Homilette for March 11, 2008

Tuesday of the Fifth Week of Lent

(John 8:21-30)

“What’s My Line?” was a favorite television quiz show fifty years ago. Contestants with varied occupations would challenge the celebrity panel to guess what they did to earn a living. The celebrities were informed of a contestant’s name and whether she or he was hired or self-employed. Then they would conduct an investigation by asking questions with “yes” or “no” answers.

In some ways John’s gospel today mimics “What’s My Line?” The Jews try to figure out what Jesus is doing among them. They ask him questions as we hear today, “Who are you?” They also have Jesus’ marvelous “signs” like changing the water into wine to help them determine who he is. But most of the Jews do not catch on because they are predisposed against Jesus. They are looking for a political Messiah who will defeat aggressive enemies like the Romans now occupying their land. They do not realize that the Messiah has come to save them from a far greater enemy – sin. Even when Jesus is lifted up on the cross, as he mentions in the reading, with writing in four languages declaring him “King of the Jews,” the majority of people do not understand who he is.

Perhaps we have wished that we would have been alive in Jesus’ days. We might have questions that we would like to put to him to clear up some of our doubts. Odds are, however, that our questions would never be answered to our satisfaction. Sooner or later, we would have to make the same act of faith in him that the Jews are challenged to make throughout the Gospel of John. Do we believe that this man of marvelous works and wise judgments is God’s own Son?