48 The Jews answered and said to him, “Aren’t we saying it right that you’re a Samaritan and have a demon?”
49 Jesus answered”I do not have a demon, but I am honoring my Father and you are dishonoring me.
50 I am not seeking my own glory; the one who is seeking and judging it is.
51 I am honestly telling you, if anyone keeps my message, he will certainly not experience permanent death.”
52 Then the Jews said, “Now we know you have a demon. Abraham died and so did the prophets. You say, ‘If anyone keeps my message, he will not taste permanent death.’
53 Are you greater than our father Abraham who died? And the prophets died. Who do you claim to be?”
54 Jesus answered, “If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. My Father– about whom you say, ‘He is our God’– he is the one who is glorifying me.
55 You do not know him, but I know him. If I were to say I don’t know him, I would be a liar like you. But I do know him, and I keep his message.
56 Your father Abraham was exuberantly joyful so he could see my day; he saw it and rejoiced.”
57 That was why the Jews said to him, “You aren’t fifty years old yet, and you’ve seen Abraham?”
58 Jesus said to them, “I am honestly telling you, before Abraham existed, I am.”
59 That was why they picked up stones to throw at him. But Jesus was concealed and went out from the temple.
gospel lessons in the temple
This heated conversation is filled with amazing gospel lessons. It teaches that God the Father was in the process of glorifying his Son, Jesus. It teaches that the Son pre-existed with the Father, and is co-equal with the Father, so he could say “before Abraham existed, I am (ἐγὼ εἰμί). It also teaches about life after death. But it does not teach that believers will never die. That is a mistranslation, based on the mistaken theology that people have immortal souls that do not die. The Jews here admitted that Abraham died, and Jesus did not correct them. But Jesus taught here that believers who put their trust in his message will “certainly not experience permanent death”(θάνατον οὐ μὴ θεωρήσῃ εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα) (51). The Jews thought that Abraham had tasted that permanent death. They could not accept a Messiah who claimed to be greater than Abraham, and certainly thought it blasphemy for Jesus to claim the nature of God.
The good news is about who Christ is, and what he promises. You may not be able to understand how Jesus can be God in the flesh, but do not let that lack of understanding keep you from believing in him. You may not see why we have to be raised from the dead, but don’t let that keep you from trusting him for a resurrection. You will experience a temporary death unless Jesus returns before you die. But the gospel good news is that you do not have to experience permanent death. One day we will meet with Abraham on this earth made new, and celebrate our permanent life together.
LORD, give us the courage to believe in who you really are, and to trust you to fulfill what you really promised.