In John’s Gospel, John 10; 22-30, Jesus dialogues with the Pharisees about his identity. This is in part a continuation of that dialogue.
The Pharisees were vigilant about exposing pretenders and religious fanatics.If there was a school to which Jesus belonged, it was that of the Pharisees. They were the reformers who wanted a more prophetic image of God. They argued with the Temple authorities over how best to serve and honor a God of mercy, justice and compassion.
The Pharisees are the ancestors of the Rabbinic School that moved out from Jerusalem after the destruction of the Temple and to this day continue Judaism in the Synagogue and through family gatherings.
By the time of John’s gospel, the Temple has been destroyed and both Jews and the early followers of Jesus were trying to find ways to survive in the midst of an often oppressive Roman Empire.
The Pharisees often get a bad rap in the Gospels and especially in the Gospel of John …
We in the Church are certainly descendants of the Pharisees through both Jesus and Paul. As Pharisees we ask questions. We want to know if Jesus is the Messiah, or not. The people in John’s account don’t what to know if Jesus is the Messiah. They’ve already made up their minds. He isn’t.
How are we ever to come to a faith that will carry us through the times we have lived through in our lives, in this last week? How can we believe that there is a Shepherd, who already knows us and protects us? These are questions the rabbis, priests and people of faith have struggled with all our lives and for thousands of years before we were born.
So rather than give a long and painful theological dissertation on these issues, I had what I call my conversations with Jesus: real or imagined that I’d like to risk sharing with you. Let there be no question of my sanity. I give you part of a recent conversation with Jesus that I have the temerity to report.
Me. “Who are you anyway, Jesus?”
Jesus: “That’s the big question. Who do you say that I am?”
Me. “So you answer a question by asking another question? Always turning the tables. Great. How can I answer you? I know that I think I love you. I grew up with stories about you. I’ve placed your life over my life like a window. I look through your life, your birth, your temptation, baptism, call, the organizing of a community, your suffering death and resurrection, your wonderful and complicated relationships with the members of your inner circle, with women, with your mother. Your father, I’m not kidding. It’s been my way of looking into my own being, to see my life through yours.
Jesus: “So whose life are you living?”
Me: “Another question. When are you going to give me an answer? Yes it’s my life. At least now it is. It’s not always been mine. I spent many years living someone else’s idea of what my life should be. Good call. Now I think I’ve got it straight.
Who do you say that I am? I don’t know? Were you there in Boston, were you with those who died, the ones who lost limbs? I have so many questions. Will you give me an answer?
Jesus: “Was I there for you when you were alone and pain? In sorrow and discouragement.”
Jesus: “Then, yes I was with them. I held them in my arms; I took them to me and gave them what comfort I could. I sent medical personnel. Do you think they get their love for healing because it’s a good job and pays well? They do it out of love, from a desire of the heart to bring relief to those who suffer. That day I sent a whole word of compassion to those who suffered and I continue to send healing to those who are left with scars.
What of evil?
Each of us has the capacity for evil when we turn away from our relationships with each other, when we start to see others as its and them. Then we refuse to see my face in the face of the other.
Look, Bob, I’ve known you before you were in your mother’s womb, I call you by name. Sometimes you just don’t listen, you are hard of hearing, and stubborn. Sometimes when you do listen you are a symphony, a flight of robins, the wailing of Rachel for her lost children.
Me: I was speechless.
Finally I replied. What do you want of me?
Jesus: “Tell those beautiful folks in Randolph what we talked about. Tell them that when they are discouraged or in pain to read the psalm you read today, you know Psalm 23: the Lord is my shepherd, I have everything I need. …
Tell them that it’s not important what you believe in your head as much as it is to have a relationship with me. Time to sit and be still and know that I have known you since before you were born and that you are my beloved child……
And tell them to love one another as I love them. Because this way the world will know that you are my disciples. Love one another….
And don’t be so hard on those Pharisees; we have plenty of the best and the worst of them in the church. My big dispute with the Pharisees was over their spiritual pride. But I was, and still am a Jew and so are they. Treat them with love and respect.
By the way, Jesus said, did I tell you the one about the Rabbi who was having trouble in his synagogue…Yeah I said, “.Even then you were arguing”.
Then I laughed and Jesus did too.
And then I knew.