Jesus said to the Jews, ‘If I testify about myself, my testimony is not true. There is another who testifies on my behalf, and I know that his testimony to me is true. You sent messengers to John, and he testified to the truth. Not that I accept such human testimony, but I say these things so that you may be saved. He was a burning and shining lamp, and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light. But I have a testimony greater than John’s. The works that the Father has given me to complete, the very works that I am doing, testify on my behalf that the Father has sent me. And the Father who sent me has himself testified on my behalf. You have never heard his voice or seen his form, and you do not have his word abiding in you, because you do not believe him whom he has sent.
‘You search the scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that testify on my behalf. Yet you refuse to come to me to have life. I do not accept glory from human beings. But I know that you do not have the love of God in you. I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not accept me; if another comes in his own name, you will accept him. How can you believe when you accept glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the one who alone is God? Do not think that I will accuse you before the Father; your accuser is Moses, on whom you have set your hope. If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me. But if you do not believe what he wrote, how will you believe what I say?’
I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not accept me; if another comes in his own name, you will accept him.
Throughout the twentieth century, and up to the present day, there has been a steady growth in the culture of ‘fame’. With the development and increasingly easy transmission of recorded sound and the moving image there has been a parallel growth in the register of ‘famous’ people. For some the fame is justified, but not so for all. Some of those famous men and women have made a significant contribution to the evolution of the human intellect or to the social and economic security of the totality of humankind. Others are famous because large numbers of people have been manipulated into believing that their fame is both inevitable and justified. This latter definition of fame has the potential to bring about great harm to those who fall for its charms, it is also a definition of fame which Jesus warns against in today’s reading.
To those who believe, Jesus is the Son of God, the Messiah, the Lord and Saviour of us all. But, despite these grand titles by which he has come to be known, and despite the miraculous signs he performed during his earthly life, Jesus is not ‘famous’ in the contemporary sense of the word. Jesus’ life was simple and one of obedience. Jesus’ life was lived out as a servant to others and as an obedient child of his heavenly Father. Then, for those who may feel called to follow him, he speaks of self-denial and self-sacrifice. Jesus definitely does not sit easily in the modern world of celebrity culture.
Jesus’ path through this world is austere but, for those who cannot stomach the challenge, other ways are available. There are many men and women who offer much, even though they have nothing to back-up their promises. Even if the promises of contemporary celebrity culture are not spelt out in words of one syllable, there is an implicit false promise of ‘all that you see could be yours too’. The pop star, the fashion guru and the overtly self-confident base their fame on everyone else’s gullibility, just like the confidence trickster who defrauds the vulnerable out of all that makes their lives bearable.
Jesus does not promise fame, rather he promises a close relationship with his Father in heaven, that is God himself. Jesus does not promise great wealth, but he does assure us of eternal life in God’s nearer presence, if we can bring ourselves to share the little we have with those who have less than us. Jesus’ promises may not be wrapped in glamour and razzamatazz, but they are the greatest gift any of us can be given … ever!