Tuesday of Week 5 of Lent – Gospel

Commentary on John 8:21-30

Listening to Jesus, the Pharisees must have thought he was speaking in riddles. This was largely due to their own preconceived ideas about him. They take every statement he makes literally (they are the original Fundamentalists) and miss the symbolism. Basically, their problem is, as Jesus points out, that they:

…are from below…you are from this world, I am not from this world.

John uses the word ‘world’ in two senses. In one meaning, he simply is referring to the world that God created with all its variety. Later, he will tell his disciples that, if they want to communicate his message effectively, they will have to be fully inserted in that world, like the leaven in the dough. Separating themselves from that world will not do much for the building of the Kingdom on earth.

The second meaning of ‘world’ for John refers to everything around us which cannot be identified with God or Jesus. It is that part of our environment which speaks and acts in a way that is contrary to the Spirit of Jesus, and the vision of Jesus for the world. Jesus does not identify himself with that world, nor does he want any of his disciples to identify with it either. Their mission is to change it, to shine his Light on it.

Twice in today’s passage Jesus says of himself “I AM”, an expression we saw yesterday and which was used directly of God himself.

When they “have lifted up the Son of Man”, then they will know who Jesus really is, and that everything that Jesus has said and done comes from God himself because, as he will say later, “I and the Father are one”. “Lifted up” not only refers to Jesus’ being lifted up on the cross, but also includes the glorification of Jesus, his lifting up to sit at the Father’s right hand. For John, the cross is Jesus’ moment of glory, the triumphant climax of his mission.

And, because of these words, we are told, “many” came to believe in him, but most of the Pharisees were not among them.

This is a time for us also to examine our allegiance to Christ and what he means for us in our lives. Is our following of him truly a healing and liberating experience, not only for ourselves, but for others as well?

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