‘You are testifying on your own behalf; your testimony is not valid.’
‘Even if I testify on my own behalf, my testimony is valid because I know where I have come from and where I am going, but you do not know where I come from or where I am going. You judge by human standards; I judge no one. Yet even if I do judge, my judgement is valid; for it is not I alone who judge, but I and the Father who sent me. In your law it is written that the testimony of two witnesses is valid. I testify on my own behalf, and the Father who sent me testifies on my behalf.’
Then they said to him,
‘Where is your Father?’
‘You know neither me nor my Father. If you knew me, you would know my Father also.’
He spoke these words while he was teaching in the treasury of the temple, but no one arrested him, because his hour had not yet come. Again he said to them,
‘I am going away, and you will search for me, but you will die in your sin. Where I am going, you cannot come.’
Then the Jews said,
‘Is he going to kill himself? Is that what he means by saying, “Where I am going, you cannot come”?’
He said to them,
‘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 you will die in your sins unless you believe that I am he.’
They said to him,
‘Who are you?’
Jesus said to them,
‘Why do I speak to you at all? I have much to say about you and much to condemn; but the one who sent me is true, and I declare to the world what I have heard from him.’
They did not understand that he was speaking to them about the Father. So Jesus said,
‘When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will realize that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own, but I speak these things as the Father instructed me. And the one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what is pleasing to him.’
As he was saying these things, many believed in him.
Questions, Questions, Questions!
This is the longest and angriest argument between Jesus and his opponents, and you can almost feel the tension and frustration rising in Jesus’ voice. The opponents question Jesus’ intention, his relationship with God, and his identity, and in return Jesus challenges their authority as Jews.
The root of the matter is one of truth. Jesus gives thoughtful and clear explanations and illustrations of the truth about God, and by the last verse ‘many believed in him’.
The two points to remember in this reading; firstly that John is writing to an early Christian community and need their personal questions answered; but in some ways, you cannot isolate this reading from the rest of the Gospel writings and themes in John. This conversation is really harking back to the question that Moses asks God in Exodus, ‘who are you?’ and God replies ‘I am who I am?’
Secondly, many people in today’s world, whether it be friends, family, work colleagues, children, regular church goers or those who have never attended church apart from a funeral, ask the same questions to us as Christians ‘who is this God you adore and follow’. The question is easily asked, the answer though can be challenging for us as disciples of Jesus, where some of us may be struggling with our faith. To speak about why and what we believe in is testing for some people. To express into words what we feel, is a difficult task.
How can you capture the essence of God?
The God who gives us strength when we may feel frail; the God who loves us even though we may feel unloved; the God who calls to us to follow even though we may want to turn away and run.
Once I had a friend whose faith shone from her face and eyes, she lived out her faith with passion for she loved every human being she came across. She lived out her faith in truth, not by eloquent words, but by her actions and her demeanour.
We may not have the clarity of words and eloquence of Jesus, but we must always be true to ourselves and to God.
Wherever we are on the path of discipleship, let us all shine with light of Christ, then when people ask the question who is God for you, they may follow on with … I want what you have in your eyes…Love.
Treasure us Lord, When we feel stretched to talk about our faith; a faith that sometimes feels frayed at the edges, a faith that sometimes feels fragile as a bubble blown about in the wind, a faith that can transport us to shifting sands or a solid foundation. In these times, bless us with your Spirit that is truth; bless us with your Grace That is unmeasurable; bless us with your Love seen on the Cross and in the new life of the Resurrection. Amen.
The Rev’d Ruth Dillon is the minister at Fleet and Beacon Hill Hindhead URCs in the Wessex Synod.