John 8: 48-59
48 The Jews answered him, ‘Are we not right in saying that you are a Samaritan and have a demon?’ 49Jesus answered, ‘I do not have a demon; but I honor my Father, and you dishonor me. 50Yet I do not seek my own glory; there is one who seeks it and he is the judge. 51Very truly, I tell you, whoever keeps my word will never see death.’ 52The Jews said to him, ‘Now we know that you have a demon. Abraham died, and so did the prophets; yet you say, “Whoever keeps my word will never taste death.” 53Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? The prophets also died. Who do you claim to be?’ 54Jesus answered, ‘If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me, he of whom you say, “He is our God”, 55though you do not know him. But I know him; if I were to say that I do not know him, I would be a liar like you. But I do know him and I keep his word. 56Your ancestor Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day; he saw it and was glad.’ 57Then the Jews said to him, ‘You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?’* 58Jesus said to them, ‘Very truly, I tell you, before Abraham was, I am.’ 59So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple.
Continuing the conflict – Jesus’ opponents now call him the worst name they can think of (he has already shown that he does not share their prejudice) – they call him a Samaritan. Furthermore, they say he is a Samaritan who is possessed by a demon. Jesus says, no, I’m not a Samaritan, and I am not possessed – I honor my Father, and they were dishonoring him.
Do we use stereotypes and generalizations – prejudices – to dishonor other people, who are God’s dearly loved children? Think about it.
Jesus goes on – he is not here for his own glory – but the one who seeks glory through him is the judge of all. And then he makes another outrageous statement – at least his listeners find it outrageous, “Whoever keeps my word will never see death.” Once again, the listeners respond to the surface of the words – “Even Abraham died! Are you greater than Abraham?” Of course, we know the irony of their words, for Jesus was, and is, greater than Abraham; and because he would, of course, die – when these antagonists finally turned him over to Rome on false charges. But Jesus conquered death in the resurrection, and those who follow him also conquer death – we die, and yet we live. (You have to see the multiple levels of this conversation!)
And Jesus goes on scandalizing them – they claim to know God, but they do not know him – Jesus knows him. Abraham rejoiced to see his day – now they scoff, how could he have seen Abraham? And Jesus responds, “before Abraham was, I AM.” As we have said, Jesus uses the Holy name of God, YHWH, when he says “I AM”. As John begins his gospel, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Jesus and the great I AM are one.
And of course, the antagonists think this is blasphemy, and attempt to stone him – but Jesus walks away.