John 8:48-59: An Audience of one.
“48 The Jews answered him, “Aren’t we right in saying that you are a Samaritan and demon-possessed?”49 “I am not possessed by a demon,” said Jesus, “but I honor my Father and you dishonor me. 50 I am not seeking glory for myself; but there is one who seeks it, and he is the judge.51 Very truly I tell you, whoever obeys my word will never see death.”52 At this they exclaimed, “Now we know that you are demon-possessed! Abraham died and so did the prophets, yet you say that whoever obeys your word will never taste death. 53 Are you greater than our father Abraham? He died, and so did the prophets. Who do you think you are?”54 Jesus replied, “If I glorify myself, my glory means nothing. My Father, whom you claim as your God, is the one who glorifies me. 55 Though you do not know him, I know him. If I said I did not, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and obey his word. 56 Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad.”57 “You are not yet fifty years old,” they said to him, “and you have seen Abraham!”58 “Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!” 59 At this, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds.”
This story contains one of the most remarkable statements Jesus ever made (58). He took to Himself the most sacred name of God: ”I am”. His opponents knew exactly what He was claiming (59) and wanted to mete out the punishment appropriate to a blasphemer. I read a book once which spoke about the ”ego-centricity” of Christ’s claims. He spoke often about Himself, and called people to Himself – said they could find their true satisfaction in Him; that their eternal destiny depended on their response to Him. Yet it is obvious that He was a humble Man. How do these two things fit together? The truth is that if Jesus is God there is no problem at all in Him speaking this way. It would be quite natural.
In this passage we again see how Jesus conducted Himself in a hostile world, and He models qualities and characteristics that should be true of us.
At its core, Jesus’ life was about honouring the Father (49b, 50 and 54). We each need to settle this issue of glory. For who’s glory are we living? Some time ago, I heard a commentary on an Olympic race. I think it came from London 2012. As the athlete crossed the line for gold a huge cheer went up. It really was loud and wildly enthusiastic. But I noticed that after a moment or two it subsided. I thought, ”It’s like that in life isn’t it? Whatever praise/honour may come your way, it doesn’t last very long. And what people think about you isn’t really important. The only verdict on your life that counts is God’s. He’s your ”judge” (50). Human applause lasts for but a moment, but God’s judgment is eternal.” Ultimately, it is wisest to live for ”an audience of one.”
Sometimes, living to honour God will mean contradicting (48/49a) what a lying world says (55). You will find that you are on a collision course with it. (This is not always the case of course. There will be times when you let it be said and just submit your case to God. You don’t attempt to refute it at all.There is ”a time to be silent and a time to speak” Ecclesiastes 3:7b. We each must seek to be led by the Spirit in our responses.)
Honouring God, though, will always involve ‘keeping’ His Word (51, 52 and 55); keeping Christ’s Word. This means not only knowing it, but also doing it.
It was with reference to Jesus’ claim in (51) that ”the Jews” brought up the matter of Abraham (52, 53). They wondered, was He saying that He was greater than Abraham, who died? That He was greater than the prophets, who died? Clearly He was, and He is worthy, not just of our admiration and respect, but also of our worship.