Continuing a translation of and commentary on John’s Gospel.
JOHN 5: 39-end
(Jesus said) “You scour the scriptures because you think that in them you have the life of the age to come; and in fact, they testify about me; yet you are unwilling to come to me so that you may have life! I do not accept honour from human beings, but I know you, that you do not have the love of God amongst you, for I have come in my father’s name and you do not accept me.If someone else comes in his own name you will accept him. How can you trust God, when you accept honour from one another and do not look for the honour that comes from the one God?
“Don’t imagine that I will denounce you in the father’s presence. There is someone who denounces you: Moses, in whom you have placed your hope! For if you had trusted Moses you would have trusted me, for he wrote about me. But if you do not trust his writings, how can you trust my words?”
These passionate words are a denunciation of the sort of religion which is based on magic books, especially any Christian religion which prefers the written word of the Bible to the spirit of Jesus.
Jesus scorns the “scouring” of the scripture when its true function is to point to him as the life-giver sent by God. If people claim to love God and God’s way, they must be asked if they love the real Jesus. Of course there will be Jewish and Muslim, not to mention Buddhist and Hindu, believers who see this test as arrogant and imperialist. I can’t help that: they may be right and I may be wrong, but for me Jesus is the test of true religion wherever it exists. I do not mean that all true believers must acknowledge Jesus, but rather that what is genuine in their faith and practice will agree with his spirit.
The capacity of bad religion to construct systems of honour, based on the desire for power and pre-eminence, rather than virtue, is as evident amongst the ayatiollahs as amongst the popes and mass evangelists. All of that kind of thing is smelly religion, utterly foreign to the way of Jesus. Its prevalence at the heart of mainstesam Christianity is a tribute to the power of the Devil.
Jesus emphasises that those who , out of religious prejudice reject his way, are not condemned by him, unless they are Christian, but by the best of their own tradition which in their different languages points towards the one who brings the life of the age to come, the life which is therfore not here yet. Perhaps a Jewish friend will tell me that in fact Jesus was pointing back to Moses who is a true life-bringer. I think Jesus, but not the author of John’s Gospel, might have laughed and had a beer with him.