“Why are church people so mean?”
The young pastor was devastated as he came out of the meeting. The meeting was not one with a hardened “sinner” who blasphemed the good name of the Lord. It wasn’t a meeting with a Satanist who mocked him.
It was a professing Christian who tore the young pastor to shreds. And these were the words he asked: “Why are church people so mean?”
Friendly fire hurts the most because it’s so unexpected. As we wrap our heads and hearts about all of John 8, we come to the final section: John 8:48-59.
The Jews answered him, “Aren’t we right in saying that you are a Samaritan and demon-possessed?”
“I am not possessed by a demon,” said Jesus, “but I honor my Father and you dishonor me. I am not seeking glory for myself; but there is one who seeks it, and he is the judge. Very truly I tell you, whoever obeys my word will never see death.”
At this they exclaimed, “Now we know that you are demon-possessed! Abraham died and so did the prophets, yet you say that whoever obeys your word will never taste death. Are you greater than our father Abraham? He died, and so did the prophets. Who do you think you are?”
Jesus replied, “If I glorify myself, my glory means nothing. My Father, whom you claim as your God, is the one who glorifies me. Though you do not know him, I know him. If I said I did not, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and obey his word. Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad.”
“You are not yet fifty years old,” they said to him, “and you have seen Abraham!”
“Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!” At this, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds.John 8:48-59
New International Version
In this final section of His confrontation with the Jewish people, Jesus endures their accusations. “Aren’t we right in saying…” (verse 48) is their way of implying their accusation was true and He should agree with them.
They called Jesus a Samaritan AND demon-possessed. Calling a Jewish person a Samaritan was one of the hardest accusations they could have thrown at Him from a biological point of view. They were accusing Him of not even being Jewish and therefore not someone they needed to listen to.
Worse yet, they also challenged His spiritual heritage by saying He was demon-possessed. They left nothing to chance: the people were rejecting Jesus’ testimony.
Jesus continues to remind them that His actions are honoring to the Father and He is not even acting demon possessed. There was nothing in what He did to invalidate His message. Yet, they rejected Him.
In a sad display of projection, the people accuse Jesus of being what they were: spiritually dead. They could accept what He said because of who they were, not because of who He was.
They desired to stone Him because of the hardness of their own hearts. It was masked as a type of religious fervor because they heard Him to claim status equal with the Father. The Lord’s name (from the Old Testament) is a form of the verb “I am.” Now, Jesus clearly states He is “I Am.” He claimed to be God.
But it made little difference if He’d said He was “I am” or not. Their hearts were closed to His message.
And let’s remember: these were religious people. They were not unfamiliar with the message of the Lord. They heard it every Saturday in the synagogue. They were religious, but had no relationship.
We should not be surprised when even religious people are hard to the message of the Lord. There will be people you will interact with whose hearts are also closed. They will say cruel things about you. They will accuse you of everything they are because of their rejection of the Lord.
But it doesn’t change the message. It doesn’t change our passion for the Lord. Instead, we simply continue to live the message of Jesus to them–and for others–who need to hear of the grace of God through Jesus.