27 July 2017

John 8:48-59

“Yet I do not seek my own glory; there is one who seeks it and he is the judge. Very truly, I tell you, whoever keeps my word will never see death.” (Vv. 50-51)

Psalm: Psalm 42


The great gulf between Jesus and those John's Gospel labels "the Jews" is explored further in this passage. At its heart is the issue of who is good and right, who is really honouring God the Father. It is not though a question about ethics, but about understanding Jesus.

Perhaps though we should admit that what Jesus says here is not easy to understand. For example, he says "whoever keeps my word will never see death". If we take this literally as those arguing with Jesus seem to do, it can seem very difficult to accept it, the evidence is against it. Notice though how the crowd misquote Jesus; he says "see death", they say "taste death" (v. 52). Somehow they cannot hear what Jesus is really saying, either in terms of particular words or the whole picture; they cannot grasp the truth, but instead distort Jesus' words. When Jesus says "will never see death", he is saying that for those who accept him death is no longer the end. For once you truly have a relationship with God, that is not just for here and now, but for all time and eternity, we do not go from life to death, but life to life.

When Jesus tells them that "it is my Father who glorifies me" (v. 54), it is really Jesus' knowledge of his relationship with the father which makes him strong. This relationship makes references to time or death irrelevant, as the relationship is like God's very nature - unlimited by time or death. It is a relationship with God that Jesus' life, death and resurrection made possible. This is what Jesus did for us and so we can recognise him as God's Son. This is the way to life; but notice the other death references in this passage, at the end they pick up stones to throw at Jesus and this time he gets away (verse 59). Later he is crucified and John's Gospel sees this as his ultimate glorification, the point when the hidden nature of God is clearly revealed. The Son dies and is raised for us, death is "swallowed up in victory" (1 Corinthians 15:54).

To Ponder

  • Spend at least a few minutes simply being still in God's presence. Can you still feel amazed that you can have a relationship with him?
  • Is there a grieving person you could comfort today? Our faith gives us hope, but this does not negate the pain of loss and grief.

Bible notes author

June Feather

June Feather is a manager and Religious Studies teacher in a sixth form college. She preaches in the Cleveland and Danby Circuit, and feels privileged to live in such a lovely area with its country and coastal walks.