John 8:51-59 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
51 Very truly, I tell you, whoever keeps my word will never see death.” 52 The Jews said to him, “Now we know that you have a demon. Abraham died, and so did the prophets; yet you say, ‘Whoever keeps my word will never taste death.’ 53 Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? The prophets also died. Who do you claim to be?” 54 Jesus answered, “If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me, he of whom you say, ‘He is our God,’ 55 though you do not know him. But I know him; if I would say that I do not know him, I would be a liar like you. But I do know him and I keep his word. 56 Your ancestor Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day; he saw it and was glad.” 57 Then the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?”[a] 58 Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, before Abraham was, I am.” 59 So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple.
We are now just one week before Holy Thursday. We’ve been working hard to prepare for the coming cross by carrying it painfully over our backs through Lent and shedding those things that cause us to resist following God. We continue to keep others in our prayers and be mindful for opportunities to serve so as not to focus only on ourselves.
Today we find the Judaeans getting more and more perturbed, an experience not unlike our own, we note. Each of the gospels records these people accusing Jesus of being the devil or demon-possessed. This is a remarkable charge because it points to the reality that Jesus was not just some annoying nutcase prophetically mumbling gibberish easily ignored as he traveled from town to town. Obviously Jesus had done a few incredible things to merit their anger. Clearly, a demon-possessed Jesus is an image the early church, and the church today, would have rather not painted – yet, there’s this composition.
This was a painting that was too abstract for them to understand. This painting was capturing a reality outside what was considered real, or even possible. Their minds went to the only place that seemed to make sense: this man is saying he can travel through time! This man is blasphemous! Stone him!
Through this Lenten season we’ve been attempting to become aware of the ways in which we paint an image of our own lives we’d like the world to see. We’d love to have others admire our beautiful work. But then we meet this I AM that existed long before Abraham (and us) and we discover we are painted in His image – and we realize the self-portrait on which we’ve labored suddenly seems pretty amateurish.
We paint self-portraits for others to admire. But it can be hard to scrape off the hardened cracked brushstrokes we’ve outgrown.
But the cross still approaches.
What image do you think Jesus has of you? Ask Him in prayer. What does He say? What picture does He paint of you? What words does He use to describe you?
If you imagine Him painting your portrait, what look is on His face as He glances from His canvas to you sitting still before Him?