The reaction of the people in today’s Gospel account builds from thinking that he is possessed to picking up stones to throw at him. This interaction has some similarities found in Jesus’ Bread of Life discourse (cf. John chapter 6), where Jesus made the statement, that, “I am the bread of life” (Jn 6:48) and in today’s verse “whoever keeps my word will never see death” (Jn 8:51). In both cases the people do not understand what Jesus is sharing and Jesus, instead of using analogy or explaining he is just speaking in hyperbole, which he has done at times, does not soften his words but doubles down.
Jesus holds firm to the truth that his followers will consume him and that he is not just a representative of God, a prophet or a rabbi, but that he in fact is God: “Amen, amen, I say to you, before Abraham came to be, I AM” (Jn 58). The people pick up stones at this point because Jesus has just done the unthinkable, he not only has spoken God’s name, which is not to be uttered because it is considered too holy to do so, he equates the name of God, I AM, with himself. Jesus is saying and equating himself with God. During the Bread of Life discourse people walked away from him because they were repulsed and most likely considered him mad, here they believe he is speaking blasphemy. They were right in doing so, unless, Jesus is who he said he is.
For us today, we can believe or disbelieve in Jesus, but from our reading of the Gospels we cannot say that Jesus presented himself a mere man, a teacher, philosopher, prophet, or guru. Jesus has consistent conflict, which is evident in all four Gospels because Jesus presents himself as God incarnate. Jesus heals on the Sabbath because he is the Lord of the Sabbath, Jesus is the Bread of Life, Jesus is I AM. The Apostles struggle with the words and actions of Jesus as well.
We may also struggle with our understanding of who God is and who Jesus is. We may have doubts, concerns, and unanswered prayers and/or questions. To walk the path of discipleship is not to walk with constant assurance, for we walk by faith and not by sight (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:7). Walking by faith means that we journey with Jesus trusting that he is who he claimed himself to be and because of that fact is still with us today. What we need to know will be revealed as we continue to turn our life over to him more and more each day. May we take assurance in our times of struggle from Peter who, with the Twelve, was asked by Jesus if they would leave him, Peter responded, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God” (Jn 6:68-69). May we too live our lives believing and in participation with Jesus, the Holy One of God.
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Link for the Mass readings for Thursday, March 22, 2018: