Chapters seven and eight of John’s Gospel focus on the conflict between Jesus and the religious authorities who were plotting his death. Throughout the encounter, Jesus exposes the hearts of his enemies as belonging to the devil. While he is from above, they are from below (8:23). While his Father is God Almighty, the devil is at the headwaters of their spiritual ancestry (8:44). In a moment of tragic irony, the religious authorities accuse Jesus of being possessed by a demon. So great is their self-deception that they cannot see the evil which lies at the heart of their own motives in seeking Jesus’ death. Instead, they have confused evil with good.
Jesus is the Truth that sets the captives free. He is the Bread from Heaven and the Light of the world. He is the great I Am come in human flesh. Abraham – the one the Pharisees claimed as their father – “rejoiced that he would see my day” (vs. 56). No wonder Jesus can make such extravagant promises to save any and every sinner who believes. Far from being a mere son or servant of Abraham, Jesus declares of himself: “Before Abraham was, I Am” (vs. 58).
So complete will be Jesus’ defeat of sin and death that he said to the crowd that day: “If anyone keeps my word, he will never taste death” (vs. 51). Saving faith and the obedience which flows from such a faith are so closely connected that Jesus spoke of keeping his word without violating the truth that sinners are saved by grace through faith alone. And though everyone will die, death itself has been so thoroughly robbed of its power that Jesus can promise his own that they will not “taste death.” We will die, that is true. And yet for the Christian, “to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8) and “to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21).