Monday 28 July 2014

Bible Book:

“Then they said to him, ‘Where is your Father?’ Jesus answered, ‘You know neither me nor my Father. If you knew me, you would know my Father also.’” (v. 19)

John 8:12-20 Monday 28 July 2014


It is often embarrassing to overhear an argument: raised voices,targeted and barbed words; flashes of anger and passionategesticulations; the need to be right; to prove the other wrong. Thearguments of other's can also be utterly compelling -it's the script of most soap operas. Conflict becomes a way oflife, and even a means of entertainment.

The reader's emotional response to conflict is important, asthis passage is filled with the ingredients for an escalatingargument. What starts as a dismissive challenge to Jesus' identity- akin to 'who do you think you are anyway' soon becomes atheological discussion and discovery.

Jesus is speaking after the Feast of Tabernacles (a majorfestival of thanksgiving for harvest, which also recalls thedeliverance of the Israelites from Egypt, the subsequent years inthe wilderness and God's provision for the people) and is stood inthe temple courts. One feature of the festival was the powerfulsymbol of Jerusalem illuminated by candles. This means that whenJesus speaks about being the "light of the world" (v. 12) he is notmerely making a metaphorical point about bringing transformation toa context. It was also a visceral image, not just for the Jews inJerusalem on pilgrimage, but for the whole world.

It's perhaps no wonder that this started an argument. Jesus wasinvoking the self-description of God - I am (Exodus3:13). He was stood in the temple courts, the site of worshipand pilgrimage, at a festival celebrating God's provision to God;sown people, surrounded by candlelight and the recitation of Psalmsand 'Hosannas' - and yet those standing around knew that Jesus wasa carpenter's boy from an insignificant village.

Judging by human standards, when the Pharisees looked at Jesus,they saw a man from Nazareth (Matthew 2:23), of lowly birth and vagueimmigration status due to his exile to Egypt (Matthew 2:13-15). They do not know him, and hedoes not have the right to speak to them - and certainly not toinvoke the name of YHWH in the temple courts.

Judging by the divine standards that Jesus invokes, however,means that Jesus is disclosing his identity as the Son of God. Thequestion "where is your father?" is meant literally - the Phariseesknew that the answer was Joseph the carpenter. However, Jesusdismisses their claims and points to a higher authority: his fatheris the "one who sent me" (v. 16).

The conflict is set - a classic case of mistaken identity. Butwho's mistaken?

To Ponder

  • Imagine you are Jesus' parent, either Mary or Joseph, listeningto this conversation. How might you feel?
  • For the Pharisees, one's identity was about a status and placeof belonging in society. Where are the places and people to whomyou belong?
  • How helpful is debate as a means of developing understanding?Why?
Previous Page Sunday 27 July 2014
Next Page Tuesday 29 July 2014