Daily Reflection – 4/11/19
Jesus said to the Jews: “Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever keeps my word will never see death.” So the Jews said to him, “Now we are sure that you are possessed. Abraham died, as did the prophets, yet you say, ‘Whoever keeps my word will never taste death.’ Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? Or the prophets, who died? Who do you make yourself out to be?” Jesus answered, “If I glorify myself, my glory is worth nothing; but it is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say, ‘He is our God.’ You do not know him, but I know him. And if I should say that I do not know him, I would be like you a liar. But I do know him and I keep his word. Abraham your father rejoiced to see my day; he saw it and was glad. So the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old and you have seen Abraham?” Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, before Abraham came to be, I AM.” So they picked up stones to throw at him; but Jesus hid and went out of the Temple area.( John 8:51-59)
The notion of someone being stoned to death is abhorrent to us. It still happens in those few places where Sharia Law is operative. Yet, thankfully, we consider such behavior to belong to a past age. It wasn’t uncommon in the time of Jesus. You may recall that Stephen, the first Christian martyr, was stoned to death.
In today’s gospel reading, Jesus’ opponents wanted to inflict the same fate on him, ‘at this they picked up stones to throw at him’, presumably with a view to killing him. It was a precursor of Jesus’ crucifixion.
What aroused such deadly anger from some people towards Jesus were the claims he was making for himself. There are two powerful claims Jesus makes for himself in today’s gospel, one at the beginning and the other at the end of the reading, ‘whoever keeps my word will never see death’, and ‘before Abraham ever was, I am’. Jesus was claiming to pre-exist Abraham and declaring that whoever believed in him would exist beyond this earthly life. They would never experience ultimate death. These claims, for believers, rather than arousing anger bring great consolation.
According to John’s gospel, Jesus pre-existed the universe. ‘In the beginning was the Word’. He came from another world, the world above, into this world. The Word became flesh. He offered the life of this other world, eternal life, to all who believed in him, to all who opened their lives to his coming. His journey from this world back to his heavenly Father was a journey that all who believe in him would also travel. This is good news which brings meaning and joy to our lives.
Any person calling himself/herself “Christian” understands that from our earliest years, we begin a journey with Christ. Each moment that we breathe is a moment when we choose to walk with Christ or walk away from Christ. The ways of the world work against that focus. It is only when we have encountered Christ in our life or when we grow old and contemplate the nearness of the end of our mortality do we realize that the journey has always been there. The incredible part is that the journey has no ending. The journey promises eternity. Faced with that, how can we ever choose to walk away?
Prayer of The Day
Loving God, even though I cannot see you; I trust and believe that you are always present to me. Give me the strength and the courage to always be present to you. Amen.
Take these last days of Lent to really examine how God has been working in your life. Today, take a few minutes to remember a moment of consolation, a moment where you really felt the presence of God in your life, and sit with that moment embracing the closeness of our God even in the midst of great mystery.