Jesus seeks again to help the Pharisees understand who he is. In the preceding section of today’s Gospel of John, the Pharisees do not believe in his claim of being “the light of the world” because he testifies on his “own behalf, so [his] testimony cannot be verified” (Jn 8:13). The point being made here is that for verification there must be support given by two or three valid witnesses (cf. Deuteronomy 19:15). Jesus states that he testifies on his own behalf as does his Father who sent him (cf. Jn 8:19). His witness in this matter is God.
Jesus continues in today’s Gospel account to attempt to help the Pharisees and those gathered around them to understand who he is and what is about to transpire regarding his crucifixion. Jesus shared that God his Father sent him and continues to be with him. He has not left Jesus alone because Jesus maintains the intimacy of their relationship as he follows the will of his Father and will continue to do so all the way to being lifted up on the Cross.
Those listening to Jesus do not understand. They asked if he was talking about killing himself. Often throughout the ministry of Jesus many, even his Apostles, do not understand what Jesus taught, and that was because they were trying to make sense of what he said from this purely material and finite reality. Jesus invited them to seek a deeper understanding by sharing that he is from above and they were from below. They were needing to be born from above, to open their minds and hearts to him, as Simon Peter did when he came to realize that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the living God. Jesus gave those he taught a choice. They could die in their own sin or repent and choose to live in participation with him.
Discipleship is a journey. We will not come to understand Jesus from one instance or encounter. Even Saul, who had an amazing experience and encounter with Jesus and changed his name to Paul, would take about three years to digest the significance of what happened to him that day on the road to Damascus. It will be so with us as well. We need to resist the world’s craving for instant gratification, especially regarding the growth of our discipleship and spiritual maturity.
We will develop on our faith journey as we acknowledge and repent from our sin, hear his call, believe in Jesus, remain committed to him, and walk with Jesus day by day and follow the will of his Father as he did. The gift of the liturgical seasons is that as we walk each year with Jesus and assess our growth, we will, like a finger making an upward spiral motion, come again and again to the same point each year, and hopefully, we are higher up that spiral each time.
Sometimes it is hard to see our changes in our day to day reality, but over time with the gift of hindsight, we can discover that we indeed have made a closer walk with Jesus a reality. When we can honestly assess that this is not so, it is not too late to begin again, to repent from that which keeps us bound to this world and turn our gaze to that which is above. Jesus made his choice to follow the will of his Father, to be lifted up, and to die on the cross for us. We too have been given a choice. We can hold tight to our selfish nature and curve in upon ourselves or we can open our heart to the cross and be free.
Picture: Mosaic of Crucifixion from Our Lady of Florida Spiritual Center, Palm Beach Gardens, FL