Lenten Meditation for Tuesday, March 28, 2023
This is such a difficult passage when divorced from its context. Jesus has been preaching in Jerusalem, talking about the Holy Spirit, and flowing, living water. Many who hear him are moved and see that he is the Messiah; others are disturbed and questioning… and there is a growing chatter about arresting Jesus and putting a stop to this once and for all.
The chief priests and the pharisees are the most concerned, responsible as they are for their community—both its orthodoxy, and its safety. What happens to them if the Roman government hears the Jews think they have their own king? There had been, and were still to come, terrible massacres of Jewish people at the hands of the Roman army. This Jesus could be a threat to their lives. So, these leaders haven’t arrested Jesus yet, but they’re in active discussion; active alarm.
And this is an active discussion—our passage today comes from the middle of a longer speech, Jesus responding to the arguments of his doubters and critics, and not for the first time. Exasperated, Jesus says the sorts of things we might despair of hearing from God…that God is going away, that He doesn’t want to bother speaking with us, and that we do not understand him anyway.
But our word Gospel means Good News, and there is always some to find. And today, I find it in the final verse: “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will realize that I am he” (John 8:28a).
Jesus, the light and life of the world, was sometimes heartbroken by humanity. He was disappointed in us, frustrated by our stubbornness and refusal to change. He had no allusions that our hearts turn easily. And yet! And yet. He offered himself to us, and for us. God acquiesced to our anger and fear and let us crucify him. And in letting us lift his body on the cross, God threw his arms wide to accept all people into his saving embrace. When Jesus was lifted up, defeat became victory; then, now, and forevermore.
Today: Christians for millennia have been drawn to the image of Jesus on the cross—even with its brutality, it was a sign of hope and victory. Do you have a favorite image of God?