ANSWERS TO INSULTS — John 8:48-59

insults, John 8:48-59, name-calling, Uncategorized

Two little boys got into an argument and started hurling insults at one another.  The insults kept getting longer and longer.  These two children were new at this sort of thing.  Usually, this name-calling ended up in a fist fight, but one of the boys came up with an insult that was so long and so ridiculous that there was a moment of silence.  The boys looked at each other, started laughing, and then went back to playing with each other again.  I guess he won by an insult and the other boy conceded!  It’s too bad that many little children continue to practice insulting one another and become very good at it by the time they’ve grown to adulthood.

Have you ever been insulted?  Can you remember what it was like and the way you responded to it?  Can you remember hearing a person say something sarcastic and then realized that it was directed at you?  How did you react?  The children’s saying:  “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me” isn’t really true, is it?  I recently overheard someone make an insulting remark in the hearing of that person and in the hearing of those around her.  Later, when he tried to apologize, she wouldn’t accept it.  The hurt and embarrassment were too deep and his apology was too shallow.

An insult is defined as an offensive remark meant to hurt the feelings of another person.  Sarcasm is a mocking remark using statements that are usually the opposite of what the person really means.  The word “insult” comes from two Latin words meaning “to leap on”.  “Sarcasm” is derived from two Greek words meaning “to tear flesh”.  Those are good descriptions of what it feels like inside when you’re on the receiving end of an insult or of sarcasm, aren’t they?

In this passage of Scripture, John 8:48-59, Jesus is under verbal attack because of His claims and the statements He made to the Jewish leaders.  Let’s take a look at the words that are said to Jesus by the Jewish leaders, and seek to understand His responses to them.  To prepare your mind for what is about to be said, think about and answer for yourself the following two questions.  “What is the worst insult you can ever remember hearing or reading?”  Secondly, what is the most painful insult you have ever personally received from someone else?”  Have you answered both of those questions in your mind?  If so, you are better prepared to understand and identify with the sequence of events in this passage of Scripture.

I.  THEIR INSULTS (verse 48)

The Jewish leaders find themselves on the losing end of their conversation with Jesus.  Their self-glorification, calling themselves “children of Abraham” and “children of God” got them nowhere because they didn’t fit the description.  There was no spiritual resemblance between them and Abraham or God.  They also could not find Jesus guilty of any sin.  In their frustration, they resort to name-calling, and they are very good at it.  In verse 48, the Jews say to Jesus, “Do we not say rightly that You are a Samaritan and have a demon.”  That statement may not mean much in this day and age but in first-century Palestine, it was probably the worst thing a Jew could say to another Jew.  Either one of those descriptions is bad enough, but to put the two together is the ultimate slam.  This is the only place in all four of the Gospels where the words “a Samaritan and have a demon” are used together.

Why is that expression so demeaning?  They have already told Jesus that He had a demon in a previous conversation with Him in John 7.  True, but this time they are saying, “You are a demon-possessed Samaritan”.  The Samaritans were odious to the Jews, who considered them to be heretics because they were of mixed blood and worshipped at a different place and in different ways.  The Jews looked upon them as God’s “rejects” so they despised them and would have nothing to do with them.  To get the full picture, these Jews are saying to Jesus, “You’re not only rejected by God but you’re also controlled by demons!  Only a demon-possessed Samaritan would dare to question our relationship to Abraham and to God!”  After hurling this “mega-insult” at Jesus, I can envision the “victory-smiles” on their faces as they wait for Jesus to respond.

II.  JESUS’ RESPONSE (verses 49-51)

Once again their plan failed.  They expected to see Jesus lose His temper and lash out at them as they did to Him, but they were mistaken.  What Jesus doesn’t say in His response to them is as noteworthy as what He says.  Observe His opening words in verse 49:  “Jesus answered, ‘I do not have a demon’.”  He doesn’t say anything about the word “Samaritan”.  He ignores the word or intentionally overlooks it.  Why would He do such a thing?  Unlike His accusers, Jesus had no hatred toward the Samaritans.  He had no prejudices.

In the rest of verse 49, Jesus says, “but I honor My Father, but you dishonor Me.”  His purpose for coming to this earth was not self-promotion but the salvation of all who believed in Him.  Jesus was here to honor the Father, not Himself.  By trying to disgrace Him, these Jews were also dishonoring the Father whom they just claimed as their own.  He amplifies those words in verse 50 where He says, “But I do not seek My glory; there is One who seeks and judges.”  The Father’s glory and approval meant everything to the Lord Jesus Christ.  What others thought of Him was immaterial.  His Father would take care of His reputation and execute judgment.  Based upon what we read in the rest of the New Testament, His Father certainly has and He certainly will take care of those concerns.

In verse 51, the Lord Jesus makes a confusing claim and promise.  He says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word, he shall never see death.”  That statement must have raised some eyebrows on the faces of His listeners.  It opened some mouths also, as we’ll see in the next verse.  What does Jesus mean by that fantastic, illogical statement?  He’s not saying that those who keep His word won’t die physically.  He is saying what the apostle Paul later said in II Corinthians 5:8.  The person who follows the Lord and keeps His word, when he dies he is “absent from the body  . . . present with the Lord.”  He does not see the consequences of unbelief – a spiritual death described as a separation from God in Hell for eternity (John 5:24; Hebrews 9:27).  Rather, a believer closes his eyes for the last time on earth and opens them in the presence of the Lord in heaven.  He does not see death.  He sees the Lord Jesus and enjoys Him for eternity.  Isn’t that a wonderful thought!

III.  THEIR SARCASM (verses 52-53)

It wasn’t a wonderful thought in the minds of His listeners.  They are still interpreting His words from the wrong point of view.  However, those words became the fuel for more criticism on their parts.  This time it’s in the form of sarcasm.  They respond to Jesus by saying, “Now we know that you have a demon.”  He has removed all doubt in their minds.  They are saying, “Now we know that you are mentally deranged or crazy.”  That sort of thing was attributed to demons.  The sarcasm has begun!  Now they explain their reason for making that statement.  “Abraham died, and the prophets also; and yet You say, ‘If anyone keeps My word, he shall never taste of death.’ ”  They are rudely throwing Jesus’ words back in His face, loudly making fun of Him for making such a ridiculous statement.  “Abraham and the prophets died, and yet YOUUUU say . . . “.  If someone has ever done that to you, then you know how it hurts inside!

(MORE TO FOLLOW SOON)

CONSTRUCTION SITE:  (A Work-In-Progress)

Welcome to this recently-opened construction site:  John 8:48-59.  I’ve placed it on-site so that you can grab your gear and work alongside me if you would like to do so.  God wants all of us to be workmen who handle accurately the word of truth (II Tim. 2:15).  That involves a lot of hard work but it’s well worth the effort!

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