Short Meditations in John 8: 1. Uncertain
(Part 1: 1:1-11 Avoiding a Lynching)
Jn 7:53, 8:1 Then they all went home but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.
Moving on into chapter 8 of John’s Gospel, we find in the notes there is a question over the last verse of chapter 7 and the first eleven verses of chapter 8, but as they appear in your Bible and mine and convey an amazing picture of Jesus, we will include them here.
Chapter 7 had been a chapter of conflict in the temple courts as Jesus was challenged over his teaching and, indeed, over who he was. And then it ends with what appears a tremendous anti-climax: “Then they all went home.” (v.53) I can understand why this has a question over it because it seems so ordinary in comparison to all that had gone before. And yet for that reason I like it.
The reality is that life wasn’t always a high in Jesus’ life and ministry. He paused, must have gone to the toilet, washed, ate and drank – just like we do – because he was a human being. And what was true of him was true of everyone else as well, so as the day draws to a close they, as we would say, ‘call it a day’ and go home. There are families to go back to, rituals to be followed. Life pauses. That is just how it is.
But Jesus hasn’t got a home to go to, except later he uses the home of Mary and Martha and Lazarus. But for now, “Jesus went to the Mount of Olives” (v.1) Now the Mount of Olives was a prominence, possibly akin to what we might call a park today, or maybe just open or wooded ground, and it was a place where Jesus and his disciples went when they wanted space, it seems. There was one time they were sitting there discussing the temple and then the end times (Mk 13:3, Mt 24:3) and of course it was the place where the Garden of Gethsemane was where Jesus went to pray before he was arrested (Mk 14:26). Luke shows us it was the place where they appeared to sleep out under the stars when they were in Jerusalem: “Each day Jesus was teaching at the temple, and each evening he went out to spend the night on the hill called the Mount of Olives.” (Lk 21:37)
So here are these two questionable verses that bring an end to the day but as they do that, they challenge us to see the bigger domestic picture, how people lived, how Jesus and his disciples lived sometimes. They either take away or add to the romance, depending on how you look at these things. I find they bring me down to the ground level, to remember that this was basic, factual history, the day to day ordinary life that surrounded the incredible ministry of this man, this Son of God. Yes, this is God incarnate but that means that God entered a human body and lived a human life, with all that that means, with days coming to an end and need of sleep. It wasn’t a 24 hour ministry. This was ministry within the confines of human living.