The Gospel according to John (8:51-59)
Jesus said to the Jews: “Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever keeps my word will never see death.” So the Jews said to him, “Now we are sure that you are possessed. Abraham died, as did the prophets, yet you say, ‘Whoever keeps my word will never taste death.’ Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? Or the prophets, who died? Who do you make yourself out to be?” Jesus answered, “If I glorify myself, my glory is worth nothing; but it is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say, ‘He is our God.’ You do not know him, but I know him. And if I should say that I do not know him, I would be like you, a liar. But I do know him and I keep his word. Abraham your father rejoiced to see my day; he saw it and was glad.” So the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old and you have seen Abraham?” Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, before Abraham came to be, I AM.” So they picked up stones to throw at him; but Jesus hid and went out of the temple area.
Reflection: Have you ever given your “word” to someone? It is supposed to mean that we will abide by the words that were spoken to each other. Even in our culture we still use this saying when we want to hold each other accountable to the highest standard of expectations. In today’s gospel Jesus says that whoever keeps his word will not see death. The stakes cannot get any higher than death so to keep his word is of great value and importance.
In this discourse Jesus means a whole lot more than what he is saying. Throughout his ministry he spoke on behalf of his father. But here we are reminded of the beautiful words that begin the gospel of John, “In the beginning was the Word…”. Jesus the man is also God. Why is it that so many struggled with this. It is easy for us, today, to judge or even condemn the people of that time as ignorant, blind, or even bad. But I am sure many of us would have struggled with this as well.
We are familiar with many of the reasons why. There are cultural, religious, and other obstacles that created expectations that Jesus did not meet. How could he be the messiah? He was a carpenter from Nazareth. This is at the heart of Jesus’ ministry. He did not come to be served but to serve. He came to save sinners through his death and resurrection. His teachings and his methods did not seem to align with what the people of God were waiting for.
We still struggle today with Jesus the great “I AM”. We question his teachings and methods because they don’t always align with our expectations. Maybe we get so mad sometimes that we want to pick up stones and hurl them out of frustration and hurt. One suggestion, let go of expectations. Our God came to be with us so we could see him and experience his love and care as one of us. How he manifests in our lives will seldom be conventional. He will challenge us, encourage us, and equip us to follow his word. And in doing so will provide us with an abundance of grace that will keep us from death and lead us to everlasting life.
Action of the day: Read John’s Gospel, Chapter 1 verses 1 through 18. Ponder the beautiful words that proclaim the divinity of The Word made Flesh. Let this be a catalyst for your faith as you continue the challenges and blessings of following his word.