2014John 8:48-59
“Jesus answered, ‘If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me, he of whom you say, “He is our God”, though you do not know him. But I know him; if I would say that I do not know him, I would be a liar like you. But I do know him and I keep his word.’” (vv. 54-55)
It is often embarrassing to witness an argument, not least of all one which has escalated from a family row to one of theological proportions. In this passage, Jesus' message to the religious opponents is so offensive to them, that they start to pick up stones and roll them in their hands (verse 59). They are so incensed by Jesus' statements about the nature of God that they intend on stone him to death.
In John's Gospel, this passage is one of the key turning points of the narrative - for it is here that we begin to see the hostility and venom that Jesus incited as he enabled people to understand more of his purpose and identity. Although John says that his time has not yet come, it is clear that for some of his hearers, this was only a matter of biding their time, until Jesus' hour at last came.
For all the antagonism and outright hostility in this passage, it is significant to also notice the importance of 'glory' here. Glory is a powerful word, but one which can be easily skipped over because of its ecclesial and theological overtones. 'Glory' has become the text on religious Christmas cards and sung in carols - but it is not the beauty, magnificence and splendour that is intended in this passage.
Jesus is saying here that he has no interest in self-promotion. Indeed he is not expecting people to worship him alone, but rather to discover and worship God. This is not Jesus' public manifesto to political life, but a further invitation to recognise the power of God in their midst.
The religious leaders in the argument would understand Jesus' allusions at this point. Jesus is not merely using conceptual language to evoke a different temperament in the argument - in fact, quite the opposite. The Glory of God is a significant Mosaic experience, contained with the Torah. Exodus 33 tells of God's revelation to Moses on the mountain, where God's glory passed by, and where Moses was almost transfigured by the power of the experience.
Further, Jesus once again uses the phrase "I am" (v. 58) when discussing the glory of the Father, thereby further reminding the Jewish authorities about Jesus' claim to divinity.
Jesus is clearly pointing towards the awesomeness of God - but he is doing so in a way which would cause his hearers to recognise the nuance of the claims that Jesus was making.
- Where have you noticed the glory of God?
- How do you respond to Jesus' argumentativeness?
- What do you find offensive about the gospel (the good news of Jesus)?