The Provocative Counselor
Meditation on John 8:23-26 by Cris Cramer
John 8:23-26 (NIV):
But he continued, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins.”
“Who are you?” they asked.
“Just what I have been claiming all along,” Jesus replied. “I have much to say in judgment of you. But he who sent me is reliable, and what I have heard from him I tell the world.”
Following John 7, which shows confusion and division among the people in Jerusalem at the Feast of Tabernacles, in John 8 Jesus himself engages in strong conflicts over his teachings. Chapter 8 is provocative from one end to the other, beginning with the lurid story of a woman caught in adultery and dragged before Jesus for judgment, and ending with a bold declaration of his own unity with God and then escaping the scene as others grab up stones to kill him. All along the way, Jesus is right in the thick of the action, not backing down in the slightest.
Once again, the Pharisees are behind the trouble. They constantly challenge the truth and validity of Jesus' teaching, arguing belligerantly, insulting him in extremely offensive ways, setting deliberate rhetorical and situational traps for him. Jesus meets them head on, answering every challenge, speaking truth after truth, every statement more bold and more difficult to accept, until he finally declares the boldest, most impossible truth: his own divinity. At which point there is nothing left to say; Jesus leaves the scene, with his opponents scrambling for weapons to attack him.
Jesus shows neither fear nor hesitation, never backing down an inch from his accusers. The more they try to undercut him, the more he unleashes the truth of their own depravity and his own holy nature. He calls them slaves to sin, the devil's children, liars doomed to death. His words are metaphorical, but still ring with devastating truth.
Jesus' behavior in this chapter leaves me shaken. My nature is that of a mediator, a reconciler. I have a hard time seeing any person as all bad. I know I need to learn, accept, and live by the truth, but the starkness of the truth Jesus speaks here is hard for me to accept. Even worse, I wonder if I could speak such truth, in such a way, if I needed to.
Truth needs both love and wisdom, and I'm neither as wise nor as loving as Jesus. Strong words are not always what are called for. But truth is truth, and if I am a daughter of God, I can never forget that. If my Lord needs me to speak bold, stark truth, then that's what I must do. If he ever needs me to, I pray he will give me boldness and strength, to speak as he did and not fear the consequences.
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