To read the texts click on the texts: Gen 17:3-9; Jn8:51-59
The consequence of keeping Jesus’ word is the destruction of death itself, since his word is a life giving word and can only result in life. This promise of Jesus is misunderstood by the listeners. They attack Jesus’ identity by appealing to Abraham and the fact that he died. Since Abraham died, the words of Jesus cannot be true. They thus accuse Jesus of being possessed by a demon. They keep challenging Jesus by asking him whether he is greater than Abraham. While the question here assumes a negative response, for the one who has accepted Jesus, the response can only be positive. Jesus is indeed greater than Abraham and all the prophets. The reason for this is that Jesus does not glorify himself. It is the Father himself who glorifies Jesus. It is the God in whom the Jews believe who glorifies Jesus. The Jews claim to “know” him, but in reality do not. It is Jesus who knows and reveals the Father and so anyone who refuses to believe in this revelation is shutting him/herself out from the truth and so indulging in lies and falsehood.
For the first time here Jesus himself appeals to Abraham to prove his claims. However, by the use of the distancing “your ancestor Abraham” Jesus indicates on the one hand that there is a distance between him and his listeners and on the other that while they may have Abraham as their ancestor (father) he has only God as his. Even so it is Abraham their father who also testified to Jesus when the grace was given to him by God to “see” Jesus’ day. He did see it and rejoiced in it. Here too the Jews misunderstand Jesus. They appeal to chronology, not realizing that Jesus goes beyond time and space. The double “Amen” with which Jesus responds is an indication on the one had of a new teaching and on the other of a deep revelation. While on the one hand there is a contrast of tenses: the past (Abraham was) and the present (I am), on the other hand the “I am” saying is used here in the absolute sense indicating that Jesus identifies himself with God. Jesus is infinitely greater than Abraham since Jesus is one with God.
The Jews respond to this revelation by wanting to stone Jesus because they consider it blasphemy. However, since his hour had not yet come, Jesus cannot be touched.
As human beings we often set limits on ourselves. While this is bad enough, we often also go further and set limits on God. We decide in advance what God can and cannot do and so miss out on mystery and miracle. Our stereotypes and closed minds result in our missing out on the revelation that God continues to make to us. In our understanding of who God is or how God reveals himself, it is important for us to note that with our finite minds we will never be able to totally fathom the depths of this mystery. We are limited by space and time, but God is not. Thus, it is important to open our minds as fully as we can and even after we have done this to know that there will still be much that we do not and can never know.
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