As we continue in our study of John we remember that Jesus is speaking with some of the Jewish leaders in front of a large crowd. Many from the crowd believe that He is the Messiah, but most of the leaders do not. Jesus tells them that if they really know God, if they really are of Him, they would know that what He is saying is true and they would believe Him. But they do not hear or understand because they are not of God. We pick up now with their response:
Then answered the Jews, and said unto him, Say we not well that thou art a Samaritan, and hast a devil?
They believed that they were God’s chosen people and that being Abraham’s descendants gave them some special favor, but not everybody thought that. The woman at the well wanted to know if true worship was done in the Jewish mountain or in the Samaritan mountain (4:20). The Jews said Jerusalem, but the Samaritans say, “No; you don’t have a monopoly on God or religion. We can worship here in Samaria.”
And so the Samaritans denied the special place of Jews and the Jews scoffed at the Samaritans; there was this rivalry between them. And so when Jesus says the Jews are not of God (v. 47) their reaction is to call Him a demon-possessed Samaritan. He must be crazy to think they don’t belong to God.
49Jesus answered, I have not a devil; but I honour my Father, and ye do dishonour me.
Jesus is God’s Apostle (Heb. 3:1). An apostle is just one who is sent. When they dishonor Him, they dishonor the One who sent Him too. This was a long-standing tradition for them though. Jesus laments in Matthew 23:37, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee.” When they hear the truth they want to do what they’ve seen of their father. They lie and murder. They kill those who do righteousness. It’s not Christ who has a devil; they are of the devil and prove it when the dishonor the One sent from God.
50And I seek not mine own glory: there is one that seeketh and judgeth.
Jesus doesn’t seek His own glory, but the Father (the One who judges) seeks glory for Him. Look at how the Father views the Son from Hebrews one:
God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, 2Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; 3Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high: 4Being made so much better than the angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they. 5For unto which of the angels said he at any time, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee? And again, I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son? 6And again, when he bringeth in the firstbegotten into the world, he saith, And let all the angels of God worship him. 7And of the angels he saith, Who maketh his angels spirits, and his ministers a flame of fire. 8But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom. 9Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows. 10And, Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of thine hands: 11They shall perish; but thou remainest; and they all shall wax old as doth a garment; 12And as a vesture shalt thou fold them up, and they shall be changed: but thou art the same, and thy years shall not fail. 13But to which of the angels said he at any time, Sit on my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool? (Heb. 1:1-13).
The Father has spoken through prophets and He’s given power to angels, but what compares to His Son? If the angels and prophets were honored and given glory, how much more should His everlasting Son receive? The warning in John 8:50 is that the Father not only promotes glory for the Son but He also judges those who dishonor Him.
51Verily, verily, I say unto you, If a man keep my saying, he shall never see death.
The only way to avoid judgment is to keep His saying. This goes back to verse 31 and means the same thing. It’s not that a man has to be perfect; Christ’s disciples believe that Christ is the One sent by the Father. They believe He is the Son of God and that He is the promised Messiah. They will continue in this belief no matter what happens. He is their Teacher, Friend, Brother, Priest, and Savior. If a man believes in Christ He will not suffer the judgment of God. He will always live.
52Then said the Jews unto him, Now we know that thou hast a devil. Abraham is dead, and the prophets; and thou sayest, If a man keep my saying, he shall never taste of death. 53Art thou greater than our father Abraham, which is dead? and the prophets are dead: whom makest thou thyself?
In their minds, only a demon-possessed man would claim to be greater than Abraham and every other Jewish prophet. These men all died along with their followers. Who can Jesus think he is if he can do something none of them could do?
But we keep the first chapter of Hebrews in mind (especially v. 1-2). God used to speak to us through fathers and prophets, but now He speaks to us by His Son!
54Jesus answered, If I honour myself, my honour is nothing: it is my Father that honoureth me; of whom ye say, that he is your God:
He doesn't promote himself and doesn’t need to; the honor comes from God. They claim to follow this God but the stories don’t add up; God can’t honor the Son and those who hate the Son at the same time. And so there’s only one real conclusion:
55Yet ye have not known him; but I know him: and if I should say, I know him not, I shall be a liar like unto you: but I know him, and keep his saying.
Don’t forget that they are of the devil and they want to be liars like him. They say they follow God and it’s untrue, and if Christ spoke of Himself in an untrue way He would be a liar as well. He too would be of Satan. So it’s impossible for Him to say something that’s untrue and impossible for Him to deny His everlasting life.
He does know God. He admits to it. He agrees with what the Father says.
If you think about it, He’s doing exactly what He requires of His disciples: keep His word. Don’t deny the truth. Cling to the fact that Jesus is the Christ and don’t be dissuaded from it. This is the way it’s always been:
56Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad.
How is this possible? What day did Abraham see?
I think we can first go to Galatians: Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness. 7Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham. 8And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed. 9So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham (Gal. 3:6-9).
God made a promise of good news to Abraham: everyone who believes like he believed will be blessed. It doesn’t matter where they live or who their ancestors are; if they believe the promise from God they’re blessed. Think about the angel’s words when he announced the birth of Christ to the shepherds: “peace on earth, good will toward men” (Lk. 2:14).
Think also about John’s vision around the throne: After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands; 10And cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb (Rev. 7:9-10).
The gospel that was preached to Abraham was simple: “In thee shall all nations be blessed.” He understood that God would send a Savior and he was glad for it. But the Jews don’t have the same faith and so they don’t understand:
57Then said the Jews unto him, Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham? 58Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am. 59Then took they up stones to cast at him: but Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by.
They can't believe how he could have seen Abraham so they challenge Him on it. His response is simple but profound. “Before Abraham was, I am.” We know that’s a quote and it comes from Exodus 3:14. Moses was sent to free the people of Israel from slavery in Egypt. He didn’t think anyone would believe him so he wanted to know, “Who shall I say sent me?” God said, “I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.”
When the Pharisees want to know how Jesus could have known Abraham, He says, “Because I am I AM. I am God. I am older than Abraham and greater than him. He died, but I will never die. I have life inside of Me. I am God.” Not only does this prove his preexistence, but it shows that the hope of the gospel has been preached the same way from the same One since the beginning. Christ has always been Christ. He has always been our Savior. He has always been God’s Apostle. All the fathers and all the prophets heard from Him, saw Him, and testified of Him. They all believed on Him.
Of course, the liars and murderers, the children of the devil, hate what they hear and they want to kill Him, but now is not His time. He slips into the crowd and disappears.
What can we learn from this?
#1- The WAY of salvation is CHRIST.
This is an important point because of all the confusion. There are entire programs devoted to teaching people how to preach the gospel; evangelism training. They have acrostics and outlines helping people remember these points of doctrine that are supposed to get a person saved, and then they say, “It’s not that believing any of this will help you. You have to believe it in your heart.” Well, I guess that’s true, but isn’t it confusing?
What was the gospel to Abraham? Was it not that the nations of the earth would be blessed through him? Did he not see Christ through this and rejoice at that day? Was that not enough?
The word “gospel” simply means “good news.” When the angel came to the shepherds it was glad tidings. Paul describes his gospel as the gospel of peace. Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying salvation is without conviction and repentance. But those things are different than the gospel. All by itself the gospel is simply this: “if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. 10For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Rom. 10:9-10).
Will there be false converts? Sure! There will be plenty of people who confess to believe but in time will be proven liars. But we don’t have to turn the glad tidings of peace into something else to prevent it. Let those who will believe. God knows the heart. He knows His own.
The gospel is plain and simple: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved” (Acts 16:31).
#2- The POWER of salvation is CHRIST’S LIFE.
He existed before Abraham and anyone who keeps His saying will never taste death. Abraham died in this flesh, but he was then in the place of comfort (Lk. 16:23) and his body will soon be resurrected and glorified! Our lives are hidden in Christ and the same power that raised Him up from the dead is at work in us (Rom. 8:11).
#3- The RESULT of salvation is CHRIST’S GLORY.