The attacks continue. Stunningly, the Jewish leaders who are opposing Jesus associate being a “Samaritan” with having a “demon”! Not only does Jesus have a demon, he’s also a Samaritan! Perhaps they are remembering his success among the Samaritans. At any rate, they cast at Jesus two of the worst slanders they could find in their religious vocabulary: he is demon possessed, and he is part of the half-breed, religiously compromised, racial group known as Samaritans. It is important to remember that when people do not like what we stand for, they will not oppose the issue itself, but will find some other way to cast aspersions on our character. Such ad hominem arguments are par for the course; we should recognize them when they come, not be frightened of them, painful as they can be.
Jesus refutes their accusations—it is not wrong to defend yourself—and then once more appeals to them to believe in him. “If anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.” What an enormous claim is this! Surely, it is worth at least taking the speaker seriously who makes such an offer. This is no minor matter, no inconsiderable deal, but a huge issue of enormous consequence. Jesus raises the stakes.
But it is too much for them. Now they know he has a demon! Even Abraham died, and Jesus is claiming to have power over death. How ridiculous, how demonic.
Once again Jesus refutes their attacks, and most stunningly of all thus far, he says that Abraham saw his day and rejoiced (“Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad” King James Version). How did Abraham see Jesus? See Genesis 18.
The implication is that Jesus is God. Yet they do not grasp what Jesus is saying, or cannot quite believe that he would have the gall to say it. “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” And then Jesus utters those immortal words: “before Abraham was, I am.” In other words, he is, he always was, he always will be; he is the “I Am,” God himself.
Recognizing the claim that Jesus is making, they conclude it is blasphemy and pick up stones to kill him.
Let the enormity of the claims of Jesus sink in this morning. He is either everything to you, or he is nothing. Jesus cannot be a side dish, an also ran, a part of your life, but not the whole of your life. Jesus cannot be marginalized into the category of “interesting” or even “profound.” A man like this, who says the things that this man said, is either the most important man who has ever lived, or he is worthy of scorn and derision. But do not take him merely as a nice or good person. Take him as God—and worship Him—or conclude with the Jewish leaders that he is mad, insane, demon possessed. That is the choice that this passage presents to us all.
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