Reflection on John 8.21-30

John 8.21-30

Jesus said to the Pharisees, ‘I am going away, and you will search for me, but you will die in your sin. Where I am going, you cannot come.’ Then the Jews said, ‘Is he going to kill himself? Is that what he means by saying, “Where I am going, you cannot come”?’ He said to them, ‘You are from below, I am from above; you are of this world, I am not of this world. I told you that you would die in your sins, for you will die in your sins unless you believe that I am he.’ They said to him, ‘Who are you?’

Jesus said to them, ‘Why do I speak to you at all? 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.’ They did not understand that he was speaking to them about the Father. 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. And the one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what is pleasing to him.’ As he was saying these things, many believed in him.


Jesus said to them, ‘Why do I speak to you at all?’

How many times have you found yourself speechless with exasperation at the words and actions of others? How many times have you said, of felt like saying: ‘Why do I speak to you at all?’

In the gospel narrative we encounter a wide range of human emotions including, as in today’s reading, sheer frustration. Jesus was born into a human life and, as a human being, he experienced every emotion we experience time and time again. We should not be surprised by this because emotional responses are hard-wired into the way we co-exist with the rest of humanity. Like us, Jesus experienced humour, anger, disappointment and sorrow. Like us, Jesus experienced physical and emotional pain accompanied by feelings of betrayal and empathy. Like us, Jesus experienced feelings of emotional attachment and Christian love.

As the gospels bring us closer to Jesus they show us his infinite capacity to forgive, and to love. The original language in which the gospels were written uses a form of classical Greek. Unlike our language, Greek has the capacity to express the many different types of love in a lexicon of different words. The word that best expresses the love we see in Jesus is agape, an open, honest and accepting love that is centred around the needs of others rather than around the wants of self.

Up to this point in the story of Jesus’ earthly life, Jesus has sought to share the Good News he has brought from his Father in heaven. This Good News is a message of forgiveness and reconciliation. This Good News is a message of love. In the spirit of agape, Jesus has performed signs that have included acts of miraculous healing, and he has shared the new teaching that has the capacity to bring humanity into a closer relationship with God. But, the religious authorities of the day remain obdurate, stubbornly refusing to recognize that which is blindingly obvious … Jesus is the long-awaited Messiah.

It is not difficult to imagine the frustration of the fully-human Jesus. As we, in our humanity, become exasperated that others will not listen to us, so it is easy for us to understand Jesus’ frustration when he is treated in the same way. It is a very human Jesus who wonders whether it is worth carrying on but, unlike us, the divine Jesus does not give up. He knows that his message is too important … it has to be shared.

Let us pray that we might hear and share Jesus’ life-changing message. Let us pray that we might not drive him into saying to us: Why do I speak to you at all?