“Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.’ Then the Pharisees said to him, ‘You are testifying on your own behalf; your testimony is not valid.’ Jesus answered, ‘Even if I testify on my own behalf, my testimony is valid because I know where I have come from and where I am going, but you do not know where I come from or where I am going. You judge by human standards; I judge no one. Yet even if I do judge, my judgment is valid; for it is not I alone who judge, but I and the Father who sent me. In your law it is written that the testimony of two witnesses is valid. I testify on my own behalf, and the Father who sent me testifies on my behalf.’ Then they said to him, ‘Where is your Father?’ Jesus answered, ‘You know neither me nor my Father. If you knew me, you would know my Father also.’” – John 8:12-19
When I was around four years old I became interested in the fact that my father left the house every morning and didn’t come back until dinner time. He was going to a place he called “work”, and he was going there to “make money.” I knew what money was; it was metal coins of various sizes with which you could buy things – but I had no idea what the place called “work” might be. I was very curious and I wanted to go with him.
I decided to show him how helpful I could be. If he saw that, I reasoned, maybe he would take me with him to “work”. So I spent an entire morning diligently making circles the size of nickels and dimes on several pieces of white paper. It took a lot of practice. I had to make the circles as round and as even as possible. I had to precisely close the gap between the beginning of the circle and the end. I remember how carefully I did this.
When my father got home, I triumphantly showed him my pages of circles. “Now I can help you make money!” I exclaimed triumphantly.
This really touched both my parents. My project had taken a long time for somebody my age.
The Pharisees were like my four year old self. They practiced hard on the things that they believed mattered, and we can assume this was because, just as we do, they wanted to be right with God. They didn’t have the perspective to see that they were being too concrete, too literal. They didn’t see that their focus neglected the important things, the needs of all their people – the hunger, the brokenness, and the longing.
Jesus came with a different consciousness. “I am the Light of the World,” he said.
Intent on their concrete ways, they wondered what he meant. He wasn’t following the rules. And how could he just speak for himself? Two people were necessary for a testimony to be true. And what did he mean about his father? Where was this father? He was speaking in riddles.
I think of the rows and rows of circles I made on those white sheets of paper when I was four, and I think about the yearning that was behind that careful work. My parents recognized what I felt and were able to let me know that what I had done touched their hearts.
Jesus asks us to look with a different consciousness. This is not a job for the head, which will always see things too concretely and too literally. It is a task for the heart. Feeling our way toward love and relationship, we will find the Christ already waiting there. We will know him; and as soon as we do, we will know his father as well. He will be involved in the things of the heart – in feeding the hungry and in healing the broken and in comforting all our longings. And from our own hearts we will learn how to do likewise – how to truly follow his Way.
As the New Year dawns, let it be so with us. Let us open our hearts so deeply that we walk in the Light of the World. Amen.