John 8:48-53 “Then the Jews answered and said to Him, “Do we not say rightly that You are a Samaritan and have a demon?”  Jesus answered, “I do not have a demon; but I honor My Father, and you dishonor Me.  And I do not seek My own glory; there is One who seeks and judges.  Most assuredly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word he shall never see death.”  Then the Jews said to Him, “Now we know that You have a demon! Abraham is dead, and the prophets; and You say, ‘If anyone keeps My word he shall never taste death.’  Are You greater than our father Abraham, who is dead? And the prophets are dead. Who do You make Yourself out to be?”

It seems humorous to me that the religious rulers reverted to a child’s type of reasoning when they pursued their claim to righteousness by seeming to say ‘we are not children of the devil; You are the one who has a demon.’  And then calling Jesus a Samaritan was a rude racial description reserved for people that were hated.

We should notice that Jesus did not even address the insult of being called a Samaritan.  The religious rulers knew that Jesus was not a Samaritan, and Jesus just refused to acknowledge their insult.  But Jesus did answer to their charge that He was “demon-possessed” when He answered that he honored His Father and they dishonored Him.  Jesus did not work towards His own glory, but there is One who was going to glorify Jesus, and He is the true Judge.

So Jesus denied their charge, and more accurately, it is He who truly honors His Father.  No one who was demon possessed would honor God the way that Jesus honored His Father.  The religious rulers did not understand it, but by dishonoring Jesus, they also dishonored God.

Jesus told the religious rulers, “if a man keeps My word he will never see death.”  Should they have understood what Jesus actually meant?  I think they should have understood what He was saying.  The Pharisees believed in eternal life, and the sense of this passage is, ‘he shall obtain eternal life, or he shall be raised up to that life where there shall be no death.’  They recognized that the words of Jesus offered eternal life.  Those who acted in response to His words would never die.  And even in this, the Pharisees knew Jesus was speaking about eternal death.

Jesus taught that the way to eternal life was by studying His words, receiving His truth, believing Him and responding to Him, and obeying Him. 

The Pharisees wrongly taught that eternal life was gained by a constant study of the words of Moses, and an effort to obey them as they were explained by the Rabbis, demonstrating by their involvement in God’s covenant. 

The religious rulers knew that Jesus was replacing Moses and that He putting Himself in the place of Moses; and the religious rulers hated Him for that.

The religious rulers, mainly the Pharisees, refused to understand spiritually what Jesus was saying, and preferred to take His words physically.

The religious rulers said to him, “Now we know that you have a demon.  To the religious rulers, this proved that Jesus was not in His right mind.  Their proof is that Jesus said that those who keep His word shall never die, but Abraham died and the prophets also died; so to the religious rulers, it seemed to be that Jesus was making Himself greater than those who were most highly respected, esteemed and honored above all others.  And they asked Jesus, “Surely You are not greater than our father Abraham, who died?  The prophets died too”.  If it were today, they would have asked, ’who do You think You are?’

As the religious rulers attempted to ridicule Jesus, He ignored their ridicule.  They tried to ridicule His teaching, and His words became stronger.  They knew what He really meant and they were aware that there were others who were listening, so they altered the words of Jesus from “see death” to “taste of death” with an attempt to emphasize physical death as their remarks about Abraham and the prophets showed.  The Pharisees refused to acknowledge that Jesus was speaking of the ‘second death’ or the ‘eternal death’, which was something they believed in too.

Are you greater than our father Abraham?’  The literal Greek suggests this question is to be answered in a negative way.  Even though the Pharisees believed in the resurrection of the dead, and this was something they should have acknowledged was what Jesus meant.  They also believed that Abraham and the prophets would be in the resurrection.  But misrepresentation is the weapon of deceivers, and that was what the religious rulers were.  So, they professed to believe that He meant physical death.  They were playing to the multitudes.  So, once again, they changed what Jesus actually said and incorrectly repeated His words and said that true believers would never taste death when both Abraham and the prophets were all dead…in another attempt to make Jesus look wrong, as they make deceives of themselves.

Lisa DeLancey is a staff writer for The Leader, focusing on education. She is a 2016 graduate of The University of Memphis.