describe a further conversation, not with the same audience. The words record a vivid conflict between the Lord and the Jews who believed him, who accepted the Messianic claims, but persisted in interpreting them, not by his word, but by their own ideas of the theocratic kingdom, by their privileges as children of Abraham, by their national animosity to their nearest neighbours the Samaritans, by their inability to press behind the veil of his humanity to his Divine nature. Their faith was of the most imperfect kind; but such as it was, it was made manifest to the observation of the apostle, and this throws light upon the fact that, among the many who believed on him, or rather alongside of these, there was a certain section of "the Jews," of the chief rulers and rabbis, who made a definite movement towards him. This doubtless excited the intense enthusiasm of the disciples, who might at once hope and almost expect that Jesus would with open arms accept their homage. But he at once puts this faith of theirs—perhaps ignorantly expressed—to a proof absolutely necessary for the salvation of his hearers.
(6) THE I AM . The claim to be the Source of liberty and life, in reply to those who appealed to their Father God and their father Abraham, led Jesus to assert his anteriority to Abraham.
Deliverance of the believer from death.
The dialogue now takes a new turn.
I. THE BLESSED PROMISE MADE TO THE OBEDIENT DISCIPLE . "If a man keep my Word, he shall never see death." he evidently now addresses those Jews who believe in him.
1 . The character of discipleship. It
2 . The blessed destiny of discipleship.
II. FRESH MISAPPREHENSION OF THE JEWS . "Now we know that thou hast a devil. Abraham is dead, and the prophets; and thou sayest, If a man keep my saying, he shall never taste of death. Art thou greater than our father Abraham, who is dead? whom makest thou thyself?"
1 . The Jews argued that Abraham and the prophets had kept God ' s Word, yet were not exempted from the bitter experience of death. Therefore the declaration of Jesus seemed to prove his utter self-delusion.
2 . Their question "Art thou greater than our father Abraham?" implies that they refused to regard Jesus as the Messiah, or as the Son of God, or even as a divinely sent Prophet.
III. JESUS DECLARES THERE IS NO COMPARISON BETWEEN ABRAHAM AND HIMSELF . "If I honour myself, my honour is nothing: it is my Father that honoureth me; of whom ye say, that he is your God."
1 . The question of the relative dignity of himself and Abraham is not due to any personal ambition on his part, but in obedience to the will of his Father.
2 . His higher dignity was due to his complete knowledge of his Father, and his perfect obedience to his will.
3 . The true relation of Abraham to Christ. "Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad."
(a) to himself,
(b) to the Jews,
(c) to the world.
4 . The joy of Abraham contrasts strangely with the hatred and malice excited by the visible presence of the same Redeemer among Abraham's descendants.
IV. A FRESH MISAPPREHENSION OF OUR LORD 'S WORDS . "Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham?"
1 . The Jews did not believe in Christ ' s preexistence. He was only the Son of Joseph and Mary.
2 . His allusion to his age exaggerates the actual years of his life, probably because, as "the Man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief," he had aged fast in the hard stress of daily anxieties, caused by the increasing signs of Jewish hostility.
3 . Our Lord ' s answer is an explicit revelation of his Divinity. "Before Abraham was, I am."
V. EFFECT OF THIS DECLARATION UPON THE JEWS . "Then took they up stones to cast at him: but Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple."
1 . The Jews at last understood the meaning of our Lord ' s words.
2 . Their attempt to stone him implied their definite rejection of him.
3 . Jesus placed himself at once out of their reach, as "his time was not yet come."
Christ and Abraham.
"Whom makest thou thyself?" In answer to this question and to the objections made by his opponents, our Lord further reveals himself.
I. IN RELATION TO THE FATHER .
1 . His entire devotion to him. This includes:
2 . Some of the features of his peculiar honour.
3 . His entire contrast with his foes.
II. IN HIS RELATION TO ABRAHAM , AND ABRAHAM TO HIM . These Jews claimed Abraham as their father, and attempted to cause a discord between him and Christ; but he reveals himself in relation to the patriarch.
1 . In relation to his highest interest.
2 . In relation to Abraham ' s age. "Before Abraham," etc. This implies:
III. HIS REVELATION OF HIMSELF IN RELATION TO HIS OPPONENTS .
1 . They understood it. It was intellectually intelligible to them. They were too acquainted with the attributes and designations of Jehovah to misunderstand the language of Christ, and their application to himself was felt by them, as their conduct proves.
2 . It became to them unbearable. "They took up stones," etc. A proof of:
3 . It widened the gulf between him and them. It was wide before—wider now. As he revealed himself in the sublimest manner as their promised Messiah and the Son of God, they in consequence revealed themselves in stone throwing as his most implacable and deadly foes.
4 . His revelation was suitably appended by his apparently miraculous escape. "But Jesus hid himself," etc. Hid himself in the folds of his glory. A suitable sequel to his revelation of himself as their Divine Deliverer. How easily and effectively could he defend himself, and retaliate in their fashion! But he preferred his own. He had a royal road. He departed as a King. He could walk through the crowd unobserved, and through the stones unhurt. The weak are more ready to attack than the strong, but there is more majesty in the retreat of the strong than in the attack of the weak. When stone throwing begins, it is time for the messenger of peace to retire. The stones may kill his person, but cannot kill his published message, and he may be wanted elsewhere.
1 . Natural relationships often survive the spiritual. The natural relationship between these people and Abraham, and even between them and God, still remained, while the spiritual was all but gone. This is true of God and evil spirits.
2 . When the spiritual relationship is destroyed, the natural availeth nothing. It is only the foundation of an empty boast and hypocritical self-righteousness, and at last the source of painful reminiscences and contrasts.
3 . The best of fathers often have the worst of children. This is true of Abraham, and even of God—the best Father of all.
4 . Much of the religious capital of the present is derived entirely from the past. Many claim relationship with, and boast of, the reformers and illustrous men of bygone ages, and this is all their stock-in-trade. Their names are on their lips, while their principles are under their feet.
5 . It was the chief mission of Christ to explain and establish the spiritual relationship between man and God. To establish it on a sound basis—the basis of faith, obedience, and love. To be the real children of God and of our pious ancestors, we must partake of their spiritual nature and principles. This Jesus taught with fidelity, although it cost him at last a cruel cross.
6 . We are indirectly indebted to the cavils of foes for some of the sublimest revelations of Jesus of himself. It was so here. Their foul blasphemies, after all, served as advantageous backgrounds to his grand pictures of incarnate Divinity and love; so that we are not altogether sorry that they called him a "Samaritan" and a demon, as in consequence he shines forth with peculiar brilliancy as the Friend of sinners, the Son of God, and the Saviour of mankind.—B.T.