Bible Readings for Saturday, June 4th, 2011 – The 7th Week of Easter
*Click on each bible passage to expand the text.1. The LORD is king, he is robed in majesty; the LORD is robed, he is girded with strength. He has established the world; it shall never be moved;
2. your throne is established from of old; you are from everlasting.
3. The floods have lifted up, O LORD, the floods have lifted up their voice; the floods lift up their roaring.
4. More majestic than the thunders of mighty waters, more majestic than the waves of the sea, majestic on high is the LORD!
5. Your decrees are very sure; holiness befits your house, O LORD, forevermore.13. He picked up the mantle of Elijah that had fallen from him, and went back and stood on the bank of the Jordan.
14. He took the mantle of Elijah that had fallen from him, and struck the water, saying, “Where is the LORD, the God of Elijah?” When he had struck the water, the water was parted to the one side and to the other, and Elisha went over.
15. When the company of prophets who were at Jericho saw him at a distance, they declared, “The spirit of Elijah rests on Elisha.” They came to meet him and bowed to the ground before him.21. Again he said to them, “I am going away, and you will search for me, but you will die in your sin. Where I am going, you cannot come.”
22. Then the Jews said, “Is he going to kill himself? Is that what he means by saying, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come’?”
23. He said to them, “You are from below, I am from above; you are of this world, I am not of this world.
24. I told you that you would die in your sins, for you will die in your sins unless you believe that I am he.”
25. They said to him, “Who are you?” Jesus said to them, “Why do I speak to you at all?
26. I have much to say about you and much to condemn; but the one who sent me is true, and I declare to the world what I have heard from him.”
27. They did not understand that he was speaking to them about the Father.
28. So Jesus said, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will realize that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own, but I speak these things as the Father instructed me.
29. And the one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what is pleasing to him.”
30. As he was saying these things, many believed in him.
…Unless You Believe…
Today, we consider yet another staple passage which, for many Christians, justifies why you must believe in Jesus to be saved.
24. ” I told you that you would die in your sins, for you will die in your sins unless you believe that I am he.”
It is passages like this that help make Christianity about “belief” and not “faith”, about exclusion and not inclusion, about your own personal salvation and not the world’s.
This passage essentially contradicts the rest of Jesus’ message throughout his ministry: “Kingdom Here, Kingdom Now, Kingdom Come“. The language of his Kingdom parables and sayings clearly puts the emphasis on the here and now, and the salvation of the community. Contrast that with John 8:24, which seems to put the emphasis on the future and on the salvation of the individual.
However, as we discovered in my post about the nuances of translation found in John 14:6, it seems that much of the mystical language and insight of the Greek Gospel of John has been translated out in English (be it purposefully or accidentally). I find this revelation to be tragic. In my life as a Christian, the Gospel of John has become one of the most insightful and informative books for my inclusive and loving faith. However, the Christian “fundamentalists” often use this very book to justify their exclusive, judgmental, and individualistic morality. And this is only possible with the neutered meaning of many of the key passages of John.
Once again, in John 8:24, if we examine the nuances of the Greek, we find surprising shifts in meaning:
εἶπον οὖν ὑμῖν ὅτι ἀποθανεῖσθε ἐν ταῖς ἁμαρτίαις ὑμῶν· ἐὰν γὰρ μὴ πιστεύσητε ὅτι ἐγὼ εἰμι, ἀποθανεῖσθε ἐν ταῖς ἁμαρτίαις ὑμῶν.
Therefore I told you, you will die away from God because of your own missing the mark, however if you trust in what I AM, you will not miss the mark and die away from God.
“I AM” not “he”
The first thing that jumped out at me when I looked at the Greek is there is no “he” (unless you believe that I am he). The translators insisted on adding the “he”, when leaving out the he allows us to make allusion to God’s Hebrew name, I AM.
Trust vs. Belief
Secondly, I prefer to use the faith/trust translation of the Greek πιστεύσητε (4100, pisteusēte), and not “believe”. Believe has lost much of it’s nuance in modern culture and has become simply a “yes/no” statement if something is “true” or not.
If a husband asks his wife if she “believes in him”, what is he asking? He’s asking if she trusts him.
If someone asks you to “have a little faith in me”, they are asking you to trust in them.
And yet Christians across the world insist Jesus means for us to “believe” in his divinity. Yes/no, cut and dried. This insistence leaves us with a neutered understanding of pisteusēte.
Is Jesus the I AM, and therefore divine? Yes. But is that divinity exclusive? No at all, it is inclusive:
6. “I AM the First and the Last; there is no other God..
Whether Jesus is the real God is not his question. Jesus is asking us to trust in I AM, and what I AM is begging us to do.
Death vs. Spiritual Death
Lastly, the English translations all translate ἀποθανεῖσθε (599, apothnéskó) as “to die, dead”. However, thnéskó (2348) means to “die”, and apo (575) means “away from”. So it is clear that the English translation is lacking in meaning, especially because apothnéskó always implies a divine aspect as well!
There is such a vast difference in meaning between “dying” and “dying away from God”. One implies life ends, too, the other implies the quality of one’s life changes. Some might say, “Great! If I don’t trust in God, all that happens is I die from God? Count me in, that sounds easy enough!”, however, I caution those who are cynical from assuming there is ease where there is really great suffering. Look around you. The world today is filled with people who don’t “trust” God. And this world can be a very dark and heartless world, full of trouble.
The cynics of the world toss off spiritual death like it’s nothing. However, only when you climb out of spiritual death again do you finally realize how oppressive it really was.
Sin vs. Missing the Mark
Sin (266, hamartia) really means “missing the mark”. It is a self-imposed failure, never by God. Essentially we choose to miss the mark. It isn’t inborn, like a genetic flaw. It is of our own creation and responsibility.
What does Jesus teach we miss the mark about? Greed. Love for others. Empathy. Selflessness. Sacrifice. Inclusiveness. Not a word about missing prayer, about not going to church, or about reading the wrong books.
The best thing about understanding sin as “missing the mark” is the realization that you can always take aim again, and hit the mark.
Trust in What Jesus Is
So, what are we to trust in? What is Jesus?
Jesus is I AM the only God there ever was or will be, and Jesus is the Word of I AM. Trust in the Word of I AM, and you will not die away from God anymore.
And what can the Word of God through Jesus be boiled down to?
37. And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38. This is the great and first commandment.
39. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
40. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
So, how are you doing on “missing the mark”?
Me? I’m just thankful I can re-shoot!