Therapists have long known about the phenomenon of projection. If there’s some aspect of our self which would be intolerable for us to admit, we project it outward onto others. We respond to them as if they were the ones with the problem, not us. And if someone dares to try correcting that misperception, we’ll become very defensive indeed.
Something like this may be at work in an argument between Jesus and his opponents. As we saw in a recent post, when Jesus tried to speak the truth to them about them about their slavery to sin, they refused to hear it. They felt insulted and insulted him back, calling him a Samaritan and demon-possessed. By the end of the argument, they accused him of blasphemy and tried to stone him.
What they couldn’t see was that they were the ones who were blaspheming.
When they accuse Jesus of being possessed, he responds calmly but with foreboding: “I do not have a demon; but I honor my Father, and you dishonor me. Yet I do not seek my own glory; there is one who seeks it and he is the judge” (John 8:49-50, NRSV).
Here, Jesus refuses to take the bait and respond in anger. They need to be warned, however, of the seriousness of what they’re saying. He states flatly that they’re wrong: No, I’m not possessed. But that’s not the real issue. As we’ve seen, they claim that God is their Father — yet they dishonor the one whom the Father has sent, the one whose every word and deed honors him. That is blasphemy.
Jesus is no publicity hound. He’s not seeking his own fame or glory. He does only what his Father wants him to do. And it is his Father who will glorify him (cf. vs. 54), first on a cross, then in resurrection. His opponents cannot see that they are opposing God, even as they hide behind their supposed piety. But God, Jesus warns, is the judge. They had best take heed.
Jesus’ words are dark, because he is speaking the truth about the darkness of his opponents’ sin. But his words are still filled with grace, for he immediately adds, “Whoever keeps my word will never taste death” (vs. 51). Even to those who have slandered him in the worst way possible, he offers an invitation to eternal life.
The invitation, unfortunately, isn’t declined as much as completely missed. Jesus’ words fall on deaf ears. More on that in the next post.