Wednesday in the Fifteenth Week of Ordinary Time

John 8:39-47

You Either Get It or You Don’t

I said once before that if you are not already a believer, Jesus sounds at least as arrogant as any man ever was, at worst, stark-raving mad.  In my flesh (my sinful nature), I can understand the frustration of the crowd.  To their minds, this man is saying that the reason why they don’t understand him is because they are of the devil.  They don’t understand him because they cannot bear to hear his words, which is the same as saying that they do not understand him because they cannot, which is, quite frankly, insulting.  Moreover, this man says that he was sent by God, and insists that this God, whom he identifies as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob – which is the very same God claimed by the people to whom he speaks – is his Father in some obviously exclusive way.  And Jesus caps it off by saying that whoever is of God hears the words of God – by which he plainly means his words.

To put it bluntly, they don’t understand because they can’t understand, and they can’t understand because they don’t believe that Jesus is who he says he is, and they don’t believe that Jesus is who he says he is because they can’t believe it.  It’s a vicious circle but what I am saying is that they are both unable and unwilling; they have neither the power nor the desire to believe Jesus is who he is.  They are caught in the snare of the devil (whom Jesus calls their father), their minds are darkened and their wills are warped.  Moreover, they are quite satisfied in their blindness; indeed, they think they see and that Jesus is blind, that they are of God and Jesus is of the devil (“Are we not right in saying that you are a Samaritan and have a demon?”).

What we see on display in this confrontation between Jesus and unbelievers is exactly what Paul describes in Romans 1:18-32, only here the people are Jews rather than gentiles, but the cause and result are the same.  The cause is unbelief and the result is darkness of mind, hardness of heart, and, if a Jew, legalism, and if a gentile, paganism and immorality.

Which leads us to three conclusions: First, we must preach the gospel when opportunity affords.  We don’t know whose heart the Holy Spirit might be working on and we can’t make judgments beforehand; we must share the good news.  Second, we must be a humble people.  We only understand because the Holy Spirit both opened our minds and bent our wills; that is, he gave us both the will and ability to say, “Yes.”  Third, while others are ensnared by the devil, may we rejoice at being ensnared by God, growing in grace, ever more willing, ever more able, having been freed, indeed (8:36).

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