There comes a time when choices have to be made. We tend to put those times as far into the future as possible for ourselves, even while demanding that others make them in the present moment–especially in regard to so-called “spiritual” matters. The particular choice to accept as true or to reject as false the claims of Jesus is one which we cannot evade forever, as he himself declared in today’s text. John 12:37-50 (44-50 below):
44 And Jesus cried out and said, “Whoever believes in me, believes not in me but in him who sent me. 45 And whoever sees me sees him who sent me. 46 I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness. 47 If anyone hears my words and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. 48 The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day. 49 For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment—what to say and what to speak. 50 And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has told me.”
We are familiar with the position that goes something like this: “I believe in God; I’m not sure about this Jesus thing.” The uncertainty about the “Jesus thing” may arise from difficulty in believing the claims regarding his divinity, from the existence of so many alternative religious ideas in a pluralist world, from uncomfortable implications of accepting his words as true, or from negative experiences with those who have claimed to be his followers. Each of these should be taken seriously, of course, and it is the task of theologians and teachers to meet the challenges presented. At the end of the day, however, none of these or other hindrances should prove to be insurmountable obstacles. When the claims of Jesus are heard, they must be accepted or rejected, even if the process of consideration extends over a lengthy period of time.
Let’s consider further the idea that we have the option of believing in God without his revelation in Christ. Where would the information about who God is, what God does, and how God relates to human beings come from? What kind of God is it who is not revealed in and through Jesus Christ? And that is where the acceptance of God with the rejection of Christ runs aground, along with its intellectually barren cousin, the bromide that one can be spiritual without being religious. Thoughts about God and our own self-understanding cannot be neatly separated. Either we form God in our image or we accept that we have been formed in His, in which case fulfillment come from growing in the truth concerning who He is. And who He is revealed in Jesus.
Either Jesus speaks the word of God or we speak it on our own authority. Even when we choose to believe the words of someone in contradiction to Jesus, we make such a choice on our own warrant. And this applies not only with regard to whether or not Jesus is who he claimed to be (a claim, by the way, authenticated by his life, his miracles, his death, resurrection, and ascension); it applies to the tendencies toward selective acceptance of Jesus’ words as God’s own words.
It is that selective hearing and acceptance that calls yet again for our repentance. Are there any particular words he speaks which we struggle to belive are truly from God?