Lectio Divina: John 8:51-59
Season of Lent
1) Opening prayer
in Your son Jesus Christ
You have given us a new name,
the name of Your Son himself.
May we live up to our new destiny,
to be people-for-others
who serve and commit ourselves
together with Jesus,
Your Son and our Lord for ever.
2) Gospel Reading - John 8:51-59
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.
• Chapter 8 seems an exhibition of works of art, where it is possible to admire and contemplate famous paintings, next to one another. Today’s Gospel presents us a painting, and a dialogue, between Jesus and the Jews. There is not too much connection between one and the other painting. It is the spectator who, thanks to his/her attentive and prayerful observation, succeeds in discovering the invisible thread that binds the paintings. Thus, we penetrate into the divine mystery which envelops the person of Jesus.
• John 8:51: Whoever keeps the word of Jesus will not see death. Jesus makes a solemn affirmation; the prophets said: Oracle of the Lord! Jesus says: “Truly, I say to you!” And the solemn affirmation is the following: “Whoever keeps My word will not see death!” This same theme appears and reappears many times in the Gospel of John. These are words of a great depth. Notice how the prophets speak on behalf of God, but Jesus speaks in the first person with authority as God!
• John 8:52-53: Abraham and the prophets died. The reaction of the Jews is immediate: “Now we know that you are out of Your mind. Abraham died and the prophets also died. And you say: “Whoever keeps My word will never see death”. Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? The prophets also died. Who are you claiming to be?” They did not understand the importance and significance of the affirmation of Jesus. It was a dialogue of the deaf.
• John, 8:54-56: I am glorified by My Father. Once again and as always Jesus hits on the same key: He is so united to the Father that everything that He says or does is His. Everything is the Father’s. And He says: “The one who glorifies Me is My Father, the one whom you say, ‘He is our God!” and you do not know Him. But I know Him. And if I were to say, ‘I do not know Him’, I should be a liar, as you yourselves are. But I do know Him and I observe His word. Your father, Abraham, rejoiced to think that he would see My Day; he saw it and was glad”. These words of Jesus must have been like a sword which wounded the self esteem of the Jews. To tell the religious authority: “You do not know the God whom you say you know. I know Him and you do not know Him!” It is like accusing them of total ignorance exactly regarding the theme on which they think they are specialized doctors. And the final word increases the measure: “Abraham, your father, rejoiced in the hope of seeing My Day, he saw it and was glad”.
• John 8:57-59: “You are not fifty yet, and you have seen Abraham! They took everything literally, thus showing that they did not understand anything of what Jesus was saying. And Jesus makes another solemn affirmation: "In all truth I tell you: before Abraham ever was, I AM”.
For those who believe in Jesus, here we reach the heart of the mystery of the story. Once again they pick up stones to kill Jesus. But neither this time will they succeed, because His hour has not as yet come. The one who determines the hour is Jesus himself.
4) Personal questions
• It is a dialogue with the deaf between Jesus and the Jews. Have you sometimes had the experience of speaking with a person who thinks exactly the opposite of what you think and is not aware of it?
• How do you react when you are shown your errors? Do you consider the arguments or hold on to your thinking?
5) Concluding Prayer
Seek Yahweh and His strength,
tirelessly seek His presence!
Remember the marvels He has done,
His wonders, the judgments He has spoken. (Ps 105:4-5)