s e m p e r r e f o r m a n d a
22nd SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST
October 28, 2007 (Lectionary 30)
Jeremiah 14:7-10, 19-22 or Sirach 35:12-17
Psalm 84:1-7 (Ps. 84:5)
2 Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18
Psalm 65 (Ps. 65:11)
2 Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18
OR - Simon and Jude, Apostles
October 28, 2007
Jeremiah 26:(1-6) 7-16
Psalm 11 (Ps. 11:1)
1 John 4:1-6
OR -- Reformation Day may be transferred to Sunday, October 28.
moved to October 28, 2007
Psalm 46 (Ps. 46:7)
1a. Context: John 8:31-36
Jesus is "the truth" that sets people free
This passage (8:31-36) is at the center of a larger loosely arranged collection on Jesus' preaching and teaching in Jerusalem (7:1_10:42). This larger section continues the theme of unbelief and defection from Jesus begun in Chapter 6, thus establishing the tone of the remainder of the Gospel. Specifically, this controversy is the clash between the revelation of God in Jesus Christ and human institutions and traditions. This conflict between Jesus and the religious establishment will evoke a death threat (11:47-53) and finally culminate in the cross.
At 8:1 we see Jesus preaching and teaching in the temple surrounded by "all the people" who were hearing and believing his word. Into that scene came the scribes and Pharisees with a woman caught in adultery. Clearly, these religious leaders sought to use this woman's offense to test Jesus and his adherence to the law of Moses (8:5). Thus, the controversy is set in place. Will Jesus confirm the Law and its traditions or will he supersede the Law and the traditions? The passage under study for this day does not seem to be of the same source as the preceding (8:12-30). At verse 30, John wrote that "many believed in him," but by verse 37, Jesus perceived that these same people sought to kill him. Again, it was a question of belief or unbelief, discipleship or defection, based on the revelation of God in Jesus Christ or on human traditions and ancestry.
Jn. 8:31 Then Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, "If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples;
Jn. 8:32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free."
Jn. 8:33 They answered him, "We are descendants of Abraham and have never been slaves to anyone. What do you mean by saying, `You will be made free'?"
Jn. 8:34 Jesus answered them, "Very truly, I tell you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin.
Jn. 8:35 The slave does not have a permanent place in the household; the son has a place there forever.
Jn. 8:36 So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.
2. Analysis: John 8:31-36
John 8:31 πεπιστεψοταω_The faith of the Judeans was less than personal trust that the construction, "believe in [ειω] him." Believing Jesus' word is not enough; what is required is trust in Jesus' identity_"unless you believe [πιστεψοητε] that I am [εγϖ ειμι] (ηε)" (8:24).
Note the phrase εγϖ ειμι, it should trigger thoughts about Jesus' identity from the great εγ⎣ϖ ειμι sayings in John's Gospel (6:35; 7:36; 8:12; 10:11).
8:31 με⎣ινητε_The sense here is of a continuing relationship or personal communion, not a simple or static designation of place or intellectual position. For Christians, continuing life (in its fullest sense) in Christ alone is central.
8:31 αλνυϖω_The adjective "truly" (⎣αλνυϖω) underscores the depth of the continuing relationship with Jesus and not a static adherence to a body of teachings.
8:31 μαυητα⎣ι_These disciples are those who are immersed in Jesus, the "water of life" (7:1-52), his word and in his identity. Mauhtaëi is a much stronger word than "believer," "follower," or "sympathizer."
8:32 γνϖσεσυε "will know" The middle voice of this verb speaks of the subject participating in the results of the action or of having personal interest. Thus, knowledge of Jesus' truth comes in continuing (meëinhte) in Jesus' word. It must not be understood as cognitive knowledge_a body of discernible facts readily available to the world's independent inquiry.
8:32 ∍αληυειαν_Here "truth" is John's technical term for the content, significance, and person of God's revelation in Jesus Christ. Jesus is "the truth" (14:6). It is not cognitive or even spiritual knowledge or truth (as Paul will argue in 1 Corinthians) that sets people free. The truth of God is Jesus Christ, just as Jesus is God's word_ο λογοω (1:1).
8: 32 ∍ελεψυερϖσει_Only in 8:32-36 does John in his Gospel use the verb "to make free." Here it is a freedom that liberates from darkness (verse 12), sin and death (8:25), and unbelief (8:32). What else are these freedoms than the sure promise of salvation (8:35-36)?
8:33 σπερμα ∍Αβρααμ_The Judeans claimed freedom on the basis of heritage and not on "continuing" or "knowing" God's revelation that requires trusting participation in a relationship.
8:34 ο ποιϖν την ∍αμαρτιαν_Is "sin" the act of disobedience or is it a state of being? As Luther would tell us, we are sin. To attempt to separate the act from being is to split hairs. We sin, therefore we are sin; we are sin, therefore we sin. It is enough to say, "we confess that we are in bondage to sin and cannot free ourselves" (LBW, page 56). To attempt to save oneself by holding to one's own heritage or religious experience is like a drowning man seeking to save himself. Recognition of this bondage or slavery to sin is the first step in being set free by the truth.
3. Strategy: John 8:31-36
On this Day of the Reformation, Lutherans are often euphoric celebrating their "liberation" from Rome. [Ed. Note: see the blog “Ten Years...and Counting” at www.yourobdtsvt.blogspot.com.]
"We are Lutherans and are not in bondage to anyone!" How like the Judeans.
This text provides the necessary corrective to celebrating our heritage. Our reliance on Luther can and sometimes does obscure Jesus and his word. Luther supersedes ‘ ο λογοω and αληυειαν, the Book of Concord supersedes the Bible.
In the festival we often miss Luther's (and Jesus') point. What is at stake here is freedom, a freedom celebrated with our Roman Catholic brothers and sisters and not from them. It is a freedom from darkness and unbelief that make us bond slaves of sin and death. Slavery to sin is separation. To be bound to sin is to be separated from others, from self, and from God.
We live in an elevator world, each going to our separate floors, pushing our own buttons, hostile to that teenage who reeks of pot. In elevators we do not talk or touch. We are separated from each other.
We also are afraid to get to know ourselves, for that person is too frightening, perhaps too disgusting, to really know. How often we commit certain acts in perfect consciousness, yet with the shocking sense that we are being controlled by an alien power.
Paul Tillich wrote that "the state of our whole life is estrangement from others and ourselves because we are estranged from the Ground of our being"_God. We hear the voice, but our ears are closed. We feel that something radical, total, and unconditional is offered to us, but we rebel against it. We shout like the Judeans, "I go to church!" But we will not accept God's decision to save us from ourselves.
In The Bondage of the Will, Luther wrote that we are either in bondage to sin or in bondage to Christ. There is no middle ground. To stand apart from Jesus Christ, even if you know Luther by heart, is to be a slave to sin and death. To "continue" in Christ is to be "free indeed" (8:36).
Exegete: Rev. Thomas S. Hanson [firstname.lastname@example.org]
is an ELCA Pastor in Arden Hills, Minnesota.
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