URC Daily Devotion Wednesday 1st June 2022 Fay Rowland
1st June 2022 St John 8: 31 – 59
Then Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, ‘If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.’ They answered him, ‘We are descendants of Abraham and have never been slaves to anyone. What do you mean by saying, “You will be made free”?’
Jesus answered them, ‘Very truly, I tell you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not have a permanent place in the household; the son has a place there for ever. So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed. I know that you are descendants of Abraham; yet you look for an opportunity to kill me, because there is no place in you for my word. I declare what I have seen in the Father’s presence; as for you, you should do what you have heard from the Father.’
They answered him, ‘Abraham is our father.’ Jesus said to them, ‘If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing what Abraham did, but now you are trying to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did. You are indeed doing what your father does.’ They said to him, ‘We are not illegitimate children; we have one father, God himself.’ Jesus said to them, ‘If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and now I am here. I did not come on my own, but he sent me. Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot accept my word. You are from your father the devil, and you choose to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies. But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me. Which of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me? Whoever is from God hears the words of God. The reason you do not hear them is that you are not from God.’
The Jews answered him, ‘Are we not right in saying that you are a Samaritan and have a demon?’ Jesus answered, ‘I do not have a demon; but I honour my Father, and you dishonour me. Yet I do not seek my own glory; there is one who seeks it and he is the judge. Very truly, I tell you, whoever keeps my word will never see death.’ The Jews said to him, ‘Now we know that you have a demon.
Abraham died, and so did the prophets; yet you say, “Whoever keeps my word will never taste death.” Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? The prophets also died. Who do you claim to be?’ 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 were to say that I do not know him, I would be a liar like you. But I do know him and I keep his word. Your ancestor Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day; he saw it and was glad.’ Then the Jews said to him, ‘You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?’ Jesus said to them, ‘Very truly, I tell you, before Abraham was, I am.’ So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple.
We’ve all seen those ding-dong battles on social media, the ‘frank exchanges of opinion’ which get more and more heated until the admin suspends comments.
Is that what was going on here? Was this the first-century equivalent of a Twitter storm?
Certainly we see some name-calling on both sides. They call him a Samaritan and demon-possessed. He calls them liars and children of the devil. Forget ‘gentle Jesus meek and mild’. He didn’t mind telling a few home-truths when needed.
He was talking to Jewish people who had heard him say “I am the light of the world” and were starting to believe in him. But when Jesus hinted that this wasn’t just a nice phrase to put on the first-century equivalent of a tea towel, but must impact their faith, they were having none of it.
You can almost see them folding their arms. “Abraham is our father, if you don’t mind. We’re Israelites and that’s enough. And you say that YOU can make us free? Cheek! We’ve never been slaves and we don’t need making ‘free’, thank you very much!”
Had they forgotten their holidays in Egypt and Babylon?
But anyway, it was the wrong kind of freedom.
And the wrong kind of father.
God’s family has never been about being descended from Abraham. In Genesis 17:5 God promises that Abraham will be the father of many nations – not just the nation of Israel. God’s children have always been children of the promise.
Many of Jesus’ parables point this out. Some who think they’re ‘in’ because of nationality or heritage or deeds are ‘out’. And others who assume they are ‘out’ for the same reasons are ‘in’.
God has no grandchildren. And certainly no great-great-great … grandchildren. This applies to us as well. Each one of us must have our own relationship with God. If we forget that and try to rely on our heritage, then Jesus might have some tough words for us, too!
Father God, It is good to recall your mighty deeds of the past, to learn from those before us, to build on their work and be encouraged by their example. But help us not to wallow in the golden glow of half-remembered glory days, resting on the laurels of former victories. But instead may we tell your story afresh this generation, and know ourselves your children. Amen.
Fay Rowland, graduate researcher at Wesley House, Cambridge, worshipping at Christ the KIng, Kettering.