Fifth Tuesday of Lent: The one who speaks clearly
‘I have told you: you will die in your sins. Yes, if you do not believe that I AM He, you will die in your sins’ (Jn 8:24).
Gospel reading: John 8:21-30
Jesus presents the ultimate challenge to the Jews gathered in the Temple. They must have faith, not unbelief. They must choose life, not death. The only way to choose life is to believe in Jesus, who is ‘the Way, the Truth and the Life’ (Jn 14:6).
But the Jews seem to have a legitimate question: So they said to him, ‘Who are you?’ (Jn 8:24-5). At each stage in this discourse, the Jews seem to have reasonable doubts about Jesus. Who is he really? What does he mean by his cryptic statements, such as, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come’ (8:21-22)? In short, ‘they did not understand that he was talking to them about the Father’ (v. 27). The Jews here ask for a truth. But they do not recognise Truth himself who is speaking to them.
In fact, St John makes it quite clear, repeatedly, that Jesus has spoken plainly enough. He has told them already; they would not believe. What did he tell them? A little earlier in this Gospel, Jesus says, ‘My Father is working still, and I am working.’ He claims to be the Son of the Father in heaven: therefore he claims to be the Father’s equal (Jn 5:17-18).
Our gospel today develops that theme. Jesus is teaching them about himself as the eternal Son of God the Father. He even uses the Divine Name – ‘I AM’ – to refer to himself twice in this short passage (vv. 24, 28). And so we are told at this point that ‘many came to believe in him’. Is this not clear enough?
Perhaps not for everyone. So what can we do if we can’t bring ourselves to believe in Jesus on the basis of his teaching alone? One thing will become perfectly clear very soon: when the Son of Man is lifted up, then we will realise that he is truly God (‘I AM’) (Jn 8:28). When Jesus dies on the Cross, he is speaking clearly: he is showing us the path of life, the fulness of the Father’s forgiveness, his total self-giving love. So, if we believe in the one who died sinless on the Cross, we will surely not die in our sins.