by J. Randal Matheny, editor
The problem was not that the Jews failed to understand Jesus’ teaching. They understood him all to well.
“You aren’t greater than our father Abraham who died, are you? And the prophets died too! Who do you claim to be?” (John 8:53 NET).
Indeed, Jesus’ claims were preposterous for a mere man. “I tell you the solemn truth, if anyone obeys my teaching, he will never see death” (v. 51).
Such claims demanded that he be greater than Abraham and the prophets. The Jews stumbled at Jesus’ identity, not his teachings. If we have trouble thinking of him being fully man, the Jews could think of him as little else, and a lowly specimen of a man at that.
Yes, such wonderful and astounding words as Jesus spoke might have been acceptable had he shown his glory and floated above the temple!
But here is a man without rabbinic training forgiving a broken man in the temple. Only God can forgive sins! Yes, indeed, only God.
“Who do you say that I am?” Jesus asked his own disciples.
Jesus’ question was no mere conversation starter. It was the crux of their discipleship. And this moment serves as the peak of at least two of the gospel accounts.
If Jesus is who he claimed to be, the Son of God come down from heaven, his words deserve to be printed in red.
Better, they deserve to be, with the rest of his New Testament inspired by the Spirit sent by him, etched on hearts everywhere and proclaimed as the final word that will judge in the last day and the pattern by which we work and worship.
He who takes Jesus’ words lightly denies the sonship of Jesus.
He who presumes upon the grace of God despises the greatness of the Christ.
Jesus’ words are not hard to understand.
It is Jesus himself as Lord and God that rankles the arrogant and riles the stubborn.
The issue has always been whom we say that Jesus is.
Jesus’ identity is at the crux of discipleship.