Today’s reading: John 5:14-47
O Steadfast One
You are the Author of our journey.
Remind us that You have made us like You.
Remind us when we are overwhelmed by challenges
that you remain the Perfecter and Finisher of our faith.
Has this happened to you? After doing the right thing, the beautiful thing, the best thing, the truly holy thing, the only good thing your conscience would clear you to do… the world as you know it begins to turn on you?
Did you come out on the side of justice? Maybe you were advocating for historically oppressed communities of color, defending hunted undocumented neighbors, allying with persecuted LGBTQI siblings. Did you march in support of #BLM or post your #MeToo story on social media?
Whatever it was, where did the well-intended and not so well-intended warnings come from? Were they public or quiet? From family and friends, or strangers? Be careful, beware. With surreal warnings and social shake down grew a sense of desolate isolation. People become cooler at first, then colder; looks get darker, and words become ominous as you become an isolated, walking target.
Jesus, in today’s passage, has become a walking target as a result of the spiritual audacity inherent in his claims to intimacy with God. No surprise then that John 5 leads us to the core reality grounding Jesus: the belovedness of being in intimate community with an unshakable love. The truth of this saving power of intimate community remains a core confession for progressive Christians. We, in all our profound diversity of struggle, are invited to discover that our journey is not alone. We are in the company of the Divine Presence. Jesus shares the truth of luminous intimacy realized in community with those who empower our sense of belovedness by God.
It’s interesting, then, to note what this passage omits. Unlike passages willing to offer us gratifying glimpses and insight into the oh-so-sane and kick-ass mind of the divine incarnate who fearlessly exposes hypocrisy and calls out his haters, this passage practices restraint. This passage withholds insight into the poignant human realities of Jesus’ disillusionment, hurt, uncertainty, terror (and even rage that might serve as a comfort to us when facing the regrettable persecution of threats to our well-being or our loved ones).
What we have instead are a series of confessions by Jesus that some consider unmatched elsewhere in scripture. Jesus professes his utter interdependence and reliance on God for originating his way of being. He confesses experiencing intimate belovedness with God. He proclaims a confidence in the clarity and authority of his own discernment. He confesses confidence in a promise of eternity replete with endless Presence. He promises the ability to hear and know the Divine can be ours. He declares that the validity of his testimony will be confirmed by others.
In all this, he bears unfaltering witness to the fact that he is not alone. Not. Alone.
The words of Jesus testify to an unshakable conviction in an enduring sense of community with the Divine. His claims are unstintingly audacious throughout, and in them we are reminded: we should be no less confident and audacious in our knowing of the love of God for us. John 5 reminds us that we do not live and love and serve apart from our enduring relationship with the Divine. We are bathed in a relationality of light and love that promises to glow all the more luminously against the darkness of threats and hate that we may encounter in our faithfulness.
What do you fear losing by doing the right thing?
Are there vulnerabilities in your sense of intimacy with God?
What promise for yourself do you find in the transparency of Jesus’ confession about the comforts he finds in his relationship with the intimate divine?
Created by: Mari Kim, PhD
About the author: Korean North American constructive theologian and passionate nonprofit professional. Happy single mom of two sassy, smart, and kind-hearted sons who love bouldering and constantly remind her, “Mom, I’m taller than you.” Lover of local farmers markets, Canadian Butter Tarts, and Transcendental Meditation.
Image by: Hannah Yoon
About the artist: Hannah Yoon is a freelance photographer/photojournalist based in Ontario. She focuses on issues revolving around race and identity.