No Shades of Gray


John 8:21-32

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.
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.”

No Shades of Gray 

I don’t like stark contrasts. Do you? I prefer to dwell in shades of gray. However, when it comes to Jesus Christ, the counsel of Scripture is clear: life is either oriented toward Christ or away from Christ. Ambiguity is not an option.  
In today’s passage, two groups respond to Jesus. To the first he says, “You will die in your sin.” To the second, Jesus says, “you will truly be my disciples.” What a contrast! No shades of grey here. Jesus offers a choice: die in your sin or live as disciples. This distinction is determined by a radical choice with eternal significance. Response to Jesus determines the distinction.
Throughout John’s Gospel, Jesus employs “I AM” statements to reveal his identity, to illuminate his mission, and to demonstrate his desire for relationship with us.
  • I am the bread of life.
  • I am the light of the world.
  • I am the door of the sheep.
  • I am the good shepherd.
  • I am the resurrection and the life.
  • I am the way, the truth, and the life.
  • I am the vine.
These images are invitations into a life-giving relationship with Jesus Christ. Who Jesus is, and who we accept him to be, makes a difference, even if our response sets up uncomfortable distinctions!
We find another less familiar “I AM” statement in this passage: “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I AM” (v. 28). In John’s Gospel, the lifting up of Jesus on the cross reveals God’s love for all. Jesus’ repulsive crucifixion is also his glorification, for in it Jesus fully reveals God’s heart of love which invites us into abundant life in Christ.        
Lent is the season of the cross, the season which calls for a choice: will we die in our sin or live as faithful disciples of the One who died for us?


O God, in this season of Lent, allow us to see the choice in Jesus’ cross—will we die in our sin or live as faithful disciples? Help us to choose life in Christ. Amen.
Randy L. Robinson serves as a conference superintendent in the LaMoine River District.