knowing truth | John 7.14-18
14 About the middle of the feast Jesus went up into the temple and began teaching. 15 The Jews therefore marveled, saying, “How is it that this man has learning, when he has never studied?” 16 So Jesus answered them, “My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me. 17 If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority. 18 The one who speaks on his own authority seeks his own glory; but the one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and in him there is no falsehood. John 7.14-18 | ESV
Then, in the midst of that fog of fear, right in the middle of that weeklong Tentmaker festival, Jesus shows up out of nowhere and begins teaching right there in the temple. The trolling, pious Judeans were gobsmacked – they didn’t lift a finger against him because they were to busying picking their jaws up off the floor. “How can he be such an expert in all the old books when he’s never spent a day in school his whole life!?” they stammered out loud. No stammering for Jesus—he was ready with an answer on the spot: “This isn’t my lesson plan – I’m only working off the Great Sender’s syllabus. Anyone who really wants to know what he wants, what he’s up to, will recognize in a heartbeat whether this is merely my concocted syllabus or one divinely delivered from him. Anyone who goes on and on about his own theory and ideas is obviously looking to establish his own reputation and following; the one who selflessly promotes the reputation of the Someone Else who sent him is clearly the real deal – nothing false or phony about him! MAV (Mike’s Amplified Version)
In my religious upbringing, knowing truth was a relatively simple equation:
Bible + correctly applied rules of logic = truth.
Such things as motivation and intention really didn’t count for much – except to say that if you didn’t reach the same conclusions you obviously weren’t thinking clearly and your sincerity is irrelevant.
Thankfully, Jesus loves showing up in looping, closed systems, right in the middle of them.
No recognized credentials or invitation.
No proffered equations with logically and externally verifiable data that the system will recognize and process.
And the system sputters and chokes.
“How can this man teach, never having learned?”
And while he does offer tangible signs of healing and cogent reasoning, both seem familiar and foreign at the same time, near and far, life-giving and explosive. Our systems can handle easily verified, collated and controlled external data, but Jesus seems to root so much of his message and authority in inner more tricky and seemingly subjective realms.
No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.
Those who want what he wants will know the truth of what I’m saying. Otherwise, not so much.
Oh, tricky business, this.
Give me those verbal equations on the page with truth residing in them right there, ready for anyone to calculate at will. But how much more elusive reality is – at least the one taught by Christ. Less like a tangible key for any hand with a simple grasp/insert/turn truth to it (read/pray/obey) and much more like the frustrating doors before the Mines of Moria. No forcing this. Only a patient willingness to wait for just the right light to strike the subject, then to speak “friend” and enter.
And that, quite simply, does not compute.
How do you navigate the tension between careful study of data on a page and more intuitive, internal knowing of truth? What are the dangers of an excessive, monopolizing swing in either direction?
Abba, open my eyes and heart to see more in your Word, more in You, than religious equations on a page with words to parse and sentences to analyze. May all such exercises only lead me to a much deeper experience of your heart. Draw my heart into a deeper, resonating desire for yours. Through Jesus.