Lesson 52


The Gospel of John

World English Bible translation

 Today's Scripture

8:48 Then the Jews answered him, "Don't we say well that you are a Samaritan, and have a demon?"

8:49 Jesus answered, "I don't have a demon, but I honor my Father, and you dishonor me. 8:50 But I don't seek my own glory. There is one who seeks and judges. 8:51 Most assuredly, I tell you, if a person keeps my word, he will never see death."

8:52 Then the Jews said to him, "Now we know that you have a demon. Abraham died, and the prophets; and you say, 'If a man keeps my word, he will never taste of death.' 8:53 Are you greater than our father, Abraham, who died? The prophets died. Who do you make yourself out to be?"

8:54 Jesus answered, "If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say that he is our God. 8:55 You have not known him, but I know him. If I said, 'I don't know him,' I would be like you, a liar. But I know him, and keep his word. 8:56 Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day. He saw it, and was glad."

8:57 The Jews therefore said to him, "You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?"

8:58 Jesus said to them, "Most assuredly, I tell you, before Abraham was born, I AM."

8:59 They took up stones therefore to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by.


 Today's Lesson 

 Today's lesson could be entitled, "One Greater than Abraham." This portion of scripture is the conclusion to the long conversation that Jesus has been having with His detractors from the party of the Pharisees. Jesus has been leading towards the strongest statement on His identity that is in scripture. Earlier in the Gospel of John, the woman at the well had asked Jesus whether He was greater than the patriarch Jacob who had dug the well. In this passage, the Pharisees ask if Jesus is greater than Abraham.

 

The nation of Israel claims its origin from Abraham. God spoke to Abraham and called him away to a new land. Abraham believed God and God made a covenant with this man. The people of Israel were heirs of this covenant. The two foremost figures of Judaism are Abraham and Moses. Jesus had already taught that if they believed Moses then they would believe in Him. Now it is time to deal with Abraham.

 

He had told them that if they were to be His disciples that they could be truly free. They responded by saying that they were Abraham's children and were bondservants to no man. Jesus had countered with the idea that men are slaves to sin unless God sets them free and that they were doing the works of their father, the devil. And, He tells them in today's scripture that anyone who believes in His message will never see death.

 

"Are you greater than our father, Abraham, who died?" Even the prophets died. Are you claiming to be greater than the prophets as well?

 

Jesus was claiming to be greater than Abraham and the prophets. He was claiming a unique relationship with God the Father that was superior to any relationship that had existed heretofore. When Jesus claims, "Most assuredly, I tell you, before Abraham was born, I AM," he takes for Himself the very holy name of God. To the Jewish mind, there was nothing that was more holy than the name of God. It was so holy that it was never to be spoken. There were strictures on how it was to be written and used. And yet, in very forceful use, Jesus uses this very name in the words that the English translates "I AM".

 

When Moses was before the burning bush He asked for a sign that he could bring to the people. He asked God to tell him what His name was. God's response is oftentimes translated, "Tell them, I AM that I AM has sent thee." There is no accident that Jesus appropriates the holy name of God in a dispute about His identity and His superiority to Abraham. This is a direct claim. Jesus is not claiming to be a prophet. Jesus is not claiming to be one who speaks for God. Jesus is directly claiming to be God.

 

Now, we do not have to believe His assertion. Like His original listeners, we can reject His statement and take up stones to throw at Him. But, we cannot pretend that the statement and the claim was not advanced. Jesus thought that He was divine. He thought Himself to be God. Jesus forces us to question ourselves. Do we believe Jesus to be God? What does it mean that a man claims to be divine? What are we to do with Jesus?

 

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