As I read the familiar stories in John 8, I am reminded of the common phrase “It’s not what you know, but who you know.” We’ve all probably experienced some facet of this in our everyday lives: we know someone who recommends us for a new job position; we know someone who gets us club seats for the big game; we know someone who can get us a great deal on that new car. Sure, we could have applied for the job randomly or bought our own tickets or even paid full price for that car but knowing someone gave us an advantage over others who had access to all the same information but no relationships. Ultimately, those relationships benefitted us.
In Jesus’ time, the Pharisees were considered the ultimate authority on God’s Word. They knew the Scriptures inside and out and were more than happy to point out the shortcomings of others. In fact, the Oxford dictionary defines “Pharisee” as “a member of an ancient Jewish sect, distinguished by strict observance of the traditional and written laws, and commonly held to have pretensions to superior sanctity”. It lists synonyms such as “fraud”, “hypocrite”, and “phony”.
Ouch! Does it really matter if I can rattle off the books of the Bible or define terms like “justification” and “propitiation” if the life-changing meanings of those words don’t change my heart and my behavior? Do I read my Bible every day so I can check that off my list, or do I read my Bible every day because I want a relationship with the God of the Bible I’m reading?
Jesus answered, “You know neither me nor my Father.
If you knew me, you would know my Father also.” (8:19b)
But you have not known him. I know him. If I were to say that I do not know him, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and I keep his word. (8:54)
In John 8, Jesus brushed off the attacks of the Pharisees and reminded them that while they may KNOW the Scriptures, they didn’t really KNOW the God of those Scriptures. That’s a very dangerous place to be: to know the Bible but not truly know God. At the very core of the issue were the Pharisees’ hearts; their head knowledge of Biblical facts didn’t translate into personal relationships with the God of the Bible. Knowing the Bible should always point me to Jesus, and my behavior should be a reflection of that relationship. Otherwise, my knowledge is just that—head knowledge without heart change.
John 8 begins with the touching story of a woman who probably had very little knowledge about Jesus. She was a serial adulteress who had literally been “caught in the act”. The Pharisees, with all their head knowledge of Jewish laws, were hoping to trap Jesus and accuse Him of breaking the law. But Jesus didn’t fall into their legalistic trap; He demonstrated with just a few words and some drawings in the sand that none of her accusers were without sin and, one by one, they dropped their stones and left.
It didn’t matter to Jesus that this woman didn’t know the laws. She may not have known who He was at all! She didn’t need head knowledge—she needed grace and forgiveness, an invitation to turn from her sin and amend her behavior. She needed a relationship with her Savior. And that’s exactly what Jesus offered her.
Turns out the phrase “It’s not what you know but who you know.” applies to much more than potential employment and sporting events. It applies to my spiritual walk as well. Is my relationship with my Savior such that I know Him and His Word so well that my first and genuine response is to show mercy and grace? Or do I proudly allow my head knowledge to get in the way of a Christlike heart response? Do I value “keeping the rules” above showing grace to those who may not even know what “the rules” are? Am I willing to humbly drop my “stones” of judgment and criticism and show mercy to those who desperately need Christ?
Father, the accumulation of knowledge and facts can never replace a personal relationship with You. Help me to know You and Your Word in such a way that my behavior toward others is an outpouring of heartfelt gratitude for the grace and forgiveness that has been given to me.