John 8:21–30

Jesus said to the Jews, “I am going away, and you will search for me, but you will die in your sin. Where I am going, you cannot come.” Then the Jews said, “Is he going to kill himself? Is that what he means by saying, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come’?” He said to them, “You are from below, I am from above; you are of this world, I am not of this world. I told you that you would die in your sins, for you will die in your sins unless you believe that I am he.” They said to him, “Who are you?” Jesus said to them, “Why do I speak to you at all? I have much to say about you and much to condemn; but the one who sent me is true, and I declare to the world what I have heard from him.” They did not understand that he was speaking to them about the Father. So Jesus said, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will realize that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own, but I speak these things as the Father instructed me. And the one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what is pleasing to him.” As he was saying these things, many believed in him.

Recently I’ve been watching The Chosen, a television series about the life of Jesus. What I like about this series is that the portrayal of Jesus is wonderfully real. In other series, Jesus only says the words written in the gospels, giving the scenes a stilted feel. In this series, Jesus laughs, teases, and gets frustrated. Jesus’ humanness is loud and clear in our gospel for today’s meditation. Jesus is trying to explain what is going to happen to him – that he is going away beyond his listeners’ reach. When the people try to seek him, they will fail because they are from below and he is from above. They will die in their sins. There is hope however. The gulf can be overcome if they believe in him. Those listening just aren’t getting it. They said to him, “Who are you?” Here is where Jesus gets really frustrated and says, “Why do I speak to you at all?”

The people are not trying to be difficult. This “he is from above and you are from below” business is very hard. Even with our knowledge of Jesus dying on the cross and being lifted up so that we can know the love of God, we struggle to fully understand. The gift here is that even in Jesus’ frustration, he tries again. He describes the oneness between himself and the Father, that he does nothing on his own. This time his listeners believe.

I like how the Message Bible translates Jesus’ words:“You’re tied down to the mundane; I’m in touch with what is beyond your horizons. You live in terms of what you see and touch. I’m living on other terms.” We, too, live in this tension of being below and seeking Jesus who is above – the struggle of following Jesus while we live in this earthly world.

The good news is that Jesus will never give up on us. So, if you are sure that when Jesus hears your thoughts he is saying – why do I speak to you at all? – remember this passage. Remember Jesus’ persistence and that he came to seek us out and show us the way to the everlasting love of God.


Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy Name,
thy kingdom come,
thy will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those
who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
and the power, and the glory,
for ever and ever. Amen.


The Rev. Canon Anne-Marie Jeffery

Canon for Congregational Vitality