When was the last time you walked into the ocean? Or sat on the sand with the surf washing up over you? Do you remember the force of the tide, the effort needed to maintain your footing or seat, to counter the push and pull of the current against your body so that you could remain planted in the sand, firm, upright? Do you remember saying to yourself, “Okay, now, I’ve got it,” just before a wave hit you and knocked you over?
Jesus’s listeners in today’s Gospel are trying to find their footing, to find a place to stand upright. “You will die in your sins unless you believe that I am he” (Jn 8:24). His listeners are desperate, pressing Jesus for details – so desperate that, even though they don’t understand what he is saying to them, nevertheless, “many believed in him” (Jn 8:30). But the current of Jesus’s truth will be too strong for them; by the end of this chapter, these same people who believed will try to stone Jesus (Jn 8:59). Their belief is without a firm foundation, unable to brace them against the next wave.
In his commentaries on Scripture, the medieval rabbi Rashi suggests that being is defined, in a sense, by finding a place to stand. And not just being – but being in relation to our creator. Before the destruction of Sodom, Abraham “remained standing before the Lord” and attempted to save the city (Gen 18:22). At Mount Sinai, Moses “stood before [God] in the breach” (Ps 106:23) to turn away God’s anger from consuming the Israelites who worshipped the Golden Calf. We ourselves pray that God will “strengthen such as do stand.” In finding a place to stand, then in our belief and faith, we are necessarily placing ourselves into dialogue with God. In standing, we seek to fulfill our purpose: not only to praise and honor God, but also, having been made in the image of God, to become cocreators, to become coworkers with God.
We can stand because we trust—we trust that God was, is, and will be just and faithful to his promises. “The one who sent me is true,” testifies Jesus to his listeners (Jn 8:26). “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is right?” Abraham asks the Lord before Sodom (Gen 18:25). “Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, how you swore to them by your own self,” Moses implores God at Sinai (Ex 32:13). We trust that God will be faithful to us, and that God’s faithfulness will be a stable platform beneath our feet.
And what is that faithfulness? As we listen to today’s Gospel, as we think about the foundation of our own belief in God’s saving power, we are also mindful that we are preparing to enter Jesus’s final week. In Holy Week God reveals God’s promise to heal us and the world in the faith of Jesus and in his crucifixion and resurrection. “I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified,” Saint Paul writes to the Corinthians, “for the message about the cross . . . is the power of God” to us who are being saved (1 Cor 2:2, 1:18). God’s faithfulness is revealed in Jesus, in whom God “has delivered us from evil, and made us worthy to stand before” God. Worthy to stand.
And so, God’s faithfulness leads us to the foot of the cross. We are led to the foot of the cross, worthy to stand with Mary, Jesus’s mother, and John, his beloved friend, to witness God’s redeeming, reconciling, healing, righteous love, worthy to join them in a new family of love. We are led to the foot of the cross, and we find there, finally, firm, stable ground on which our belief may rest and rise, a place where we may stand upright before and alongside our Lord and God.
 Discussion in A. G. Zornberg, The Beginning of Desire: Reflections on Genesis (New York, 1995), 6-7.
 From the Great Litany, BCP, p. 152.
 From Eucharistic Prayer B, BCP, p. 368.
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