“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?”
In our church we’re currently working our way through the gospel of John. It will likely take us the entire year to do so and the experience so far has been amazing. We’re digging deep into each section, looking at what Jesus is talking about on Sunday mornings and then expanding on it, going even deeper into it in our community groups that meet throughout the week.
Each week the pastors meet and discuss what’s being said in the passage we will be looking at the following Sunday. We just open up the text, read and share. This past Wednesday as we explored the 7th chapter of John I noticed something. It’s not new really, but it struck me in a particularly strong way this week. In the first six chapters of John, Jesus fights against not just an unwillingness by the people to believe that he is who he claims to be, but also this corrupted willingness of humanity to settle for far less from God than he is trying to give us.
A quick survey of the first six chapters of John bears this out. They just want to know where Jesus is staying not who John the Baptist says he really is. They were only looking for a little more wine for the party. The people would settle for just not having their Temple marketplace disrupted when what Jesus was offering them was a once for all sacrifice that would make repeated trips to the bloody altar unnecessary. The Pharisee Nicodemus only wants Jesus to be a good teacher sent from God and the woman at the well is just looking for clarity about worship locations. The disciples would like to just leave the Samaritans alone and it seems the main thing the people are wanting is to see more miracles. Jesus faces a man who wants to be recognized as having had a rough life more than he actually wants to be healed and everyone would be happy with a little more bread given miraculously rather than feeding on the Bread of Life, Jesus himself.
Jesus is constantly knocking down the doors and blowing out the walls of our religious smallness and the low expectations we’ve set up for him. He’s continually pulling back the veil of the temporary and the momentary and revealing a world of abundant eternity, inviting us to join him there. But just like the crowds and the religious zealots and the disciples we fail to see the promise of true life because we’re caught staring at the stale remnants of our own imaginings. Wanting what we think will be a little better than what we have instead of opening ourselves up to the extravagant bounty of life-eternal and joy unspeakable that Jesus is calling us to.
I’m beginning to think the reality is simply that we don’t really believe what he has to say—not about life in the present any way. We can hope for the future and look to the resurrection that is coming. We can dream of heaven and no more tears and no more pain. But can we believe that in the here and now, in the today, in the midst of our current suffering that there is true joy to be had? Can we believe that life without worry and life without fear is actually possible? Can we find a place in our hopeful faith for his power being made perfect in our weakness? Can we trust him to come through in the ways he says he will? I’m not sure we want to. I’m not sure we are willing to.
Let’s be honest, the religious processions and practices we’ve set up for ourselves are not that bad. We get a feel good moment here and there, a hope for the future reminder from time to time. We get to look down on those not as far along as us and idolize the ones who are leading the way ahead of us. And for the most part we feel…okay. Granted, it’s not life abundant in the here and now. It’s not joy-saturated living. But we’ve learned to cope, we’ve figured out how to settle.
This isn’t the life Jesus calls us to. Read the gospels. The words Jesus uses are compelling and dynamic. The life he lives and calls us to live is radical. Our lives? They are typically safe and mundane. They are all too often a settling for less than what God has to offer.
What would happen if we not only believed what Jesus has to say about who he is and how we are saved, but also what he says about how the saved should live life?
There is so much more. But will we believe him?