Looking for Debate not Understanding

John 8

April 5

We’re going to primarily look at one verse from John 8 today. It’s a verse that offers us (perhaps) a small glimpse into Jesus as more than just the say-er of the fancy red words in our Bibles.

I love verses that give insight into what some of our beloved Bible figures were feeling. For example, some translations of Judges 14:7 tell us that a woman was ‘pleasing’ to Samson. But the NIV version (and some others) say, “Then he went down and talked with the woman, and he liked her.”  It’s such a simple way to describe how he felt. No flowery language, just, ‘he liked her.’

John 8:25 isn’t quite that direct in expressing how Jesus is feeling, but still paints a picture we can relate to. Jesus has been talking with the Pharisees, and every statement he makes is countered with pushback and ignorant questions. It’s obvious that their intent is to trip him up or catch him in a mistake (unlikely). They are not really listening.

We’ve all had conversations with people who are listening only enough to pick our words apart, people who are looking for a debate more than understanding. Thinking about those experiences, perhaps you can hear the exasperation in Jesus’ voice in verse 25:

They said to him, “Who are you?” Jesus said to them, “Why do I speak to you at all?”

I can almost see Jesus doing a facepalm or simply quietly closing his eyes and shaking his head. Talking to people who aren’t genuinely interested in understanding is wearying.

I should note that some versions of the Bible translate this verse a bit differently. Your version may say:

“Who are you?” they asked. “Just what I have been telling you from the beginning,” Jesus replied.

I consulted a number of commentaries on the differences and what I found is best summed up by this commentary, which says, “the commentators are almost hopelessly divided.” All do seem to agree that regardless of which translation is correct, there seems to be some exasperation in Jesus’ reply.

And who could blame him?

-Susan Landry

Questions for Reflection and Discussion:

1 While we can probably think of times we’ve talked with others who are not genuinely interested in understanding what we have to say, it would be wise of us to also consider if we have ever been that person.

a. What types of conversations do you find yourself tuning out? Listening only to critique or correct? Or simply waiting for your turn to talk?

b. Are there things you can do to limit the frequency of this occurring?

c. Pray for God to soften your heart to seek to listen in order to truly understand the person who is talking.

2. Being a poor listener to people can damage our relationships. What about how well we listen to God?

a. Do you ever find yourself tuning out what you know God may be trying to speak into your life? Why do you think we do that?

b. What can we do to better position ourselves to truly listen to God?

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