GOSPEL | JOHN 8:21-32
21 Again he said to them, “I am going away, and you will search for me, but you will die in your sin. Where I am going, you cannot come.” 22 Then the Jews said, “Is he going to kill himself? Is that what he means by saying, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come’?” 23 He said to them, “You are from below, I am from above; you are of this world, I am not of this world. 24 I told you that you would die in your sins, for you will die in your sins unless you believe that I am he.” 25 They said to him, “Who are you?” Jesus said to them, “Why do I speak to you at all? 26 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.” 27 They did not understand that he was speaking to them about the Father. 28 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. 29 And the one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what is pleasing to him.” 30 As he was saying these things, many believed in him. 31 Then Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”
We don’t send letters anymore. We send e-mails, or more often, texts. I was reflecting with some friends at church that I am fascinated by others’ penmanship, partly because we use it so rarely, but more because it is such a unique mark of the writer. My hand is very different from my wife’s hand, though it has surprising traits of both my father’s hand and my mother’s hand. The benefits of sending a letter, beyond recognizing the writer’s hand, is the ability to sign it with the writer’s personal signature, guaranteeing that the person who wrote the letter is personally communicating with us; even more, the writer might seal the letter with a personal seal pressed in wax, to ensure both that the letter has remained secure and not been read by any other eyes and that the writer’s identity is absolutely guaranteed.
Even rarer than letters, we have no interaction with personal messengers – who speak on behalf of their sender – or even with letter deliverers who stand and wait to carry our reply. If someone knocked on my door wearing the colors of their lord, bearing a message for me, delivered the message, then stood there expectantly and asked for a reply, I suspect I would reply very like the Jews did to Jesus: “Who are you?” (v.25); “Where do you come from?”; “Who sent you?”.
Jesus does not come in his own authority, because:
“though he was in the form of God, [he] did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death—even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:6-8).
Jesus obeys his Father, and comes to earth on his Father’s behalf with his Father’s authority under his Father’s name. He is a herald, a messenger, an ambassador. He is the divine signature and the pressed seal of his Sender, the incontrovertible hand of his Father.
Even more, he is our Mediator, standing and waiting to bear our reply back to his Father. Will we reply to the Father’s embodied Message of divine, covenant love with our commitment of faithfulness? Or will we, like the Jews did to Jesus, snub the Messenger He has sent, and wait instead for the messenger we would rather receive (a superhero, a perfect presidential candidate, a clairvoyant economist, a charmingly winsome entertainer)? The Father has sent a signed and sealed Message to us, the most personal Correspondence ever delivered. RSVP.