Letters to the Prison - Week 88

Hello, everyone!  We hope you’ve decided to join in our study of John.  We’ve been examining chapter 8 for many weeks now.  Jesus is having a difficult conversation with a group of Jews who claimed to “believe in him,” (John 8:30) yet levelled the most grievous insult imaginable at him when he called out their hypocrisy and challenged them to act according to their beliefs (John 8:48).  So, this conversation has turned ugly and it’s about to get a lot worse as Jesus says something profound about himself:
•“I do not have a demon, but I honor my Father, and you dishonor me. 50 Yet I do not seek my own glory; there is One who seeks it, and he is the judge.  -John 8:49-50
First, Jesus flatly denies their accusation that he “has a demon.”  This was as blasphemous an accusation as anyone could utter –an unforgivable sin (Matt. 12:31), but Jesus overlooks it yet again because it is “unprovable.”  Jesus can’t “prove” that he doesn’t have a demon any more than they can “prove” that he does, except by observing his actions –and his actions are impeccable, and everyone knows it (John 8:46).  Jesus therefore remains more concerned with actions than beliefs.  This has been evident all through this conversation, and Jesus reiterates the point again when he compares his own actions (“I honor my Father”) to theirs (you dishonor me”).  Even the claim that Jesus doesn’t seek his own glory --while the Father, who is the One true judge, does seek the glory of Jesus, the Son (and this will be made obvious later in our study -John 12:23-28)-- isn’t as important at this moment because it points to internal “unprovable” intentions rather than the outward evidence of actions.  Jesus unquestionably rams this point home with his 13th “truly truly” statement:
•Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.  -John 8:51
As usual, this is a profoundly important statement from the man claiming to be God.  First, he is claiming authority over the eternal lives of all people and, at the same time, claiming that keeping his word is the key to eternal life.  This, friends, is where Jesus irrevocably connects our actions with our salvation –and thus our eternal life.  It goes back to our walk matching our talk.  It’s one thing to claim we believe Jesus is who he says he is, it is something else entirely to live as though he is.  And to be clear, Jesus is not suggesting that we need to earn our eternal life by our actions.  This was made perfectly plain right from the beginning (John 1:12-13) and many times along the way.  No.  True Christians keep Jesus’ word because they truly believe in Him and belong to Him.  Their actions follow their beliefs.
Now, one might wonder:  Lots of apparently true Christians have existed… and died.  So, what does Jesus mean by “never see death?”  Clearly, it can’t mean a literal physical death…  since many true believers have lived… and died.  The group arguing with Jesus is clearly wondering the same thing.  Well, they aren’t wondering… they think they already know Jesus “has a demon” (John 8:52) because both Abraham and the prophets (people who clearly believed in God as evidenced by their actions) are already physically dead (John 8:53a).  So, how could Jesus claim to be God and claim to speak his words and claim that anyone who keeps his words will live forever while such obviously faithful people as Abraham and the prophets who kept God’s word clearly died?  These people therefore ask Jesus: “who do you make yourself out to be?” (John 8:53b).  Jesus has a stunning answer that we will look at next week!  We love you!

Dean A.

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