John 8:51-55 (NIV)
“I tell you the truth, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.”
At this the Jews exclaimed, “Now we know that you are demon-possessed! Abraham died and so did the prophets, yet you say that if anyone keeps your word, he will never taste death. Are you greater than our father Abraham? He died, and so did the prophets. Who do you think you are?”
Jesus replied, “If I glorify myself, my glory means nothing. My Father, whom you claim as your God, is the one who glorifies me. 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 keep his word.”
Jesus’ statement that anyone who keeps His word would never see death was not designed to be inflammatory – it was simply a statement of fact, a promise based on solid truth. But some of His hearers were genuinely inflamed by it.
Their argument was that everyone dies, and always had, even the holy men and women and prophets of old. So, Jesus must be either insane or demon-possessed to believe that He had any kind of power over death. It put them on the offensive, demanding to know who Jesus actually claimed to be, so that they could accurately judge whether He was insane or not.
Some believe that this was a tricky spot for Jesus – that if He answered incorrectly, many of those who believed in Him would turn away, and he would lose a lot of credibility with everyone. But Jesus’ stock in trade was the plain truth, uncolored, and unflavored by the slightest spin or nuance. And if people refused to receive the truth, then they were not actually His followers in the first place.
Jesus’ point in His reply is that His claims to be somebody of significance would be absolutely meaningless. Instead, he would simply allow God to glorify Him by what He called Him and empowered Him to do. That was really all the credentials that he needed. Moses, Abraham, and the prophets had indeed all died, but Jesus was doing far greater works than any of them had ever imagined. And it was those works, done in complete obedience to God’s word, that testified about who He truly was.
Father, the works that You performed through Jesus glorified both You and Him. And the works that You perform through us today still glorify both You and Jesus, as well as give solid proof of the truth that we live by and share with everyone we meet. Help us to never seek glory for ourselves as we serve You, but to always point everyone to You, the source of both our salvation and our power. Amen.