THE JEWS CLAIM ABRAHAM AS FATHER
BEFORE ABRAHAM, JESUS HAS BEEN
Still in Jerusalem for the Festival of Tabernacles (or, Booths), Jesus goes on teaching vital truths. Some Jews present had just said to him: “We are Abraham’s offspring and never have been slaves.” Jesus responds: “I know that you are Abraham’s offspring. But you are seeking to kill me, because my word makes no progress among you. I speak the things I have seen while with my Father, but you do the things you have heard from your father.”
Jesus’ point is simple: His Father is different from theirs. Unaware of what Jesus means, the Jews repeat their claim: “Our father is Abraham.” (John 8:39; Isaiah 41:8) They are literally his descendants. So they feel that they are of the same faith as God’s friend Abraham.
However, Jesus gives a shocking reply: “If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing the works of Abraham.” Indeed, a real son imitates his father. “But now you are seeking to kill me,” Jesus continues, “a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. Abraham did not do this.” Then Jesus makes the puzzling statement: “You are doing the works of your father.”
The Jews still do not grasp to whom Jesus is referring. They claim that they are legitimate sons, saying: “We were not born from immorality; we have one Father, God.” Is God really their Father, though? “If God were your Father,” Jesus says, “you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I have not come of my own initiative, but that One sent me.” Jesus asks a question and answers it himself: “Why do you not understand what I am saying? Because you cannot listen to my word.”
Jesus has tried to show what the consequences of rejecting him are. But now he pointedly says: “You are from your father the Devil, and you wish to do the desires of your father.” What is their father like? Jesus identifies him clearly: “That one was a murderer when he began, and he did not stand fast in the truth.” Jesus adds: “The one who is from God listens to the sayings of God. This is why you do not listen, because you are not from God.”
That condemnation angers the Jews, who answer: “Are we not right in saying, ‘You are a Samaritan and have a demon’?” By calling Jesus “a Samaritan,” they are expressing contempt for him. But Jesus ignores their slur, responding: “I do not have a demon, but I honor my Father, and you dishonor me.” That this is a serious matter can be seen by Jesus’ startling promise: “If anyone observes my word, he will never see death at all.” He does not mean that the apostles and others who follow him will literally never die. Rather, they will never see eternal destruction, “the second death,” with no hope of a resurrection.
But the Jews take Jesus’ words literally, saying: “Now we do know that you have a demon. Abraham died, also the prophets, but you say, ‘If anyone observes my word, he will never taste death at all.’ You are not greater than our father Abraham, who died, are you? . . . Who do you claim to be?”
It is obvious that Jesus is making the point that he is the Messiah. But rather than directly answer their question about his identity, he says: “If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me, the one who you say is your God. Yet you have not known him, but I know him. And if I said I do not know him, I would be like you, a liar.”
Jesus now refers back to the example of their faithful forefather: “Abraham your father rejoiced greatly at the prospect of seeing my day, and he saw it and rejoiced.” Yes, believing God’s promise, Abraham looked forward to the arrival of the Messiah. “You are not yet 50 years old, and still you have seen Abraham?” the Jews respond in disbelief. Jesus answers: “Most truly I say to you, before Abraham came into existence, I have been.” He is referring to his prehuman existence as a mighty spirit in heaven.
The Jews, enraged by Jesus’ claim to have lived before Abraham, get ready to stone him. But Jesus leaves unharmed.
How did Abraham show faith? In what ways would you like to imitate the faith of Abraham?