The Paradox of Redemption

John 8: 21-30
Num 21:4-9 / Psa 102

“I am going away, and you will look for me, and you will die in your sin. Where I go, you cannot come.”
(John 8:21)

Before Your cross, this is my reflection:
In my trials and tribulation,
Lord I share in your crucifixion
As a process of my redemption.

Once more Jesus said to them, “I am going away, and you will look for me, and you will die in your sin. Where I go, you cannot come.” This made the Jews ask, “Will he kill himself? Is that why he says, ‘Where I go, you cannot come’?” But He continued, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am he, you will indeed die in your sins.” They asked, “Who are you?” Jesus replied, “Just what I have been telling you from the beginning. I have much to say in judgment of you. But He Who sent me is trustworthy, and what I have heard from Him I tell the world.” They did not understand that He was telling them about His Father. So Jesus said, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me. The One Who sent me is with me; He has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases Him.” Even as He spoke, many believed in Him. (John 8:21-30)

Reflection

Today’s Gospel reading of John presents another paradox or dualism in the teaching of our Lord, especially to the hard-hearted Jews of His time and the unbelievers or cynics of our time. This concept of dualism, especially as it applies to the redemption of souls has for centuries been a subject of contention not only between Christians and pagans or other religions, but even among Christians themselves. For instance, our so-called “Born again brethren” believe that the spiritual realm is divided starkly into good and evil, heaven and earth, with no middle ground like purgatory, which our Catholic Church teaches to be real.

Jesus told the Jewish authorities that “Where I am going, you cannot come.” He was obviously talking about going back to heaven after his crucifixion. But His statement only confused the Jews, who understood that He was talking about His death (true), but thought He was planning to commit suicide (false). Instead of explaining the meaning of His words, Jesus gave an even more enigmatic statement, when He said, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world.”
There’s that dualism again (“below” and “above”). And while He spoke with authority, His words must have been puzzling to His listeners: “I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me” (8:28). Finally, Jesus concluded with a prophecy: “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am (the One Sent), and that I do nothing on my own. . .” (8:28).

What lessons can we learn from this Gospel passage of John? First of all, we are of this world (“below”) and are therefore in need of salvation from “above”. Second, in order to attain salvation, we have to believe that Jesus Christ is our only way to the Father; He is the Truth, the Life, and the “Light of our salvation.” Finally, we must obey all His commandments, especially His mandate of love (through the cross), and in proclaiming His Word to others. “If you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sin.” Simply believing in Christ does not guarantee salvation, unless our faith is manifested in concrete action. Faith without action, according to St. James, is dead. “Show me your faith without works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” (Jam 2:18) Works and sacrifice may be our cross, but it is the foundation of true faith.

Let us examine ourselves this Lent: Are we following Jesus for our own healing and salvation alone, or are we seeking Him for others’ benefit as well?

Thank You, Jesus for giving me the strength and the wisdom to persevere with this hope of eternal life with you. This alone already makes the difficult journey of life more understandable and more bearable. Amen.

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