German text: Erlangen edition 11:143; Walch 11:774; St. Louis 11:566.
John 8:46-59. Which of you convicteth me of sin? I say truth, why do ye not believe me? He that is of God heareth the words of God: for this cause ye hear them not, because ye are not of God. The Jews answered and said unto him, Say we not well that thou art a Samaritan, and hast a demon? Jesus answered, I have not a demon; but I honor my Father, and ye dishonor me. But I seek not mine own glory; there is one that seeketh and judgeth.
Verily, verily, I say unto you, If a man keep my word, he shall never see death. The Jews said unto him. Now we know that thou hast a demon. Abrahamdied, and the prophets; and thou sayest, If a man keep my Word, he shall never taste of death. Art thou greater than our FatherAbraham who died? and the prophetsdied: whom makest thou thyself? Jesus answered, If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing: it is my Father that glorifieth me; of whom ye say, that he is your God; and ye have not known him: but I know him.; and if I should say, I know him not, I shall be like unto you, a liar; but I know him and keep his Word. Your fatherAbrahamrejoiced to see my day; and he saw it, and was glad. The Jews therefore said unto him, Thou art not yet fifty years old, and thou hast seen Abraham? Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was born, I am. They took up stones therefore to cast at him: but Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple.
CHRIST’S DEFENSE AGAINST HIS ENEMIES.
I. HOW AND WHY CHRIST IN HIS DEFENSE DEMANDS AREASON WHY HIS ENEMIES DO NOT BELIEVE
* It is required of a teacher that he be blameless in his life and teachings 2-8.
II. HOW AND WHY IN HIS DEFENSE HE PASSES SUCH ASEVERE JUDGMENT UPON HIS ENEMIES
3. The foundation and reason of this efficacy 14-15.
1. This Gospelteaches how hardened persons become the more furious, the more one teaches them and lovingly stirs them to do their duty. For Christ asks them here in a very loving way for a reason why they still disbelieve, since they can find fault neither with his life nor with his teaching. His life is blameless; for he defies them and says: “Which of you convicteth me of sin?” His teaching also is blameless; for he adds: “If I say truth, why do ye not believe me?” Thus Christ lives, as he teaches.
2. And every preacher should prove that he possesses both: first a blameless life, by which he can defy his enemies and no one may have occasion to slander his teachings; secondly, that he possesses the pure doctrine, so that he may not mislead those who follow him. And thus he will be right and firm on both sides: with his good life against his enemies, who look much more at life than at his doctrine, and despise the doctrine for the sake of the life; with his doctrine then for the kind of life he leads and will bear with his life for the sake of his teaching.
3. For it is indeed true that no one lives so perfect a life as to be without sin before God. Therefore it is sufficient that he be blameless in the eyes of the people. But his doctrine must be so good and pure as to stand not only before man but also before God. Therefore every pious pastor may well ask: Who among you can find fault with my life? Among you, I say who are man; but before God I am a sinner. This Moses also boast in <041615 Numbers 16:15 that he took nothing from the people and he did them no injustice. Samuel did likewise in 1 Samuel 12:3 also Jeremiah and Hezekiah, who rightly boasted of their blameless life before the people, in order to stop the mouths of blasphemers. But Christ does not speak thus of his doctrine, he says not: “Who among you can find fault with my doctrine”; but “If I tell you the truth.” For one must be assured that his doctrine is right before God and that it is the truth, and accordingly care not how it is judged by the people.
4. Hence the Jews have no ground for their unbelief than that they are not the children of God; therefore he passes judgment upon them and says: “He that is of God heareth the words of God; for this cause ye hear them not, because ye are not of God,” that cannot mean anything else than that you are of the devil.
5. The Jews could not stand this, for they wished to be God’s children and people; therefore they are now raging and slander both Christ’s life and his doctrine; his doctrine, in that they say: “Thou hast a devil,” that is, thou speakest moved by the devil and thy doctrine is his lie; and they slander his life, in that they say, “Thou art a Samaritan,” which sounds among the Jews worse than any other crime. In this way Christteaches us here the fate that awaits us Christians and his Word; both our life and our doctrine must be condemned and reviled, and that by the foremost, wisest and greatest of earth. Thus one knows the corrupttree by its fruits, as they, under the pretense of being good, are so bitter, angry, impatient, cruel and mad as to condemn and pass sentence, when one touches them at their tender spot and rejects their ideas and ways.
8. By these words he spoils it entirely, in that he does not only defend his doctrine as right and good, which they attribute to the devil; but also ascribes such virtue to his teaching that it becomes a powerfulemperor over Satan, death and sin, to give and sustain eternallife. Behold here, how divinewisdom and human reason conflict with one another. How can a human being grasp the thought, that a corporeal, an oral word should redeem forever from death? But let blindnessrun its course; we shall consider this beautiful saying. Christ is speaking here not of the word of the law, but of the Gospel, which is a discourse about Christ, who died for our sins etc. For God did not wish to impart Christ to the world in any other way; he had to embody him in the Word and thus distribute him, and present him to everybody; otherwise Christ would have existed for himself alone and remained unknown to us; he would have thus died for himself.
But since the Word places before us Christ, it thus places us before him who has triumphed over death, sin and Satan. Therefore he who grasps and retains Christ, has thus also eternal deliverance from death. Consequently it is a Word of life, and it is true, that whoever keeps the Word shall never see death.
9. And from this we may well understand what Christ meant by the word “keep;” it does not refer to such keeping as one keeps the law by good works; for this word of Christ must be kept in the heart by faith and not with the fist or by good works, as the Jews in this case understand it; they fearfully rage against Christ, that Abraham and the prophets are dead; they know nothing of what it is “to keep,” “to die” or “to live.” And it is not called “to keep” in vain; for there is a conflict and battle when sin bites, death presses and hell faces us; then we are to be in earnest in holding firmly to the Word and let nothing separate us from it. Thus see now how Christ answers the Jews and praises his own teachings. You say, my Word is of the devil and wish to sink it to the bottom of perdition; on the contrary I say to you that it has divinepower in it, and I exalt it higher than the heaven of heavens, and above all creatures.
11. Now Christ means here that whoever clings to his Word will in the midst of death neither feel nor see death, as he also says in John 11:25: “I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me though he die, yet shall he live,” that is, he will not experience real death. Here we see now what a glorious estate it is to be a Christian, who is already released from death forever and can never die. For his death or dying seems outwardly indeed like the dying of the godless, but inwardly there is a difference as great as between heaven and earth. For the Christiansleeps in death and in that way enters into life, but the godless departs from life and experiences death forever; thus we may see how some tremble, doubt and despair, and become senseless and raging in the midst of the perils of death. Hence death is also called in the Scriptures a sleep. For just as he who falls asleep does not know how it happens, and he greets the morning when he awakes; so shall we suddenly arise on the last day, and never know how we entered and passed through death.
12. Let us take another example. When Israel marched out of Egypt and came to the RedSea, they were free and experienced no death, but only life. However when King Pharaoh arrived behind them with all his forces, then they stood in the midst of death, then no life was in sight. For before them was the sea, through which they could not pass, behind them King Pharaoh, and on both sides of them high mountains; on all sides they were seized and enclosed by death, so that they said to Moses: “Because there were no graves in Egypt, hast thou taken us away to die in the wilderness?” Exodus 14:11, so completely and wholly did they despair of life. Just then Moses came and brought them God’s Word that comforted them in the midst of death and preserved them alive, when he said in verse 13: “Fear not, stand still, and see the salvation of Jehovah, which he will work for you today: for the Egyptians whom ye have seen today, ye shall see them again no more for ever.” They clung to this Word and held out until victory came; through it life appeared in the presence of death, because they believed the Word, that it would come to pass, and relying upon it they marched into the midst of the RedSea, which stood on both sides of them like two walls. Then it came to pass that nothing but life and safety were in the sea, where before there were only death and danger.
For they would have never become so bold as to go into the sea, had it divided a hundred times, if God’s Word had not been present, which comforted them and promisedlife. Thus man triumphs over death through the Word of Life, if he cleaves to it and believes, and marches into death with it.
14. Therefore Christ proceeds farther and gives the ground and reason why it is just his Word and not the word of anyone else, that giveth life, and says it is because he was before Abraham, or in other words, because he was the one true God. For if the person who offered himself as a sacrifice for us were not God, it would not help or avail anything, even if he were born of the VirginMary and suffered a thousanddeaths. But the fact that the Seed of Abraham, who gave himself for us, is also true God, securesblessing and victory for all sinners. Therefore Christ speaks, not of his human nature that they saw and experienced; for they could easily see he was not yet fifty years of age, and did not live before Abraham. But with that nature by which he existed long before the time of Abraham, by which he existed also before all creatures and before the whole world. Just as he was man according to his spiritualnature before Abraham, that is. in his Word and in the knowledge of faith was he in the saints; for they all knew and believed that Christ, as God and man, should suffer for us, as is written in Hebrews 13:8: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today, yea and for ever;” and in the Revelation of John, 13:8: “The Lamb of God that hath been slain from the foundation of the world.” Yet now he is speaking here especially of his divinenature.
15. But here reason is terribly offended and becomes mad and furious because God should become man; this reason cannot harmonize and understand. And this is the article of faith to which the Jews still in our day can not reconcile themselves, hence they cannot cease their throwing stones and their blasphemy. But Christ also continues on the other hand to hide himself from them and to go out of their temple, so that they cannot see nor find him in the Scriptures, in which they search daily. Again, this narrative is not a little terror to all who are so foolhardy about the Scriptures and never approach them with a humble spirit. For even in our day it happens that many read and study in the Scriptures and yet they cannot find Christ, he is hid and has gone out of the temple. And how many there are who say with their mouth that God is become man, and yet they are without the Spirit in their hearts; who whenever tested, prove that they were never in real earnest. This is sufficient on this subject.