Letters to the Prison - Week 91

Hello!  We miss our fellowship with you.  As this time of separation continues to wear on, we pray that God will continue to meet with you.  Indeed, we know that God is both willing and able to meet with any of his people anywhere they are under any circumstances.  We pray that God meets with you today in a powerful way.
Last week, Jesus said something stunning to the Jews who claimed to believe in him (John 8:30):
•Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.”
 -John 8:56
First, Jesus is not contradicting what he said previously in verse 39 (“If you were Abraham's children, you would be doing the works Abraham did”).  The group arguing with Jesus in John 8 are indeed biologically related to Abraham, yet they are not spiritual “children of Abraham” because they are not doing the works Abraham did:  Listening to God, trusting him, and obeying him.  That Abraham was the biological father of the Jewish nation is not news to us.  Abraham is arguably one of the most recognizable men in all human history.  We can read about his life in Genesis chapters 12-25 and there are numerous references to him throughout the Bible.
What is stunning here is what Jesus says about himself.  Abraham lived over 2000 years before Jesus was born.  Jesus’ own biological lineage traces back through Abraham (Luke 3:23-38).  Yet here, in John 8:56, Jesus speaks of Abraham as if he knows him well.  Interestingly, Jesus notes how Abraham rejoiced when he saw Jesus’ day.  So, Jesus is speaking as though he is well-acquainted with how Abraham felt about looking forward to Jesus.  What a strange thing to say.  God made several promises to Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3; 15:1-21; 17:1-8) all of which find their ultimate fulfillment in Jesus.  So, when Jesus says that Abraham “rejoiced to see his day,” he means that Abraham had trusted God to fulfill the promises he made to Abraham and that Abraham had begun to see those promises fulfilled in the miraculous birth of his son, Isaac (Genesis 21).  This is all summarized beautifully in Hebrews 11:8-13.
Now, it might be easy (and perhaps more comfortable) to think that maybe Jesus was merely referring to what the Bible says about Abraham rather than implying that Jesus actually knows Abraham well enough to know how Abraham was thinking and feeling at a particular moment some 2000 years before Jesus was even born.  But that’s not what Jesus means.  How do we know this for sure?  Look at what his opponents say next:
•“You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” -John 8:57
This question indicates that the people arguing with Jesus took what he said quite literally.  Yet, they couldn’t believe it because they were stuck thinking that Jesus was merely human… and not yet even fifty years old (Jesus was only about 30 when this conversation took place).  So, how could he know Abraham so well?  This means they just weren’t getting it.  The promised moment in history that Abraham had so eagerly anticipated was unfolding right before their eyes.  Jesus, the fulfillment of all God’s promises to his people, was standing before them and they didn’t recognize him… which is why Jesus answers their question the way he does:  With the 14th “truly truly” statement recorded in John’s Gospel.  And it…. is…. Amazing.  We’ll look at it next week!  Until then, we love you!  Thanks so much for studying with us!

Dean A.

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