1) Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)
: John 8:48-59 Reading
48 The Jews answered him, “Aren’t we right in saying that you are a Samaritan and demon-possessed?” 49 “I am not possessed by a demon,” said Jesus, “but I honor my Father and you dishonor me. 50 I am not seeking glory for myself; but there is one who seeks it, and he is the judge. 51 Very truly I tell you, whoever obeys my word will never see death.”
52 At this they exclaimed, “Now we know that you are demon-possessed! Abraham died and so did the prophets, yet you say that whoever obeys your word will never taste death. 53 Are you greater than our father Abraham? He died, and so did the prophets. Who do you think you are?” 54 Jesus replied, “If I glorify myself, my glory means nothing. My Father, whom you claim as your God, is the one who glorifies me. 55 Though you do not know him, I know him. If I said I did not, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and obey his word. 56 Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad.” 57 “You are not yet fifty years old,” they said to him, “and you have seen Abraham!” 58 “Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!” 59 At this, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds.
3) Devotional: Here we find a continuation of the debate between the Pharisees and religious leaders and Jesus about Jesus’ message and his claims to be God. There is much to consider here, but one thing really stands out: Rather than considering the issues or even consulting the Torah, the Pharisees instead decide to attack Jesus personally. They call him insane or demon-possessed in verse 52. They describe him as unqualified and unworthy of consideration in verse 57 because of his age- in Jewish religious culture at the time, the minimum age requirement for leadership in the temple system or civil service was 50 years of age, and Jesus would have been aged 30 or 32. But the real cheap shot is in verse 48 when the Jewish leaders call him a Samaritan.
This debate is taking place during the Feast of Tabernacles. A crowd would have gathered. The Jewish public hated Samaritans and held them in contempt- the tensions between the Jews and the Samaritans would have been similar to the racial tensions in the
during the 1950’s. It’s an accusation that implies an illegitimate birth, and is basically a racial slur. This was an effort by the religious leaders to get the public on their side- a public much more easily stirred by inflammatory rhetoric than by truth. So instead of engaging the issues, the Pharisees attack the person. Sound familiar? US
Attacking a person’s character rather than vigorously debating the issues is an age-old ugly tactic of fallen human nature. But in our modern equivalent to the Jewish religious system- the church- we find all too often similarities to the Pharisees’ approach in John 8. And it takes on a new level of ugliness when it happens in Christian circles- fights over doctrine, ministry, politics, and between people. Relationships are broken. Churches split. Bridges are burnt. Pain is inflicted. And the witness of the Church is destroyed. Often, the issues are petty and insignificant. Sometimes they are very important and SHOULD be engaged and debated spiritedly. But how we interact with each other is as important or even more important than the issues themselves. God calls us to a higher standard of interaction and discourse.
4) Questions to Consider: Have you ever heard truth and attacked the messenger because the truth was too challenging or painful to hear? How is the Holy Spirit speaking to you about the way you engage controversy or disagreement as you read this devotional? How might you bring more grace and peace to the people and debates in your own life, even as you relentlessly seek truth?
5) Prayer: God, help me today to do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit but in humility to consider others better than myself and to not only look to my own interests but also to the interests of others (Philippians 2:1-4). Help me live and speak with grace even as I stand for and seek truth in all things. Amen.
Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)