Whoever keeps my word will never see death

If you were to take an immersion language course in French, from the moment you enter the classroom until the moment you leave, every word you hear and every word you speak would be in French.   No English.   Not a single word.   Similarly, we could say that in today’s Gospel (John 8:51), Jesus is conducting an immersion class in the language of heaven.

A long debate between Jesus and his opponents has brought them to the question of his claim to be the Son of God.   “It is my Father who glorifies me,” he tells them (John 8:54).   “I know him. . . and I keep his word” (8:55).   His opponents can’t seem to settle on who they think he is:   “Where is your Father?”   “Who are you?”   “You are a Samaritan” “You are possessed.”   “Who do you make yourself out to be?” (John 8:19, 25, 48, 52, 53).

Nearly two millennia of Old Testament history had brought Jesus and the Jewish authorities to this point of impasse.   These were faithful Jews intent on honoring God’s covenant with Abraham.   But Jesus insists that he himself is the fulfillment of God’s covenant promises.   Their focus on their long-held expectations blocks their understanding.   But Jesus doesn’t give up.   He continues to show them an unimaginable future in which Abraham is waiting for them.

Jesus is still leading us today.   Every day he is at the top of a hill looking over into a beautiful land and inviting us to join him:   “Whoever keeps my word will never see death” (John 8:51).   He is asking us to trust him and to follow him into that new promised land.

Let’s believe Jesus today.   Let’s keep his word today and every day until we have made it over the hill and into our new home.   We do that by fixing our eyes on Jesus.   His cross is like a trail marker; it points us to the path of self-giving love.   His resurrection tells us that our biggest obstacles, sin and death, have been defeated.   And his ascension tells us that the gates of heaven have been opened—for all of us!

Word Among Us