After hearing John’s gospel for the last five weeks, many murmur, “This saying is hard; who can accept it?” Not many can accept the sayings of Jesus, unfortunately, but that is not our role—to seek so much as to know the saying; no, our role is seek to know the Say-er…the One sent by God as the Way, the Truth and the Life. That’s our goal, isn’t it?
So often nowadays, people only accept what they can understand about Jesus, what they can relate with about Him: that is to say, many have no difficulty acknowledging that Jesus was a good man, a human person of wisdom and insight. And while that is certainly true, the most important thing to know about Jesus is that He is divine.
The Gospel of John—from which today’s exchange comes—began with, “In the beginning was the Word…”. It is this word of God that became flesh in Jesus Christ, thus bearing God’s own life for all of us to know, to hear, to love.
So, a question comes to mind, doesn’t it? Is He really? Is this Jesus really divine?
Throughout the gospels we are given the evidence, but even more, St. Paul’s letters are emphatic. St. Paul—a powerfully phenomenal Jew of the first century who studied under the great Rabbi Gamaliel—time and time again, over and over refers to Jesus as “Lord”. This is not so peculiar to us today, but to the people of Paul’s era, it was unheard of, simply because one only used the title ‘Lord’ when referring to God alone. How radical and strange it was, yet, in Paul’s wisdom and virtue, in his knowledge and experience of Christ, he was convinced that the One Lord is Jesus Christ. Paul knows the sayings of Jesus, but more to the point, he knows the Say-er and he knows him to be God himself. Yes, the sayings are hard, but we can accept them once we know well the goodness, or Godliness, of the Say-er.
Well, with that, comes now a compelling and all-important choice for each one of us: with this understanding of Jesus as Lord, Jesus now compels us to make a choice in a way that no other founder of a great religion does. Mohammed—to his infinite credit—never claimed to be God. Mohammed said, “I’m a messenger…I received a message from God.” Moses—to his infinite credit—never claimed to be divine. Moses received the Law from God and, in turn, gave it to the people. The Buddha—to his infinite credit—never claimed to be divine. What he said was, “I’ve found a way.”
Then there’s Jesus: who doesn’t say, “I’ve found a way,” …He says, “I AM the way.” How strange indeed. He doesn’t say, “I’ve found a truth…let me tell you about it,” rather He says, “I AM the truth.” He didn’t say, “Hey, there’s this new mode of life that I’ve discovered, let me share it with you,” rather He declares, “I AM the life.” These claims are the unique treasure of Christianity and treasure needs to be shared, needs to enrich us in order for it to be true treasure.
And so, this treasure, like I said, compels a choice. If Jesus is who He said He is, I must give my whole self, my whole life to Him. Of course, because He is God, He is the highest Good. But if He’s not who He says He is, then He’s a bad man. Either He’s God, or He’s a bad man…and each one of us must decide.
“Either you gather with me, or you scatter.” “Either you’re with me or you’re against me.” Even in today’s gospel, Jesus directly asks this question of us: “do you also want to leave?” It’s clear over these last five weeks of hearing John’s gospel, we are not allowed to be mere bystanders and spectators. We either believe and follow him full-well, or we leave him and return to a former way of life.
But we know the “Say-er” of these things; we are the recipients of the treasure of Jesus’ resurrection and new life; we are the bearers of Baptism; we are the manifold recipients of God’s graces; we are a people chosen and blessed by God as adopted children of the Father, in the Son.
Let your choice be unanimous, let your choice resound and echo in the days and weeks to come, let your choice guide all that you are and all that you do: for, Jesus is Lord. Amen.