Read: John 8:48-59
The movie Arrival is not your average alien thriller. The aliens arrive quietly and non-violently, mysteriously hovering over the earth in strange oblong spaceships. They aren’t at all humanlike, except for their desire to communicate with the humans. A linguist is sent to make first contact and bridge the language barrier. She quickly learns that their language, and even how they think, is absolutely foreign to the way humans think and communicate. Naturally, some of the humans are threatened by these cosmic intruders and try to bomb the ships, resulting in the sudden disappearance of the aliens.
As you’ve been reading through John 8, you’ve probably been struck by just how strange Jesus’ responses are to the people He’s speaking to. Comparable to Arrival, Jesus comes into our world from a very different context with the intention to teach us what His Kingdom is and how we can be a part of it. Consequently, the Jews resorted to violence, picking “up stones to throw at Him,” and Jesus disappeared.
With a passage like this, it can be easy to point accusing fingers at those who didn’t trust Jesus. But I want you to take a moment to look inward. It could be—possibly subconsciously—you are even right now picking up stones to throw at Jesus. Let me explain what I mean.
Often when we read Jesus’ words in the Bible today, we filter through it to help it go down smoother because, let’s face it, Jesus isn’t exactly a “spoon-full-of-sugar.” Granted, it would be impossible to always read Jesus’ words literally because He speaks in lots of parables. I don’t believe He literally intends His followers to poke out their eyes the moment they sin after seeing something, for example. However, if our first inclination is to water-down Jesus’ words, then we’re guilty of the same thing He accuses the pharisees of doing with the Law. They took the words of God and making them into “traditions of men.” Or in our case, embroidered pillows, lock screens, and cute wrist tattoos, picking and choosing what fits into our preconceived notions.
It’s fascinating to see how many brands of Christianity there are for different lifestyles. There’s a Christianity for the rich, for the poor, for college-students, for stay-at-home-moms, for dads, for singles, for young-marrieds, etc. It’s not wrong to worship God in the context of our culture, but culture shouldn’t be the priority. The natural tendency is to take our lives like a cookie-cutter and force them over God, cutting out whatever doesn’t fit. Rather we should let our lives be shaped by Him.
When Jesus became human, He came with the authority of the Creator of Reality. He stepped out of the realm of God’s perfect will into the chaotic, muddy sea of lies that had become human reality. He didn’t still this sea with a wave of His hand though. Instead, Jesus established the Kingdom of God wherever He walked and taught others how to do the same. He came to teach us how to be like Him, to ‘cookie-cutter’ Himself over the top of us and cut out whatever doesn’t fit.
Are you letting Jesus speak for Himself when you read His word, or are you making Him march to the beat of your own drum? Picking up rocks can be subtle, and more often than not it comes in the form of constructing an idea of Jesus that’s more approving of sin than He really is. Thankfully, Jesus does not pick up stones against us in return, but instead loves and invites us in.