Rob Sturdy: The voice of the Son of God

20 12 2011

Soren Kierkegaard once wrote:

“We are touched, we look back to those beautiful times.  Sweet sentimental longings leads us to the goal of our desire, to see Christ walking about in the promised land.  We forget the anxiety, the distress, the paradox.  Was it such a simple matter not to make a mistake?  Was it not terrifying that this man walking around among the others was God?  Was it not terrifying to sit down to eat with him?  Was it such an easy matter to become an apostle?  But the result, the eighteen centuries- that helps, that contributes to this mean deception whereby we deceive ourselves and others.  I do not feel brave enough to wish to be contemporary with events like that…” (Kierkegaard, Fear and Trembling,Kierkegaard’s Works Vol III pg 115)

The importance of Kierkegaard’s words applied in our present context is this: You and I believe that if we had been present to see the time of Jesus public ministry, his baptism, his feeding of the five thousand, his healing of the lame and blind, his raising of the dead, and eventual resurrection that we would find it easier to believe.  But of course you and I overlook the tremendous responsibility of being those who witnessed with our own eyes the life of Jesus of Nazareth.  Those who witnessed his life with their own eyes are accountable for what they heard and saw during those very interesting times.  This is of course why Kierkegaard writes: “I do not feel brave enough to wish to be contemporary with events like that…”

If that isn’t frightening enough, let me add another observation about witnessing the miracles of Jesus.  You and I are so thoroughly enmeshed in a scientific worldview that we believe the ability to see and observe automatically equates with belief.  That is, if we were able to see and observe Jesus it would make it easier for us to belive.  If we can see and observe, we satisfy the rational requirements of our mind to buttress our faith.  But is this always the case?

On a hot summer day I may be driving on an unfamiliar rode.  As I look up on the horizon, I see a tremendous lake that stretches across the road.  Knowing that I am driving a car that is very low to the ground, I realize I will not be able to ford this unexpected obstacle.  However as I get closer, I see it is not a lake at all but only a mirage, created by the heat.  Sight can be deceptive, therefore seeing is not always believing.

It was no different in Jesus’ day.  Time after time, especially in the Gospel of John we are told of the miracles of Jesus only to be quickly told sentences later that there were many who did not believe.  In fact, our reading from today’s Gospel begins with that very point.

“Though he had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him,” (John 12.37)

Very important to note about John’s Gospel, is that Jesus does not perform miracles in John’s Gospel but signs and this gives us an important clue as to why they ultimately did not believe in Jesus.  A sign points towards something.  If I am driving to Myrtle Beach on vacation, I look for the exit that says “All beach traffic left lane.”  The sign is ultimately not the destination, but points towards the destination.  So too Jesus performs signs.  So the raising of the dead is quite remarkable, and we would be tempted to stay there, but it is not the final destination.  But what is?

“Whoever believes in me, believes not in me but in him who sent me.  And whoever sees me sees him who sent me.” (John 12.44-45)

So Jesus has come in order that we might believe in and see the Father.  And herein lies why many did not believe in him.  Back to our vacation metaphor, you only look for the sign that points to the destination in which you are heading.  Those who did not believe in Jesus were not headed towards the destination he wished to point them in.  Therefore, no matter how many signs he performed they didn’t notice.  Why?  Because they weren’t looking for either the sign or the destination.

Therefore they may “keep on hearing” the voice of Jesus but not understand him, and may “keep on seeing” his signs but not perceive (Isa 6.9).  And because of their rebellion against God he has furthered hardened their heart, effectively making them incapable of ever hearing or seeing, as our reading from John makes clear.

It would be foolish for us to think this is a problem of the Jews in the time of Jesus.  It is important to ask if we have the same spiritual blindness, if we have the same disinterest in the destination which Jesus would make us aware of.  A clear diagnostic for this is to ask yourself what is it that you long for most in the whole world?  If you say “heaven”, then perhaps I would ask you “what about heaven do you specifically long for?”  If it is anything other than communion with the Father, to behold the glory of Christ, and to have fellowship with the Holy Spirit then you and I have fallen short and are in spiritual blindness.  We will overlook the signs of Jesus.  He could raise a man from the dead, and the sign would be to no avail.  Our gaze will be directed towards those signs which point us towards what our hearts really desire.  If we do not desire the Father, Jesus’ signs will be of little use to us.

How are we freed from this spiritual blindness and hardness of heart?  Jesus came to accomplish several things, a few of which are highlighted by our reading today and address the spiritual blindness and bondage of the heart to which we just referred to.  Jesus says:

1)  “I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness” (John 12.48).

2)  “I do not judge, for I did not come into the world to judge the world but to save it” (John 12.47)

3)  “For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment—what to say and what to speak. 50 And I know that his commandment is eternal life” (John 12.49-50)

To summarize, he gives light to those in darkness, salvation to those under judgment, and eternal life to those that are spiritually dead.  His words are eternal life.  Which words? None may be excluded.  Nevertheless, one perhaps more than any other may be looked to in order to communicate eternal life.  Jesus says that “God so loved the world he sent his only Son” (John 3.16).  But sent him to do what?  Namely, to proclaim “It is finished” (John 19.30).  In other words, he came into the world that it might have light and that work from the cross is finished.  He came to the world that it might be saved and that work from the cross is finished.  He came to speak the word of eternal life.  And from the cross, what he came to do he finished.  This is the importance of the voice of the Son of God, and these are the words like a life raft in a tumultuous sea, many of the saints of God have clung to towards their own salvation.



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