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.” (John 8:48-50)
This red letter passage brings up a couple of questions. Why would the Jews accuse Jesus of being a Samaritan? One reason could be that Jesus traveled through Samaria (John 4), a region that was considered unholy. Respectable Jews didn’t go there. That Jesus did go there could have made the Jews suspicious that the Samaritans were his homies.
Why did the Jews say Jesus had a demon? From other passages in the Bible, we know that those who had an evil spirit in them could have supernatural powers. For instance, in Acts 16, there was a slave girl with a “spirit of divination” who could tell the future, and Paul cast this spirit out of the girl. So it makes sense that some Jews could have attributed Jesus’s ability to do miracles to a demon, not God. It might even be that Samaria was known for having people with supernatural powers. Simon the Sorcerer (Acts 18) was a Samaritan, and he astounded everyone with his magical acts. It wouldn’t be a stretch to think that the Jews considered the reprobate Samaritans to have citizens who consorted with demons.
But regardless of why they saw him as they did, there’s no doubt that the Jews flat accused Jesus of being evil. They put him on a par with the worst things in their culture — Samaritans and demons.
What we’re looking at in today’s study is Jesus’s reply. He said his focus was on honoring God. His use of the word “honor” had heavy implications. It wasn’t just giving props. The same word was used in the commandment, “Honor your father and mother.” In the Jewish law, you were to obey your parents in childhood, and always treat them with deep respect. If you cursed your mother or father, the penalty was death. So when Jesus said he honored his heavenly Father, it meant that he obeyed and deeply respected him.
Our dictionary today defines honor as, “regarding with great esteem.” That definition applies to Jesus as well. He treated God like he was of prime importance. Really, as we look at all of the ways Jesus acted towards God, we can see that, for him, everything he did was all about God.
We see such a purity of heart in the way Jesus honored God. Jesus said earlier in John 7:18, “Whoever speaks on their own does so to gain personal glory, but he who seeks the glory of the one who sent him is a man of truth; there is nothing false about him.” And then he said in today’s reading, “I do not seek my own glory.”
Isn’t it ironic that Jesus, in pureness of heart, gave honor where honor was due, yet the Jews accused him of being impure? No wonder Jesus told them, “You dishonor me.” It was a huge insult to his integrity, indeed, to his very identity.
Today, our challenge is to imitate the heart of Jesus towards God. We can do that by obeying his word, deeply respecting him, making him the most important thing in our life, and making everything we do about him.
Our challenge is also to resist the temptation to seek our own glory, look for attention, star in the conversation, or get recognition for achievement.
I’ve been really working on this. If someone is talking, and it’s burning in me to say my piece, I’m trying to let the others have their say first. And if I don’t get a turn, I thank God that I can be humbled.
As I pray in the mornings for my daily bread, I ask God to meet my need for productivity and affirmation. I know that if I don’t look to him to meet this need, I’ll seek to meet it on my own. Because in my human nature, I want to be large and in charge. I want to be admired. I’m so afraid of being inadequate, or failing.
I believe God wants to meet this need! Jesus said, “But there is one who seeks it (my glory),” and I don’t think this applied to just him. At other times, he maintained, “Whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” (Matt 23:12, Luke 14:11, Luke 18:14) And that means I can trust God to take care of my inner need for significance.
The thing is, Jesus went on to finish his statement, “But there is one who seeks it,” with “and he is the judge.” Jesus wanted to make sure that his listeners knew there was a Judge, with a capital “J.” Knowing that puts honor and glory into perspective. As Jesus said in Luke 12:4-5, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. Fear him who, after your body has been killed, has authority to throw you into hell.”
If we seek to honor ourselves, or gain honor from others, we gain nothing in the end. But if we seek to honor God, we gain everything, because we gain eternity.
Let’s look at some descriptions of the glory that God wants us to gain.
- The right to eat from the tree of life. Rev 2:7
- The hidden manna. . . a white stone inscribed with a new name, known only to the one who receives it. Rev. 2:17
- Authority over the nations. Rev 2:26
- Our name never blotted out from the book of life. Rev 3:5
- Becoming a pillar in the temple of God, which he will never again leave . Rev 3:12
- The right to sit with Jesus on his throne. Rev 3:21
- The inheritance of all things, and he will be our God, and we will be his child. Rev 21:7
So let’s remember that, just like in Jesus’s time, there will always be haters in the world. Sometimes, we’ll get no love.
Our response can be the same as Jesus: to have laser focus on the honor of God.
And our comfort is that our God, whose glory is as infinite as the universe, has a heart just as big. He seeks to give us a glory that’s far more than we could ever get on earth.