The Pharisees objected, “All we have is your word on this. We need more than this to go on.” Jesus replied, “You’re right that you only have my word. But you can depend on it being true. I know where I’ve come from and where I go next. You don’t know where I’m from or where I’m headed. You decide according to what you can see and touch. I don’t make judgments like that. But even if I did, my judgment would be true because I wouldn’t make it out of the narrowness of my experience but in the largeness of the One who sent me, the Father. That fulfills the conditions set down in God’s Law: that you can count on the testimony of two witnesses. And that is what you have: You have my word and you have the word of the Father who sent me.” They said, “Where is this so-called Father of yours?” Jesus said, “You’re looking right at me and you don’t see me. How do you expect to see the Father? If you knew me, you would at the same time know the Father.”— John 8:13-19, The Message
I have purposely quoted this week’s passage from Eugene Peterson’s The Message, because although I know I will get a few emails from those who don’t like this paraphrase, I happen to like the way he puts these verses particularly well. I believe he hit the nail right on the head here. There are two phrases I’d like to bring to your attention specifically.
First, Jesus says here, “If you knew me, you would at the same time know the Father.” Over and over in John’s gospel this is the theme. Jesus came to show us the Father, to explain Him to us. Jesus came so that we might encounter the truth of God’s character of love, that we would see him for who he really is, and that this truth might set us free.
Jesus said to him, “Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how can you say, â€˜Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works.”—John 14:9-10
Therefore, Jesus answered and was saying to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner. For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself is doing; and the Father will show Him greater works than these, so that you will marvel.”—John 5:19-20
The more familiar we become with the kind of person Jesus was, the more we will truly come to know what the God of this universe is like. For Jesus and his Father are “One” (John 10:30).
Second, Peterson chooses a unique phrase to paraphrase what he feels Jesus is really saying here.
“My judgment would be true because I wouldn’t make it out of the narrowness of my experience but in the largeness of the One who sent me, the Father.”
We must remember, Jesus knew who he was only by Faith. He had no recollection of the Eternity past. All he knew of himself, on his own, was from the time of Egypt on. (I don’t think he even had a personal memory of the famous story of Bethlehem.) Which leads me to my question. (This is more than Jesus simply saying “I have more witnesses than you to who I am.” He is saying basically, “Listen, I’m not saying this about myself; the Father is!”)
When it comes to truth, specifically the truth of God’s love, how many of us rely on the “narrowness of our own experience” when it comes to our understanding him rather than simply taking him for what he describes himself to be. David records God as telling us, “You thought that I was just like you” (Psalms 50:2). But God and His love, I am convinced, are so vastly different than everything we have grown accustomed to and conditioned by in this world. Many times, we tend to transpose our own past, our own interactions with others, onto him. We make him answer for how others have hurt us when truly he is altogether different.
The question remains, will we allow the person we see in Jesus to radically transform our understanding of the Father, or will we continue to see Him through the mist, dimly and largely misunderstood?
Something to ponder.
I wish you God’s best this week.