To read the texts click on the texts: Gen 17:3-9; Jn 8:51-59
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.
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.
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
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 he 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.