St. James the Less Episcopal, Ashland, VA
Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.’ Then the Pharisees said to him, ‘You are testifying on your own behalf; your testimony is not valid.’ Jesus answered, ‘Even if I testify on my own behalf, my testimony is valid because I know where I have come from and where I am going, but you do not know where I come from or where I am going. You judge by human standards; I judge no one. Yet even if I do judge, my judgement is valid; for it is not I alone who judge, but I and the Father who sent me. In your law it is written that the testimony of two witnesses is valid. I testify on my own behalf, and the Father who sent me testifies on my behalf.’ Then they said to him, ‘Where is your Father?’ Jesus answered, ‘You know neither me nor my Father. If you knew me, you would know my Father also.’ He spoke these words while he was teaching in the treasury of the temple, but no one arrested him, because his hour had not yet come.
When I was younger and worked at Camp, one of our favorite evening programs was called Kangaroo Court. Maybe you did it at a camp you attended. The counselors were usually in on it. And they were brought before the “Judge” on trumped up charges (all in the name of fun), and as soon as the accusation is made, the “Judge” usually responds, “Guilty as Sin!” And then they have to be reminded that there needs to be a trial before the punishment, but it is all part of an elaborate mockery of Justice. Much like the Queen of Hearts in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, the “Off with his head!” rings out before its appropriate time, if there ever is one.
Jesus confronts the ones who had already made up their minds in another mockery of justice, and a mockery of faith in God. No matter what “proof” Jesus presented, it was going to be dismissed. The first tactic used in political assassinations is to dismiss the messenger if one cannot dismiss or discount the message. And that is just what people do.
Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.’ Then the Pharisees said to him, ‘You are testifying on your own behalf; your testimony is not valid.’ Jesus answered, ‘Even if I testify on my own behalf, my testimony is valid because I know where I have come from and where I am going, but you do not know where I come from or where I am going. You judge by human standards; I judge no one.”Jesus goes on that he does not need to judge, but if anyone could he could. He knows the Father is on his side. It is not bragging if it's true, like I said at Lula’s funeral. Jesus knew the truth, and it set him free from their judgment.
My grandmother always said, “You cannot argue stupid. Don’t waste your breath.” Jesus knew when to quit. These “religious leaders” did not lead much; they majored on the minor, and were closer to religious prosecutors than actual leaders.
It would be easy to get negative, but Jesus here says something I do not want to miss. He declares he himself is the Light of the World. There will be a lot who want him to hide it under a bushel basket, but no, he is going to let it shine. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness cannot overcome it. There are many who will take potshots and be dismissive. And when they do, we MUST hold onto the light.
Think about going into a deep, dark cave, so deep that light cannot reach there, and finding a gathering who do not believe your crazy talk about the light. They think you are crazy. They soon will attack you to shut up the talk that makes them so uncomfortable. If what you say is true, then they are wrong, and people hate to be wrong. If what you say is true, then they have to change everything about who they are and how they live.
Eugene Peterson in his book The Divine Conspiracy tells the story of his family’s conversation in rural Tennessee discussing if they should bring in the “electricity” that is coming down their road as part of the Tennessee Valley Authority. They were not sure, and the family, father, mother, uncles and aunts, talked long and hard about. Looking back it sounds ridiculous. But before it came, it was dangerous, frightening, and potentially upsetting to EVERYTHING. And it was, THANKS BE TO GOD. Jesus is a lot like that. Light drives out our darkness, THANKS BE TO GOD. Amen.