to obey is better than sacrifice / obedience is better than sacrifice *
October 22, 2019 – Tuesday
John 8:48-52 NIV
48 The Jews answered him, “Aren’t we right in saying that you are a Samaritan and demon-possessed?”
49 “I am not possessed by a demon,” said Jesus, “but I honor My Father and you dishonor Me.
50 I am not seeking glory for Myself; but there is one who seeks it, and he is the judge.
51 Very truly I tell you, whoever obeys My word will never see death.”
52 At this they exclaimed, “Now we know that you are demon-possessed! Abraham died and so did the prophets, yet you say that whoever obeys your word will never taste death.
This is a chapter in the book of John where I would like to start ten or more verses earlier to provide ever greater context. In fact I would like to start at the beginning where a woman caught in adultery is brought before Jesus (verses 1-11). At the end Jesus tells her Go now and leave your life of sin. There is even controversy about whether it was added to the book of John or if it belongs therein with the final consensus being “Throughout the history of the church it has been held that, whoever wrote [this section], this little story is authentic”. We are not, therefore, uncomfortable in accepting the record as actual history.
The purpose of the story was to entrap Jesus as is most of this chapter as the Pharisees argued with Him over and over. Such is true in verses 12-20 when they disputed His testimony and again in verses 21-30 when Jesus predicted His death and the Pharisee disputed who Jesus is. All leading to Jesus speaking to them about freedom from slavery to sin while their blindness leads them to miss His point entirely and argue they are Abraham’s descendents and have never been slaves. Jesus acknowledges they are descendents of Abraham, but (!) a major dispute arises over who their spiritual father is and Jesus pulls no punches after they again claimed Abraham as their father 39b “If you were Abraham’s children then you would do what Abraham did. 40 As it is, you are looking for a way to kill Me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. Abraham did not do such things. 41 You are doing the works of your own father.”
Then it becomes even more pointed when they protest and argue 41b“We are not illegitimate children. The only Father we have is God himself.” Quick note: their claim not to be illegitimate was a poke at Jesus and His mother via the rumors Mary was pregnant when Joseph married her. Jesus only answered the lie that the only Father they had was God himself in a great indictment of them leading directly to our verses for today.
42 “If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I have come here from God. I have not come on My own; God sent Me. 43 Why is My language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. 44 You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 45 Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe Me! 46 Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don’t you believe me? 47 Whoever belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.”
Notice in their immediate reply, Aren’t we right in saying that you are a Samaritan and demon-possessed, they did not deny what Jesus had said about them and their belonging to their spiritual father, the devil. Jews of Jesus’ time were very racist toward Samaritans and Pharisees especially despised the Samaritans. To turn to such an insult is to admit they had been defeated in their arguments so they began with their name calling as being called a Samaritan was one of the greatest insults a Jew could direct at another Jew. Of course they also added Jesus was demon possessed, an argument they had tried earlier and lost in Mark 3:22-30.
Jesus replies directly to them saying I am not possessed by a demon, but I honor My Father and you dishonor Me. 50 I am not seeking glory for Myself; but there is one who seeks it, and he is the judge. 51 Very truly I tell you, whoever obeys My word will never see death. The key being whoever obeys (or keeps in many versions) His word will never see death.
The Pharisees reply immediately twisting His words exclaiming, Now we know that you are demon-possessed! Abraham died and so did the prophets, yet you say that whoever obeys your word will never taste death. Jesus said will never see death, they said will never taste death. They refused to acknowledge that He was speaking of ‘the resurrection from the dead’, something that they, as Pharisees, believed in where everyone still tasted death as even Jesus would. Then went on questioning Him, 53 Are you greater than our father Abraham? He died, and so did the prophets. Who do you think you are?”
They did not like His answer when He replied, 54 If I glorify Myself, My glory means nothing. My Father, whom you claim as your God, is the one who glorifies Me. 55 Though you do not know Him, I know Him. If I said I did not, I would be a liar like you, but I do know Him and obey His word. 56 Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing My day; he saw it and was glad. Blind to what He was saying they could only reply You are not yet fifty years old, and you have seen Abraham!” It was then Jesus replied in such a way as to reveal who He was and is 58 Very truly I tell you before Abraham was born, I am! Then this chapter ends with 59 At this, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds.
Quite an incredible chapter and wonderful promises if we will only obey and keep Jesus’ words. We can be blind like the Pharisees were and remain slaves to sin or we can accept eternal life through Jesus as our Lord and Savior. The choice, as always, is ours.
(to obey is better than sacrifice / obedience is better than sacrifice)
* Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams. (1 Samuel 15:22)