Heartbreak for many Christians is when those around them just do not see or even want to see why they trust in Jesus. The first half of John Chapter 8 is a dialogue with the Pharisees where Jesus has that same experience. The setting continues to be the Feast of Booths. Jesus has just said he is the light of the world and following him will lead people out of darkness into the light of life. The Pharisees continue to challenge Jesus as to the truth of what he says and who he is. This passage seems set in its time and difficult to relate to circumstances now, but if we read it alongside 2 Corinthians Chapter 4, it can help us understand Paul faced similar issues and how we should approach the same things.
Paul says he speaks openly and straight forwardly about the gospel and in that way appeals to people’s conscience. ‘We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God.’ 2 Corinthians 4.3 This does not mean we should endlessly quote the bible at people using language they do not understand, or shout at them from a distance. However, we should be clear about what the bible says and simply seek to explain it in terms that will be readily understood. Paul goes on to say those who do not grasp who Jesus is and understand the message have had their minds blinded by the god of this world. 2 Corinthians 4.4 Paul is being clear here, this is not just an intellectual acceptance or rejection, spiritual conflict is involved. This is the point at which there is a direct application for the contemporary Christian. Those who reject Jesus have had their minds blinded, ‘to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.’ 2 Corinthians 4.4
Prayer and loving openness about our faith then becomes the most important things we can do if we are heartbroken for those around us. That raises the question, how persistent and serious are we? Paul was clear he was weak. He described himself as a jar of clay, broken and weak, sharing in the death of Jesus but within him was the life of Jesus and the surpassing power of God. 2 Corinthians 4.7-10
Jesus was challenged by the Pharisees that unless he could produce collaborating witnesses to who he said he was then he could not be believed. This was a distortion of the Mosaic law which was designed to protect people from false allegations of criminal activity. Jesus answered, ‘My testimony is true, for I know where I came from and where I am going, but you do not know where I come from or where I am going. You judge according to the flesh; I judge no one.’ John 8.14-15 Jesus later said to the Pharisees, ‘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, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins.’ John 8.23,24 Jesus was saying what Paul said, that the god of this world had blinded their minds to who he was.
In response to their accusations of collaborating witnesses as to his identity, Jesus had answered that only he and God the Father could and did testify to that because as he was from heaven only they were in a position to do so. John 8.14 and John 8.19 Jesus then went on to say that he limited his words to those the Father gave him to say and should be trusted because God the Father was not a fickle god as people believed their local gods to be but completely good and truthful.
Did that mean there was no hope for the Pharisees and other people who do not recognize Jesus for who he is? It did not. Jesus then pointed forward to his death on the cross and said following his crucifixion people will recognize him and understand. John 8.28-29 At this stage this message was in veiled terms but many Pharisees did finally recognize who Jesus was following his death, resurrection, ascension and Pentecost. Similarly, it is our role as a church to point people to Jesus’ atoning death and resurrection providing the evidence for its truth. Just as Jesus said, ‘And he who sent me is with me.’ John 8.29 so He has given the Holy Spirit to be with us.
Are you praying that blinded minds will see Jesus?
Do you believe you are a clay jar, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God? 2 Corinthians 4.7
At The Cross – Chris Tomlin