An Invitation to Never Die
Read John 8:48-53 (ESV)
The Jews answered him, "Are we not right in saying that you are a Samaritan and have a demon?” Jesus answered, “I do not have a demon, but I honor my Father, and you dishonor me. Yet I do not seek my own glory; there is One who seeks it, and he is the judge. Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.” The Jews said to him, “Now we know that you have a demon! Abraham died, as did the prophets, yet you say, ‘If anyone keeps my word, he will never taste death.’ Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? And the prophets died! Who do you make yourself out to be?”
How is Jesus’ compassion evident even as His opponents personally attack Him?
As a pastor and Christian apologist, I have witnessed many debates. I can usually tell that one participant is completely out of intelligent rebuttals when they resort to personally attacking their opponent rather than refuting their ideas.
That’s what happened in today’s passage. For context, remember that Jesus was having a discussion with some hostile Jewish religious leaders. They thought they were the true children of God because they were Abraham’s physical descendants. Their hope for their salvation was in their lineage and their law. They rejected Jesus’ claims that He is the Son of God sent by the Father and they ignored all of the evidence He had provided to prove it. Earlier in this chapter, Jesus made it clear that those who are able to hear God’s Word are the actual children of God. Those who reject it are the children of the devil.
Being told that they were not of God did not sit well with them. After all, they were God’s chosen people—the sons of Abraham! But Jesus told them that if they were really the sons of Abraham, they would do what Abraham did (John 8:39-40). Abraham wasn’t made righteous by his birth or by his works. Abraham was made righteous before God because he believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness (Genesis 15:6). If they wanted to be the true children of God, they needed to put their faith in Him and in the One He sent—Jesus.
They didn’t like what they were hearing and didn’t want to tolerate it. But they couldn’t intelligently refute Him, so they resorted to personally attacking Him. To be fair, they were out of their intellectual league. They were arguing with God! But of course, their insults were patently false and unfounded. They claimed that Jesus was a Samaritan (the worst thing a Jew could be called at that time) and that He was demon-possessed.
Notice how Jesus didn’t respond. He didn’t get angry or defensive and He didn’t return insult for insult. He didn’t even respond to the first insult, maybe because His true lineage was easy to research and would disprove the Samaritan dig pretty quickly. Instead, He calmly denied that He was demon-possessed because He honored His Father. If He had been possessed by a demon, how would He have been able to honor God? But they dishonored God themselves because they dishonored God’s Son by insulting Him. In John 5:23-24 Jesus said: “Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him. Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.”
Jesus repeated this invitation to eternal life in today’s verses: “Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.” Even as they were dishonoring Him, He still told them how to be saved. He shared the Gospel with people who were insulting Him and plotting to kill Him!
Sadly, they didn't get it. They couldn’t see past the worldly and the temporary to the spiritual and the eternal. They took Him literally and said that even Abraham died. Who did this guy think He was? Was He claiming to be even greater than Abraham? Yes, that is exactly what He was claiming and He was telling them the truth. But they didn’t understand it because they were not of God. They claimed to know God even as they disrespected and rejected the One God sent to save them.
Friends, we can learn a lot about how to share the Gospel with others from Jesus’ encounter with the Jewish religious leaders. First, He didn’t respond in kind when they began flinging insults. Second, He never wavered from the truth even in the face of hostility and warned that God will ultimately judge. And finally, He told His opponents how to be saved. He didn’t let their name-calling and mudslinging stop Him from sharing the words of eternal life. Jesus extended the invitation to never die to everyone, even His opponents. And we should, too!
Lord, teach me Your ways! It is so hard for me to share the truth and Good News with people who mistreat me. I confess that it’s far easier for me to react in my flesh and respond in kind. But, I don’t wish eternal separation from God on anyone. Give me a sense of urgency to share Your invitation to eternal life with everyone—even my enemies. Amen.
Reveal: Who in your life needs to hear that if they trust in God’s Word they will “never see death”?
~ Pastor Nat Crawford