“The Jews answered Him, “Are we not right in saying 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. Yet I do not seek My own glory; there is One who seeks it, and He is the judge. Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word, he will never see death.”” (John 8:48–51, ESV)
In the midst of this confrontation with these certain Jews we don’t want to lose sight of the fact that there were also those who believed and remained in the crowd as witnesses to what was going on. There were also those wo were questioning and did not know what to make of Jesus. And of course there were the chief priests and Pharisees who sought to have Jesus arrested. It can be very easy to paint an entire group of people with a broad brush because of a vocal and forceful contingent no matter its size. This is not what Jesus was doing. Rather, He was responding directly to the challenges of those whose hard hearts and judgmental attitudes brought about the confrontation. He even pointed to how these very characteristics were proofs of the fact that they really did not know God or seek after Him with their whole hearts. These are the people that Jesus told were of their father the devil and who did not know God.
In response they said, “Are we not right in saying that You are a Samaritan and have a demon?” What they did was try to turn the table on Jesus. They could find no error in His teaching or flaw in His personal life so they tried to attack Him by painting Him with a brush that the rest of the Jews would find distasteful. Generally speaking the Jews had no (or very limited) dealings with the Samaritans. The Samaritans knew God and claimed Abraham as their father, but they rejected much of the oral tradition of the rabbis. As such there was a great deal of tension between them and very little trust. If they could lump Jesus in with this group then they would call into question all that He had said and done. Above that, if in the process they could also assert that it was Him who had the demon then they could also write off the things He had done to the demon as well. They may not have put all of this thought into their response. It may have just been a knee jerk, “No I’m not, you are” kind of response.
In either case Jesus did not let their trying to impugn Him give Him cause to stop speaking. Jesus heard their words and He responded in much the same way that He had responded numerous times before. “I do not have a demon, but I honor My Father, and you dishonor Me. Yet I do not seek My own glory; there is One who seeks it, and He is the judge.” First He did not let their statement about Him having a demon go unaddressed. He simply denied it and moved on, saying just what He had said before. Nothing that He said or did was done to bring glory to Himself. He came to honor the Father, and that was exactly what He was doing in everything. But rather than respecting His faithfulness to the Father they dishonored Him. He said that He did not come to seek His own glory but that there is One who seeks and judges. On earth it might seem to continue as a “He said, they said” kind of thing, but in eternity there is a Judge who will rightly handle every person, including these harsh and dishonoring Jews.
In verse 51 Jesus again capped a point with the words “Truly, truly.” Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word, he will never see death.” Some had heard His words and believed. Others may have listened to His words and did not know what to believe. These to who Jesus responded rejected His words and were going to be judged accordingly lest they change. But the first group, the ones who heard and believed, these are the ones that will never see death. When that day comes they will truly know the life that they had been given.
We live in a country that is looking less and less Christian; where antagonism toward Christians is increasing and where Christians are being impugned for the values they hold. There are those who are seeking to silence them just as we continue to see much more dramatically elsewhere in the world. And while they may not be seeking to put Christians to death here as they are elsewhere, there are those who are seeking to remove them from every public arena and place of power or authority. There really is nothing different, and short of these people recognizing their antagonism toward God and believing in His Son sent to give them life, they like the ones to whom Jesus spoke will stand judged for dishonoring those who honor God. In the face of this we can look to the example of Jesus who while responding to their misrepresentations, really kept His words on task and His heart in line.
“For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in His steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When He was reviled, He did not revile in return; when He suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting Himself to Him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By His wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.” (1 Peter 2:20–25, ESV)
“Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me [Paul] His prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of His own purpose and grace, which He gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, for which I was appointed a preacher and apostle and teacher, which is why I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that He is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me.” (2 Timothy 1:8–12, ESV)