Lectio Divina: John 8:21-30
Season of Lent
1) Opening prayer
Our saving, merciful God,
wandering in our deserts of injustice and lack of love,
we cry out with fear
or are stunned into silence,
some into doubt or despair.
Give us enough trusting faith
to look up to Him
who took our evil and doubts upon himself,
suffered for them on a cross, and rose from them,
Jesus Christ, our Savior and our Lord.
2) Gospel Reading - John 8:21-30
Jesus said to the Pharisees: "I am going away and you will look for me, but you will die in your sin. Where I am going you cannot come." So the Jews said, "He is not going to kill himself, is he, because he said, 'Where I am going you cannot come'?" He said to them, "You belong to what is below, I belong to what is above. You belong to this world, but I do not belong to this world. That is why I told you that you will die in your sins. For if you do not believe that I AM, you will die in your sins." So they said to him, "Who are you?" Jesus said to them, "What I told you from the beginning. I have much to say about you in condemnation. But the one who sent me is true, and what I heard from him I tell the world." They did not realize that he was speaking to them of the Father. So Jesus said to them, "When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will realize that I AM, and that I do nothing on my own, but I say only what the Father taught me. The one who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone, because I always do what is pleasing to him." Because he spoke this way, many came to believe in him.
• Last week, the Liturgy led us to meditate on chapter five of the Gospel of John. This week it confronts us with chapter 8 of the same Gospel. Like chapter 5, chapter 8 also contains profound reflections on the mystery of God which surrounds the person of Jesus. It is a dialogue between Jesus and the Pharisees (Jn 8:13). The Pharisees want to know who Jesus is. They criticize Him because He gives testimony of himself without any proof or witness to legitimize himself before the people (Jn 8:13). Jesus responds by saying that He does not speak in His own name, but always for the Father and in the name of the Father (Jn 8:14-19).
• In reality, the dialogues are also an expression of how the faith was transmitted in the catechesis in the communities of the beloved disciple toward the end of the first century. They show the prayerful reading of the word of Jesus that the Christians did, considering it Word of God. The method of question and answer helped to find the response to the problems which the Jews raised to the Christians toward the end of the first century. It was a concrete way to help the community to deepen its faith in Jesus and in His message.
• John 8:21-22: Where I am going, you cannot come. Here John presents a new theme or another aspect which surrounds the person of Jesus. Jesus speaks about His departure and says that where He is going the Pharisees cannot follow Him. “I am going away; you will look for Me and you will die in your sin“. They will look for Jesus, but will not find Him, because they do not know Him and will look for Him with mistaken criteria. They live in sin and will die in sin. To live in sin is to live far away from God. They imagine God in a certain way, but God is different from what they imagine. This is why they are not capable to recognize the presence of God in Jesus. The Pharisees do not understand what Jesus wants to say and they take everything just literally: “Is He going to kill himself?”
• John 8:23-24: You are from here below; I am from above. The Pharisees consider everything according to the criteria of this world. “You are from this world; I am not from this world!” The framework of reference which guides Jesus in everything which He says and does is the world above, that is, God, Father, and the mission which He has received from the Father. The framework of reference of the Pharisees is the world below, without openness, closed up in its own criteria. This is why they live in sin. To live in sin is not to have the gaze of Jesus on their life. The look of Jesus is totally open toward God up to the point that God himself is in Him in all His fullness (cf. Col 1:19). We say: “Jesus is God”. John invites us to say: “God is Jesus!”. This is why Jesus says: “If you do not believe that I AM HE, you will die in your sins”. I AM is the affirmation with which God presents himself to Moses at the moment of liberating His people from the oppression of Egypt (Ex 3:13-14). This is the maximum expression of the absolute certainty of the fact that God is in our midst in the person of Jesus. Jesus is the definitive proof of the fact that God is with us. Emmanuel.
• John 8:25-26: Who are you? The mystery of God in Jesus does not fit into the criteria with which the Pharisees judge Jesus. Once again they ask: “who are you?” They did not understand because they do not understand Jesus’ language. Jesus was very careful to speak to them according to all that He experienced and lived in union with the Father and for the knowledge and awareness of His mission. Jesus does not promote himself. He only says and expresses what He hears from the Father. He is the pure revelation because He is pure and total obedience.
• John 8:27-30: When you have lifted up the Son of man, then you will know that I AM HE. The Pharisees did not understand that Jesus, in everything He says and does, is the expression of the Father. They will understand it only after the Son of man will be lifted up. “Then you will know that I AM HE”. The word lifted up has a double sense, to be lifted up on the Cross and to be lifted up to the right hand of the Father. The Good News of the death and resurrection reveals who Jesus is, and they will know that Jesus is the presence of God in our midst. The foundation of this certainty of our faith is twofold: on the one side, the certainty that the Father is always with Jesus and He never remains alone and, on the other side, the radical and total obedience of Jesus to the Father, which becomes total openness and total transparency of the Father for us.
4) Personal questions
• The one who wraps up in his own rules and thinks that he already knows everything, will never be capable of understanding others. This is the way the Pharisees were before Jesus. How do I accept the new while not losing the truths in doctrine and tradition?
• Jesus is radical obedience to the Father, and because of this, He is total revelation of the Father. What is the image of God which I show and which comes from me?
5) Concluding Prayer
Yahweh, hear my prayer,
let my cry for help reach You.
Do not turn away Your face from me
when I am in trouble;
bend down and listen to me, when I call,
be quick to answer me! (Ps 102:1-2)