Jesus’ Gordian knot

Working through a study of John has brought me to a couple of passages (I anticipate more) where Jesus’ exchanges with his loyal opposition are, let’s just say, less than stellar. A case in point: John 5:12-20. Here’s a paraphrase of the exchange [with an editorial comment added for clarification]:

Jesus: I am the light of the world (v12)

Pharisees: Says you (v13)

Jesus: Even though my testimony is enough, my Father also bears witness to my claim (vv14-18)

Pharisees: Where is your father? [Point him out. Let’s hear his testimony.] (v19)

Jesus: You don’t know either one of us. If you knew me you would know my Father also. (v20)


If I’m reading this exchange right I’d say that Jesus is guilty of some serious question begging here. Small wonder that the reader ends up with this Gordian knot: if the Pharisees knew the Father they would believe Jesus but they can’t know the Father until they believe Jesus.

Can this circular logic be broken? Better yet, how will a man standing outside this circle of knowledge come to find himself inside the circle?

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Author: Jonathan P. Merritt

Happily married father of six. Associate pastor for education at Edgewood Baptist Church (Columbus, GA). Good-natured contrarian and theological Luddite. A student of one book.

1 thought on “Jesus’ Gordian knot”

  1. Humility? I’ve read recently about some of the serious archaeological problems with Mormonism and how LDS headquarters in SLC knows about these problems and ignores or covers them up. YET even though Mormons teaching archaeology at BYU know about these problems, and are among the most vociferous critics (!) of the church’s official “explanations”, they still adhere devoutly to the Mormon faith. Many Mormons (or Jehovah’s Witnesses, Scientologists, Baptists [just kidding!], etc.) have even gone so far as to admit that even if their religion could be PROVEN wrong, they would still believe. There is such prideful bondage — and perhaps not a little fear — that keeps us from questioning long held beliefs because we have become comfortable with them, our “authority figures” have always told us they are true, our families and friends believe the same way, etc., and to question these things looks almost like treason. Also, we do not like to be WRONG, especially if a lifetime or entire lineage of error is suddenly staring you in the face. How could we possibly turn our backs on this “long line of witnesses”?
    The great pagan (heh-heh) Aristotle said that “The unexamined life is not worth living. Perhaps the Pharisees, like many of us, just wandered through their lives, comfortable in the assurance that they had the truth, that they had all the answers, that they alone were special and had everything together, never pausing to examine their lives, to question if the path they were on was the same path their fathers Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and David were on. After all, they had all the scriptures; they should have immediately recognized who Jesus was.
    I say all this to come to a point: I don’t think anybody is ever outside the circle without knowing they’re outside the circle OR they don’t want to KNOW if they are outside the circle or that any such circle even exists. EVERY single person I have ever talked to about it has admitted that at some point in their lives, usually around 12-15 years old, when the concept of “the other” (there are other people like me; they have similar desires, wants, needs; not everything is there just for me, etc.) had really started to take root, they began the great existential journey, even if they did not know to convey it in those terms. They KNEW that there was a circle, that they were not in it, and thought that either mom and dad, the church, science, what-have-you, would get them in that circle. This also coincides–I think– with a person’s first real pondering of God’s existence or essence. You might call this the first “knock” on the heart by the Holy Spirit. At many subsequent “knocks” over the years–if the first one is ignored–the opportunity to know God keeps presenting itself, and here’s what I mean by humility: at whatever age the potential for encounter occurs, the person MUST BOW and admit ignorance: “God, if you are there let me know. I really really want to know, and I AM WILLING TO ACCEPT YOUR REVELATION AT ANY COST (and please give me the courage to do it!).” God is not some monster who’s simply not going to respond to this query if made with a humble heart.
    The Pharisees did not know God because at some point they chose not to know God; they became “bibliolaters” and worshiped the gift, not the Giver. How, then could they recognize The Gift?
    P.S. Seems like the few Pharisees we know of who did turn to Jesus always wanted to ask him what he thought. The others just wanted to tell him what they thought.
    P.P.S. Love the ad. Newcastle’s good stuff!

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