Thoughts on John

Submitted by Aisling on Wed, 03/16/2005 - 08:00

God's voice, His word, is Christ--speaking that Will you? that He came to make attainable. Because He died we have the prospect of life--and now He’s always asking: Will you? Will you live? That is the essence of God--that tenderness, that love, that mercy, that strength, that desire. God has given us a choice. He has left it to us, whether we will choose Him and His light. Will we? It’s not the matter of a moment. So many times I have cried aloud a Yes! And yet, that is only true if we continue that Yes, that Amen, every moment of every day of every year in our lives. It is a constant, perpetual, changeless choice. It faileth not. (I couldn’t not say ‘faileth’ there, somehow. . .) We cannot let it fail, or falter, or--for even a moment--stop. We have to keep saying: Amen, Yes, I believe, I will, I do. I do. I DO. Every decision, every act, every word, every choice, every pursuit--all must testify to our Amen. Because He won’t ever stop asking us Will you? Around every corner, in every moment, at every new bend in our lives there will be a new Will you? And, no matter what the form or circumstance, there must be--from us--a renewed Amen.
I think I can even see Christ, saying it—-will you?--His dear, pierced hand outstretched; His dark eyes so full and soft and heart-breaking; His whole perfect face breathless, swept over with a hope, a love, a longing, an ache. For me? How can it be? How could I refuse? -Oh, God! may it not be—may I never lose sight of this image, may I never stop hearing your call, may I never forget that I am here upon earth in via ad Pater, on the way to the Father. I am here that I might go to you, let myself be drawn to you. With St. Therese I cry, “Draw me—we shall run!”

Of all the Gospels, I think I like John’s best. And then Mark—for his delightful, random, heart-warming detail. This is sort of going to be an essay-like composition, about John and his Gospel, I guess. First, though, I’m going to quote Luke. I know, it’s weird. But I promise it will be about John after that—as much as something can be about one Gospel solely. Well, here are two passages from Luke:

- The Lord said, “Pay attention to what the dishonest judge says. Will not God then secure the rights of his chosen ones who call out to him day and night? Will he be slow to answer them? I tell you, he will see to it that justice is done for them speedily. But when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” Luke 18:6-8
- “I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing! There is a baptism with which I must be baptized, and how great is my anguish until it is accomplished!” Luke 12:49-50

The first testifies to the divinity of God. After speaking of His justice, and giving it in logical and understandable words so familiar to Christ’s way, He asks a question: “But will the Son of Man find faith on earth?” He testifies to His own faithfulness, and then He goes further—He’s asking that Will you? again. Will you be faithful? And the most beautiful thing is that He does not place that as a condition.

-What if some were unfaithful? Will their infidelity nullify the fidelity of God? Of course not! God must be true, though every human being is a liar, as it is written: ‘That you may be justified in your words, and conquer when you are judged.’ ROM 3:3-4 (I love that one, too!)

And the second from Luke, it testifies to God’s humanity, in Christ. With His cry: “and how I wish it were already blazing!” we can relate very easily. He is regretful over the state of the world as He found it, over the fact that much yet had to be accomplished by Him, that He would have to take upon Himself such pain and such a death. Anguish. Oh, yes, He knows what it is. And He came that we might believe it.

Now, to get to John:
- Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen I say to you, before Abraham came to be, I AM.” John 8:58.

When I read it, it struck me so strongly, that He does not say: “Before Abraham came to be, I WAS.” He says, “I AM.” To God there is no past, no future, only a PRESENT. And everything, to Him, is always present. He sees everything that happened, that is happening, and that will happen—because He’s big enough to see it all at once. Like those cameras that can take really long pictures, you know? I had a great understanding of this past-present-future thing a long while ago, but I can’t really remember it all now. Except for that. God lives in the PRESENT, and nothing else is, in Him. . . Somehow.
John is a poet—it’s very obvious from the very first sentence of his Gospel. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Whereas the others all begin something like: “The book of genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.” (Matt.) And then they go into his lineage, or right into John the Baptist. That’s great too, of course. I love being able to read man to man to man how Jesus came! The world needs the poets and the fact-bearers. John, it happened, was a poet—or is a poet.
I won’t quote his prologue, as I’m sure it’s generally familiar to you—I’ll just say that, right away, he is endearing in his allegory of Light and Darkness, and the tragic words about the coming of the Light.

- While he was in Jerusalem for the feast of Passover, many began to believe in is name when they saw the signs he was doing. But Jesus would not trust himself to them because he knew them all, and did not need anyone to testify about human nature. He himself understood it well. John 2:23-25

It seems to me that here there is almost an equal tragedy as in the words from the prologue: “He came to what was his own, but his own people did not accept him.” Almost. Here John tells us that we, in our humanity, are no mystery to God—and this, this is more of a beautiful comfort really. But the tragedy is that, because He knew, He ‘would not trust Himself to them’. Humanity, by nature, is not trustable. They began to believe because they saw things that couldn’t be explained away or described or rationalized by anything. And Christ knew that, because He knew them.

- And this is the verdict, that the light came into the world, but people preferred darkness to light, because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked thing hates the light and does not come toward the light, so that his works might not be exposed. But whoever lives the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God. John 3:19-21
(And, in keeping with it—spoken to the public in Jerusalem:)
- The world cannot hate you, but it hates me, because I testify to it that its works are evil. John 7:7

There is that same allegory again—-Light and Darkness. John must have loved it, too. This comes right after the famous 3:16, and I think it’s a pity that no one ever goes further. . . This passage sums it all up. The wickedness of the world hides in the dark, and there is not courage enough to face the brightness of the light of Truth. That’s what makes all the nasty, obscure, twisted, undiscernable in-betweens. So many things lie beneath the surface--unseen, unsaid, unknown, nourished and drawn up, harbored and hidden. And then, one day, it all blows up and makes a mess of the beauty of life, of relationships, of trust, and unity.

- You search the scriptures, because you think you have eternal life through them; even they testify on my behalf. But you do not want to come to me to have life. John 5:39-40

Somehow, I always find something so very heart-breaking in the straightforward, simple, quiet way in which Christ admonishes. “But you do not want to come to me to have life.” It is, even in those terms, the same Will you? that lies underneath. I can hear His sorrow, His longing, His call. Not an easy call. He says if any man would follow Him there must be crosses and, even, a denying of oneself. For life, we must die. And this is what we do not want.

Then, John 7:27 says: But we know where he is from. When the Messiah comes, no one will know where he is from. And John 8:14: ...But you do not know where I come from or where I am going.

So, we thought we did. So many times man was, and is, mistaken. It looked like it was all very obvious--he was the son of Joseph, the carpenter from Nazareth. Few could see that He was also something that was so much more. Fewer could let themselves believe it.

- . . . For if you do not believe that I AM, you will die in your sins. John 8:24

At first it’s a little scary--one of those ‘fire-and-brimstone’ verses. But then we see that Christ is stressing the importance of His identity, of unconditional faith, of the willingness to step beyond the obvious and the rational and say “I do.” Or, “I will.” To recognize the Truth, to step into His light, to reveal ourselves, to surrender our wills, to drop the fears and pursue His will for our lives. To make room for His word among us. He says:

- . . . But you are trying to kill me, because my word has no room among you. John 8:37

Again we see His knowledge of man, and his intentions and ways. Again the challenge, to accept and embrace, instead of killing off what was causing discomfort. Again the question, so subtly and sadly implied: Will you? Will you open up? Will you say Yes? Will you let me in?

- Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no sin; but now you are saying, ‘We see,’ so your sin remains. John 9:41

Again, man is mistaken. He claims to see, when the darkness that he clings to is a three-foot-thick wall of stone before his face. And Christ knows. And He’s still calling, asking. Will you be blind, for me? Will you acknowledge yourself? Will you let it go before My light?
. . . Going, now, into the Last Supper Discourses: (in passing, I love the sacred, solemn names John has for such chapters)

- I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me, because I live and you will live. John 14:18-19

This has always been a little inscrutable to me--because we don’t see Him. But I think, now, that Christ did not mean here, on earth, with our human eyes, in our daily lives, ever before or beside us. He meant that there was a heaven, and that it was opened for us. “But you will see me, because I live and you will live.” We will see Him because we will live, we will live because He died and lived again.

- Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid. John 14:27

Not as the world gives. I tried, twice, to write a meditation on that, but it never seemed to come to anything--just a bunch of comparisons or points or lines, not fitting together, and getting nowhere well. Doing no justice to the beauty of these words. The line "not as the world gives do I give it to you" sounds rather strange, there in the middle. Like Jesus strayed from the point, or stuck it in on an impulse. But I’ve found that it really has a lot to do with everything. After it, He says: “Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid,” implying that the world’s way of giving is fear-filled and fear-provoking. How true! When the world gives, at all, it is in a forceful, thrusting, commanding way. You must have this, you must buy that, you must wear this and drive that and speak like so and think like so. That’s not giving, as it was meant to be. And Christ is giving. Because what He gives is Peace. In a book I just finished there was this motto--Blessedly and simply I am living: giving, always giving. It’s not an easy thing. It’s what Christ asks, ultimately, in the Will you? Will you give? Will you give and not count the cost? Will you give and expect nothing? Will you give until it hurts--and then keep on giving? Will you give anything and everything that I ask of you, and still trust and love and follow Me? Throughout this whole discourse He warns, informs, and prepares us for what it will be like. . .

- If the world hates you, realize that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, the world would love its own; but because you do not belong to the world, and I have chosen you out of the world, the world hates you. . . If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. . . John 15:18-21 (Hate. Persecution.)
- . . . the hour is coming when everyone who kills you will think he is offering worship to God. John 16:2 (Worse, even, than hate and persecution!)
- . . . the ruler of this world has been condemned. John 16:11 (And then, He reminds us of Himself. As if He seeks to strengthen our wills, which must have been weakened by His frightening words, He reminds us of Himself. His strength. His might. Almost, it’s as if He bids us take courage in His cross when He hadn’t even died yet!)
- Amen, amen, I say to you, you will weep and mourn, while the world rejoices; you will grieve, but your grief will become joy. John 16:20 (He promises more than just the pain. He says there will be more. And then He gives us the following, the ultimate all-embracing and all-explaining words:)
- . . . In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world. John 17:33

Whatever may come, whatever befall, whatever beset us--Hope remains. He has conquered the world!

I also love the story of the rich man, as Mark tells it: As he was setting out on a journey, a man ran up, knelt down before him, and asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus answered him, “Who do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: ‘You shall not kill; you shall not commit adultery; you shall not steal; you shall not bear false witness; you shall not defraud; honor your father and your mother’.” He replied and said to him, “Teacher, all of these I have observed from my youth.” Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said to him, “You are lacking in one thing. Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” At the statement his face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions. (Mark 10:17-22)

The first thing I find interesting is what Jesus says in reply to the man’s calling Him ‘good’. It might seem strange, for we know that Christ is indeed good--and yet, he doesn’t say he isn’t. He asks the man why he calls him so, and He says only God is good. It seems that He had that wild hope--that this man would understand Who He was, that He was God. And then, it says,’ Jesus, looking at him, loved him’. What further proof need we of Who Christ is? First, He is telling us that He is God. Secondly, He is telling us that--even as he sees us in all of our weaknesses, our attachment to earthly things, our love of comfort and wealth--He looks, and He loves us still. And may God forbid we should ever walk away, as that poor man did, our faces fallen, because we have ‘many possessions’, and are too afraid to let it all go and leave the comfort of the ordinary world for the radical wonder of living with Christ.

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