Scripture: The Jews answered him, “Are we not right in saying that you are a Samaritan and have a demon?” Jesus answered, “I do not have a demon, but I honor my Father, and you dishonor me. Yet I do not seek my own glory; there is One who seeks it, and he is the judge. Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.” The Jews said to him, “Now we know that you have a demon! Abraham died, as did the prophets, yet you say, ‘If anyone keeps my word, he will never taste death.’ Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? And the prophets died! Who do you make yourself out to be?” Jesus answered, “If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say, ‘He is our God.’ But you have not known him. I know him. If I were to say that I do not know him, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and I keep his word. Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.” So the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple.
John 8:48-59 ESV [Click here to read the entire chapter.]
Observation: Recapping Yesterday’s Daily Focus, offended by Jesus’ insinuations, the religious leaders reiterate that Abraham is their patriarch. So Jesus contends that if they were heirs of Abraham, they would follow in his example of faithful service to God. Instead, they plot to kill Jesus, proving they follow the lead of their father, the devil. Insulted, they indignantly assert their fidelity to God, but Jesus reasons that if God were their Father, they would love his Son who stands before them. Moreover, they cannot bear to hear what Jesus has to say because they submit to the guidance of their father, the devil. Like the devil, the father of lies, they act deceitfully and plot to kill those in their way. Hence, they have no room for godly truth and reject Jesus’ words of truth. Jesus then challenges them to find fault in him and concludes that while the children of God listen to him, they don’t.
Today’s devotion concludes the dialogue between Jesus and the scribes and Pharisees at the temple. Offended by Jesus’ accusations, these Jewish leaders question whether Jesus is a demon-possessed Samaritan. Ignoring their insult, Jesus calls them out for dishonoring him, clarifies that he does not seek his glory, and adds that all who keep his word will gain eternal life. Shocked by Jesus’ bold claim, the religious leaders insist Jesus is delusional, but Jesus maintains his authority to grant eternal life to those who obey his commands. Deeply offended by Jesus’ implied eternal existence, they demand he state who he thinks he is.
Thus, the time has come for Jesus to reveal his identity. First, prefacing he enjoys intimate fellowship with his Father (marked by obedience to his word), Jesus contrasts their lack of personal knowledge of their Creator that stems from disobeying God’s word. And further rousing their ire, Jesus tells them that Abraham envisioned this day of his messianic mission and rejoiced. Flabbergasted, they question Jesus’ sanity. So Jesus presses harder toward revealing his glorified identity, stating before Abraham received the breath of life, Jesus eternally existed as “I am” (v.49). Enraged that Jesus would appropriate the sacred name of Yahweh, they pick up stones to pummel Jesus. Still, he disappears into the background and leaves the temple.
Takeaway: John uses two Greek words for “know” in verse 55. In the first instance, he writes ginōskō (“you have not known him”), implying the religious leaders have no “experiential” knowledge of God. Then John uses the word oida regarding Jesus’ “intuitive perception” of his Father. In other words, as theologian Merrill Tenney surmises, Jesus says, “You have not really attained an experience of God; I have a full consciousness of him” (The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: John, p.98). With this in mind, Jesus declares he preexisted Abraham and that Abraham rejoiced, knowing he would see this day of Jesus’ triumphant mission.
How so? Nowhere else in Scripture do we read that Abraham had foreknowledge of Jesus. However, we know this patriarch became a seed of divine blessing to all nations (Genesis 12:3). But after establishing his covenant with Abraham, the Lord commanded this man of faith to go to Mount Moriah and sacrifice his son Isaac (his sole seed of the blessing). And once Abraham demonstrated he would keep God’s word (see verses 51 and 52 above), the Lord intervened with a substitute sacrifice (see Genesis 22:1-18; Hebrews 11:17-19). So perhaps Abraham grasped a glimpse of the supreme fulfillment of substitutionary atonement at this pivotal moment of his covenant journey. (Also of interest, Solomon later constructed the temple on the approximate location of Mount Moriah. And so we have come full circle because Jesus is the final temple.)
Our takeaway? We, too, have received the blessing of a retro view of the divine seed: sown in Abrahamic soil, watered by the blood, sweat, and tears of the saints who longed for the Messiah (Hebrews 11), and maturing to its finished form through the life, death, resurrection of Christ. And to think that this divine seed is in us. Truly amazing! Still, if we yearn to grow in our faith and bear fruit, we must keep God’s word. We must cooperate with the Holy Spirit, for he will faithfully prune us into the likeness of Christ by transforming our minds from worldly head knowledge (that will otherwise fail us) into maturing children of God who are deepening our understanding of his love, grace, and holiness. And this intimate knowledge of the Father and Son assures us of our place in eternity (see John 17:3). So let’s put our maturing knowledge into practice, keeping God’s word, i.e., his good, pleasing, and perfect will (Romans 12:2).
Prayer: Father God, we thank you for your Son, the Divine Seed, who gave his all for us so we could come to know you and your love for us. And we thank you for all those saints who have risked their lives through the centuries to ensure the next generation would learn and grow in the knowledge of and obedience to you and your Son. Still, we are prone to take this priceless knowledge for granted. So would you please inspire us to cooperate with your Holy Spirit in keeping your word? Amen.
Rev. Gordon Green, M.Div., M.A. Counseling