September 12, 2020
John 7:16-24 (NIV)
Jesus answered, “My teaching is not my own. It comes from the one who sent me. Anyone who chooses to do the will of God will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own. Whoever speaks on their own does so to gain personal glory, but he who seeks the glory of the one who sent him is a man of truth; there is nothing false about him. Has not Moses given you the law? Yet not one of you keeps the law. Why are you trying to kill me?”
“You are demon-possessed,” the crowd answered. “Who is trying to kill you?”
Jesus said to them, “I did one miracle, and you are all amazed. Yet, because Moses gave you circumcision (though actually it did not come from Moses, but from the patriarchs), you circumcise a boy on the Sabbath. Now if a boy can be circumcised on the Sabbath so that the law of Moses may not be broken, why are you angry with me for healing a man’s whole body on the Sabbath? Stop judging by mere appearances, but instead judge correctly.”
Jesus is getting a track record. He’s performing signs. He’s preaching and teaching with an unusual authority. People are asking questions. Is he legit? Does he have a pedigree? Does he have credentials? Who has given him authorization to do and say such things? In the face of his claims to represent the God of Israel, the establishment makes plans to kill him while the crowd calls him demon-possessed.
How does he respond to these questions?
Anyone who chooses to do the will of God will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own.
Translation: Trust in me, and you will discover the truth of my words. It’s not trust me because you already fully grasp the truth. No, it’s trust me and you will discover the truth and the truth will set you free. Jesus offers the test of active trust. He is looking for people who will choose to belong to him even before they fully believe in him. How does one belong to Jesus? Start following him.
It strikes me that Jesus’ invitation is a lot clearer and simpler than the church’s invitation. Jesus never gives a four-step plan of salvation. He invites us to belong to him and to trust in him, which is signified very practically by following him in ways that lead to doing what he does and saying what he says. In doing so, we will discover that the truth becomes far more dynamic and alive than a fixed code of conduct.
I wonder if we have done the very thing with Jesus the first-century Jews did with Moses. They all revered the Law but none of them kept it. Is it because their loyalty had slowly drifted from the God of the Law to the laws of God? Wouldn’t it be possible for us to do the same thing with Jesus—to slowly drift from the truth who is Jesus to a collection of truth claims about Jesus?
Do we really think it is our job to reveal Jesus to people? Only the Holy Spirit can do this. Neither is it our job to try and convince people of a collection of truth claims, as though they had to get all that down pat before they could follow him.
I’m beginning to think evangelism looks a lot more like inviting people into simple and ordinary relationships where we read the Gospels together and explore this person of Jesus together and experiment with practicing his ways together. Our work is believing in Jesus, which means to actively trust him—in the midst of our relationships—unreservedly, unswervingly, and wholeheartedly. Jesus’ work is revealing and winning people to himself. He will do it with signs and wonders where he wants to. He does it primarily in and through our relationships.
Am I missing something? Are you?
Abba Father, we thank you for your Son, Jesus, who not only is the truth but who will lead us into all truth. Grant us the grace to cast our lot with him, to belong to him, and to follow him with others as real disciples. We pray in Jesus’ name, amen.
1. What do you think about this shift I posit from the God of the Law to the laws of God and correspondingly, the truth who is Jesus to the truths about Jesus?
2. Isn’t the church supposed to be a group of people related together around Jesus such that Jesus is revealed to people through our relationships?
3. Do we win people to Jesus or does Jesus win people to Jesus? What difference does it make?
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