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Midweek Devotionals

Published weekly on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursdays.

Midweek Devotional 8/31/2016

Robert Chen

Dear Church:


John 8:47-59

47"Whoever is from God hears the words of God. The reason you do not hear them is that you are not from God."

48The Jews answered him, "Are we not right in saying that you are a Samaritan and have a demon?" 49Jesus answered, "I do not have a demon; but I honor my Father, and you dishonor me. 50Yet I do not seek my own glory; there is one who seeks it and he is the judge. 51Very truly, I tell you, whoever keeps my word will never see death." 52The Jews said to him, "Now we know that you have a demon. Abraham died, and so did the prophets; yet you say, 'Whoever keeps my word will never taste death.' 53Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? The prophets also died. Who do you claim to be?" 54Jesus answered, "If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me, he of whom you say, 'He is our God,' 55though you do not know him. But I know him; if I would say that I do not know him, I would be a liar like you. But I do know him and I keep his word. 56Your ancestor Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day; he saw it and was glad." 57Then the Jews said to him, "You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?" 58Jesus said to them, "Very truly, I tell you, before Abraham was, I am." 59So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple.

I'll begin with light humor, from something I've been reading lately, Joy Williams' Ninety-Nine Stories of God.

The Lord was trying out some material. 

I AM WHO I AM, He said. 

It didn’t sound right. 


It sounded ridiculous. 

He didn’t favor definitions. 

He’d always had the most frightful difficulties with them.


This is a short story (very short, as you can tell) entitled, "Essential Enough."


When Jesus said, "Before Abraham was, I am," his hearers knew all too well what Jesus was implying. His hearers knew where the "I am" came from. Exodus 3:14, "God said to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: 'I AM has sent me to you.'"


This is the "Yahweh"/YHWH, from יהוה in Hebrew. In our English Bibles, it's LORD. 


The I am meant only one thing: Jesus is identifying himself as YHWH. Later in John 10:33 we read, "We are not stoning you for any good work," they replied, "but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God."


In John's Gospel there is no ambiguity about why the people were upset with Jesus and there is no ambiguity, either, about what Jesus was claiming. Both sides were agreed about the claims Jesus was making. Depending on which side you came down, you either wanted Jesus killed or you wanted Jesus to be worshiped. 


Capital punishment was fitting for the crime of blasphemy. Worship was fitting for the recognition that Jesus is God. So which is it?


That was and is still the inescapable question with respect to Jesus. C.S. Lewis' famous trilemma puts our response to Jesus in the following unavoidable terms. If what Jesus is saying is true about himself (that he is God), then Jesus is Lord; if what Jesus is saying is false, then we have two options. If Jesus is insincere about his claims, then he is a liar; if Jesus is sincere about his claims, then he is a lunatic. Lord, liar, or lunatic. 


So which one?


All this is based on the assumption that what Jesus said about himself was accurately written down. Some agnostic/atheistic scholars would say that it was the followers of Jesus who put words into his mouth. What Jesus truly said about himself is not accessible. The only thing we have is the biased record of the early followers of Jesus. In which case, the early followers become either liars or lunatics or lying lunatics or lunatic liars. So what about the early followers?


In Mere Christianity, Lewis notes that it was the Resurrection -- the encounter with the Risen Lord -- that energized and founded the early Christian movement. A myth about someone coming back from the dead is not sufficient enough for a movement that was persecuted early and often to have gained such power and momentum. If Jesus did not rise from the dead, his followers would have stayed in despair and the infant movement would have easily weakened quickly over time. But we know that was not the case. In fact, the movement grew exponentially in number and strength. Because along with the Resurrection of Jesus, the early church experienced the Outpouring of the Holy Spirit, as Jesus promised. These two realities -- the Resurrection and the Outpouring of the Spirit -- changed not only the course of the early Christian movement but the course of humanity. 


Let's pray: Lord Jesus, we worship you as God Incarnate, the Son of God come in the flesh. We worship you today for it is fitting to do so. We lay aside all that would get in the way of worshiping you and adoring you today. Because you are LORD, we also trust you with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. May your name be lifted up in our lives. In your name, amen.