Here’s Jesus, from today’s Gospel reading, answering the Pharisees’ questions about his authority:
“How can you believe since you accept glory from one another but do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?”
It seems Jesus is saying that it is literally impossible for the Pharisees to discern what is from God and what is not because of their posture.
The game they play is “accepting glory from one another.” They play an honor/shame game with each other, and their questions to Jesus about his authority are simply a version of that game (even if they are couched in terms that refer to God).
They are wrapped up in a game of social oneupsmanship, and have rigged the game in their favor. They can’t help but see Jesus’ healing on the Sabbath as a challenge to the way they’ve rigged the game and thus their dominance.
Their question is a way of trying to co-opt Jesus into the game.
Jesus basically says, “I’m playing a different game. And until you are willing to let go of your attachment to the opinions of others, it will be impossible for you to trust me.”
Because at some point seeking the glory that comes from the only God will bring you into conflict with accepting glory from one another. You’ll have to stop playing the one game in order to even see the other.
Until you’ve made a basic decision to stop playing the social oneupsmanship game, you can’t believe, you can’t trust Jesus, because you’ll always be looking for how trusting Jesus fits into you winning at the other game.
And the truth is trusting Jesus won’t fit in to that game! It won’t help you win that game. Trusting Jesus is deciding to play a new game, which means you lose the old game by default.
This is why the Pharisees eventually decided they needed to get rid of Jesus. They couldn’t co-opt him into their game, and they weren’t willing to lose their old game and play Jesus’ new game.
And the presence of his new game was a threat to the hegemony of their game. Up until then, they ran (and rigged) the only game in town.
So they had to kill him. They couldn’t see any other alternative. How could they ever trust Jesus when he wouldn’t help them win their game?
But the good news is that, for those who are willing to abandon the old game of “accepting glory from one another” to play the new game of “seeking the glory that comes from the only God,” the playing field is wide open.
And the winners aren’t the politically savvy or intellectually astute. Not the cruel or vindictive or narcissistic.
The winners are those who don’t know what to make of religion and prayer.
People who are burdened by sadness.
Those who don’t assert their will on others, and sometimes get taken advantage of as a result.
People who’ve been humiliated by injustice and don’t know what to do with their anger and grief.
Those who give people too many extra chances.
People who are too naïve to keep their guard up around others.
Those who find themselves in the middle of other people’s arguments, trying to make peace.
People who’ve been mistreated and cast aside because they’ve chosen not to play the game.
They’re the winners in Jesus’ new game. He celebrates them and receives them as sisters and brothers.