John 8: 48 – 59 Jesus claims about himself
The Jews answered him, ‘Aren’t we right in saying that you are a Samaritan and demon-possessed?’
‘I am not possessed by a demon,’ said Jesus, ‘but I honour my Father and you dishonour me. I am not seeking glory for myself; but there is one who seeks it, and he is the judge. Very truly I tell you, whoever obeys my word will never see death.’
At this they exclaimed, ‘Now we know that you are demon-possessed! Abraham died and so did the prophets, yet you say that whoever obeys your word will never taste death. Are you greater than our father Abraham? He died, and so did the prophets. Who do you think you are?’
Jesus replied, ‘If I glorify myself, my glory means nothing. My Father, whom you claim as your God, is the one who glorifies me. Though you do not know him, I know him. If I said I did not, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and obey his word. Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad.
‘You are not yet fifty years old,’ they said to him, ‘and you have seen Abraham!’
‘Very truly I tell you,’ Jesus answered, ‘before Abraham was born, I am!’ At this, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds.
This passage is the climax of the teaching that St John presents to us in chapters 7 and 8. It shows the clash between Jesus and the chief priests and Pharisees becoming more intense until, in verse 58, Jesus makes a claim that outrages his listeners. He says ‘Very truly I tell you, before Abraham was born, I am!’
Why does this rouse such passion in Jesus’ listeners? In Exodus 3: 14 we read, God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: “I AM has sent me to you.”’ From time immemorial the Jews had known God simply as “I AM”. In saying what he said, Jesus made a direct claim to be God. Such a claim was unthinkable blasphemy to the Jews. They tried to stone Jesus, who slipped away and left the temple.
Let’s look back at what led up to this claim:
- On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood up and said in a loud voice, ‘Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.’ (John 7: 37 – 38)
- When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’ (John 8: 12)
- To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, ‘If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.’ (John 8: 31 – 32)
- ‘Very truly I tell you, whoever obeys my word will never see death.’ (John 8: 51)
Water. Light. Truth. Freedom. Eternal life. Jesus gives all of these to people who follow him. But over and over, he points back to the source of them all; God the Father.
- Jesus answered, ‘My teaching is not my own. It comes from the one who sent me. Anyone who chooses to do the will of God will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own.’ (John 7: 16 – 17)
- Then Jesus, still teaching in the temple courts, cried out, ‘Yes, you know me, and you know where I am from. I am not here on my own authority, but he who sent me is true. You do not know him, but I know him because I am from him and he sent me.’ (John 7: 28 – 29)
- But if I do judge, my decisions are true, because I am not alone. I stand with the Father who sent me… I am one who testifies for myself; my oher witness is the Father, who sent me.’ (John 8: 16, 18)
- ‘Who are you?’ they asked. ‘Just what I have been telling you from the beginning,’ Jesus replied. ‘I have much to say in judgment of you. But he who sent me is trustworthy, and what I have heard from him I tell the world.’ (John 8: 25 – 26)
- Jesus said to them, ‘If God were your Father, you would love me, for I have come here from God. I have not come on my own; God sent me. (John 8: 42)
Water. Light. Truth. Freedom. Eternal life. We can expect to experience these in our daily spiritual lives. They are part of who Jesus is.
And all we need to do is follow him obediently.
Thank you for Jesus, and for the wonderful gifts that he brings. Please help us to follow him with purity of heart.
In Jesus name, Amen