Jesus is concluding His argument before the “new believers.” When we left Him He had just told them that their father was the devil. They were not of God. This didn’t sit too well with them. But Jesus is not finished yet “winning friends and influencing people.” He pushes them to the point that they are ready to throw Him a “rock concert” with REAL rocks!
The first reaction of this group, when told that they have “different fathers” than Jesus does is to make it out as if He is the one who is outside of the relationship with God. “Are we not right in saying that You are a Samaritan and have a demon” (verse 48). That was a huge insult they were trying to pass off onto Jesus. It was about as disrespectful as they could be to another Jew, not to mention a godly person.
Jesus offers this group one more promise for believing in Him. “I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death” (verse 51). And once again His words are met with resistance. “What! Now we KNOW You’re crazy! Even Abraham and the prophets died. They were the greatest of us all.” They missed the spiritual meaning Jesus was offering on that one too.
This was a perfect set up. This group walked right into where Jesus was leading them. “Who do You make Yourself out to be?” (verse 53). Jesus words to them had been bringing them to this all important question. This was the central issue all along.
Jesus kept telling them in little ways all along Who He was. He showed them on a daily basis by His works. But they just kept missing that final connecting step. Many believed He was sent by God but only a few believed He was part of God; the incarnate Son of God. Jesus brings them all the way there in just a moment, but He has one more link to give them first.
Jesus brought them back to their physical relationship with Abraham. He allowed them the physical relationship but denied their spiritual one. If they were of the same spiritual family as Abraham, they would truly know Him, for Abraham KNEW God. They don’t. Abraham was looking forward to Jesus’, the Messiah’s, day as he walked with God. He was looking forward to the fulfillment of the promises God was giving him. After his physical death, Abraham was still looking forward to Jesus’ day, but he was looking through the spirit instead. Abraham didn’t die as they said. He was alive in spirit still. Not free yet, but alive. That was how Abraham could see Jesus’ day and rejoice.
Now it’s time to put the final pin in the chain Jesus has been crafting for these “new believers.” He uses a phrase that Moses brought directly from God to describe Himself. When asked how he could possibly have met Abraham, because of the huge age gap, Jesus rocks their world with his final statement; “Before Abraham was, I am” (verse 58). They knew the name words “I Am.” They knew that this referred directly to God Himself. Jesus just now said He was God! He couldn’t have been clearer.
That position turned our “new believers” into an inflamed angry mob. They were ready to stone Him to death. But that was not part of God’s plan. Jesus “his himself and went out of the temple” (verse 59). I have a feeling He hid in plain sight. They simply couldn’t see Him.
Jesus was bringing the Jews to the fever pitch necessary for them to complete the Father’s work. Jesus was about to receive the fullest glory of the Father for His works.
Something I was thinking about as I was reading this is how Jesus kept saying that the Father was glorifying Him. Jesus never sought His own glory but pointed everyone back to the Father. Jesus’ physical body was not the part of Him responsible for all the miracles we see recorded. His spiritual part was. God confirmed Jesus’ words through signs and wonders, done through the Spirit of God. But only by uniting Jesus’ physical body with His Spiritual self could God fully reach us. Without Jesus’ incarnate form, we would still be without hope. The very thing that these men railed against is the one thing that could truly save them. God HAD to come in human form, with all its frailties, to create the way for man to once again enter into His presence. No other way. And no other way than to turn the people against Himself to complete the final process of His work.
Lord Jesus, what You told those listening that day seems so hard. You pushed them to their breaking point. Those who had just begun to believe were welcomed but also got a crash course in Who You really were/are. How many of them remained believers by the end of Your interaction? Did they escape with You out of the temple that day? Did the disciples walk right past the angry mob too? Did some of them return to belief during Peter’s first sermon?
There was a reason for You to be pushing them away while still planting seeds deep in their hearts. After Your resurrection, then those seeds would be watered and allowed to grow. All in YOUR time.
Father God, thank You for proving Who Jesus was every day; during His time on earth and after too. Thank You I Am. Thank You for that final connection. You set it up CENTURIES ago, anticipating just that moment. Talk about omniscient!