John 8:48 – 59

48 The people retorted, “You Samaritan devil! Didn’t we say all along that you were possessed by a demon?” 49 “No,” Jesus said, “I have no demon in me. For I honor my Father—and you dishonor me. 50 And though I have no wish to glorify myself, God is going to glorify me. He is the true judge. 51 I tell you the truth, anyone who obeys my teaching will never die!”

52 The people said, “Now we know you are possessed by a demon. Even Abraham and the prophets died, but you say, ‘Anyone who obeys my teaching will never die!’ 53 Are you greater than our father Abraham? He died, and so did the prophets. Who do you think you are?”

54 Jesus answered, “If I want glory for myself, it doesn’t count. But it is my Father who will glorify me. You say, ‘He is our God,’ 55 but you don’t even know him. I know him. If I said otherwise, I would be as great a liar as you! But I do know him and obey him. 56 Your father Abraham rejoiced as he looked forward to my coming. He saw it and was glad.”

57 The people said, “You aren’t even fifty years old. How can you say you have seen Abraham?” 58 Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, before Abraham was even born, I Am!” 59 At that point they picked up stones to throw at him. But Jesus was hidden from them and left the Temple.

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It’s clear that the conversation Jesus had with the Jewish people throughout John chapter eight continued to go from bad to worse.  Even though these people possessed the first seeds of faith (see verse 30), it becomes apparent as the chapter goes on that these people were still depending upon their Jewish heritage and religious practices to be the basis of their relationship with God.

It got to the point that Jesus accused them not only with the charge that they do not know or belong to God the Father, but that in fact they are really followers of Satan himself.  No wonder the people reacted with such hostility towards Jesus in verse 48.  They doubly insulted Jesus by saying that He was a “Samaritan devil” and was possessed by a demon.

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To appreciate the force of the first insult, it is helpful to know the historical background of the Samaritans.  Going back to the time of Solomon, we read of the breakup of the Kingdom of Israel.  When Solomon’s son Rehoboam took the throne, he tried to impose harsher labor policies over the people and the ten northern tribes broke away to form the Northern Kingdom (Israel) while Judah and Benjamin became the Southern Kingdom (Judah).

The rebel leader, Jeroboam, not only set up a northern kingdom in opposition to Rehoboam, but he also set up a substitute religion. In this northern region, also known as Samaria, King Jeroboam set up golden calves for people to worship at rather than risk that they go back to worship God at the Temple in Jerusalem.  He ordained common people rather than Levites to be the priests, and he set up pagan shrines and substitute festivals to keep people from returning to Jerusalem.

This began the institution of idolatry among the Jewish people of the north.  Then when the Northern Kingdom was captured by Assyria in 722 B.C., the Assyrians polluted the Jewish blood line by scattering many of them among the provinces of Assyria and also by bringing in outside people into the land of Samaria so that there was a lot of intermixed marriages which led to further idolatrous worship.

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So for the Jewish people to call Jesus a “Samaritan devil”, they were accusing Him of being an idolator and a religiously impure person.  And if that was not bad enough, they then said that He was possessed by a demon, which would mean that Jesus was being accused of being under the control of Satan and everything He taught and did was of satanic origin.

How backwards could it get?  The truth was the exact opposite of what the people were saying.  They were the ones who were blindly following the path of religious ritualism, which does not allow room for a living relationship with God.  They were the ones who had “hearts of stone” as Isaiah prophesied, and were not walking on the path of “righteousness by faith” as Abraham demonstrated.

And it was this very faith of Abraham which looked forward and saw that ultimately there would come a day when there would be the One who would finally deal with the problem of human sin through the giving of His life to pay the penalty of sin on behalf of all people who would put their trust in Him.

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If we can accept the fact that Jesus is one Person of the divine Godhead who came to earth to help bring people back to God, then it should not be hard to believe that through the eyes of faith, Abraham knew of the Savior who was to come.  And Jesus makes this claim to be such a One when he stated that “before Abraham was even born, I AM”, meaning that Jesus existed even before the time of Abraham.

The people who were so blind to the truth of who Jesus was, did at least catch the implications of what He was saying.  Jesus finally used the personal name of God (see Exodus 6:2-3) to explain His eternal nature as God.  They could not accept that truth and would rather have killed Jesus by stoning Him, than to change their views and beliefs.  I pray that you, my reader, would not be blind as well to this truth that Jesus always exists as the ever-present “I AM”.

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