Daily Readings, Day 9
October 9, 2017
John 3:22-36 (NRSV)
22 After this Jesus and his disciples went into the Judean countryside, and he spent some time there with them and baptized. 23 John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim because water was abundant there; and people kept coming and were being baptized 24 —John, of course, had not yet been thrown into prison.
25 Now a discussion about purification arose between John’s disciples and a Jew. 26 They came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, the one who was with you across the Jordan, to whom you testified, here he is baptizing, and all are going to him.” 27 John answered, “No one can receive anything except what has been given from heaven. 28 You yourselves are my witnesses that I said, ‘I am not the Messiah, but I have been sent ahead of him.’ 29 He who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. For this reason my joy has been fulfilled. 30 He must increase, but I must decrease.”
31 The one who comes from above is above all; the one who is of the earth belongs to the earth and speaks about earthly things. The one who comes from heaven is above all. 32 He testifies to what he has seen and heard, yet no one accepts his testimony. 33 Whoever has accepted his testimony has certified this, that God is true. 34 He whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure. 35 The Father loves the Son and has placed all things in his hands. 36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever disobeys the Son will not see life, but must endure God’s wrath.
So I’m irritated with John’s language today. The same writer who says so many profound and beautiful things about God and life keeps up this “Jew/the Jews” language here. Reminder: John’s disciples are all Jewish, so is the baptizer John (different than the disciple/alleged author John); in fact, here they call him rabbi, a Jewish teacher. These conversations and encounters are being written down decades later from the perspective of inter-Jewish disputes, and those labelled “the Jews” by John are the ones who didn’t follow Jesus – part of the “no one (who) accepts his testimony.”
What is the testimony?
That Jesus has the goods. He’s better than John. He has all God’s stuff. Spirit-wind has blown on him, and Spirit-wind flows from him to us. He is the source of life.
Walk with me for a minute.
I listened today for the first time to John Legend’s live cover of “Like a Bridge over Troubled Waters.”
If you want to listen, I’ll wait.
If you don’t think Legend has the goods, we don’t have a conversation we can have. I mean, that man plays the keys so perfectly, he sings like a god, and he looks like one too. How can you not be moved? That’s my testimony. Believe me, and you’ll have life. Don’t believe me, and… well, I’m sad for you. You’re left to a soulless, musically impoverished, sad existence.
Many theologians think “life” and “wrath” on John’s terms means something like this.
Jesus has the goods – what we need to find God and all that God has to give, in this life and the next. Turn toward him, and get the goods. Turn away, and miss out on the goods. That soul impoverishment is captured by the metaphor of wrath.
Is anything testifying to you about the goodness of God? Any voice that you trust? What would listening to that voice look like today?