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When a question is asked, it often forces the one asked to re-evaluate, to re-think his or her point of view. It can be a gracious way to raise an issue without provoking the knee-jerk reaction of opposition. This is not the only reason that Jesus asks questions, but we can see the gears turning in the minds and hearts of those he in talking with when he does ask questions.

In tracking through John’s Gospel, I am trying to watch and learn from Jesus as he does just that. When he asks questions, I want to understand why he is asking what he does and then to wrestle through the implications of that particular question for myself . . . and for you.

In John 5, Jesus is in the midst of an exchange with some religious leaders, some pious people–and they are a bit antagonistic toward him. In 5:19-37, Jesus seeks to help his hearers see that the way he is living and the testimony of John and the witness of the Father on his behalf all are working together to invite them to trust in him, to rely on him, to believe in him.

As he continues to unpack this call for his hearers to believe in him, Jesus asks another question. Having asserted that he is not seeking glory from men, not hungry for their approval (5:41), Jesus addresses those listening who find it hard to trust in him.

“How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another, and you do not seek the glory that is from the one and only God?” (John 5:44)

It’s an intriguing question. And when I first listen, it’s not immediately apparent what Jesus is driving at.

Clearly he wants those who are struggling to believe in him, to trust him, to think through why they find it hard to surrender in faith. And the question implies that the hunt for glory is part of what prevents them from believing well.

It seems to me that what he wants them to reflect on how their pursuit of approval and acceptance of those around them trumps the pursuit of the glory of God. And, seeing as they are not most hungry for God’s glory, they can more easily dismiss Jesus.

Although it is not a perfect analogy, in thinking about this my mind turned back to a moment in time with my son. He got on to the school soccer team; he was thrilled. He loved the game; he’d been playing in a rec league for some time. But the coach placed him on defense, in the backfield. Initially that didn’t settle well with my son. And, he was finding it hard to give in to the coach’s instructions; he wasn’t trusting the coach.

Part of the problem is that my son (like so many young boys!) wanted others to see what a good soccer player he was. He was hungry for “glory from one another.” The coach wanted a great team; my son wanted personal glory a bit more. And that trumped his trusting the coach. But only initially.

I was delighted to watch the transition in my son. He “got” that the coach was about the team. The coach wanted “glory” for the team, not for particular individuals. And when my son understood that and decided that was what he wanted, too, he found it easy to trust the coach.

As long as I am pursuing honor from others, making my goal to gain and maintain their approval of men, I will not be running after the glory that really matters.  Seeing as Jesus is not about that at all, not only will he not aid me in that pursuit but I won’t find much reason to rest in and rely on him. Hungry for such approval, trusting Jesus is going to be hard.

At least that is how I hear Jesus’ question . . . when he asks it of those in his day . . . as he asks it of me today.

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