The Lessons: Job 12:1; 13:3-17, 21-27; Acts 12:1-17; John 8:33-47
Job. With our different perspectives, experiences, and commitments, it would be surprising if we didn’t argue. And some of us have heard the calls to fear God, to love God, to trust God—and that affects the arguments. Vv.7-11 are an equally important call: don’t show God partiality. We might wonder what that means. It certainly means not knowingly using faulty arguments to defend God. Does it mean that if we’re going to err, err in favor of those protesting against God?
Acts. If there’s a soundtrack for Peter’s story here it’s perhaps Yakety Sax (h/t Benny Hill). Is Luke really venturing into the genre of slapstick? (V.8: Peter is clearly only half awake. Vv.12-15: Peter at the gate.) Does Luke employ this genre elsewhere?
John. “You are from your father the devil…” The catastrophic ways Christians have used this text threaten to render it permanently radioactive. Here, as elsewhere in John, a variety of strategies have been proposed, including rendering hoi Ioudaioi by “the Judeans” rather than “the Jews” (rejected by Adele Reinhartz in The Jewish Annotated New Testament). I think a more radical strategy is needed.
Consider these two texts:
He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, (Jn. 1:11-12)
Then Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” (Jn. 8:31-32)
From this Gospel’s perspective, after Jesus’ coming “his own” include the believers. Recalling Spufford’s HPtFtU (Human Propensity to F*** things Up), there’s no reason to think that the believers won’t replicate the conduct of the Jews. In other words, rather than soften “the Jews,” give it its full weight so that we who now claim to be included in “his own” recognize our danger. (Here I’m channeling Paul: the vine metaphor and wilderness relectura).
Hence the importance of “continue in my word.” That I am baptized, that I have been faithful—that’s good. But that doesn’t relativize the importance of what I do today. So Ezekiel emphasizes the importance of the present, concluding “Cast away from you all the transgressions that you have committed against me, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! Why will you die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, says the Lord GOD. Turn, then, and live” (18:31-32).
Theologically, this may be why it’s important that Judas was one of the Twelve in all four Gospel accounts. Betrayal comes from within “his own.” And no better way to blind ourselves to the danger than to decide that the problem is die Juden.
In John’s stark language, my choices reveal my parentage. The LORD would have me remember that today’s choices are not bound by yesterday’s.