Opening Our Eyes
By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me.
“If I testify about myself, my testimony is not valid. There is another who testifies in my favor, and I know that his testimony about me is valid.
“You have sent to John and he has testified to the truth. 34 Not that I accept human testimony; but I mention it that you may be saved. 35 John was a lamp that burned and gave light, and you chose for a time to enjoy his light.
“I have testimony weightier than that of John. For the very work that the Father has given me to finish, and which I am doing, testifies that the Father has sent me. And the Father who sent me has himself testified concerning me. You have never heard his voice nor seen his form, nor does his word dwell in you, for you do not believe the one he sent. You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.
“I do not accept praise from men, but I know you. I know that you do not have the love of God in your hearts. I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not accept me; but if someone else comes in his own name, you will accept him. How can you believe if you accept praise from one another, yet make no effort to obtain the praise that comes from the only God?
“But do not think I will accuse you before the Father. Your accuser is Moses, on whom your hopes are set. If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me. But since you do not believe what he wrote, how are you going to believe what I say?”
Opening our Eyes
I am more and more convinced that we are very similar to the people of Jesus’ time. To be sure, there are cultural and societal differences that we, as people living in twenty-first century Illinois will never fully appreciate; but underneath it all, there is a shared psychology that is very much still us.
What helped remind me of our shared identity was verse 39 from today’s reading: “You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life.” Some translations of verse 39 say “search” instead of “study”. (KJ, NASB) While I’m generally partial to my NIV translation, “search” seems more appropriate. “You diligently search the Scriptures…” The Jewish leaders being addressed weren’t studying at all. They weren’t trying for a deeper understanding. They were searching for superficial answers. Ahh…. The easy way out. How many times do we look for that today? Forget the Christ in front of you. Never mind the prophets from before. Rather, what’s on the test? How can I cut to the chase?
Jesus often spoke against a kind of faith hypocrisy: showing outward signs of obeying God, but inwardly, never carrying through. Fast forward two thousand years and you have the same thing today. People still display public signs of obeying God - maybe they’re “suffering” for Lent, without making any true transformation of the heart. People buy popular spiritual books that offer quick steps in faith rather than understanding the scriptures themselves.
John’s Gospel reminds us that the Word came in the flesh to bear witness to the Father. This passage in particular from John is reminding us that we don’t need to search so much as we just need to open our eyes. It’s every bit as true today as it was back then.
Dear Lord: Your message of peace, love, and hope transcends time and culture. Help transform us from the inside out to be your disciples. Help us see you and the mission you want us to bring to the world as your disciples. Amen.
Ed Wied is a certified candidate to be a licensed local pastor. He is a member of Fairview UMC in Annawan.