“You are from below; I am from above,” claims Jesus. “You are of this world; I am not of this world. I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins” (John 8:23,24).
In order to understand who Jesus here claims to be, He gives His listeners some information about themselves. He explains that they are “from below” and “of this world.” It would be fair to include ourselves in that description—unless you know something about yourself that is ‘out of this world’!
You and I would probably never have described ourselves as “from below”, though, would we? That descriptor carries a vertical element that is just not normally used—unless we come from the Himalayas or some other elevation-above-sea-level-based society. We are more likely to say we are from such-and-such a city, or our family comes from so-and-so country and heritage. Did you notice how these expressions describe the horizontal plane? They presume that the surface of this earth is the environment we all arise from and occupy—that it is the status quo. Any comparisons we might make of our habitat or origins are anchored firmly within the boundaries of latitude and longitude. Not so Jesus.
In contrasting Himself with people of the world, Jesus reveals a perspective that goes far beyond the world. He says He is “not of this world”, but rather “from above.” Our immediate reaction might be to think of ‘above’ in terms of the physical universe—of moon, stars and planets—but from Jesus’ perspective that is not enough above. The elevation of every star of every galaxy in the universe is flattened into mere latitudes and longitudes in contrast to the above of which Jesus speaks. Jesus is claiming to be completely above anyone or anything in creation.
He is above reproach: Christ is claiming to be the all-wise and perfect One who always applies His eternal justice in a right and thoroughly authentic manner. John’s Revelation prophecy records a song to be sung by future peoples in honour of Jesus, “Great and marvelous are your deeds, Lord God Almighty. Just and true are your ways, King of the ages” (Revelation 15:3).
He is above and beyond the creaturely constraints of earth: Jesus is the Source of all matter and life, who created the world and came into the world to impact His creatures for their eternal good. The only way He could lift us up into His realm is by being essentially above us.
He is above religion’s failings: Unlike the proponents of this world’s religions, Jesus is unremittingly constant and perfectly successful in doing the Father’s will. He claims access to God because He Himself is God. “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life. He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son” (Revelation 21:6,7).
He is above all: Jesus is the Transcendent One whose thoughts and ways are immeasurably beyond ours. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8,9).
How should we respond to this claim of Jesus that He is above all? Firstly, we might look back at the warning He gives His listeners who were also His primary antagonists during His life on earth. Most of them chose not to believe His claims, and consequently Jesus had this to say about them: “(I)f you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins.” So firstly, our best response is to simply believe that He is who He claims to be. It is not only true, but it affects the very foundations of who we are and how we will spend eternity. Secondly, our lives ought to display a new focus intended to honour Him in everything we do—lip service is not enough. Our thought life ought to honour Him, allowing only thoughts that are true, noble and right to inhabit our minds. Our language ought to honour Him; words characterized by truth and love best befit those who honour Jesus above all. And our actions ought to honour Him; do we control our greed and selfishness, displaying patience and compassion as He enables us?
The closer we draw to the One who is Above All, the more His beauty is reflected upon our lives. We are changed and that brings Him joy. So let’s consider well His claim to be Above All. Let’s live as if our lives depend upon it, because they do.
(Photo Credit: By NASA – http://visibleearth.nasa.gov/view_detail.php?id=2429http://veimages.gsfc.nasa.gov//2429/globe_east_540.jpg, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=512571)